Save Your Guitar This Winter

 
The heating season will dry out your guitar if you don't protect it with humidification

"Now the wintertime is coming," sang Bob Dylan. "The windows are filled with frost."

When the heat comes on in homes across North America and Europe it creates a dry killing zone for your guitar.  Ever wonder why the Eagles played Takamine guitars? The Takamine guitars have great pickups and they are usually a ply guitar which makes them less sensitive to heat and humidity.  Expensive solid tone wood guitars take much more care.

The solutions for keeping your guitar at 45% relative humidity range from simple $20 accessories like the Oasis Case Humidifiers

to humidity controller guitar showcases.

Keeping your guitar humidified

Guitars need at least 45% relative humidity to keep the wood in tone, the joints glued and the guitar from being destroyed over time. C.F. Martin recommends keeping your guitar between 45% and 55% humidity.  Too much humidity can be more damaging.

I know.  Ignoring a great Martin D-35 over a decade of dry cold winters without humidification and almost wrecked the guitar. Fortunately Martin re-glued the bridge, replaced the complete top, repaired a crack on the back, and re-set the bridge and neck. The job was worth $800 twenty years ago.

The damage to the delicate wood in your guitar does not normally happen over one winter but before long you will start to see the damage. Your frets will seem sharp on the ends because the wood in the fretboard is shrinking. The bridge will start to lift as in first the wood bows out then the glue joint starts to give way.

If you can put a piece of paper between the guitar top and the bridge,  the problem is started. The back and top can crack if they get too dry and the finish will crack as well.

Simple solutions to dry homes for guitars

The simplest and least expensive solutions are guitar case humidifiers from Oasis, Planet Waves and Kyser. I've used them all and will give you my experience with each.

Trying to keep your home at 45% will likely result in water problems on the windows as the cool glass causes the humidity in the air to condense, then freeze. That can damage your windows and even the walls, which we can't see until the damage is permanent. Ouch.

The trick is your guitar has to stay in the case except when you are playing. Personally, I hate that but it's the only low-cost way to stop them from drying out.

None of these solutions will quickly hydrate your guitar if it is really dry.  I'm not sure what the best solution would be other than to move the guitar to a room with 45% relative humidity and leave it for a few weeks. Wood is not a sponge and takes time to hydrate. Never try to hydrate a guitar in a hurry like in a bathroom with the shower running.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Oasis OH-6 Case Humidifier

{rating}  Oasis have three models. The
Oasis OH-6 Case Humidifier
works for guitars that don't have a sound hole, like electric guitars, semi-hollow body, and hollow body with only f-holes.

You fill the blue cylinder with water from the syringe, preferably distilled or filtered, replace the cap and dry everything off. The cylinder has water absorbing crystals that evaporate into the case.

Inside the cylinder is a magnet that keeps the humidifier attached to the metal clip, which mounts somewhere inside the case.

Depending on how often you open the case, it should last one to two weeks with a fill-up.

I've tested this over and over and it keeps the guitar about 45%. I like that no water gets near the guitar's wood.

Other than losing the clip, Oasis OH-6 Case Humidifier lasts several years. None of mine have worn out, but I did lose a metal clip. I would check the humidifier each season and throw it out, saving the parts, if it looks worn. You don't want it leaking water inside your case.

Oasis OH-6 Case Humidifier with OH-2 Digital Hygrometer

The Oasis OH-6 Case Humidifier with OH-2 Digital Hygrometer is the OH-6 with a hygrometer to see how your guitar case humidifier system is working.

I got one of these and several of the other humidifiers. I don't think each case needs a hygrometer but that's up to you. I just move them from case to case to check on how things are going. Other than running out of water, the Oasis systems have not given me any trouble. They do their job.

By itself, the Oasis OH-2 Digital Hygrometer w/clip is $29.

Oasis OH-1 Guitar Humidifier

The Oasis OH-1 Guitar Humidifier is designed for acoustic guitars. It mounts between the strings in the sound hole, hence there is no clip.

Oasis OH-1 guitar humidifier mounted in the sound hole (Photo Stephen Pate)

Some people worry about water leaking into the body of the guitar and that might be a problem if you don't tighten the top or dry it off after a re-fill. I do the refill very carefully but feel more comfortable that the humidity is where the guitar needs it most.

There is another version of the OH-1 for very dry homes were the relative humidity falls below 25%. The Oasis OH-5 Plus+ Humidifier has 50% more humidity output if you need it. Using it might overload your guitar when your home is not very dry.

Oasis also has a smaller Oasis OH-18 Ukulele Humidifier which I should have had. Live and learn.

I can see this story is getting long so I will write another about the Planet Waves and Kyser case humidifiers.

Lyric from "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" from Highway 61 Revisited Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music

5 / 5 stars     

 

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