Here in Portland, we're going through a heatwave blended with very low humidity. At the moment the temperature is 80 and the humidity is 15%. I went to a park to play some tunes, but for the life of me, I couldn't get my violin to stay in tune. I don't have fine tuners on all the strings, so it was work with the pegs. They kept slipping. I know many of you live in climates where low humidity is rather common, while here in Portland, the land of rain, it's rather unique. I tried to get that violin in tune for about ten minutes, then gave up and went home. Any suggestions for a situation like this? Thanks.
The humidity in my apartment in the winter is about 20%. I use Boveda packs on top of the blanket, centered over the pegbox. The required humidity is determined by the permeability of the case. In mine the 65% packs keep the humidity between 40 and 50%.
In such situations I have used a "Dampit" in my instrument.
Andrew, that is interesting because my Dampit was no help at all in keeping my pegs happy. I'm glad it works for other people.
With large temperature and humidity fluctuations your pegs will never be happy. Dampits really only affect the body of the instrument from the inside.
If you put something in your case to add moisture, be sure to also keep an accurate hygrometer in the case to monitor the humidity level. Too much moisture isn't good either.
Geared pegs from Wittner : you will never have to worry about these sort of tuning problems ever again.
David, Yes, I have a hygrometer in there right next to the viola peg box in the double case. Even though I have the Wittner pegs on both instruments I use the humidification because I have discovered the instruments sound better when they are at a normal humidity. Is this just my imagination?
No, not just your imagination. Instruments will sound different with different amounts of water in the wood. I wouldn't take it over 70% RH though. In my shop, I use 60% as the upper limit, mostly because the resistance of wood to bending and permanent deformation is reduced as the relative humidity level increases, and starts to go precipitously downhill over about 80%.
Thanks for your help! I've set up a humidifier in my music room, and now I have a stable atmosphere of 50% humidity, and a temperature of 68 degrees. The instruments are back in good condition, and they stay in tune. I think the lesson is to avoid doing my Park Shows when the temperature gets into or above the upper 70's, and to avoid low humidity. I can control the indoor temperatures and humidity, but outdoors is a whole other situation. Again, thank you for your thoughtful comments.
David, Anything over 60% would allow mold to grow in the case, as I discovered to my dismay once. It could damage the finish as well, as it did with my viola. I wasn't paying attention to the hygrometer and in 2 days the damage was done!
Michael, taking the violin out of your controlled environment shouldn't do much, if it is done for less than 24 hours. Fortunately, wood takes some time to gain and lose moisture.
I am wondering if it would be worth experimenting with the 59% RH Boveda pouches. 49% version gets it to a pretty steady 40% in the case, so I am guessing that the wood and cloth are sucking water up even faster than the gel can emit it. In any case (heh), a New England winter won't be giving any humidifier much help.
David, I'm pretty sure it was more than 2 days now that I look at my journal from that time. Anyway, I'm all straightened out now!
Stephen, I used the 49% ones and also only got to 38-40%. The 65% get it to 45-50%. It might help to use the 80% conditioning packs (with the instrument stored elsewhere!) in the fall before the cold weather comes which I failed to do so the packs are playing catch up humidifying the wood of the case.
Stephen, I have a Core double violin case with 2 instruments and one bow. I use all 4 65% Boveda packs arranged just beyond the velcro for the neck and heading toward the compartments on the corners. Boveda says you can put the packs in instrument compartments but that didn't work at all, they just humidified the case, there isn't enough air exchange. During the winter, the packs will lose moisture overall so when they seem thinner, long before they get crispy, I remove 2 and put them in a closed plastic container for 12-18 hours with plenty of water. I wipe them off and return them to the case. Then I do the other 2. These have lasted me all winter. I think there's a polymer inside the packs along with the salts so if you feel a piece of soft gel in there it's more than time to get it soaked again.
Interesting thought to expand their usefulness. And thanks for the data points on RH.
Vote No. 2 for Wittner Finetune pegs.
Vote No 1, against Wittner fine tune pegs! ;-)
When I've tested the Boveda packs when they were new, they were quite accurate. Upon re-hydrating them (which Boveda doesn't recommend), they were not. In both situations, they were tested in a ziploc plastic bag, so varying moisture permeability between one case and another wouldn't have been a factor.
David, rehydrating them should work because the salts they contain and which are responsible for their two-way characteristic remain. However, the presence of other ingredients to which the barrier is permeable would make a difference over time.
I agree that rehydrating them SHOULD work, so the variation came as a surprise to me. I don't have an explanation yet, just the results.
Another vote for geared pegs--I have them on two violins and am gearing up to get them on the cellos. And, another vote for Caliber IV hygrometer (thank you, David!) Trouble ahead if you don't have a reliable relative humidity gauge...
I found Damp-it doesn't cut it on a 15% day. I rely on the Stretto humidifier for my viola case when taking it out for more than a day.. It doesn't dry out for several days, is easy to redampen, and doesn't leak.
I put geared pegs on my dream luthier-made violin, and will do it to my dream luthier-made cello. By the way, I use a Venta Airwasher room humidifier (and no humidifier thingy in the instrument cases at all).
Thanks Erin, for the reply to my remark about geared pegs on fine instruments. I will consider that.
David, I read the primary Boveda patent (I used to read chemical patents for a living). It lists nothing which should change upon adding more liquid. It does list a couple of gums which would explain the way the pack feels as it becomes less liquid.
Richard, There is a Stradivarius played by Elizabeth Pitcairn which has Wittner pegs.
Do Boveda humidifier packs feel like
Richard wrote, "I wouldn't do it to my dream luthier-made viola or other fine viola." That's fine if your pegs are turning nicely and you never find them slipped when you take your instrument from its case. But if I were commissioning a new instrument from David Burgess or LUIS CLAUDIO MANFIO, I would ask for Wittner pegs from the outset.
For my outside jobs in the summer dry Cal. central valley, my quick fix is to blow a full lungs worth of hydrated air through an F-hole.
Paul, Boveda lists them on their web site. Google Boveda patents. The first one seems to be the most appropriate to our discussion. What I thought felt like a polymer forming a lump is a gum like hydroxycellulose which also clumps when drying out and has a feel like what I felt through the package material. The other salts listed don't seem to be ones that will change through cycling of hydration.
Richard, Venta now sells wheeled carts for their airwashers. I dread the cleaning thing, but waiting till the tank is almost empty, and lugging only the tank + water wheels into the kitchen cuts down on the aggravation. I just wipe off the fan so I don't really have to give it a shower. (BTW, once you get geared pegs, you will wonder why you didn't do it sooner.)