Volcano Ash and the Violin

February 2, 2009 at 11:44 PM ·

I was just wondering, with Mt. Redoubt throwing a fit, it might explode here in Soldotna, Alaska. Here at the college everyone was covering their computer and computer screens with trash bags. As well as the pianos, was wondering if there's anything I have to worry about for the violin other than inhalation from the fine particles from the ash. Or is just a fine wiping down and some uncooked rice all thats needed.

Replies (35)

February 3, 2009 at 05:03 AM ·

Helo from portland, Oregon. WE had a cranky mountain here a few years ago.

At the time I did not play, but the ash got everywhere! I would suggest Tyvek as an outer covering of anything you want to protect.

As a building material, it is used as a vapor vbarrier around houses, in large sheets. They are around $150 a roll, but you will not be needing near that much.

On-line, you can find emergency preparedness suits made of the stuff; overpriced at $90.00. They are flexible without breaking or cracking, much tougher than plastic. The problem may be finding a usable small amount. You can get some sheets of it about 5 feet by 10 yards for $60.00

you can sew it, glue it, tape it, etc. Possibly make a tent to store everything you don't want to get dusty (the grandfather clock, your violin, etc.) somewhere in your house.

NOTE: if it does rain ash, be careful about wiping it off; those little flakes of silica are just like sandpaper! Use a vacuum or something as a first resource, even if you keep filling up the bag. Even better, a shop vac 1/2 full of water; it can trap the silica, rather than filling a bag.

February 3, 2009 at 05:45 AM ·

Sounds like good advice. Good luck.


February 3, 2009 at 06:19 AM ·

Why not just use plastic, which is much more easily available??

February 3, 2009 at 06:38 AM ·

thanks for the advice, much appreciated. When ash was falling how long did it last? and how long til you could play again?

February 3, 2009 at 06:57 PM ·

My guess is that it varies from mountain to mountain.  And ashes to ashes?

I was thinking, if they say it's time to stay indoors, it's probably time to take your violin and place it in a large ziplock until they say it's safe to go out again.  I wouldn't worry about it too much, personally.  Your violin will fare better than say, your unprotected lungs.  (don't forget to buy a mask!)

I saw Sue tonight.  Have you been able to get any lessons from her?  If not, would you like regular lessons, and could you come at 2:00 on Wednesdays?   I now have an opening.  She wouldn't mind, but you can ask her if you're worried.

 Were you here in '89-'90 when she last blew?  (Redoubt, not Sue.)

February 3, 2009 at 11:42 AM ·

I was in Vancouver WA, and  Portland, about 28 years ago when Mt. St. Helens erupted, and the ash can be a pain.

I was a photographer at the time and recorded the eruption from a safe direction. It was breathtaking, and humbling  from 12 miles  away,  with a plume that rose about  5miles up.

We were lucky the first day as the wind carried the plume  NE towards Spokane, where they were blanketed in ash, and could not see the sun at midday.  A couple of days later a windshift brought  a light ash fall to Vancouver WA. and Portland. I remember even the light dusting was a pain to deal with. It coated the cars leaving a very fine and difficult to remove film.

This stuff is very, very fine, and sticks to everything. You do not want it anywhere near your instrument. I believe it is abrasive (pumice).

If it does erupt tuck your violin away for a few days in the case,  and close all your windows tightly. If your town is not in a direct path of the plume, you will not have any ash.



February 3, 2009 at 09:42 AM ·

Roland's advice is invaluable.  Do NOT wipe off pumice, vacuum it away instead.  It is very abrasive!   You can also get some thin plastic (viscuine) from the local hard-ware store to use as a preventative measure.  This is inexpensive and should do the trick with enough duct-tape to preserve your valuables from the damage that ash can take.  However, if you keep your violin in its case during an ash event, you should be fine. 

February 3, 2009 at 12:36 PM ·

I think Andres made a very practical suggestion. Large garbage bags are readily available and cheap, and large enough so enclose the entire case. You can "double bag" or triple bag, and seal the bags closed with tape for extra insurance if you feel there's a need.

February 3, 2009 at 06:50 PM ·

In the great Northwest , where the mountains rest

there's a peak  they named Saint Helen.

though the name be quaint, a saint she ain't

and her top it is a swellin.

Well the forests fell with the fires of hell, as  her wrath was felt.

Pyroclastic flow, and dirty snow, that wasn't made to melt.

Like a pyramid

that blew it's lid

The air's gray brown.

Get out of town.

Well way out west ,where the land is best and the salmon swim the rivers,

There's a pillar of fire climbing higher and higher, and the cloud gives me the shivers.

but I'll quash my fears with micro beers, cause there just ain't no place finer.

And I'll gather ash that I'll sell for cash to the folks in Carolina    

February 4, 2009 at 05:09 AM ·

Plastic will work nicely, however it is my understanding that Tyvek will breath, while plastic does not.
This may not make a significant difference, however if you seal something completely, any temperature change can result in condensation.

So plastic with some dessicant (easily and cheaply available; anywhere that stores supplies for RVs should have some for less than $10.00) would be good also.

February 4, 2009 at 11:26 AM ·

If the temperature in a sealed plastic bag goes below the dewpoint, then yes, there would be condensation. This isn't unique to the sealed bag though. It also happens in open air with a temperature drop, like when you see dew on the grass or on your car in the morning. If a violin which wasn't in a plastic bag was exposed to these same conditions, there would be condensation on it anyway.

If you use a humidifying device, you probably wouldn't want to use it inside the plastic bag, because the moisture would have no way to excape.

The breathable materials are most useful when they're used to enclose something which actually generates moisture, like your body, or a home where cooking and bathing are done, or if you forgot to take your humidifier out of the case before wrapping it. Not that there's anything wrong with using them to protect a violin case.

February 4, 2009 at 12:46 PM ·

I would pack my bags and my fiddles, cover my house and take a trip to New Jersey.

Good luck.

February 4, 2009 at 09:57 PM ·

New Jersey?  New Jersey!

If you're going to leave the state, why not go to Hawaii?  It costs about the same, and there are more red heavy-set bathers. 

February 4, 2009 at 10:49 PM ·

A luthier once offered to do a volcanic-ash treatment on my violin, but it was expensive and I didn't want to Pom-pei that much.

February 4, 2009 at 11:11 PM ·

I fear it would have been a Herculaneum task.  Probably evenmore  arduous than taking an extra lava.

February 5, 2009 at 04:48 AM ·

Well, if the volcano is exploding, Id hope you'd have your violin in its case while running, so it should be safe from the ash.....now the lava....ummmm.


Maybe you should learn the Jimmy Buffet volcano song ;)



February 5, 2009 at 04:48 AM ·


well, now we have a new challenge for Mr Musafia. Is he going to jump into a crater of boiling magama and emerge with an unscathed violin protected by the miracle of his cases?;)



February 5, 2009 at 04:50 AM ·

That luggage has been known to save lives.....even at sea ;)

February 5, 2009 at 04:54 AM ·

 "an unscathed violin"

I would expect it to have a Krak. Or toa.

February 5, 2009 at 05:47 AM ·

the test would be whether or not one could still Usu it.

February 5, 2009 at 06:21 AM ·

I propose that this thread become extinct. Or at least dormant. Wouldn't wish to cause a rift with anyone. Much as I'm fond of venting, I'm afraid I may start to offer opinions on wish I'm igneous....... 

February 5, 2009 at 06:39 AM ·

anything for the crater good......

February 5, 2009 at 08:43 AM ·

to punny!

February 5, 2009 at 10:10 AM · Mt usu in date Hokkaido?

February 5, 2009 at 09:32 PM ·

One of the things I like about this site is the generosity. Really-- You're all so magma-nimous. All these puns. It's been a real basalt on the senses....

February 5, 2009 at 10:43 PM ·


Scott- beautiful sediments as always.




February 6, 2009 at 02:51 PM ·

 This thread has taken a continental drift. 

February 6, 2009 at 05:04 PM ·

It's San Andrea's fault.

February 7, 2009 at 04:40 AM ·

probably spent too much time listening to Richter`s scales...

February 7, 2009 at 06:16 AM ·

Gneissly done.

I bestow upon thee the Mantle of superlative punster. Though a little crusty, if you catch my continental drift. 

At least you can't claim that we're taking you for granite.

Oh, schist. Look at the time....

February 7, 2009 at 11:37 PM ·

the sooner this post becomes dormant the better- though i'm sure dimitri enjoyed the (volcanic )plug........

February 7, 2009 at 11:47 PM ·

Ok, last one: Martin, your reply was very soave. I'm sure you're skilled in the art of subduction....

February 8, 2009 at 10:11 PM ·

If anyone wants to continue this I suggest they use a nom de plume

February 9, 2009 at 03:51 AM ·

extinction would probably be better.

February 9, 2009 at 04:14 AM ·

I think Rockmaninoff would agree. 

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