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Humidity control in violin case

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Someone showed me a violin case with a long plastic tube in it. She said it was for humidity control. I thought it was just an empty string tube. Could she be correct? 

Thank

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The long plastic tube is especially for the "stiff" version of classic overwound gut strings like Olivs and Eudoxas. Works less well for the floppy synthetics, especially if they've been stored/shipped coiled. 

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Some Bobeck cases have a small plastic capsule/vial, with "adjustable" holes [like a salt shaker] in the top, clipped into the inside of the pegbox area of the body of the case. Supposed to be used for humidification [fill it with water, let it evaporated]. I've never trusted it not to accidentally produce a puddle.

The long tube clipped into the lid is indeed intended for string storage..... Jackson is correct that trying to get previously coiled synthetics into it is like trying to thread a needle after too may scotches.

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Musafia includes one in most of their cases. Tube with holes and absorbent material in it.  Add moisture in the tube and the absorbent material stays damp to add humidity to the case. See Musafia’s website for actual instructions, but apparently Shar sells them for Musafia also. You can read more in the “About” section. 

http://www.sharmusic.com/Accessories/Humidifiers/DIMUS-II-Humidifier-for-Musafia-Cases.axd

 

8DDB408D-11CC-470A-ABA6-8C79375BFFA1.jpeg

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Ladies, gents,

A piece of advice needed. We moved to a new location recently and I noticed some minor changes in my violin's sounding - it started to sound a bit thinner and harsher than usual. I believe that the reason is the climate is much dryer here (still, I don't have a hygrometer right now to check this but I haven't thought it would be so noticable). I have an in-case humidifier, and I try not to leave violin out of case during the breaks, still I'm afraid that dryness has affected my instrument more than usual.

Apart from glass of water with a straw, like Deo Lawson suggested, what you can do? Or maybe you control the humidity outside the case somehow? 

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Jane,

Trying to manipulate the humidity your instrument is subjected to without a hygrometer is dangerous. i have had clients tell me that since they are boiling a gallon of water a day on top of their woodstove they are sure the humidity must be alright only to find it at 20% once they checked with a hygrometer. You can get a reasonably accurate digital one for less than $50 that will let you know the humidity when you check it and some will have a memory which will tell you the high and low since you last checked. If the instrument is stored in a 40 to 60 percent range when not in use it should be fine. I do not really like any of the in case humidifier options and suggest a small room which can be humidified or dehumidified as needed.

I have a very good cello in my shop right now which has been damaged by using water absorbing and releasing crystals in a tube kept in the case. Most of the in case humidifiers wind up cycling the environment from too wet to too dry over and over again.

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I have found that Stretto humidifier pads work very well in cases as monitored using hygrometers. I use a cello Stretto in a living room violin cabinet containing 3 violins, and it never falls below 40% RH or above 50%; it is usually at 45% RH when the room %RH is in the low 30's. I used to have to keep that whole room humidified, but I don't anymore.

I keep a warm mist humidifier with a controller going in the room where I keep most of my violins, but when I travel and cannot keep it filled, I put fresh Stretto pads soaked in distilled water in all the cases. They will last about 2-weeks. It is a somewhat expensive solution, but it works. 

2 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

I have a very good cello in my shop right now which has been damaged by using water absorbing and releasing crystals in a tube kept in the case.

What happened? Did the crystals empty into the case?

 

 

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7 hours ago, GeorgeH said:

I have found that Stretto humidifier pads work very well in cases as monitored using hygrometers. I use a cello Stretto in a living room violin cabinet containing 3 violins, and it never falls below 40% RH or above 50%; it is usually at 45% RH when the room %RH is in the low 30's. I used to have to keep that whole room humidified, but I don't anymore.

I keep a warm mist humidifier with a controller going in the room where I keep most of my violins, but when I travel and cannot keep it filled, I put fresh Stretto pads soaked in distilled water in all the cases. They will last about 2-weeks. It is a somewhat expensive solution, but it works. 

What happened? Did the crystals empty into the case?

 

 

No. There were several open seams which had allowed the top to warp rather badly in that area. I think what happened was that the rapid humidity changes from filling the in case humidifier swelled the top and encouraged warping in the areas which were not glued down. Hopefully popping the seams and regluing will return the original shape over time but best to avoid the problem in the first case. 

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I would suggest that the problem was not with the humidifier in the case, but allowing the Instrument to dry out so severely in the first place.

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3 hours ago, GeorgeH said:

I would suggest that the problem was not with the humidifier in the case, but allowing the Instrument to dry out so severely in the first place.

I  have monitored this instrument for several years and have had to glue some seams in the winter but this warping is new since the owner started using the in the case humidifier

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I have had significant trouble with students using the 'dampit' kind of internal humidifiers, which can drip and cause rib cracking and warping.  I have never had trouble with the little in-case canvas tubes with crystals, like the Oasis, provided the users don't accidentally dump out the crystals.  And provided distilled water is used.  And I have had these in cases of rather fragile old violins with good results.  Nathan has vastly more experience, but these have served me well so far and I still recommend them here.

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I was very skeptical of in-case humidifiers until I tried the Strettos. Maybe some other brands do excessively humidify cases; I have not tried other brands, but without monitoring the temperature/humidity cycling in-and-out of a case that an instrument was exposed to, I would not be so quick to assign an in-case humidifier as the sole cause of seams opening or wood warping.

Except for Dampits. I will blame them for everything:D

But, regardless, I'd recommend @nathan slobodkin's client switch to Strettos.

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The old folk remedy was half an apple in the case, but I'd rather eat the apple. Decades ago we used to use a plastic soap dish with a bunch of holes drilled in it and a damp sponge inside. And there's the rub. The important word is damp, not wet. There is a tendency to want a set it and forget it solution. Generally I find that those things don't work. The old low tech sponge in a box, sponge in a tube can work just fine. The trick is not to add more water, it's to add a little water more often. It's pretty safe to assume that the colder it is outside, the drier it is inside. Hence the more often you have to add a SMALL amount of water. There's a bit more to it than that, but we spend some effort educating customers on the hazards of dry air in a midwest winter because we get to see what doesn't work.

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These deelybobs seem to work pretty well, if one is willing to replace them regularly in the more challenging climates, or in cases which have higher water vapor penetration or air exchange rates.  Depending on the moisture permeability and air exchange rate, you might need to use more than one. They will either release or absorb moisture as necessary, to keep the humidity in the case around 50%.

https://bovedainc.com/small-wood-instruments/

But I'd still recommend keeping a validated hygrometer in the case. Without that, it's really hard to know if any humidification system is keeping up, or falling behind on one end or the other.

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I use Boveda packs for my bass rosin. Most soft bass rosins turn to bricks after a few months. It’s a waste, replacing them for something fresh while there’s still plenty left.

The Rosin Saver came along, sized specifically for Pops, using the 73% RH Boveda packs and much of that waste went away. I use Oak rosin (square) so had to make my own container, but it was worth the trouble: I’ve been using the same cake of rosin for 3 years now.

David, the reason I’m mentioning this here is that you already know replacing the packets can be a little pricey. They start out with the consistency of jello, and they’re dead when they get hard and crystallized. For me that’s after about 6 months. Boveda warns you not to attempt to recharge them, that the results can be unpredictable. But there’s tons of video’s from cigar guys (gals?) showing how to do it.

I gave it a try. For me it’s just risking a cake of rosin. I soaked them in a container of distilled water for about a week (too long but I had a gig out of town). They puffed up, more feeling like water filled than gel. I let them dry off and stuck them in a sealed container with a hygrometer. They settled at about 86% RH. It turns out my rosin actually likes the higher RH so I’m happy. I’ll check them again in a couple months.

Since doing that, I’ve seen an alternative rehydrating technique that makes more sense to me. Kind of a double boiler setup. Dead Boveda packs placed in an open topped jar which itself is placed in a sealed container semi-filled with water and left on a window sill or warm place to saturate the air inside. I still have one more dead pack. I’ll give it a shot and see if the result is closer to the original RH.

Again, I’m just risking some rosin. You’re risking an instrument. But for what it’s worth....

 

 

 

 

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Agreed that the boveda packs are great if you absolutely need an in-case solution. Dampits are a scam - I've seen too many ruined labels, bulged ribs, stained and cracked interiors due to their misuse. 

Some really good info has already been given - use an accurate in-case hygrometer so that you know what's going on. Extremes of humidity are dangerous for an instrument, but what is more dangerous is rapid changes in humidity

Imagine it's winter. You keep your instrument in your humidity regulated practice room at home. It's a constant comfy 45% RH. Now you are taking your fiddle in its case to the performance venue, a large hall, modestly insulated. They have to run the HVAC constantly to maintain a temperature comfortable for their patrons. You arrive right at your call time, find your seat, pull your instrument out of its 45%RH case and into a huge, thirsty mass of air thats 20% RH or below. Those thin bits of wood you play on are going to give up what moisture they have very quickly, and you could be in for some trouble. 

What can you do? Keep your instrument in a heavy weight silk bag. Silk mediates the movement of humidity. Arrive early and open your case, arrange your music or what have you, and after 10/15 minutes pull your fiddle out of the bag. This will have given it time to get used to the area a little more gradually. 

I'm from Hawaii (pretty humid) and have lived in the Northwest and the Midwest for the last ten years, taking instruments back and forth between 90% and 18% humidity within a week without any cracks, since I started using silk. If you don't want to use a bag, wrap it in a silk scarf. 

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36 minutes ago, JacksonMaberry said:

Agreed that the boveda packs are great if you absolutely need an in-case solution. Dampits are a scam - I've seen too many ruined labels, bulged ribs, stained and cracked interiors due to their misuse. 

Some really good info has already been given - use an accurate in-case hygrometer so that you know what's going on. Extremes of humidity are dangerous for an instrument, but what is more dangerous is rapid changes in humidity

Imagine it's winter. You keep your instrument in your humidity regulated practice room at home. It's a constant comfy 45% RH. Now you are taking your fiddle in its case to the performance venue, a large hall, modestly insulated. They have to run the HVAC constantly to maintain a temperature comfortable for their patrons. You arrive right at your call time, find your seat, pull your instrument out of its 45%RH case and into a huge, thirsty mass of air thats 20% RH or below. Those thin bits of wood you play on are going to give up what moisture they have very quickly, and you could be in for some trouble.

For the most part, I haven't found that moisture content of the wood (evaluated by weight change) will hugely alter during a playing gig in a much different environment. I would place the high risk level at something in excess of 24 hours.

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10 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

For the most part, I haven't found that moisture content of the wood (evaluated by weight change) will hugely alter during a playing gig in a much different environment. I would place the high risk level at something in excess of 24 hours.

Valuable perspective, thanks David 

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I agree with rapid change from wet to dry. My own experience was when I bought new dehumidifier for my shop. I had been without dehumidifier for some time and humidity stayed somewhere in 60-65% and when I got the unit I just turned it on and set it close to max (it didn't have hygrostat with display, just simple turn knob) thinking I will check the humidity in the next morning and set it more carefully. Since my shop is very small and the dehumidifier was quite effective I found the humidity went from 60's down to 20% overnight and back center-joint  of one of my freshly finished instruments opened on 2" at tailblock. I managed to massage thinned hide glue into the crack and it pretty much closed itself from the humidity of glue and stayed closed for a decade or so till the instrument got stolen from it's owner. I really measure humidity very carefully since that day.

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