RESTORING AN ORIGINAL
Weathering the Dry Season
I hope you all had a very nice summer doing
all the things you enjoy this time of year.
Here in Minnesota it’s beginning to really feel
like fall. The boats will soon go into winter
storage, and the shop will once again have
gallons of moisture in the air from our humidity system, protecting the one-of-a-kind
instruments and our valuable private stock of
wood. Forty-five to fifty-five percent relative
humidity will keep your guitar in good condition. I really like to keep the moisture level
closer to 45 percent relative humidity, as I
have problems with mold and mildew. My
allergist doctor, well known and respected in
his field, says that even at 45 percent relative
humidity it’s impossible to avoid an allergic
reaction to mold and
mildew. Such is life.
Now there’s a pitch
for all of you synthetic guitar builders out
there, since those
materials are not as
as traditional wood
well-built, non-laminate acoustic guitars of all
makes bust apart, I always suggest that the
room most used for playing the instrument is
humidified with a room humidifier. Many make
the mistake of seeing the moisture go up in
the air and coming to the quick conclusion
that they’re at least at the 48 percent mark.
I’ve been in the business for several years,
and I have found that conclusion to be mostly
incorrect. The room was still under-humidified.
You really need to have a reliable hygrometer
in the room where you keep and play your
guitar to know the true moisture content.
Taking these precautions is really the safest
way to protect your valuable guitar.
A guitar typically hangs in the humidity
booth for one week. With daily checking and
hygrometer readings, this gradually returns
the proper moisture into the wood.
Doing it this way, rather than in its guitar
case, allows the instrument to evenly absorb
the proper moisture content, avoid the classic sharp protruding fret ends needing to be
filed, sanded and buffed.
Perhaps you own one or two vintage acoustics and you’re about to purchase your third,
but have never had any cracking issues
before. It’s still a good idea to follow these
guidelines and at least purchase a digital
hygrometer to protect your investment.
I’ve heard this from
more clients than
I can remember:
“I have two other
acoustics guitars that
I’ve had and played
for years in the same
room where I record.
They haven’t got
any cracking issues.
Why now? Why this
guitar?” Perhaps no
two pieces of wood
are exactly alike,
LEFT: One week in our homemade humidity booth restores dried out guitars to their appropriate moisture levels. but one thing is for
RIGHT: The duo of a hygrometer and humidifier can save your acoustics from dreaded cracking during dry seasons. sure: if you’re below
45 percent relative
humidity, you’ve just played your first round
of Russian Roulette.
Every year around
this time the crack
begins to boom.
Acoustic tops, backs,
ribs and fingerboard
separations are in
dire need of quality
repair. Then there are the classic sharp fret
ends protruding from dehydrated and severely shrunken fingerboards. Almost always,
these are caused when the instrument dries
out from being under-humidified. I can’t narrow it down to a particular brand of guitars, as
we see an assortment of quality brand names
moving through the shop needing crack restoration. I can tell you that the more economical, thicker laminated wooden guitars do not
generally react as severely to dry climate.
#0386 Stew Mac Humidifier
by Planet Waves
#5795 Stew Mac Humidipak Kit
by Planet Waves
#5793 Stew Mac Digital Humidity Gauge
Thanks to all you loyal Premier Guitar readers. Have a successful month!
A case humidifier is a good idea but requires
discipline and attentiveness, especially during those very dry, cold winter days that may
get down to 20 percent relative humidity. At
this level, the guitar humidifier will need to
be checked every five days. I encourage you
not to stop there, as the instrument should
also be played and not just stored during
dry and cold winter months. After seeing
Keep in mind that there are many similar
products by Kyser, Grover, Humitron, Dampit,
John Pearse, SKB and Guard Father that may
present different design options. You can
purchase an adequate room humidifier from
your local hardware store.
BGF Humidity Booth
The unlucky guitars end up in our humidity booth, which is made out of 1-1/4” PVC
pipe, 6 mil plastic sheeting and a floor board
to support the humidifier. I use a hot glue
gun to adhere the plastic sheeting to the
PVC piping, and I can hang four to five guitars in the booth at one time.
John Brown, of Brown's Guitar Factory, is the inventor
of the Fretted/Less bass. He owns and operates a full
guitar manufacturing and repair/restoration facility, which
is staffed by a team of talented luthiers. He is also the
designer of guitar making/repair tools and accessories
that are used today by instrument builders throughout