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Long Term Storage in Cold Environment

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by P Town, Oct 8, 2013.

  1. P Town

    P Town

    Dec 7, 2011
    I am looking for advice here.

    I have to store a number of stringed instruments for a couple, or more years.

    These include two Fender Am Dlx basses that were built in the last two years, with thick poly finishes, including on the maple finger boards. An old, (1967 Kapa) bass, in (I think) poly. A Gibson SG guitar, with the faded nitro finish, (which is a thin non-gloss nitro finish). A MIM Strat, an Ibanez Artcore, and a few other cheaper instruments, including an acoustic guitar.

    These instruments will be stored in an insulated semi-trailer in Wisconsin. I expect the temperature to range form mid-nineties, to below zero.

    I thought I would place a large desiccant bag in each case, and wrap the case tightly in plastic film, and packing tape.

    Should I leave them tuned to pitch, or tuned down a little?

    Should I be worried about doing this?

    Any advice would be appreciated.

  2. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Rule of thumb: Never leave an instrument in an environment that you would not leave a child or a small animal.

    As far as tuning goes, if tuned to pitch and adjusted properly, do nothing. If you choose to tune down, adjust the rod for proper relief. If you choose to tune up, adjust the rod for proper relief. If you choose to remove the strings, adjust the truss rod not so that there is no tension on the rod.
  3. SidMau


    Sep 3, 2012
    That will be the general norm, but I've lived there for 15 years and will say that you probably should account for anything from about -35 (with windchill) to 105 (thats probably the uppermost). Those are essentially the extremes... Storing instruments in a trailer in WI is not something I'd advise unless you're packing graphite, then maybe; though such is my opinion and others with more experience may differ and have some better idea of the situation
  4. P Town

    P Town

    Dec 7, 2011
    Thanks for the replies so far. SidMau, wind chill is only a translation of what the air temperature feels like to exposed human skin, so I expect that the actual temperature the instruments will endure will be five, or ten degrees below zero, at the coldest.

    One thing that worries me is the range of temperatures the instruments will be exposed to, but since the trailer is insulated, the change will be gradual.

    202dy, the Fender basses do have CF rods. The Stratocaster, Gibson, and Ibanez all do not.

    What worries me, is if I store them tuned to pitch, that as the strings shorten as the temperature drops, the truss rod may contract at a different rate, and the tensions will not be in the normal range of balance seen over a narrower, more normal temperature range.

    I suppose no one can predict what may happen to basses, and guitars under these circumstances, but if anyone has subjected instruments to this treatment before, and can tell me what effect it had on them, please tell me what your experience has been.

    I may send an email to Fender, and Gibson to see what they have to say about it.

  5. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    You're worried about the wrong thing. Don't put them in the deep freeze. Find another storage solution.

    As far as the expansion, contraction, deflection, etc, you're over thinking it. As long as the neck is relatively balanced everything will be alright. However, if you are still worried about all of the above, detune or remove the strings and bring the truss rod to a neutral position.
  6. Will Kelly

    Will Kelly

    Mar 3, 2010
    Sell them all. You can get more later. Then you dont have to worry about em.

    Prison, eh? J/k.
  7. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Ship 'em to me and I'll store in my climate-controlled rumpus room with all my crap. I'm not kidding...I have the space and I promise to walk them twice a day. Pay for return shipping when you're ready to retrieve. Sorry, but the thought of storing anything of value in sub-zero storage makes me cringe.

    They're not allergic to cats, are they?

  8. SmokeWrench


    Jun 12, 2011
    ^^ Thats why i love TB. Great bunch of folks.
  9. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Well, she looked eighteen.

  10. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2011
    Short of finding another place to put them...^this^
  11. Alex_rus


    Sep 12, 2013
    Good thread. Nothing will happen given lack of sudden temperature drops.

    I live in Russia, which may get pretty damn cold. When I was gigging extensively, my 2 main basses at the time (EBMM SR4 '96 and Yamaha BB605 with mods) were getting quite a lot of abuse, most of which came from riding and being stored in a trunk at -30C (when your pee freezes upon contact with ground) and then being removed from the padded gig bag at a club with 90% humidity and +30C. These sudden drops (60 degrees!) may ruin the instruments, but did not in my case. Moreover, my tech, who serviced them every half yeaf only gave a few nudges to the truss rod adjustment.

    Who knows, maybe such extremes altered the molecular sfructure somewhat, as the cheap (399 USD) BB605 sounded spectacular.

    Now, if you had oil finished acoustic instruments - that would be a problem, as they have to be stored in a maintained microclimate.
  12. P Town

    P Town

    Dec 7, 2011
    Alex rus, thanks for telling me your real world experience.

    In the next day, or so, I will be packing everything up. Large desiccant bag in the case, plastic wrap over the case. I still have the cardboard boxes the Fenders came in, so I may put the cased basses in the boxes, and wrap that with plastic as well. The other instruments will be desiccant, case, and plastic wrap. I will leave them tuned to pitch. Your experience gives me hope they will survive this treatment with no damage.
  13. Staccato

    Staccato Low End Advocate

    Aug 14, 2009
    Inside a house with stable temperature and humidity is the right idea.

    Climate controlled in terms of almost constant temp. around say, 70-75 degrees, and reasonable humidity without spikes in either direction toward high, or low.
  14. P Town

    P Town

    Dec 7, 2011
    Staccato, I am hoping that the temperature changes will be gradual enough to not cause problems. The main question I have is, given no other choice, can I do anything to mitigate the effect of the slow, wide seasonal temperature change that may be outside of the intended normal range a stringed wooden instrument may be subjected to, (especially, the neck).
  15. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Brother, you are courting disaster. Keep in mind that any water vapor present (ambient & within the wood itself) will eventually freeze and expand....and this process is capable of fracturing rock.

  16. Alex_rus


    Sep 12, 2013
    Fellas, before theorizing - do you have any experience, or are just typing for whatever?)))

    Temps do not drop. If packed and stored correctly - nothing will happen! These are not friggin 17th century oil-finished violins! Trees survive -60C, and flourish at spring, while basses will crack like stone?

    The only concern is the expansion/contraction of metal and direct water contact (submersion).

    TS i forgot las piece of advice - give the fretboards (rosewood or ebony) a soak in lemon oil, desaccant may overdry the boards. No problem either, as you may just let them soak in lemon oil for a day afterwards to same effect.

  17. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    One of many I found:

    "Whether woodwinds, brass, percussion or strings, instruments are much more than the sum of their parts. Storing instruments, the electronic equipment needed to enhance their output such as mixers as amps, sheet music, and digital backups of musical creations must be done the right way to preserve them well.

    Most important is controlling the temperature within the storage unit. Severe temperatures, drastic temperature changes, and above-normal levels of humidity can cause brass instruments to expand and shrink, strings and wood to warp, drum skins to dry, and mildew to grow. Many self-storage facilities offer climate control. This uses central air and heat to maintain a temperature within the unit of 50-80 degrees and reduce humidity. Some facilities have a dehumidifier as well -- usually for units on the first floor or subterranean levels.

    Here are some additional tips for assuring musical instruments, music and equipment are stored in optimal conditions:

    Tips for Storing Musical Instruments

    Properly prepare instruments for storage, cleaning and conditioning them with paste wax for wood, resin, etc. Never use an oil-based polish or alcohol on wood instruments. Disassemble parts, remove reeds, mouthpieces, mutes and straps, and relax strings
    Whenever possible, store instruments in cases designed for them. Cases should be in good condition – clean, with no fraying or powdering. If a case is not in great condition, line it with buffered acid-free paper (available for purchase at music stores). Inside the case, drape a clean cloth over strings. For additional protection against humidity, after placing the instrument in the case, place the case in a polyethylene bag.
    Cover a piano with a sheet or tarp to protect it from dust
    After storing musical instruments for a lengthy period, be sure to clean and tune them before playing
    In the storage unit, keep instruments away from vents and doors. Make sure they are stored off the floor, on a pallets or shelves"

    This, of course, pertains to the more commonly encountered self-storage businesses.

  18. P Town

    P Town

    Dec 7, 2011
    Thanks for the info Zooberwerx!
    I did find a home for my Hammond organ, and Leslie speaker.
    The person used to own one, so it will actually be played regularly.
  19. P Town

    P Town

    Dec 7, 2011
    I'm hoping this is the correct answer.

    The two Fender Am Dlx basses have maple fingerboards with thick poly on them, so the desiccant bag in the case should not be a problem. In fact, those two basses have been very stable. I bought them new, and they really have only required very minute adjustment between the cold, and warm seasons. The Fenders have a very thick clear poly on the bodies, so I am hoping that there will be no problem with the body finish. The faded cherry nitro on the Gibson is non-gloss, and very thin, so I think it is not likely to be damaged either. The MIM Strat only cost me forty bucks, (I did put a new American tremolo bridge in it), so it is not anything to worry about. The temperature changes will be gradual. The trailer is insulated, and the top, and sides are white, so the day/night temp swings may not be much. My main concern really is structural damage due to expansion, and contraction of wood/metal parts, but I have talked myself into thinking everything will be OK. I hope I don't end up with unintentional roadworn/relliced instruments after this.

    Thanks for all your input.
  20. marcelmeister


    Oct 15, 2013
    Your ideas for storage of stringed instruments are perfect as you opted for climate controlled storage. Do not pad the instruments in critical areas. Try to provide adequate suspension inside the casing. While selecting long term storage you need to look upon the fact that whether the storage facility provided is having a fire monitoring system and dust proof atmosphere.

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