Case Humidity Control

Edited: November 17, 2019, 11:35 AM · Now that heating season is here, the relative humidity in my house is hovering around 20%. To protect my instruments, I'm using Stretto humidifiers in both my violin and viola cases.

I've been measuring RH with the same digital hygrometer (alternating between the cases). Even after giving it several hours to adjust to the environment in each case, the violin case's RH never reads above 30%, whereas the viola's is in the 50-60% range. My viola case is a composite case with a weather seal and the violin case is wood. It's not the highest-end case, but I would not have guessed that it would do so poorly in this regard.

Is this simply the difference between composite and wood cases? Are there wood cases that provide a better environment for humidity control, or should I be looking at replacing the wood violin case with composite?

Replies (10)

Edited: November 18, 2019, 4:49 AM · I have two Musafia cases that are made of wood and I never have any humidity problems inside the case. That means I keep the case closed even when practising to allow the fabric to absorb humidity. Maybe in your case, you need sometbing better than the stretto, so get and install the wick humidifiers from Musafia which are very efficient.
Edited: November 17, 2019, 4:42 PM · Musafia has some fairly extensive weather seals on their cases available. That will probably make a difference, even though the cases are wood.

Another thing to remember is that with the change of weather, it might be worth putting the case (with or without the violin) in a bathroom when the shower is running. This way, you season not just the velvet lining, but also the wooden portion of the shell. Your composite viola case wouldn't have had that issue to contend with, so could be humidified more quickly with just the little Stretto.

November 17, 2019, 5:31 PM · Ah, interesting. I wonder if there are wooden cases that provide decent weather seals at a more agreeable price point than a Musafia. (If anyone knows of one, please let me know!)

I should mention that in the interest of being as scientific as possible, I tested swapping the individual Strettos, just to eliminate all variables other than the cases themselves. It definitely is the case - my cheap wooden violin case simply does not retain humidity as effectively as the composite case.

November 18, 2019, 5:28 AM · Wood, unless treated with a moisture barrier is not impermeable to water vapor penetration, whereas some synthetic materials are much more so. The differences you are noticing between your synthetic case with a weather seal, and your wooden case without are about what I would expect. Using two humidifiers in your wooden case might take care of the difference, or maybe not. (Wooden cases can be highly variable in their moisture retention.)
November 18, 2019, 12:34 PM · Here is our recent November 18, 2019, 12:57 PM · ???
November 18, 2019, 2:27 PM · The Musafia cases are also generously lined with materials designed to maintain stable humidity within the case. I've found my Enigma-model case to maintain very stable humidity as long as the case is kept closed.
Edited: November 20, 2019, 3:05 AM · Let's clarify a little here. By "wood" we are talking about wood laminate (plywood), not solid wood. That means a sandwich of number of layers of wood glued together.

There are close to a dozen different types of plywood (softwood, hardwoood, marine grade, aeronautic grade…), and 12 grades of quality according to the most used grading system (there are several); different methods of quality classification (including Lloyds of London BS1088).

Other variables? Thickness; type of wood used (poplar, birch, cedar, oak, beech, mahagony…); number, thickness, and direction of the plies; type of glues used… just to name a few. Cumulatively we are talking literally about thousands of different kinds of wood laminate.

For these reasons, one cannot generalize anything about "wood" cases without getting into the specifics.

November 20, 2019, 6:35 AM · I think Laurie was trying to say that there was a recent blog of hers that dealt with this issue along with a recent thread by David Burgess.

I recommend just storing your instruments in a room with a decent steam humidifier. That will enable your wood cases to build up a steady state of humidity inside the plywood which will buffer you against occasional excursions to rehearsals and performances.

November 21, 2019, 10:23 AM · Thanks all. I guess I'm in the market for a violin case upgrade.

In the meantime, I just wanted to share a kind of cool device I've discovered in my quest to monitor humidity: the Sensor Push sensors + wifi gateway allow you to track humidity data from anywhere, even when you're not home. Pretty cool little device for the gadget/data nerd like myself.

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