I live in Eastern Massachusetts where the climate is fairly temperate year round (not too dry or humid). Should I still use a violin humidifier, such as a Dampit?
Eastern Mass doesn't require central heating, or suffer humidity in the summer? Amazing.
Given your outdoor humidity and temperature right now, your indoor relative humidity may be as low as 10%. I recommend keeping stringed instruments at a minimum of 40%, and a maximum of 60%.
Thanks everyone for those suggestions. I appreciate it. I'm going to take some steps to increase the humidity in my apartment.
I use a Damp-it (I blot like crazy and let mine dry on paper towels for a bit before inserting into my violin - amazingly my luthier did not tell me to not use it when I asked about it!) I also use a Stretto pack and that newfangled tube humidifier (I cannot remember the name). I don't recommend the tube humidifier to go into the string tube clips, mine broke when I took it out of the clips to rehydrate, and the company offered a 30% discount for a replacement (the plastic is quite flimsy). Now I have it taped together and it still kinda sorta not really works... Sometimes I will use two Stettos. I also run a humidifier depending on the ambient humidity in my home.
David Burgess's website suggests an inexpensive room humidifier with a humidity control outlet. I keep the heat/ventilation on (since the violin stays in my bedroom!) and have to refill the water in the humidifier twice a day during cold spells. As a bonus I am also a little more humidified while I sleep :)
"David Burgess's website suggests an inexpensive room humidifier with a humidity control outlet."
"One can do this for well under 100 bucks." - but how much does it add to the electricity bill? If I understand correctly, it's essentially an electric water kettle that boils off water. That could add up to quite a bit in energy costs.
Han, any form of water vaporization will require energy, so the cost of doing so, whether from a Dampit, a room humidifier, or a whole house humidifier, will be greater than zero.
Just a comment that this ^^^ may be true in the U.S., but I believe Han is in Europe.
I'm indeed in Europe, fortunately in a place where the air rarely gets very dry in the winter. And even if it did, I'd probably not care about my beginner's rental instrument enough to bother with a humidistat.
Han, a great deal will depend on the climate where you live, and how tight the building is. During our coldest periods with outdoor temperatures around zero F, I am vaporizing about 1.5 gallons per day to keep my workshop at 40%, and the rest of my house around 30-35%. Much of the year, I don't require any humidification. During our warm and humid summer months, I use a dehumidifier to keep the humidity below 60%. That's not only for the instruments, but also for health reasons, since high-moisture environments favor the growth of things like mold and dust mites. I have allergies to these, but a guy down the street from me actually died from a lung infection induced by living in a moldy environment. That house subsequently went through months of mold remediation.
We have dyson humidifiers in every room which is 3 in total. The tanks have to be filled twice a day when temperature goes down outside and heating up inside. They are expensive but safe as the water gets some kind of ultrasound treatment before coming out of the humidifier, so its clean. Relatively low maintenance and no chemicals. Good for humans as well as violins. Im pretty sure they are much better than smal case humidifiers which I dont really think work if the huimidity is very low.
David, I understand that you, as a luthier, need to control humidity in your shop. But what's best for you is not necessarily the best for an individual with a single instrument. I'd think that a sealed cupboard with a container filled with e.g. saturated potassium carbonate solution (43% RH) would be more practical. If you store a plywood-based violin case in such a cupboard, then the violin case itself will be a humidity buffer during short trips. Only during practice, the instrument would be exposed, but I wouldn't expect the wood to dry out significantly after just an hour or two.
Han, the value of the instrument (whether emotional, monetary, or from being a favorite and difficult-to-replace professional performance tool) will certainly have an influence on whether or not one wants to go to the trouble of controlling humidity. My sister-in-law was devastated when her favorite guitar developed a big crack in the top one winter, even though it wasn't worth much by fiddle standards, maybe only three thousand bucks or so.
Maria, ultrasonic, 'cool mist', and other such humidifiers should use much less electricity than 'warm mist' ones -- which boil the water, but both methods have significant issues with minerals in the water. With the 'warm mist' ones, you see this as build-up in the device itself where the water is boiled. In 'cool mist' devices you see this as very fine white dust distributed throughout your space over time. Of course this depends on the quality of water in your location, but unless you have distilled water, there will be some impurities, and these will appear over time.
Han, checked and dyson actually uses ultraviolet light to cleansing, not ultrasound, or is that a different thing? My mistake, but still no chemicals and no bacteria and mould.
Yes, ultraviolet light for sterilization and ultrasound for misting. Two ultra technologies in those Dysons. :-)
I like the cheapest sort of steam type vaporizers, because they boil the water to produce steam, so the steam emitted is both sterilized and distilled.. mineral free. They also don't circulate any room air through the unit, and contaminants from the room air are what supports mold and bacteria growth.
David — currently using an ultrasonic because it has an auto- shutoff feature, should it run out before I get to it. Do the steam vaprorizer units have a safety to keep them from heating if empty?
I don't think such a device would be legal to sell if it couldn't handle running out of water. No way it would get a CE or UL marking.
I believe "reading" your bow hair can be a fairly reliable guide to the fluctuations of relative humidity.
Douglas, the Sunbeam steam type I use has two electrodes suspended from the top of the reservoir, which do not get hot themselves, but heat the water by passing electrical current through it. Once the water level falls below the level of the electrodes, there is no longer a path for the electricity, and the humidifier ceases to function or produce heat. It is as if the electricity had been turned off with a switch, but no mechanical switch is required to do so. It's an incredibly simple device, and that's one of the things I really like about it. No fans, pumps, rotating wheels, switches, circuit boards, evaporating pads, or filters to fail or require periodic maintenance or replacement.
Very good to know -- I'm considering switching my setup for a few reasons...
Wouldn't cost much to try it. Let us know how it works out.
I've worked with humidity problems for decades. I lived in Minneapolis for a long time. Winters in Minnesota are brutal to say the least. The humidity can be alarmingly low. If that is your problem, I suggest a twofold attack. Use a room humidifier and a second humidifier in your case. Keep your instrument in that case when not in use. Whatever you use to get the proper humidity isn't the issue so much as reading the numbers on a humidistat. During periods of low humidity, don't leave your instrument out of its case. I did this with a classic guitar in Minnesota. The room humidity was fine so I thought the instrument would be as well. Then one evening I heard a loud THWANG! The bridge on my guitar came unglued and flew off the instrument. From then on I kept all instruments in their cases with a humidifier in each case. Now that I live in Oregon the problem is not as difficult, however, I keep a sharp eye on the room humidistat and when it dips below 45 I plug in a room humidifier.
Raymond, first thing if you don't have one already, get a reliable hygrometer. Don't guess what your humidity levels might be.
I think that Dampits are one of the worst inventions for violins ever. I don’t think that sticking wet rubber objects inside violins is ever a good idea. I hate looking in a violin and seeing water stains and labels with bleeding ink caused by them. If you need to humidify your case then it is better to use an external humidifying device.
Very good Raymond. I'd also recommend that you test how accurate your hygrometer is. I have one that has read 60 for the past 10 years! There are plenty of guidance on doing a saturated salt test if you Google it. Here one source
For the record, Dalton Potter's book "Kitchen Table Violin Repairs" recommends the use of the Dampit.
Recently saw Anne-Sophie Mutter conducting a master class with a Dampit in her Strad, so I guess they work for her.
It doesn't matter what Potter and Mutter do. The people with the most experience in this area do not recommend the snake-style humidifiers.
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