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Thread: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

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    Default Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    I'm moving from south florida to vermont, and I'm doing it in the fall. What should i do to protect my mandolins during this pretty drastic change in climate? I've never dealt with a real winter before.

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    Default Re: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    First, it helps if you have a place to live that's got good insulation, and not drafty, because then the indoor climate changes won't be "drastic." Then, keep your instruments in their cases, and plan to get and use a humidifier for the winter months. If you have some nice (all wood, acoustic) gear, you probably won't want to take it outdoors in the middle of winter to play around the campfire.
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  4. #3

    Default Re: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    Get a hygrometer and keep close tabs on the relative humidity. When it drops below 40% use case humidifiers and keep your mandolins in their cases when not in use. Depending on the heat source, you may want a room humidifier as well. My wife took her fiddle to long weekend at Ashoken in the late fall. The room had wood stove heat. When she opened the case she found her fiddle literally in pieces with a big crack in the top. Totally repairable by a good luthier but completely avoidable. Froma fellow Floridian: congrats on the move to Vermont, I visited there in the summer and loved it!

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Question Re: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    I'd say you can make a case like a museum does to protect their collections ..


    there are devices to keep pianos from going out of tune due to the weather..


    "Dampp Chaser " comes to mind https://pianoworld.com/faqs/dampp-chaser/

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    Default Re: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Roy View Post
    Get a hygrometer and keep close tabs on the relative humidity. When it drops below 40% use case humidifiers and keep your mandolins in their cases when not in use. Depending on the heat source, you may want a room humidifier as well. My wife took her fiddle to long weekend at Ashoken in the late fall. The room had wood stove heat. When she opened the case she found her fiddle literally in pieces with a big crack in the top. Totally repairable by a good luthier but completely avoidable. Froma fellow Floridian: congrats on the move to Vermont, I visited there in the summer and loved it!
    Are there any hydrometers you recommend?

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    I live not far from Vermont, and second Rob Roy's advice above (post #3). Travelling in Fall shouldn't be too grim if you're not opening and closing cases a lot. I've fiddled with snow on the ground, without damaging an instrument. Hydrometers are available at hardware stores. I don't think it matters much which you get. They're sometimes included with room humidifiers. It's the dry indoor winter conditions that are hardest on instruments. If you're moving to northwestern Vermont, PM me and I can put you in touch with friends who host musical gatherings. Enjoy your new setting, Em.
    Last edited by Ranald; Jul-06-2021 at 8:36pm.
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    Default Re: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    Here in the 716 (Western NY) we experience a wide range of temperature and humidity conditions. Tonight 75 and humid, balmy but nothing like Florida.
    Winters (and indoor heat) will definitely drop your humidity levels so I use in case humidifiers. Be very careful of fireplaces and wood stoves as discussed above. If you go to a friendly jam session leave your instrument in its case for 15 - 20 minutes before you bring it out. Let it acclimate.
    Otherwise enjoy the enjoy the beautiful change of seasons up North. Vermont in the Fall is amazing!
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    Default Re: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    High humidity is easier to deal with...buy a dehumidifier and use it in the room where your instruments live. If low humidity is an issue (never had that problem in South Florida or South Louisiana),then in the case humidification may be in order. I am never going to the desert voluntarily.

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    Default Re: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    My instruments survive high humidity here in the midwest in the summer, they also survive low humidity in the winter with wood heat. While I try to keep the house from being too humid in the summer, outside playing I can do nothing. Sometimes humidity is in the 90's. I worry more about the heating season and humidify my house to keep it from being too dry. When I play out in winter I don't worry how dry the gig is, it is not going to dry out my instrument in that short a time.
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    Default Re: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    I moved from a fairly consistent environment (San Francisco) with my instruments to one with much more swings in humidity levels (West of Ireland), plus I live in an 150 year old stone cottage. My instruments are all kept in their cases when not played (Price case for the mandolin, Calton case for the banjo, Hiscox Liteflite Pro-II for the acoustic guitar, and a new custom made hardshell case for the tenor guitar), and they've all done really well. When not in use they're kept in the back bedroom (rather than the main living area of the house which is heated via a wood burning stove and a range cooker). I'm here nearly a year now (crazy!) and have experienced all the seasons with them.
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    Default Re: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    If you can swing it, put a whole house humidifier on your central heating system (if the Vermont house has it). Here north of Charlotte I have to run dehumidifiers in the summer months and the humidifier usually comes on sometime after Halloween. It’s much easier than keeping up with case humidifiers, though those are certainly an inexpensive option, especially if you only have a couple of cases to manage.

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    Default Re: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    A stand alone humidifier will work, it's all I use and I have wood heat. It's much cheaper than a unit on the furnace. You do have to keep it full tho, I place it next to a faucet and have a hose going to the humidifier so all I have to do is turn the valve and not carry water.
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  16. #13

    Default Re: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    Quote Originally Posted by Em Tee View Post
    Are there any hydrometers you recommend?
    I just bought an inexpensive digital one off Amazon, seems pretty accurate.

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    Default Re: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    I spent the whole winter filling humidifier buckets every day, and lately, emptying dehumidifier buckets every day.

    Side benefit is I am more comfortable.

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    Default Re: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    Large console-type humidifier for winter; I prefer the evaporative type. Air conditioning in summer. Best heating system is boiler/radiator. Keep temps reasonably stable, keep instruments in room with humidifier. Extreme changes, if done slowly, are not as destructive as rapid change.

    In winter, it takes a lot of water to keep humidity in a comfortable range. I have three humidifiers, all evaporative; two on main floor, one in bedroom. I probably put 6-8 gallons a day in them to keep the humidity above 35%, and I'm in Maryland. Vermont gets colder, so it will be more of a challenge.

    Silk has been used for centuries as a buffer in violin cases; the material will absorb some moisture from the air when it's humid, and release some when it's dry. This merely stabilises the case environment, but every little it helps.

    Devices like Dampits can cause problems with over-humidification. I used to keep moist dampits in all my instruments; the neck block swole up in a guitar to the point that you coul see the effect on the top. That made me give up on in-case humidification and go to doing the whole room.

    Most hygrometers range from inaccurate to ridiculous; their only real use is monitoring change.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    Hmmm....looked it up. You folks using "hygrometer" have it right.

    And Sue (post #14) is right. I bought room humidifiers on my doctor's, and not my luthier's advice, and find them good for my breathing. I use a combination of room and case humidifiers (I like the sandstone ones that I re-soak every couple of weeks). I stop using room and case humidifiers when the humidity increases in the spring. My buddy's son lost a guitar to mould when he kept a humidifier in the guitar case all summer.
    Last edited by Ranald; Jul-07-2021 at 12:14pm. Reason: additional info
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    Keeping your humidity up in winter will be very dependent on your house. Is it insulated well, is it large or small, drafty or sealed tightly, heat source. There are several things that can make it easy or hard to keep temp and humidity constant. I have a small place with wood heat and a stand alone humidifier and can keep 45-50% easily and don't fill every day unless it is really cold.
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    Default Re: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    Pops1,

    Agree that room humidifiers will do the job and are cheaper, but I work a lot of hours and my wife is busy enough that I don't think we'd keep them consistently full, especially in Jan/Feb, so the "turn it on and forget it" aspect of the furnace unit is worth it for me. We have a couple of dehumidifiers with drain hoses (one in the basement and one in our garage studio apartment) that run pretty continuously. In the main living space my wife wasn't a fan of the drain hoses, but she's got a pretty good routine watering plants in and around the house with the buckets they generate, so it works out well. The house, built in 1939, only has the double brick walls for insulation, so it's not the most efficient. Sub flooring insulation is on the project list...
    Chuck

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    Registered User Jean Andreasen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    I don't think I've seen this addressed in the thread yet (and if it has been, I apologize for being redundant) - but is there a difference between storing your instruments in a gig bag vs. a hard case? Provided that you are accounting for humidity (or lack there of) in a similar manner for both?
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    Default Re: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    I was in a similar situation. I moved to the Rochester, NY area from Arkansas in 2016. The humidity is as bad in the summer in Rochester as it was in Little Rock, but low humidity is a big problem in the winter. I keep two of the Amazon less than $10 thermometer/hygrometers in my music room on different sides (it's a good sized room). They sell under a variety of names, but look alike. Buy those first whether you keep your instruments in a finished basement or any other part of the house.

    In the winter I run two warm mist humidifiers at least several hours a day. Having a boiler for heat instead of forced air will keep you a little more humid, but you can't use a whole house humidifier. I shoot for 45-55% humidity. Don't use a cool mist or ultrasonic humidifier - they put out an enormous amount of fine white dust. It doesn't hurt anything, but it gets on everything. I used to use a cool filtered console humidifier, but the filters were messy and expensive. The water is full of minerals up here. Even with a whole house water filter I have scale buildup eventually.

    In the summer I run a dehumidifier most days to also keep it from jumping over 60% or more. Usually 1-4 hours on the most humid days takes care of it. Empty the container daily or when full. Most basements up here need a dehumidifier though or you could get some serious mold problems. Buy a lower cost dehumidifier with good ratings. I've found that even the most expensive ones last only 2 or 3 years.

    You may not need to do much if you have a forced air whole house humidifier and air conditioning in your room. The most important thing is a hygrometer. The cheap ones are pretty accurate. I have four that read within 1% as my old US made one when they're side by side. That's close enough for me.

    Keep mandolins and violins cased when not in use. I haven't needed in-case humidifiers up here. My electric guitars can hang on display with no issues. Use lemon oil or mineral oil on porous fingerboards. Obviously from the responses you have a lot of options to try out from cheap to expensive. Consistency is the most important thing. Don't let it fluctuate through the seasons. Too much humidity can damage instruments too.

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    Default Re: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    Conventional wisdom is that hard cases offer a more stable environment (and better retention with in case humidifiers as well as more gradual humidity and temp transitions when changing environments), but it really depends on the case. I’d bet my Reunion Blues gig bag outperforms the old chipboard case my 1970s POS all laminate guitar is in. But, I haven’t done any hygrometer testing to confirm that.

    Also, in my post above, the dehumidifiers only run in the humid months when the humidifier is off, just for clarification…

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    Default Re: Protecting mandolins from changes in climate

    Find a good luthier/repair person in your part of Vermont as soon as you can. Once your instruments have adjusted to different temperatures and humidity levels, they will probably need a set up.

    I moved from Modesto, CA (central valley: hot and dry) to Cambridgeshire in 2012. My Vessel F5 shifted a bit under the greater humidity and needed a setup after two or three months. I stopped gigging with it in favor of a carbon fibre Mix F5 because outdoor gigs generally included mist or rain that summer!

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