Long-term violin storage - questions
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?
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?
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.
Loosen the strings, and take it out and play it every once in a while and play it.
How long is long term?
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.
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.
What do silica gel packs combined with humidifiers accomplish?
Silica gels first absorb humidity, and release them in long term very slowly
Steven, what humidity level does this produce inside your case?
Boveda’s 49% packs do nicely, although they have to be replaced every 2 or 3 months.
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.
David, I was skeptical too, so I did a web search. Interesting, this:
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.
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.
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.
A beautiful remembrance, Trevor. Thank you for sharing it.