Long-term violin storage - questions

January 31, 2019, 11:09 AM · Does anyone have have tips for keeping violins in storage for long periods?

I got a new instrument, which means my older one is going to be stored until I sell it (or I decide to keep it for sentimental reasons). I'd like for it to be better taken care of than its last stint in storage under a bed in a very dry and warm house...

Should the violin lay flat, or on its side (in the case)?

Is room humidity more important than the case humidity re: long-term storage? (Temperature is pretty steady year-round thanks to heating and air conditioning.)

Are open seams to be expected after the instrument has been stored for a period of time?

What about case style/quality for storage?
I have a 20 year old Negri case which is not light, and I'm considering storing my violin in that and getting a BAM case for my new instrument.

Anything else that should be considered?

Replies (18)

Edited: January 31, 2019, 11:27 AM · It's not temperature that you need to be concerned about, though extreme temperatures can be destructive. Rather, it's relative humidity that can damage your violin. If you live in a temperate climate, you probably don't need to worry so much. But the bottom line is that it's never good to leave a wooden instrument alone and unmonitored. Why can't you keep it active for some uses?

If it's really valuable, and you're certain that you're not going to use it, you might consider asking a responsible local violin shop to store it for you, perhaps for a nominal fee. They would hopefully climate control their storage space.

Edited: January 31, 2019, 12:32 PM · As Mark has indicated, if you live in a temperate climate with appropriate humidity range there is really no problem keeping your instruments stored in cases for years. I have done this with some instruments for a long time (violins, violas, cellos (essentially up to 20 years, so far)). Cellos stored upright in hard cases, violins and violas on the floor of a closet mostly on their sides. Bows have been stored in the same cases too. I generally do look in on the unplayed instruments at least annually, tune them and noodle on them a bit. Check the bow hair for possible mite damage. Sniff for mold.

Sometimes the instruments I have "stored" seem to get better - especially if I try some newly marketed strings on them.

January 31, 2019, 12:44 PM · Loosen the strings, and take it out and play it every once in a while and play it.
Edited: February 12, 2019, 3:46 PM · How long is long term?
I stored my violin in my GEWA shaped Jaeger case with 5 silica packets, and 2 humidifiers at my parents house for 3 months, and the only thing was that A string snapped and shot the ball end to the sound belly. I would recommend loosening the strings a little bit.
February 12, 2019, 8:28 AM · Hey Steven, at least 3 months, likely years until I sell it. Will loosen the strings, it is in playing condition now - absolutely no issues - so it would be a shame to lose that from storing improperly.
February 12, 2019, 3:46 PM · Hi Pamela,
I think a few silica gel pack + humidifiers to maintain the humidity in the case would work. I general like having the violin lay on its back, not on its side.
Edited: February 12, 2019, 5:01 PM · I second Mark's opinion: there is no way to conserve a violin over a long period of time. I have to re-fill case humidifiers every 7 days in order to keep at least the inside well humidified. Leaving it unattended for months or years? You are looking for open seams and unglued finger board at best, cracks, warped / depressed top and detached neck at worst.
February 12, 2019, 4:50 PM · What do silica gel packs combined with humidifiers accomplish?
February 13, 2019, 12:28 AM · Silica gels first absorb humidity, and release them in long term very slowly
February 13, 2019, 4:00 AM · Steven, what humidity level does this produce inside your case?
What is the humidity level outside the case?
February 13, 2019, 4:36 AM · Boveda‚Äôs 49% packs do nicely, although they have to be replaced every 2 or 3 months.

You can also get different RH targets, in case you want to be more aggressive on the humidity.

February 13, 2019, 4:41 AM · Hello David,
I can say non-scientifically, it maintains 40-50% RH. I keep inside of my case in that range by adding/removing silica gel/humidifiers and the room humidity was often uncontrolled ranging from 30~60% RH.

I use the humidifier/silica gel together as a primitive humidistat for long term.

February 13, 2019, 4:43 AM · I should probably mention this too, that before 3+ months storage, I had my violin serviced and checked up by my luthier, and I haven't found a new luthier yet (I moved internationally) to perform check-ups. I am actually a little bit scared to find out the service costs in Switzerland.
February 13, 2019, 8:02 AM · David, I was skeptical too, so I did a web search. Interesting, this:
http://www.musecc.com/silica-gel
February 13, 2019, 10:00 AM · I wouldn't leave the violin completely unattended - I know all too well what happens when you leave a violin under a bed for years.

Stephen - I may get a few of those Boveda packs to try. Seems like a good solution in case life gets busy for the month!

February 13, 2019, 10:10 AM · The important thing to know about silica gel is that you can't just put some in your case, and know what it's going to do. It may make the environment either more moist, or drier.

The most common use is as a desiccant. This has been dehydrated, then placed in sealed containers for later use as a humidity adsorbant. If this is used in a violin case, it could easily take the humidity too low, until it adsorbs some moisture, and then it could either adsorb or release moisture. If it has been pre-conditioned to a certain humidity level, then it can act as a buffer, helping maintain that humidity level, at least temporarily.

The pre-conditioning is not an easy or simple process, as is explained in Michael's link.

February 13, 2019, 10:40 AM · What can happen if it is put in its case and locked away without any other preparation for several years? This happened to my #1 violin. An 18th c family heirloom, it belonged to my mother before WW2 and at the outbreak of war it was locked away in its case in a cupboard. Being slightly young at the time, I didn't know anything about this; in fact, for many years I didn't know it existed. Sixty years and a few house moves later my mother, then living in West Wales, gave it to me, asking me to look after it well and learn to play it.

When I got back to Bristol I had a look at the violin and took it to my local luthier who had been servicing my cello. The old instrument needed some serious attention before being playable again, the reasons being: broken bridge, soundpost down, unplayable 60+ year gut strings, tailpiece gut cord needing replacement, and, relating to the top table: a small crack at the lower end of the treble f-hole, a split leading from the saddle towards the bridge (not uncommon in old instruments so I'm told), and sundry scratches and blemishes.

A fortnight later, the violin was back with me in perfect playable condition, cleaned and polished, all the defects dealt with, and in a new case. The only thing I had to do was to learn to play it. A couple of years later I played the violin to my mother a few weeks before she passed away.

February 13, 2019, 11:52 AM · A beautiful remembrance, Trevor. Thank you for sharing it.

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