I read the article on Heat Stress and it got me thinking. I live in far northern Minnesota and heat isn't quite the problem here that it is in southern states. Has anyone looked into the detrimental effects that extreme cold might have on instruments? If I'm storing a guitar or other stringed instrument out where it'll get much below freezing (it can get below -40 here), I loosen the strings in case the cold might shrink and break them (or the neck). Is this a reasonable practice or what?

Tags: cold, heat, storage

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I would think it´s the low humidity You should be afraid of rather than the temperature.

Living in Sweden, I am used to the climate You are describing, only that most parts of Sweden have relative nearness to the oceans (Skagerak, Kattegat or the Baltic sea) keeping humidity up. In central parts though, and in cold winters, as the temp drops, the humidity goes with it. I guess the water in the air falls to the ground as ice crystals...

You can actually hear the sound in wooden houses as the woods are changing in size, when the humidity falls.

So, My beliefe is that what You should do is make shure to keep the instruments in their cases, and use humidifiers, to avoid cracks. Otherwise I dont think the temp itself is any real danger.

An analogy, perhaps not super relevant...;

With wooden boats in Sweden, You bring them on land in Sept. and cover them up to make shure they dry out before the freezing periods come, to avoid the woods to freezing while wet (and I mean wet, not humid). I think wet woods have a tendency to brake in its structure when freezing. On the other side, if they are left on land in summertime, You must wet them to avoid dry-cracks in the wood.
No additional comments by anyone on cold storage? At the temperatures I'm talking about, a humidifier would do nothing I think, in fact, if there's water in a container, freezing could burst the container (I don't know how most humidifiers are made, so I may be making a moot point on the freeze breakage).
During military service, I stayed the winter months far up north in Sweden.
(at a base so secret, that only russians know where)

We slept in a barrack that was left to cold during day time and then overheated
to comfort our arrival to bed at the evening,
- so it every day went from below -30F to some +85F.

I kept my Bjerton Estrella (rare collectible now) in it, and only noticeable damage
was the type of cracks in the cellulose finish that would anyway come by age.

Probably it was the dry climate that saved it.
I'd be concerned about the finish cracking from the cold. I've seen a lot of guitars that had this cracking and I've always assumed that some of it is caused by extreme cold.
Ronnie Nichols
If the instrument is left to normalise (slowly change temperature) it stands a better chance of not 'checking' -cracking. Nitro is particularly prone to checking due to rapid temperature/humidity changes and it becomes a problem when guitars are transported in extreme cold and sometimes left overnight in cold condition with a wind chill factor and then immediately exposed to high temperatures such as the interiors of clubs and bars with roaring fires and toasty warm environments.
Les Paul Goldtops and 52 reissue Fenders with thick nitro finishes re particularly prone to this problem and one of my dear clients did exactly what not to - left his 52 clone in the boot of his car overnight in Canberra where the temperature, aided by the wind chill factor went down to minus 10 or thereabouts and then took it inside to his warm kitchen to clean it up and it 'pinged' as the case was opened - literally cracked in front of his eyes. That's what I have seen - my advice; keep em in their cases for as long as possible when moving from hot to cold or vice versa. Rusty.
My experience exactly! It isn't the cold or the heat it is the change from cold to warm to fast that cracks it. The wood moves faster than the finish so it cracks. I have a acoustic guitar that I watched it crack when I left it below 0 for a few hrs than brought it in and open the case and watched the cracks develop.

Robro ROn
Yep, back in the late '60s. I had a friend that was in a college folk group that made a tour that included some hops around Greenland of all places. When he pulled his prize Gibson Humminbird out of its case after a very cold flight. he watched the finish crazed as it warmed up. His comment, though, was "Wow, you wouldn't believe the change in sound!".

But did he ever say what that change in the sound was?
I am curious also. Did he elaborate?
Well, I got to play it again when he got back and it just seemed more responsive, louder, and a bit sweeter. The change wasn't like going from a standard top to a Nomex-sandwich double top, for sure, but it was still quite evident.

There is an old adage that says 'Don't let your guitar sleep where you won't'. Makes sense to me.

Rev George
You should never leave or store instruments in the cold.
No scientific data, but my belief is, keep them where it is no colder than 40 degrees and no warmer than 80 degrees.

Instruments are like people and should be kept in the same environment.



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