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Humidifier, Dampit or Sponge in Bag?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by BRIDGE, Mar 12, 2008.

  1. I bought a hygrometer today on the advice of my teacher. It gives the humidity in my room as about 25%. From what I've read, this seems like it's too low.

    Should I:

    Seek to humidify the entire room? If so, I suppose I would want to buy a humidifier.

    Or, seek to humidify the bass itself? If so, I suppose I would want a Dampit, although I've heard some negative things about them. An alternative method I've heard and read about is to take a moist sponge, put it inside an open ziploc bag, and then put the bag inside either the case or the bass itself.

    Which of these should I do?

    It's an Upton carved-top bass. By the way, I always keep it in its case when I'm not playing it.
  2. christ andronis

    christ andronis

    Nov 14, 2001
    go here for starters.....I'm sure there are lots more!! You opened up a can of worms that EVERYONE has an opinion on. Just for the record..25% is a little on the low side....
  3. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Its good if the whole instrument is at 40-45% relative humidity, so the best would be a humidifier.

    The Dampit/sponge is better for hydrating the soundbox than the neck/fingerboard/scroll so I would use it as a backup/travel solution after the humidifier.

    They can sometimes be had pretty cheaply on Craig'sList.
  4. OK ---- Update, my dad says he has a humidifier that he can give me. But it'll have to wait until tomorrow.

    Is that alright, or is this urgent enough that I should just go out and buy one right now? It's not like I can't afford it. Or will the sponge in the bag within the bass case hold me over until tomorrow when I can get the humidifier?
  5. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Go ahead and use the sponge for tonight and set up the humidifier tomorrow - it'll be fine. :)

    You can also lower the temperature to increase the relative humidity if you want.
  6. Dbassmon


    Oct 2, 2004
    Rutherford, NJ
    While 40%-45% is the perfect humidity level for basses and other string instruments, I have been advised that it may be wiser to keep your room at between 30%-35% relative humidity.

    It is big swings in humidity or temperature that occur rapidly that cause big problems for your bass. By keeping your bass at slightly less than optimal humidity level, it makes it less shocking to bring it to a gig or rehearsal where there much less humidity in the air.

    If your bass does not leave the house, this is not an issue. I have a humidifier with an adjustable humidity level that works well. I don't care for wicks or sponges.
  7. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Besides a Humidifier running 24/7 year round on auto/therm at about 35-40% if you can get it there (and a de-humidifier for the humid months), get yourself a 5 gallon empty paint bucket and keep it filled with water near the Bass. This will help when it gets dry quickly. Don't use the Dampits in place of this. Also, any drip will damage the inside of the Bass. Leave the sponge in the bathroom.
  8. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I grow organic carrots and they are not for sale
    Maple likes to have 50% in the wood ... this equals 35% in the air ...

    I live In the Denver area ... it is high and dry here ... Right now the room where I keep my basses has 2 humidifiers ... the current humidity level is 33% ... But there are times when I have to fight to keep the humidity levels above 21% ... I used to live in Michigan and it was very dry in the winter and very humid in the summer ...

    The real danger is low humidity 90% won't damage your bass but 10% will ... wood shrinks and can even crack when the humidity gets too low ... also rapid humidity changes stress the instrument ...

    If you have room for your instruments shoot for 35% humidity in that room ... that is the best ... 50% is ok as well.

  9. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    I get my maple down to 8% before I use it. Where are you getting this 50% notion?
  10. Kam


    Feb 12, 2006
    Minneapolis, MN
    I've learned this year that trying to keep a bass sheltered from wide swings in humidity while in central Indiana is basically impossible unless you can manage to practice, gig, and rehearse in the same space..and even then it would be a balancing act (refilling the humidifier reservoir while the tenor is blowing his/her 24th chorus of Confirmation, etc)

    I've resigned myself to being aware of the large swings (with a hygrometer) and doing what I can to lessen the blow to the bass, then I go and pray that my bass will make it out of here without a crack (knock on hydrated wood).
  11. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I grow organic carrots and they are not for sale
    I got that information directly from the CEO of Rickenbacker ...
  12. Eric Swanson

    Eric Swanson

    Oct 8, 2007
    Boston, MA
    At the risk of seeming officious, here's an overview/summary from the Forest Products Lab on MC for interior woodwork. MC is key information for woodcutters:


    If one wants to "drill down" into their site, there are more studies on MC than "Carter has pills"...

    Most hardwood for commercial use in my trade (high end woodwork, not instrument making) is kiln or air dried to between 6% to 8%. Anything above that is considered unusable and is rejected when we check MC (on every delivery).

    Hardwood is typically rough sawn green, at moisture content that would easily be in the 50% - 60% range by the time logs get to the saws (it requires less energy, eliminates certain defects, and reduces tool wear to machine in this state), then boards are stickered and dried. Full logs are actually kept wet until sawing to avoid checking and other defects. Hence log ponds, use of sprinklers in holding yards, use of ancient submerged timber, etc.

    If Rickenbacker has its own roughing mill and kilns, or is air drying all of its stock, it is possible that they are buying green logs at 50%. This scenario is more unlikely in this age of Just In Time inventory practice, expensive real estate, and myriad, dependable vendors. In-house lumber processing and drying to feed their output volume would entail massive inventory, kilns (or drying yards), and a plant/yards size that would hearken to a lost age. This is the business of lumber suppliers.

    Looked at Rickenbacker's site:


    This photo shows bundles of incoming lumber that has already been rough sawn and kiln dried - in other words, commercially available, kiln-dried hardwood (typically between 6-8% MC).

    To respond to Bridge's original questions, I use a calibrated hygrometer (I check it every 6 mos. or so), a humidifier (winter) and dehumidifier (summer). I used to use dampits and know many others who still do. I shied away from them after reading/hearing luthiers talk about drippage. I fill my humidifier every 24 hours and use a Slant Fin with the antibacterial bulb to (supposedly) kill bacteria, pre-atomization. Also use summer and winter soundposts, changing as the seasons change. We heat with wood (free scrap from the shop), so I also keep an open pan on top of the stove.

    The house humidity in the winter stays around 35-40%. I don't keep my bass in the case, because I sometimes just want to play something for a moment or two, without having to go through a bunch of rigamarole.

    I keep the bass in a corner, with the bridge turned into the wall, strapped into a screw driven into the wall's framing (to protect the bass from my young child pulling it down, again). I hang my bow on a peg, in the corner behind the bass, to protect it.
  13. Just because the room humidity wherever the bass happens to be can vary widely, the moisture content of the wood will vary much more slowly. A few hours in a low humidity environment will probably not hurt anything. It takes sustained low humidity for the wood to shrink.
  14. Eric Swanson

    Eric Swanson

    Oct 8, 2007
    Boston, MA
    +1, sort of like redirecting a battleship. It takes a while...

    On gigs, I just hope for the best, leave it in the bag as long as possible, and take the rascal home to the humidity-safe nest ASAP. I do really like the image of refilling the humidifier during chorus #24, Kam
  15. The new contrabass conversations has a great conversation about humidity and how important it is for your bass. I think I would trust Kolstein about this and am going to start taking care of my bass properly now that I got my new shen Rogeri. So check it out. He's not into the dampits either.
  16. VicDamone


    Jun 25, 2000
  17. Humidifier? Good idea! Consider occassional citrus oiling as well.

    I live with forced hot air heating, and in New England, it gets cold and very dry all the time in winter. My 1820 Prescott was quite fragile and highly subject to drying conditions. Once it "exploded" during a concert!, partly caused by dryness of the seams. Prescotts are known for exploding unles the seams have been reworked to remove or cover with new wood the condition caused by decades of repair known as "glue on glue on glue on glue". (Glue does not readily adhere to itself.) My luthier, Volker Nahrmann, did an incredible job of resealing all seams by adding new wood to the edges where needed. He did such a good job I may revert to my old behavior (in 1950s!) of strapping the Prescott to automobile roof racks, driving through blizzards with only a ragged, thin canvas cover! Got plenty of moisture then, wouldn't you say?

    My big time humidifier consumes about 3 quarts of water per day, covering only one room. I keep it at 45 to 50 degress humidity. Less than that becomes noticable in the stiffness of the bass belly -- at least I suspect so, as all Prescotts were built with very, very thin tops and backs since they only had to withstand the pressure of 3 strings. Volker Nahrmann, (www.vnahrmann@comcast.net) took extra pains to redress all my sins from the 50s, although I was still playing my Prescott outdoors in the rain on my 16 pc. Starlighters Dance Bandwagon during the 1990s. Hey, there's no fool like an old fool!

    Another treatment other than proper humidity is proper citris oil treatment! Stradivarious and other makers used lemon oil, I use "orange" oil (WITHOUT THE WAX!) which seems to increase better string response of high ranges overall. (Prescotts don't need any help whatsoever with the booming, rafter rattling low notes on A, E or B strings which are "heard" by your feet!

    So, I rub a coating of orange oil (commercial polish in a bottle) once every two to four weeks, just to return the proper balance of oil to the wood cells which have been dried to a crisp for 188 years. You'll be glad to know I'm too old to go traipsing around in the rain or snow anymore with my Prescott. And I'm convinced that adequate humidity and oiling do improve the tone and preservation of my bass. I'm not sure when to stop oiling, but I've read that it can be overdone and even ruin the wood if used too liberally.

    Click here: Outdoors, US Frigate Constitution 200th Ann.
    Click here: Volker Nahrmann converts Prescott from 3 to 5 strings, fixes seams
    (Sorry, I tried to add an MP3 music sound file, but can't figure out how.)
  18. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    If you think Glue doesn't stick to Glue then when that Oil seeps into seams and cracks do you thing Glue will stick to Oil?

    Dangerous advice you give here Don!

    Also, not all Prescott's were made thin. Some were thick, some normal graduations, some thin and some, butchered on repair benches and thinned out too much from the original thickness.

    If a Bass had any type of finish or Varnish at all, the Oil will never reach the wood unless it seeps into cracks, seams or worn areas where the varnish has been rubbed off.

    Oh, and hide Glue (the only glue to be used for repairs and Bass assembly) is usually easily reactivated with warm water and a little more glue washing out some of the excess.

    Humidifiers are the best way and also if you can, a 5 gallon bucket of water near the Bass or heater for those quick dry spurts.
  19. solderjunkie


    Jan 27, 2008
    Nashville TN
    Plywood for the WIN!!!

    If you people saw what I do (and don't do) to my instruments you would likely cry...

  20. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    I was wondering about this when I read Don's post. I couldn't understand how the oil would reach the "wood cells" through any type of finish. It has always been my understanding that even the safest of polishes and oils should be used only sparingly beacause, to the extent they do reach the wood through cracks, etc. repairs would be more difficult.

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