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Is your bass exposed to at least 50% moisture?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Karl Beck, May 9, 2010.

  1. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    Precisely. For example, my forced-air heating system includes a whole-house humidifier but my bass has it's own dedicated humidifier nearby. ;)
  2. Dr Rod

    Dr Rod

    Aug 19, 2005
    in my post I never advocated to completely ignore humidity control.

    My question was whether we are making too much of this or not. I actually do try to limit the extreme dryness caused by winter heating, but I see a certain degree of obsessiveness amongst certain players and luthiers.

    They do have sub-zero temperatures in northern Italy, and they have had mini ice ages in between. Italian instruments traveled all the way to Russia.

    Stradivarius and Amati were just some famous names I picked, but just think of any maker that made instruments prior to 1930.

    If you go to Germany today, all the orchestras own basses, some of the halls have nice humidity controls, but many of the older smaller places don't. The basses do just fine and I can't remember having more crack incidents than in North America. Germany is very humid outside, and has usually strong heating inside which can be quite dry and makes for extreme changes when there is no humidity control. In Bavaria they have sub zero temps.
  3. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    Perhaps too much is made of humidity control but I confess to being somewhat obsessive about it. I figure it's very cheap insurance, especially considering the cost-benefit ratio. :)
  4. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2004
    My bad, then. Didn't realize that. I think those with newer, not yet acclimated basses, probably need to be more attentive to humidity concerns than those of us with older, well seasoned to their environment, instruments. But I still watch the gauge in the winter months here.
  5. fair enough. i just assume be on the safe side and keep the humidifier going during the winter.
  6. peterpalmieri

    peterpalmieri Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Babylon, NY
    No my bass is not exposed to AT LEAST 50% HUMIDITY.

    I attempt to control it to a minimum of 35% and a maximum of 50%. It can be a challenge in Jan/Feb to keep it up around 40% and below 50% in the summer months.
  7. Cody Sisk

    Cody Sisk

    Jan 26, 2009
    Lilburn, GA
    Ronald Sachs Violins
    What must also be considered is the natural oils that exist in the wood that eventually dry out/dissipate over the decades.. This will make older instruments more sensitive to humidity.

    I'm quite anal about keeping the humidity just right in my shop because it's crucial for repairs involving instruments with tops removed. The back of an instrument can warp the ribs quite a bit making putting the top back on difficult.

    My display instruments don't get as much attention. I might supplement with a humidifier when winter comes, but those instruments need to be acclimated to Texas weather anyway. Also, there's an issue with too much humidity when there is sheet music in one side of our building. Anything above 50% is just asking for mold growth on some of our better quality printed papers..
  8. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    If you've got wood movement issues in your environment, you don't have to wait for bass damage to let you know. Surely you've got some other objects made of wood? Check out how they move.

    There are plenty of experienced wood workers and cabinet makers who keep chunks of their various wood species hanging around in their shop environments. They *carefully* measure them (across the grain, not along the grain -- wood swells across the grain structure) at various points throughout the year. Doesn't take many annual cycles before they've got their conditions nailed down pretty much perfectly: how much movement in what species at what time of year. They manage their joinery such that joints are fit allowing for the species and time of year -- tight, loose, or just middlin'.

    Bass players could easily develop this degree of awareness of their own environment. If you've got thousands of dollars invested in an old wooden object, an object you might be making your living with, why wouldn't you want to learn this? Bruce Hoadley's "Understanding Wood" is a classic reference in this area -- check it out!

    I'm not against people managing their humidity levels. I'm against people doing it blindly, without awareness of what's really going on, because somebody on the internet told them it was a good idea. Because you certainly can do more damage than good if you're needlessly adding or removing water from the environment.
  9. T-zone


    Sep 5, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    I recall reading somewhere that they would take the instruments apart when making these journeys because they would crack otherwise. Don't remember where I heard it.
  10. Dr Rod

    Dr Rod

    Aug 19, 2005
    I would not be surprised, however, usually instruments travel in assembled form.
  11. T-zone


    Sep 5, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    I laughed out loud when I read that (was picturing ordering a bass and getting a bunch of bass pieces).
  12. Dr Rod

    Dr Rod

    Aug 19, 2005
    I'm glad to hear, there is nothing better than a good laugh
  13. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    It depends who is the "someone" on the internet. I take pretty seriously what luthiers such as Arnold Schnitzer say on the internet-- especially those who maintain basses in my region of the country. Still, knowledge is power :))) and players should learn what they can about "wood movement."
  14. i know a little about it, but ill be honest ive never been very fussy and about it, i done go chucking the thing in the fridge, but i dont worry about where they are in the house car or even garage for time to time, and ive never had an issue, never. and im not a newbie. my dad has played with many big acts and i dont think he has really bothered about it also. and before you say OOOoO you live in a stable climate... no i dont i live just out side edinburgh, scotland where the weather can change in minutes. for instance it was 20'c twenty minutes ago not its a fraction of that and seiously comming down. however, i do agree with luthiers having controlled climates, that is a specialist area and i think their right to have humidifiers. but for everyday use.... nah not me never used it, probably never will...

    thanx just my tuppence worth....

  15. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    KC Strings
    No, I doubt humidity has any effect on your Ashdown speaker cabinets.
    Do you know you are in the Double Bass forum?
  16. He must.....he used the word luthiers dint he? :D
  17. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    KC Strings
    Well then, maybe I'll get in trouble. I just think filling out a profile lends some credibility.
  18. T-zone


    Sep 5, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    So, if I am reading this thread right, the big problem is not so much humidity levels (although I take it a bass should never be exposed to too much and DEFINITELY not too little) as a sudden change, right? Also I gather that low humidity is a bigger problem than high humidity as that's where cracks occur, and that a helpful gauge is how the wood in my house behaves?

    I own a laminate, which I gather from the posts in this thread is not as susceptible to humidity as a carved bass. Is there anything that I've got wrong or any plywood-specific issues I should look out for?

    Thanks for helping a DB noob.
  19. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Yes, basically.
    One addition: a helpful gauge is a hygrometer.
    One modification: if the glue is too strong to let go before the wood splits, the distortions caused by high humidity can also cause cracks.
  20. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    You are correct. It doesn't mean you can get away with murder, but resistance to climate changes is one reason why ply basses are recommended for students & schools. I'll bet that most older school buildings have minimal humidity control.

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