Just a reminder ( I know, you and I already know allll about this!)  As your furnace is working overtime with the current cold wave,so the humidity disappears out of your house! Your regular humidity settings  that have been the same during the winter with your Humidifiers going, can quite possibly be thrown right out the window!

 I don't know how many posts I have read on Guitar Forums in the last few days about this exact subject.

 Extra cold = Extra furnace time = Way less humidity = Cracked tops 

 There is no substitute for not having some type of a hygrometer in your house! 

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or.... no excuse. 

What??? no Pics? 

This morning it's -15F in Ann Arbor....

Tis the season indeed for cracks and dry instruments.  We've been seeing this for a few months now and always see the ravages of low RH this time of year.

Most of our clients when they pick-up their instrument either purchase a guitar/case humidifier or already have one.  The trick is getting them to actually charge and use the thing....

As for me I'm schlepping water like there is no tomorrow here in my home with 4 humidifiers running and a nice RH of 40 - 45%.

 Hesh, my point is that this year is WAYYYYYY worse than any other year since the internet actually began because of this massive North American cold snap. 

I'm saying that it is way different this year than any other, and just trying to get the message out there for folks that only have a vague idea that if they own a solid top guitar, they NEED to KNOW what the humidity level is in their homes.

Hygrometers are SUCH an important thing, and even some SUPER serious guitar players that I know, STILL are winging it and their guitars are cracking! How incredibly silly/stupid of them!  And if some of you are thinking I am being overly harsh saying that, I am not sorry at all.  

You have a $3500 acoustic, or in one case that has me TOTALLY riled up, 5 of them, and the person has NO CLUE what it looks like when an acoustic is starving for humidity, AND even though they have read dozens of threads over the years on this subject, still figure that they do not need a hygrometer. 

 People are absolutely nuts sometimes ...

And Hesh,  I am also schepping way more water than I usually do. 

Actually Kerry my friend I got-it so-to-speak from your original post that your point, one of them, is that things are worse this year than in the past.

Admittedly in my reply I avoided any mention of what was really on my mind, climate change... out of respect for Frank and the rest of our friends here on  You see I live in a country that has for some very stupid reason(s) made climate change a massive political issue with the same old, same old deep divisions, disagreement, and most unfortunately no resulting action....  What I just wrote was what I was trying to avoid getting into but as Michael said in the Godfather, just when I thought that I was out you drag me back in....;)

Moving on.... a couple of other things are on my mind too.  First, I'm a co-owner of a very busy, high volume repair shop and even though I often tend to value some instruments more than some people.... AND regardless of how we talk till we are blue in the face about maintaining proper RH with wooden instruments folks, some folks don't get-it, don't care to get-it, and likely will never get-it.  One reason may be the value that they place on things that others may covet and hold in great reverence, musical instruments.  And it's always been this way, some will, some won't, so what, do the best you can anyway.

Unfortunately this bad weather is an opportunity of sorts for folks in the repair business.  As unfortunate as it is that instruments are cracking all over North America at present other than deliberately making sure to discuss RH at every opportunity with clients AND stocking, restocking, etc. decent humidifier solutions for instruments there is not much that we can do.... in my view.

I think that what you are describing in your last post is basically abuse, correct?  I would agree that it's abuse but again what are ya going to do beyond responsibly disseminating information, preventative information, and making the products that may help available?

Regarding abuse and perhaps folks not appreciating what they have I'm sure that we all, folks in the trade, are keen to do our part but I am also sure that many who have experience in the biz are not going to stay up at night over it either, it happens every year, and the problem gradually diminishes as spring approaches.  Is this year worse than in the past?  Likely although I have no data to support this conclusion.

Will there always be some people who do not see musical instruments through the eyes of a responsible steward - unfortunately yes in my view.  Do I accept this as something that there is little that I can do about it - not entirely which is one of the reasons why I tend to be pretty prolific about RH on a number of forums.

Regarding hygrometers a hygrometer is not a panacea for proper instrument care.  Most, the vast majority of hygrometers on the market don't work, give wrong readings, and are very sensitive to the idea of "range" and may be close in some range and way off in the next range.

I understand your point Kerry and a hygrometer is important but of much more importance to me is an accurate hygrometer AND a method that represents a standard to on occasion check the accuracy of the hygrometer that one has such as a wet-bulb test.

The hygrometer won't stop your 1972 D-18 from cracking either, but when used in conjunction with a humidifier(s), perhaps the case too, some understanding of what range an instrument should be kept in, and some diligence on the part of the current steward of the instrument and then you have a plan what will work in my view.

We are on the same page, I appreciate your post, there was just a whole lot more on my mind including being PC... when I wrote my initial reply.

And I'll add I sure am getting sick of filling humidifiers here.....;)  Also, at the risk of breaking my own rules for forum participation let's remember this conversation next winter and see if the weather continues to break all known records....  Might be a good thing that guitars are basically shaped like boat paddles....

 Great post Hesh... 

You breath, cook spaghetti and take a shower, all of which put moisture in the air.  Outside, cold, possibly humid air leaks into the bottom of the house while inside, warm, humidified air leaks out the top.  The cold air warms up and its RH drops dramatically.  The leakier the house, the dryer the house - the only energy problem I can diagnose over the phone is if someone says "my finger sparks on the light switch when I cross the living room on the carpet".  I know right away they have a VERY leaky house.  

It is not the furnace that is drying out the house, it is the air leakage of the house itself.  There is no such thing as dry heat as no residential heater exchanges interior air with exterior air.  A wood stove can accelerate air leakage because it is forcing warm air out the chimney, and an unsealed duct system in the attic can can accelerate leakage because of possible imbalances in the supply/return pressures.

So you may be able to reduce the amount of water you have to schlepp if you make sure your house has been air sealed - this is independent of insulation, which you also need.  Many states/utilities have programs where they sponsor efficiency programs, most of them offering a rebate for doing the work.  Don't let anyone blow insulation in your attic without first measuring air leakage in the house and sealing the attic floor tightly (not the attic ventilation) as you will just have to move that new insulation to do the air sealing!

These programs will have a catchy name, many of them under the Home Performance with Energy Star banner, so call your utility or your State Energy Office.  The best news here is that  you will save energy and be more comfortable while you protect your instruments.

My 5 year old very tight, non-humidified house is at about 45-50% all the time.  It just hit its lowest RH at 32% here in 12 degree Eastern MD.

Good luck out there

Ed Minch

One thing to remember is that RH is exactly that: humidity RELATIVE to temperature. Kerry, your observation is exactly correct IF you keep your guitars at the same temperature as you live/work in. If you were to move an instrument to a cooler environment, it would instantly raise the RH. (For a thoroughly confusing sidetrack, see the various psychrometric charts available on line.). Now, I'm not suggesting that people put their guitars into the attic because it's the coolest place around just to raise the RH (it's -7 in Milwaukee right now, with an outdoor RH of 67%), but raise that air to an indoor temperature of, say, 68 degrees and you're talking RH's in the single digits. Obviously LOTS of moisture needed to be added to keep an indoor humidity at even 40%. In my indirectly heated but humidified/dehumidified basement shop, it's currently 59 degrees, which the above charts show I would have an unmodified RH of 23%. Obviously, less water vapor needs to be added to keep the RH up at that temperature.
I mention this out of concern that way too many people are dumping huge quantities of water into their buildings and causing untold damage to their structures, since the temperatures we're experiencing WILL cause condensation within wall cavities, which can cause major damage from wet insulation and rotting studs. (With 30 years of experience in building sciences, I could tell you horror stories...). My best advice is to keep instruments you are currently not using/working on in a cool but not cold environment and add as little humidity as possible. Better yet would a cool, humidified environment and a moderately humidified air-tight case. I do use care when bringing an instrument out a cool area into a heated area to avoid thermal shock.

Just to rub in in while I can, we've been living with the doors open for the last few weeks. We actually ran our AC for a bit one day last week. It's all coming to a screeching halt soon, however. Next week's they say it's probably going to get colder,  We may only have highs in the upper '60s.  It's a burden but someone has to carry it. ( right now, the RH is 74%) 

The catch is that we badly need rain or, better yet, snow in the Sierra Nevada Range. We should be getting our winter rain now and the mountains should be building snow pack. Instead, we have a request to reduce our water consumption by 20%.   

All in all, a great discussion. I live in Northeastern North Carolina(coastal) where we stay humid 'most of the time'.  Ihave never had a top crack on my acoustics (1940's-to 70's) while in my posession....knock on wood!

I do own and use (rarely) soundhole humidifiors.. I stuck them in after reading this...Ha!

We are getting ready for a two-day snow event and cold-snap....more severe than average for us. I have an 8 year old house with heat pump which runs constantly with temps below 30 degrees. We are expecting 20's and teens over the next two nites..

I own an 'antique' Taylor hyg-bar-temp unit and recently bought an OASIS 'pocket' hygrometer.


The digital OASIS reads 69.6 F / 24% rh


The old Taylor reads 66.F / 30.5% rh


Neither have been calibrated.


Not sure what to expect?

My theory is....if its a 40-60 year old instrument..... and has'nt cracked is good to go!...... SERIOUSLY....that is a lot of temp/relative humidity  life cycles!


Sort of like "culling" the weak from the strong...... by relative humidity...  


I did a thread last fall about one of my repair projects explosively cracking when I left the body ( sans neck) out during a rapid RH change. The change was rapid, dropping the local RH into the teens in a few hours. The guitar was old but it cracked right next to one of my repairs. The glue held... but the wood didn't.

I'm lazy about using humidifiers. IF I actually remember to set them up, I forget to feed them.  I know I should do this but then there are LOT of things in my life that I "should" do...

I usually don't leave guitars around out of their cases. I don't have a RH/temp controlled room or cabinet so I depend on the cases to buffer them.  I know this isn't going to make too much difference over the long hall of the RH stays down but it certainly helps buffer the sudden shifts that SoCal can be subject to and, while we can have drastic dips here from time to time, they don't usually last more than a day or so. We don't have truly cold weather so the issue of long term heating isn't much of a threat either.  In the case of the guitar that popped on me, I think I contributed to the problem in a couple of ways. I think part of the issue was that I humidified the guitar but then removed the (washboard)  top and glued it up flat and free of the body. I think that I stressing the top when I closed the cracks the last bit then glued it back to the ribs. I also should have recognized that it need to be buffered from the RH changes even if it wasn't under the stress of  strings ( or a neck, for that matter)   I left it to acclimate to the RH when it returned to something like normal and inserted a very thin spline rather than try to close the hairline crack that remained. The spline seems to have given it some room to move and it seems fine now.  I guess the whole point is that even old wood can crack under the right conditions. 


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