- Protect your Investment -
'Tis the season of dryness. Handmade guitars are more delicate and responsive than factory guitars. This is why they sound and play so great; and why we love them. They have personality.
Even though it is delicate, a well handmade guitar, with proper care, is built to last 100 years - without problems. Keep in mind that your expensive handmade guitar is like 'fine china'. Other guitars are built to take to the beach. A handmade guitar is something to enjoy for its refinement.
Yours is a fine responsive musical instrument. It is built for feel, tone, and beauty. You have to be careful of the temperature and humidity ranges.
This is reasonable and easy to maintain. With my guitars (Everett Guitars), I mention these temperature and humidity parameters 3 times in the literature that each customer gets with his new guitar. I even highlight it.
Because you cannot simply ignore the guitar's environment and expect it to 'look like new' for very long.
Here is a good idea:
Visit the Internet and type 'acoustic guitar humidity' in your search engine. You will see a lot of information written specifically about the humidity problem.
Taylor Guitars offers some excellent information (as well as Larrivee, Gibson, Martin, ... lots of other articles on the Internet) on this topic. http://www.taylorguitars.com/guitars/reference/techsheets.html
A dry environment is easy to fix.
Get a hygrometer to measure moisture (Radio Shack, Target, …), keep the hygrometer where ever you keep your guitar, and gently add a little moisture to your guitar when the humidity drops below 40%. There are lots of simple products for adding moisture to your guitar in its case. I like to use a 'Dampit'. A 'Dampit' (or it's clone) is available from most music stores or over the internet. Keep it and the guitar in it's case during the dry months. (Any number of these hydrating products will do the same job.)
The important thing is to remember to add a little moisture to your guitar when it gets dry. You might not be able to keep the humidify of the whole house at 45%, but you can keep the inside of the case comfortable for your guitar.
Buy a humidifier and keep your music room humidity up to 45- 55%. Remember inexpensive dial hygrometers are not very accurate (You certainly can not trust the strip of paper version.). But they will give you a good idea of the changes in humidity. (Be sure to read the literature on how to keep your hygrometer in good working condition.) I replace all the hygrometers in my shop every two years because the elements get dusty and become more and more inaccurate. The guitars cost a lot; the hygrometers don't.
Unfortunately, even the most expensive, hermetically sealed, guitar case will loose humidity. It will loose moisture more slowly than a standard case, but just spending $700 on a case is not the answer. You still have to pay attention to your guitar. Period.
The usual scenarios:
a) The guitar is left in case unattended for a year or two. When finally it is opened, it has: a center seam crack in top, loose bridge, sunken finish, sharp fret ends, loose neck bolts, loose tuners, loose endpin, even the label can be loose.
Sitting in the case unattended, the guitar has gotten very, very, very dry! Ouch! Keeping your guitar in its case is excellent. It protects the guitar from physical damage and slows the changes in humidity and temperature that the guitar is exposed to.
NO CASE alone can protect the guitar from getting too dry!
Every year during the winter all my personal instruments go in their cases, and every two weeks I check their 'Dampits'. The small sponges in the Dampits are as dry as a rock. The guitars just soak up the moisture in the dry environment. (To keep the humidity up in my shop, I keep two humidifiers going in my 800 square foot shop. It gets dry in the winter!)
b) The guitar is left out on it's stand or left hanging on the wall throughout the year.
Not a good idea. If you want to display your guitars, at least get a hygrometer so that you can get an idea of your rooms humidity. Adding moisture to your furnace system is not enough. You will probably have to get a humidifier for your music room and monitor it. (Too wet is bad too!) When it gets too dry (below 40%) the guitars should go back in their cases with a 'Dampit' in order to keep them hydrated. Some cases even have a little hygrometer built in. But having them hang on the wall also puts the guitars through serious humidity and temperature changes almost daily. Keeping the guitar in its case helps slow these changes down, and your guitar will be happier.
Why do music stores keep their guitars on the walls?
To sell them. Most of their guitars are plywood with polyester finishes. After a store has been in business for more than one year selling highend guitars, I guarantee you they have worked out their climate control system. Ask them.
Please keep in mind these kind of repairs are not warranted by any manufacturer or individual builder.
THIS MIGHT AT FIRST SEEM LIKE A HUGE HASSLE, BUT IT'S NOT !
Dampit = $18.
Hygrometer = $30.
Time during cold months (usually 3-5 months each year) = 5 seconds every day (or two) to look at the hygrometer. 30 seconds every week or two to add a little water.
Guitar Value = $Bookoos.
c) The guitar is stored in it's case next to a heating vent, in the attic, by a window with the afternoon sun shinning on it, …
How to bake a guitar in one easy afternoon: 20 minutes + 110 degrees = soft glue. 160 lbs of tension from the strings will pull off the bridge, loosen the neck joint, … It happens quicker than you might imagine.
Don't let your guitar get too hot. Not too complicated.
No car trunks in the summer, no road trips with the guitar baking in the back window, no guitar case parked by the heater vent in the winter, no attics, etc.
Got heat? (Why do they make guitar cases black?)
Bake you guitar for 20 minutes and spend $300 (easily more) in repairs. That's an expensive 20 minutes!
Excessive humidity can cause the guitar to puff up like a 'jiffy popper'. Your neck can back bow, causing it to buzz in the first position, your action can rise up, binding seams can break free, etc.
Simply keep your guitar below 60% -65% and your guitar will play great all year.
Your home air conditioning does a great job of keeping the humidity down. If your music room is getting too humid, either put your guitars in their cases with some desiccants or get a dehumidifier. (I keep 2 dehumidifiers running in my shop during the spring time to keep the moisture down below 55%.)
The Last Word
Once I had a customer pick up his custom order guitar from my shop.
After all the ooos and ahhhs, I started explaining how to take care of the guitar. He interrupted me and said, "I'll tell you one thing, I'm going to enjoy it."
Well, he told me. And sure enough, I see that guitar every three or four years, and it looks like it went through a war. But he sure is enjoying it. And he is right. The most important thing is to enjoy your new guitar.
If you want to enjoy your guitar, AND keep it in good condition, it is just not that difficult. It's up to you.
Thanks for taking the time to read this; I hope it is of some help.