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Shipment of fiddles in below freezing temperatures


Jeny Mahon
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I have a fiddle on its way to me... for the last ten days :angry:  It was shipped from the East Coast via Fedex "home delivery" and although they said it would be here today it's delayed again.   We're having some rare snow/ice here in Seattle, so everything is delayed. I'm worried about it being in these temperatures for almost two weeks now.   My question is, will this harm the fiddle?  I would be pretty upset if it arrived cracked or something.  

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I have had the opposite problem of an instrument being shipped to me in the blazing hot summer and worrying that being on the FedEx truck overnight when there was no temperature control would cause problems.

The representative that I spoke to told me they will be no problems. And there weren’t. I do not know whether they park the trucks inside overnight or The climate control system works even when the truck is off, but I’ve never had a weather related problem receiving an item.

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Instruments can withstand subzero temperatures when they get there slowly inside an insulated case.

The problems come when the rate of change of temperature is too fast

like when you open your case and expose your ice cold fiddle to a warm room.

I would recommend not opening

your case for a few days to let your fiddle warm up slowly.

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Just now, donbarzino said:

your case for a few days to let your fiddle warm up slowly.

A 3-4 hours in the case at room temperature should be enough in regards to the equilibrating temperature.

I am more concerned with controlling humidity during shipments, and I will sometimes put a Stretto pad in the case if a violin is being shipped to a dry area.

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42 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

I have had the opposite problem of an instrument being shipped to me in the blazing hot summer and worrying that being on the FedEx truck overnight when there was no temperature control would cause problems.

The representative that I spoke to told me they will be no problems. And there weren’t. I do not know whether they park the trucks inside overnight or The climate control system works even when the truck is off, but I’ve never had a weather related problem receiving an item.

 

16 minutes ago, donbarzino said:

Instruments can withstand subzero temperatures when they get there slowly inside an insulated case.

The problems come when the rate of change of temperature is too fast

like when you open your case and expose your ice cold fiddle to a warm room.

I would recommend not opening

your case for a few days to let your fiddle warm up slowly.

 

10 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

A 3-4 hours in the case at room temperature should be enough in regards to the equilibrating temperature.

I am more concerned with controlling humidity during shipments, and I will sometimes put a Stretto pad in the case if a violin is being shipped to a dry area.

Thank you!  When it does finally get here I will do as suggested and leave it in a cooler room of our house to warm up gradually for at least 1-2 days before opening.  

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Some of my experiments have included placing fiddles from 250 f into a subzero environment numerous times,,,

never had a problem, however the wood had been prepared and was very stable.

If you have a violin in a  frozen condition and it was moist when it started, it will have probably dehydrated a bit, and be a bit shrunken, humidity, or the lack of is the real trouble and not the cold.

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A few points:

I've learned to never ship either high-value or time-sensitive objects around Christmas. That is a time when shipping companies are overwhelmed, leading to a much higher probability of errors, and exceeding the physical capacity of their transportation devices to get things to their destination in either the estimated or "promised" time frame. Shortly after Christmas, the system can also be overwhelmed with returns.

Humidity:  If a fiddle is placed in a case with environmental conditions of about 70 degrees F, and 50% relative humidity, the temperature will only need to drop to about 50 degrees F before the entrapped air in the case reaches 100% relative humidity. At 32 F, it becomes more like 220 percent, with the outcome that the air in the case can no longer hold all the moisture, so the moisture will condense on various surfaces as water droplets, or "dew".

Outcomes can vary, somewhat depending on how well a case seals, and the water vapor permeability of the materials used.

I suspect that delayed shipments are stored in warehouses, rather than in trucks, because the space in transportation and delivery vehicles is hard to come by, and expensive compared to storing in a warehouse.

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7 hours ago, David Burgess said:

A few points:

I've learned to never ship either high-value or time-sensitive objects around Christmas. That is a time when shipping companies are overwhelmed, leading to a much higher probability of errors, and exceeding the physical capacity of their transportation devices to get things to their destination in either the estimated or "promised" time frame. Shortly after Christmas, the system can also be overwhelmed with returns.

Humidity:  If a fiddle is placed in a case with environmental conditions of about 70 degrees F, and 50% relative humidity, the temperature will only need to drop to about 50 degrees F before the entrapped air in the case reaches 100% relative humidity. At 32 F, it becomes more like 220 percent, with the outcome that the air in the case can no longer hold all the moisture, so the moisture will condense on various surfaces as water droplets, or "dew".

Outcomes can vary, somewhat depending on how well a case seals, and the water vapor permeability of the materials used.

I suspect that delayed shipments are stored in warehouses, rather than in trucks, because the space in transportation and delivery vehicles is hard to come by, and expensive compared to storing in a warehouse.

Thank you for this insight. Would you suggest putting one of those packets which absorb moisture in the case to avoid this problem? I have shipped a few violins and will probably do so again.

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9 hours ago, David Burgess said:

A few points:

I've learned to never ship either high-value or time-sensitive objects around Christmas. That is a time when shipping companies are overwhelmed, leading to a much higher probability of errors, and exceeding the physical capacity of their transportation devices to get things to their destination in either the estimated or "promised" time frame. Shortly after Christmas, the system can also be overwhelmed with returns.

Humidity:  If a fiddle is placed in a case with environmental conditions of about 70 degrees F, and 50% relative humidity, the temperature will only need to drop to about 50 degrees F before the entrapped air in the case reaches 100% relative humidity. At 32 F, it becomes more like 220 percent, with the outcome that the air in the case can no longer hold all the moisture, so the moisture will condense on various surfaces as water droplets, or "dew".

Outcomes can vary, somewhat depending on how well a case seals, and the water vapor permeability of the materials used.

I suspect that delayed shipments are stored in warehouses, rather than in trucks, because the space in transportation and delivery vehicles is hard to come by, and expensive compared to storing in a warehouse.

Thank you! 

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It was FINALLY delivered today.  Currently sitting on our big overstuffed leather chair in the living room, with a fleece blanket around it, watching TV. 

Oh wait... that's my husband.:lol:

But yeah, waiting until next year to open it!  

Thanks everybody for your advice!  Happy New Year :) 

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15 hours ago, David Burgess said:

I suspect that delayed shipments are stored in warehouses, rather than in trucks, because the space in transportation and delivery vehicles is hard to come by, and expensive compared to storing in a warehouse.

All it takes is a snowstorm or a strike, and the parcels are sometimes left outside in the elements on the tarmac. I've had that happen and no, it's not pretty. I agree, avoid the holidays which just compound things. And now there's Covid which has decimated workers in Customs and logistics.

We currently have shipments which are over a month late.

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9 hours ago, Greg Sigworth said:

Thank you for this insight. Would you suggest putting one of those packets which absorb moisture in the case to avoid this problem? I have shipped a few violins and will probably do so again.

I wouldn't. There are too many unknowns when shipping an instrument. If a moisture-absorbing packet absorbs some of the moisture, and then the instrument spends some time in a warmer environment, or in an extremely dry environment such as on an airplane, the air inside the case could wind up too dry.

Shipping next-day or second-day can reduce the exposure to the temperature-dependent humidity swings. Floating the instrument case in a larger box filled with styrofoam peanuts, with a minimum of 6 inches all around, will improve the thermal insulation, as well as reducing air exchange with outside air a bit.

I should add that Dimitri has taken some humidity measurements in heated cases which seemed rather counter-intuitive, so maybe he can link to those again to help fill out the picture.

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22 hours ago, David Burgess said:

I should add that Dimitri has taken some humidity measurements in heated cases which seemed rather counter-intuitive, so maybe he can link to those again to help fill out the picture.

Thank you, David, and happy new year!

My studies have shown that a case exposed to direct sunlight heats up inside at a rapid rate (the outside color doesn't make much difference). That exposure can simply be waiting outside for a tour bus or a taxi, or walking from the train station to your hotel. 

What does seem counterintuitive is that the relative humidity inside the case can double in 20 minutes, such as from an initial 40% to 80%. (It is counterintuitive because everyone knows that heating an air mass makes it drier). What happens is the air, as it heats up, tends to suck out moisture from wherever can: the humidifier, the case lining, even the violin itself. And so it does, and the violin is not happy. 

Additionally, while the air is heated, it tries to expand. If the case is airtight, it cannot, and it goes under pressure. This increases the dew point, thus increasing the RH further.

The solution is to provide pressure-release ports in the case structure. Testing has shown in fact that making particularly large ones allows the heated air to escape to the point of reducing the level of RH from initial value to a dangerously low level, which is what we would all expect when air is heated. Thus, carefully-sized release ports will maintain a stable relative humidity level even with the increase of internal air temperature.

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On 12/31/2021 at 10:29 AM, David Burgess said:

Humidity:  If a fiddle is placed in a case with environmental conditions of about 70 degrees F, and 50% relative humidity, the temperature will only need to drop to about 50 degrees F before the entrapped air in the case reaches 100% relative humidity. At 32 F, it becomes more like 220 percent, with the outcome that the air in the case can no longer hold all the moisture, so the moisture will condense on various surfaces as water droplets, or "dew".

 

You make it sound dire,

there is still the same amount of water in the same space, it only changes forms, it doesn't create more water, that is why it is relative, and not absolute.

So if moisture is condensing on the coldest part. (the case) wouldn't that automatically lower the humidity and the violin would actually off gas moisture to balance the equation, before it is able to cool down to that point, at which point there is no more moisture to collect.

Educate me big dog.

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1 hour ago, Evan Smith said:

You make it sound dire,

there is still the same amount of water in the same space, it only changes forms, it doesn't create more water, that is why it is relative, and not absolute.

Yup, and the moisture content of wood tracks closely with relative humidity, not absolute humidity. That's why relative humidity is the thing we want to keep track of. Fortunately, that is what most hygrometers measure/calculate anyway.

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The bottle starts off full of warm air from inside your house.  When you bring it outside, the air in the bottle cools off and shrinks, creating a partial vacuum inside.  The bottle gets crushed by the atmosphere surrounding it.

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On 1/1/2022 at 4:25 AM, Dimitri Musafia said:

Thank you, David, and happy new year!

My studies have shown that a case exposed to direct sunlight heats up inside at a rapid rate (the outside color doesn't make much difference). That exposure can simply be waiting outside for a tour bus or a taxi, or walking from the train station to your hotel. 

What does seem counterintuitive is that the relative humidity inside the case can double in 20 minutes, such as from an initial 40% to 80%. (It is counterintuitive because everyone knows that heating an air mass makes it drier). What happens is the air, as it heats up, tends to suck out moisture from wherever can: the humidifier, the case lining, even the violin itself. And so it does, and the violin is not happy. 

Additionally, while the air is heated, it tries to expand. If the case is airtight, it cannot, and it goes under pressure. This increases the dew point, thus increasing the RH further.

The solution is to provide pressure-release ports in the case structure. Testing has shown in fact that making particularly large ones allows the heated air to escape to the point of reducing the level of RH from initial value to a dangerously low level, which is what we would all expect when air is heated. Thus, carefully-sized release ports will maintain a stable relative humidity level even with the increase of internal air temperature.

The outside color of the case doesn’t make any difference? In Texas I always stress to my kids to get as pale a color as possible, and avoid black because black absorbs heat much better than white. That’s not correct?

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3 hours ago, uncle duke said:

What can be the explanation when an empty capped 2 ltr is put out to the recycle bin and within seconds it has started collapsing?

Fill it with steam first, and the collapse will be even more dramatic. Video of a steel drum collapsing under atmospheric pressure:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsoE4F2Pb20

11 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

The outside color of the case doesn’t make any difference? In Texas I always stress to my kids to get as pale a color as possible, and avoid black because black absorbs heat much better than white. That’s not correct?

That comes as a surprise to me, too.

 

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56 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

The outside color of the case doesn’t make any difference? In Texas I always stress to my kids to get as pale a color as possible, and avoid black because black absorbs heat much better than white. That’s not correct?

Look at this graph, there is a difference but not an enormous one:

immagine.png.1b2a40407bfd6a2bc833baa6a0b7b17e.png

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