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Instruments & Humidity in US and UK

Murray MacLeod 17 Sep 01 - 07:10 AM
bill\sables 17 Sep 01 - 08:42 AM
Jeri 17 Sep 01 - 10:32 AM
Mrrzy 17 Sep 01 - 10:35 AM
Liz the Squeak 17 Sep 01 - 10:43 AM
GUEST,Celtic Soul 17 Sep 01 - 10:50 AM
keberoxu 28 Aug 18 - 12:20 PM
GUEST,Jack Campin 28 Aug 18 - 12:33 PM
Steve Shaw 28 Aug 18 - 01:00 PM
GUEST,Some bloke 29 Aug 18 - 03:45 AM
JennieG 29 Aug 18 - 09:07 PM
GUEST,Ray 02 Sep 18 - 10:37 AM
GUEST,Jerry 02 Sep 18 - 11:26 AM
Backwoodsman 02 Sep 18 - 11:46 AM
Tattie Bogle 02 Sep 18 - 12:30 PM
GUEST,Jerry 02 Sep 18 - 12:41 PM
gillymor 02 Sep 18 - 02:00 PM
keberoxu 02 Sep 18 - 02:02 PM
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Subject: Humidity in US and UK
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 17 Sep 01 - 07:10 AM

I have noticed in several guitar related threads that American and British 'Catters seem to be unaware of each others climatic conditions, so here goes with an attempt to explain.

When I lived in Britain, I used to be puzzled frequently by references in American publications such as "Fine Woodworking" also "Acoustic Guitar" to the fact that wood "shrinks in winter and expands in summer". This was in direct contrast to the British experience, where doors start to jam in winter because that is when it gets wet in Britain.

When I emigrated to the States I soon found out what they meant. In Massachusetts (and all down the Eastern seaboard) for instance, the humidity in summer is intense, and moisture absorption by the guitar will cause the top to rise and the action to become stiff.

In winter conversely the air dries out to such an extent that the instrument's top will shrink, and the action will start buzzing. The top can even develop cracks (happened to me).

That is why all American guitars carry warnings about monitoring humidity levels. In Britain this problem just does not exist, it is a totally different climate. We do not have a humidity problem.

I am no meteorologist and do not know why conditions should be so different in the two countries. It puzzles me that Florida can be so humid in summer when San Juan in Puerto Rico, which is also surrounded by water, has nothing like the same humidity.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Humidity in US and UK
From: bill\sables
Date: 17 Sep 01 - 08:42 AM

I noticed on last years US tour with Allan C that my 1920's Vega tenor banjo was very stable until we got South to Georgia. From there right across the southern states to Texas and North to Collorado it was a bugger to keep in tune. North of Collorado and Eastwards is seemed fine again and back in the UK I have no trouble keeping it in tune.
Bill


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Subject: RE: Humidity in US and UK
From: Jeri
Date: 17 Sep 01 - 10:32 AM

I'm not a meteorologist either - just speculating.

I believe it gets so dry in winter because, at least where I am -
1) Winters are generally colder than in the UK. Cold air holds less moisture.
2) Heating systems dry out the air further. I may be completely wrong, but I believe when you heat air, it expands, and the percent humidity at 20°F/-1°C will be less when the same air is heated to 65°F/18°C. The gasses in the air expand, but the minute droplets of liquid contained in it don't. Add the fact that most Americans in cold climates try to limit the amount of fresh air coming into their homes, so less moisture replenishes what may come out of the indoor air.

The general reason for the humidity difference between the UK and US is how cold the winters get. This factor varies widely within the US, and some places in the US would probably be very similar to the UK.

I believe tuning problems happen when the humidity changes. The instrument starts to dry out, the wood shrinks a bit, and you have to re-tune. The opposite happens as well when the humidity increases and the wood expands. Once the humidity in the air and the instrument reaches a sort of consistant level, the tuning is back to normal.


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Subject: RE: Humidity in US and UK
From: Mrrzy
Date: 17 Sep 01 - 10:35 AM

And why would winters be colder here when the UK is so much farther north, has always puzzled me. Somehow they are a small island and the sea can't get below -2C by definition, so the island is kept from really really freezing?


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Subject: RE: Humidity in US and UK
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 17 Sep 01 - 10:43 AM

We sit in the nice warm Gulf stream. If Global warming rises to such an extent that the tides and weather patterns change, the nice warm Gulf stream will divert to lower down. Instead of washing up over the west coast of Ireland, Scotland and Southern England/Wales, it will go either, straight up the channel into Holland or further down to Portugal, which, as I'm sure people will agree, has more than it's share of nice weather.

If that happens, coinciding with the general lower temperatures that happen every 50 - 100 years, we will end up as frost bound as certain Canadian provinces. The south-west will become a haven for all manner of wildlife that is driven south by the bitter northern winters and the wildlife we have already will in turn be pushed farther south to France and Spain where it will probably be shot and eaten.

Mind you, it would be fun to have a frost fair on the Thames again....

LTS


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Subject: RE: Humidity in US and UK
From: GUEST,Celtic Soul
Date: 17 Sep 01 - 10:50 AM

The humidity and temperature variations here in the States are *so* extreme that you really need to know *where* in the US you are going before making the call.

Arizona is, on average, dry and hot.

Louisiana is, on average, wet and hot.

The eastern seaboard can be anything from hot and moist to cold and dry and anything in between.

The rest of the states are all over the place in their climates as well. Check out what the average weather for the area you will be visiting before you go.


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Subject: RE: Humidity in US and UK
From: keberoxu
Date: 28 Aug 18 - 12:20 PM

This thread, should it continue,
probably belongs in the non-music section,
even if it does talk about guitars --
since the focus is the weather.

This summer there has been no shortage of Mudcatter posts
lamenting the drought in the UK
while parts of the US get too much rain,
so, "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."


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Subject: RE: Humidity in US and UK
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 28 Aug 18 - 12:33 PM

A friend of mine lives in an ultra-ecological house where the insulation and humidity control are ridiculously efficient. She found that the reeds were falling out of her concertina because the air was too dry for too long.

I have once had slug trails over my alto flute case. Didn't do any harm but I made sure not to leave it there again.


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Subject: RE: Humidity in US and UK
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 28 Aug 18 - 01:00 PM

The UK climate is "equable," generally cool in summer and mild in winter. Average monthly temperatures (as opposed to average highs and lows) rarely exceed 18 Celsius in summer or go much below 3 or 4 in winter. Most lowland locations will on average, get just a handful of summer days in the high twenties (warmer than 80 F), a few more in the south-east of England, and temperatures above 32 Celsius (90 F) are uncommon. Lowland locations nearly all get far more frost-free days than days with frost in winter. Relative humidity is almost always above 50% almost everywhere, and average humidity in most places is well above that, typically in the 70s or more, even in summer. What we don't generally get is extreme swings. By the way, relative humidity is a measure of water vapour, not water droplets.


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Subject: RE: Humidity in US and UK
From: GUEST,Some bloke
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 03:45 AM

I bought a Rainsong guitar (carbon fibre) that is inert to such issues. It spent most of its time in The UK but I took it with me every year to The French Alps and also a couple of times to Alberta, Canada.

Here in The UK, it really isn't an issue, although playing in a marquee recently with hot humid air, my (normal) guitar was having problems staying in tune and a bit of fret buzz... Back to normal the next day.

We stay with friends in Canmore when in Canada and they bought their son a guitar back when they lived in Australia (Queensland, hot humid etc.). It split like a log under an axe... Really low humidity.

My niece plays cello and is based in Singapore, but she also keeps cellos in Australia, The USA and The UK. The Singapore instrument isn't allowed to travel, no matter which orchestra asks for her...

I bought a Terry Pack guitar recently and was bemused to see a hygrometer in the case. A nice touch, but for The UK market, (they are based in Blackpool) a little over the top.


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Subject: RE: Instruments & Humidity in US and UK
From: JennieG
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 09:07 PM

Around the coastline of Oz can be quite humid, but much more so on the east side (Queensland-N.S.W.) than the west......or so I'm told. The further north one goes, the higher the humidity. I live three-four hours inland from the N.S.W. coast where the humidity is much lower, so I keep a close eye on my guitars and ukes.

Lived in the Big Smoke (Sydney) where the humidity is fearsome, for 40 years. Occasionally we make a foray to the coast and my hair can always tell.


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Subject: RE: Instruments & Humidity in US and UK
From: GUEST,Ray
Date: 02 Sep 18 - 10:37 AM

Humidity isn't generally a problem for musical instruments in the UK as humidity doesn't suffer from such huge swings as it does elsewhere (i.e. Parts of the US).

The worst I've suffered is during a long cold spell when snow and ice hang around for weeks, locking up much of the air's moisture, the main symptome being projecting fret ends.


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Subject: RE: Instruments & Humidity in US and UK
From: GUEST,Jerry
Date: 02 Sep 18 - 11:26 AM

Surely, there is also central heating to bear in mind in the UK? I’ve noticed the string action to vary and the fret ends to project slightly on some instruments, so I tend to put a damp rag in some instrument cases to try and compensate. It does seem to make some difference, but it also makes small parts of the machine heads tarnish.


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Subject: RE: Instruments & Humidity in US and UK
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 02 Sep 18 - 11:46 AM

I have two room-hygrometers in my house (UK) and when the RH drops to 40% (in the winter when the CH is on, the guitars and mandolin go into their cases. The cases have in-case hygrometers and, if the RH in the cases is below 41 or 42%, I put these In the cases. Keeps RH in the high 40s through the winter.

Having had one Martin get dangerously dried-out by leaving it out on a stand over the winter, I'm not taking chances.


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Subject: RE: Instruments & Humidity in US and UK
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 02 Sep 18 - 12:30 PM

Non-tuneable bodhrans can have problems with varying humidity: I used to carry around a damp cloth in a poly bag for when it got too hot/dry/tight. And had to give it the hand-dryer treatment in the loo when it went totally flaccid on a hot and humid day!
My tuneable one survived being left in a car in Spain: left the car in the shade, came back - no longer in shade, car temp gauge reading 50 deg C!
Pianos too can suffer: our old wooden-framed upright had its frame crack after years of being in a too warm, too dry room.


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Subject: RE: Instruments & Humidity in US and UK
From: GUEST,Jerry
Date: 02 Sep 18 - 12:41 PM

Tattie Bogke - I hope no one just reads your second sentence in isolation from the rest.


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Subject: RE: Instruments & Humidity in US and UK
From: gillymor
Date: 02 Sep 18 - 02:00 PM

I installed a Thermidistat in my condo about 17 years ago and maintain a relative humdity of around 52% which allows me to keep my instruments in a rack and hanging on the wall where I can easily get at them. I live in South Florida on the edge of the Everglades and we experience exterior humidity of 100%, or close to it, about 7-8 months out of the year it's a major concern but so far no problems.


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Subject: RE: Instruments & Humidity in US and UK
From: keberoxu
Date: 02 Sep 18 - 02:02 PM

I love the visual of taking the bodhran
into the ladies' restroom and holding it under the hand dryer!


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