“An ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure.” In this post, we’ll break down the best way to protect your guitar in the cool months ahead.
Chicago winters kill guitars. The weather gets dry and cold, so we turn on our furnaces – drying out the air in our homes even further. Many will see their indoor relative humidity drop below 20% . That’s 25-30% lower than the factories where guitars are made and the wood just doesn’t like it. Like the skin on our fingertips and the seams on our hardwood floors, dry guitars can split open without ever being dropped or otherwise mishandled. Other symptoms we see include:
- rough fret ends that stick out past the edge of a fretboard
- loose bridges and braces
- loose neck joints
- separations along the many glue joints that hold a guitar together
- dramatic changes in playing ‘action’
So what can you do to prevent costly repairs to these problems? There’s so many choices hanging in guitar stores that it can be hard to tell which one to buy. We may kick ourselves for giving away the secrets that keep us in business – but here’s a look at the products that will best help you keep your guitar healthy and happy this winter. You’ll also find a simple formula for how to effectively use them.
We’ve heard some interesting home remedies over the years – from leaving a baggie with a wet sponge in a guitar case to putting an apple or potato inside a case (NOT recommended by these two technicians.) And we’ve seen lots of products too -from film canister size humidifiers with clay inside to rubber tubes with a sponge inside to space-age devices that can offer protection for months. When selecting products to carry here at Chicago Fret Works, we applied the lessons we’ve learned over the years and chosen these winners:
Best Choice For Acoustic Guitars – Planet Waves Humidipak*
($30) We were thrilled when Planet Waves (D’addario) recently re-released the Humidipak for guitars. It utilizes sophisticated modern technology for a low-maintenance, long-term solution to keeping fine acoustic guitars properly humidified. Three removable packets hang in black mesh pockets (two for the soundhole and one for behind the headstock,) releasing just enough moisture to keep the inside of your guitar case at 48% for 3-4 months. The moisture is all in those packets – no need for constant refilling with water. Read more about it at www.planetwaves.com . While you’re there, be sure to check out the video of Bob Taylor from Taylor Guitars to see what he thinks.
*Planet Waves did recall this product twice in the past few years for design flaws. They’ve spent lots of time and money eliminating those problems and are releasing it now, confident that it is finally ready for prime-time. More on that subject here.
Runner-up Choice for Acoustic Guitars – Oasis
($20) We really like these humidifiers. They hold enough distilled water to last from one to two weeks without needing to be refilled. Special crystals inside expand into a super absorbent paste that should be replaced each year (replacement kits are available at CFW for $6.) One advantage Oasis holds over every other product is that it will tell you when it’s time to refill by collapsing into a raisin-like appearance that says “Yo! Gettin’ a little dry over here!”
For the tight budget – Planet Waves Humidifier
($8) If you play your guitar every day or two and don’t mind refilling a sponge that often, Planet Waves’ original guitar humidifier is the least expensive option. It’ll work as well as the others but will need more attention.
Humidifying F-hole guitars on a budget
($8) Finally, we do keep a few of the old-style tube humidifiers for guitars and mandolins that have F-holes or for those who just like this style. Fill them up every one to two days.
The Recipe For Keeping A Guitar Properly Humidified:
- A FULL humidifer
- Inside the guitar
- Inside the case (NOT hanging on the wall or on a stand.)
- From October through April (or as long as the heat is on in your home)
…Or let it go and come see us in the spring for the best structural repairs anywhere!