When protecting valuable instruments, a lot of focus tends to be directed towards eliminating damaging low RH. This is because more often than not dry conditions are the most common root cause of damage to guitars. Typically these are most prevalent inside homes during the winter months; however, in certain geographic regions such as high mountain or desert climates they can persist year round.
With summer conditions already dominating most of the United States, it's important to remember that too much moisture from extremely humid conditions can be very damaging to your guitar as well.
Guitar makers have strict controls on the humidity levels in their shops. Usually they keep it within the golden range of 40-50% RH. When guitars leave their shops, they can begin to exhibit symptoms as they enter a variety of climates. We as guitar players do not want to encounter the issues that arise. In addition to your guitar becoming difficult to play, the repairs can be very costly. Bob Taylor, founder and owner of Taylor Guitar Co., estimates that "at one time, probably 70 percent of the repairs performed in our service center could have been avoided if the guitar had not been exposed to humidity extremes."
As such, Bob Taylor has a strong interest in educating guitar owners on what to look for and how to avoid these situations. They have released a couple fact sheets called "Symptoms of a Dry Guitar" and "Symptoms of a Wet Guitar". Today we will focus on the latter of the two and paraphrase from the fact sheet as well as other information available on internet regarding this topic.
Typically high humidity situations will cause the top of the guitar to bulge or ballon, which can affect the playability as the bridge can actually rise above the fingerboard changing the angle at which the strings interact with the fingerboard, nut, and bridge. Changes in the neck angle create a situation that renders the guitar nearly unplayable. If you are questioning whether you guitar has been exposed to high humidity situations, extremely high string action is one of the symptoms to check for.
The fingerboard can also swell and extend beyond the edge of the neck leaving a "step" where the fingerboard meets the neck. This situation can make any chord changes, movement up and down the neck, and playing solos difficult. As the fretboard shrinks back to its original shape, fret issues can occur.
Here at Acoustic Remedy, we believe the humidity battle can be won in a few ways:
1.) Limit the amount of air interacting with the guitar. Our cases do this by creating an airtight environment by utilizing a highly durable rubber gasket and the latch system that pulls the door tight to the case and compresses the gasket.
2.) Utilize a reliable humidification/dehumidification system. We employ the D'Addario 2-Way Humidification System, which not only emits but also absorbs moisture to keep your instruments in the ideal range of 40-50% relative humidity.
3.) Monitor relative humidity levels with an accurate hygrometer. The old dial type gauges look nice, but they aren't very accurate. We utilize the most accurate hygrometer on the market - Caliber IV by Western Digital. They cost a whole lot more, but they are the most accurate of any we tested. We are also offering up a new product from D'Addario called the Humiditrak. This device connects remotely to your phone via Bluetooth and through an app allows you to track the RH levels inside your case(s).
We love "talking shop" on this topic and have many people email regarding their particular situations. In fact, just recently I've had this same discussion with a customer in North Queensland Australia where the humidity is around 80% year round. We discussed some of the same topics in this blog and his struggles to keep his guitars healthy.
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. If you want some more information, please click the following link to open fact sheet from Taylor Guitar Co.
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