Talk to me about humidity
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Thread: Talk to me about humidity

  1. #1

    Join Date: Nov 2010
    Location: Ontario, Canada
    ME: Gibson SG
    Rig: Pedals -> Dark Terror

    iTrader: 0

    Talk to me about humidity

    I started a new position at work not too long ago and officially have my own office.

    I want to bring a guitar in so I can start practicing during lunch (and ideally start improving for once in my life). I'm maintaining proper humidity levels at home, but don't know what the best solution is for work.

    I brought my digital hygrometer today and my office is currently sitting at 21% humidity (at home it's usually 45-50%). We just had a cold front come in yesterday, but it's a pretty big building so I'm assuming the humidity levels are pretty stable. My office isn't that big, but I'm guessing if I try to humidify the entire office with a desktop humidifier, it'll just vent out and not actually do much (my door is open pretty much all the time).

    I'd probably bring my Squier Jazzmaster in to work. A couple winters ago, before I was monitoring the humidity in the house, I got some fret sprout and had the fret ends filed down. Ever since then I've kept the humidity in the house above 35%. I'd likely be storing it in the office in a cheap Fender gig bag.

    So my question is, is ~20% humidity a big deal, seeing as it already had the fret ends filed from a winter in a dry house? If so, would an acoustic humidifier in the gig bag be enough to offset (hehe) that?

    And short of some fret sprout and maybe some neck movement, is 20% enough to do any serious damage? Worst case I can just bring it in for a bit and take it back home if I notice any changes, but I really like this guitar and wouldn't want to do any permanent damage.

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  3. #2

    Join Date: May 2010
    Location: Picksburgh, PA
    ME: Authentic Les Paul
    MA: Les Paul

    iTrader: 11 (100%)

    If you have independent control of your thermostat, turn your heat down by a couple of your Queen's Degrees, which will boost RH slightly.

    A desktop humidifier will help, and yes you'll just have to fill it every one or two days and use it all season long. No need to go higher than 35-40% RH. It will be better for your respiratory health as well.

    20-25% RH is low, but not crazy. It's not going to damage a solid body electric guitar, but there's a few precautions you can take to avoid minor issues.

    Worse than a low humidity is a constantly changing humidity, so I would not advocate keeping a humidifier in the gig bag. Let the guitar stabilize after you've settled on your preferred method of humidity control, adjust setup if need be, and just play.

    Also keep your fretboard oiled. It's the only part of your instrument that is otherwise unfinished. You can smooth out 2-3 drops of oil over the whole board once a week to maintain a nice protective layer.

  4. #3

    Join Date: Nov 2010
    Location: Ontario, Canada
    ME: Gibson SG
    Rig: Pedals -> Dark Terror

    iTrader: 0

    Awesome, thanks. I was worried a desktop humidifier wouldn't be worthwhile. I'll pick one of those up - it's no problem to fill that up as much as I need. Before I got a whole-house humidifier for home, I was running a little 1-gal misting humidifier wide open around the clock, and had to fill that up 2-3x a day for 5 months of the year, so I'm used to it.

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  6. #4

    Join Date: May 2010
    Location: Picksburgh, PA
    ME: Authentic Les Paul
    MA: Les Paul

    iTrader: 11 (100%)

    ^ me too 100%. The whole home humidifier changed my life, especially since we have pretty old windows in our house that leak heat like crazy. I ran our house down to like 13% RH or something the first winter, it was horrible.

    Now I can make those windows sweat like the Amazon in ten minutes if I set the knob incorrectly.

    One thing I forgot to suggest, clean and then absolutely saturate your rosewood fretboard with oil, before you take it into the office. Several applications, until it won't take any more oil at all. Then you'll know you have a well protected fretboard and the frets will be locked in place (the wood swells).

  7. #5

    Join Date: Nov 2010
    Location: Ontario, Canada
    ME: Gibson SG
    Rig: Pedals -> Dark Terror

    iTrader: 0

    Good call on the oil. I can keep some at work easily enough to keep up on that, too.

    Update: Humidifier showed up today. My wife would kill me if I got another $200+ humidifier just for the office so I settled for a smaller 1-gallon. On Monday I'll bring my humidity meter in and see what kind of difference it makes.

    Edit: I got a "warm mist" one. It basically boils water and uses the steam to humidify. We had a "cool mist" one before, which was ultrasonic, and that thing left dusty mineral particles everywhere, so not doing that again. The big one I got for the house is evaporative, so uses a wick to soak up water, and a fan blows the wet air around the wick out out. It's annoyingly loud, but does a good job at least.

    Untitled by Phil Babbey, on Flickr

  8. #6

    Join Date: Sep 2008
    Location: London ONT
    ME: 6's
    MB: Aerodyne
    Rig: AxeFX III

    iTrader: 1 (100%)

    Now I'm wondering what the humidity is in our house
    Needs Sleep

  9. #7

    Join Date: Sep 2011
    Location: The Swamp
    ME: Wolfgang
    MA: Grandpas guitarz
    MB: lol
    Rig: EVH

    iTrader: 0

    I did that for years, a great was to take a break and get your head together mid-day.

    As for humidity, I didnt do anything. I kept a beater Charvette around instead of something more valuble, so if it needed any tweaks etc it hasnt priority. Playing a beater guitar makes you work harder then your Axe at home feels like gold. Later on I gave it to a friend who worked in our shop and he made it into a Bumblbee, and the thing sounds kick-ass.

    Talk to me about humidity-bumblebee1-jpg
    Vag Jackson, Man Of Action

  10. #8

    Join Date: Feb 2010
    Location: Laramie, Wyoming
    ME: Jackson AT Pro
    Rig: Rivera K Tre

    iTrader: 15 (100%)

    I have a collection of antique hygrometers hanging around with my guitars to look like I carefully monitor those things. Thinking of mounting it to my pedalboard for maximum pretentiousness. I don't think it's even calibrated right, might not even be working. Really I just go off feel though. Fretboard is the part it effects most. I can't recall a guitar I haven't immediately hydrated the fretboard of upon getting it. Lemon oil is your best friend.

    Really though, oiling the fretboard regularly, especially if it's ebony, is more important than being super anal about humidity.

    I'm also pretty careful about my non ebony fretboards, but Rosewood is less demanding, on most 20 year+ old ebony fretboard guitars I'm worried about if the owner cared about fretboard maintenance, but Rosewood is more resilient. Thankfully. A past owner can be negligent with a Rosewood fretboard for decades and you can still get it back into great shape within a couple days of careful rehydration, oiling upon receiving it.

    But yeah, using the right products and techniques to maintain and protect your guitars fretboard/finish (although finish is less picky) is more important than being super watchful of the humidity of where it's kept.

    Obviously the humidity of where a guitar is kept is a concern, but if you have to chose between being super picky about the humidity of where it's kept and not oiling the fretboard and not being super picky about humidity and oiling the fretboard 2-3 times a year.

    Wood is naturally able to respond to changes in temperature and humidity pretty well, and if the guitar is well constructed, it shouldn't be an issue. The issue is letting the wood get so dry that it can't adequately acclimate.

    I use lemon oil on some body finishes too. Like the ones on my mom's classical. Older fancy thinner finishes need more care. Modern body finishes are like, you never have to worry about those.

    In terms of necks and warping and stuff, the necks that age the best are sturdy multipiece constructions with the grains arranged in the proper way. One of the many reasons Gibsons from the E2 era are the ones to get. Quartersawn is usually pretty good.

    Flatsawn is hit or miss. It's not a disqualifier, and it depends on the grade of workmanship of the guitar, but some flatsawn necks on older guitars that are otherwise nice MIA instruments can get seriously fucked up after a couple decades, even if you are relatively watchful. The old USA BC Rich Gunslingers circa '87 and guitars like that.

    Past the 90s quartersawn started to become more of a standard across the board, but before that, you'll see a lot of really nice guitars that occasionally have flatsawn necks.

    In terms of humidifying I just run one of those stupid essential oil diffusers 2-3 times a week for an 8 hour span. I'm not an essential oil believer in the sense that it cures cancer, but it smells nice, and the diffusers work pretty well as humidifiers.

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