March 2015

Violin Cases and Thermal Insulation: What’s better? Wood laminate, carbon fiber, composite plastics, or...?

March 13, 2015 06:00

You want your violin to be well protected from heat and cold, and one way to ensure this is that the shell of your case be a poor heat conductor. That means that if the case is placed next to a heat source (radiator or light bulbs), left in the sun or in a hot automobile, or placed on a cold sidewalk in the winter, the heat (or cold) will spread more slowly through the shell and within the case, keeping your instrument happier.

case

Case manufacturers choose the materials they use for their own reasons, but many claim that their cases give good heat/cold insulation even when they don’t. Well, hype and advertising aside, we can discover the truth if we look at the materials themselves, and their heat conductivity properties expressed in Watts per meter per degree Kelvin (W x m-1 x K-1)

Average heat conductivity of case shell materials

Wood laminate 0.13
Composite plastic (FRP) 0.23 – 1.06
Fiberglass 0.60
Carbon fiber (molded) 5
Steel 16 - 24
Aluminum 210

Wood laminate is clearly more protective in this sense compared to composite plastics by a factor ranging between 1.8 to 8.1; to fiberglass by a factor of 4.6; to molded carbon fiber by a factor of 38.5; all the way up to aluminum (factor of 1,615!).

This is unbiased proof that wood laminate remains a superior material for violin case shells, despite newer materials being available.

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