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Winter Storage

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by damonsmith, Oct 29, 2018.

  1. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I am in an apt. in the Boston area with baseboard heat - there is a bit of heat all winter no matter what the thermostat is set on. I am going a away for a few weeks around the holidays.
    I have one of those Oasis humidifiers, but, it runs dry in about three days.
    I think I will be gone 2-3 weeks.
    What do people think? Should I loosen the strings? Put a bucket by the bass or by the baseboard in the room?
    I got some nasty winter top cracks my first year, last year I kept a dampit in and it was fine.
  2. wathaet


    May 27, 2007
    There are units in the 1k range that hook up to water and drain and can keep a while house humidified. My old job had one installed in the bass room and it worked very well.

    Alternatively put the bass in a softcase then seal it in plastic after misting the outside of the case lightly.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2018
    gnypp45 likes this.
  3. - turn the heat setting down to about 12ºC.
    - reuse the dampit you have from last year
    - put the bass in its case
    - load up the humidifier and set it to 40%RH, fan on auto low.
    - a few buckets of water around the room will help

    - If you have a neighbour / friend you trust, have them come in after a week or 10 days to refill the humidifier, run the water taps (prevent freezing in the pipes) and check around.
  4. dperrott


    Oct 3, 2005
    I think a room humidifier is the best bet. Mine has two tanks. Maybe have some one fill them up for you while your away.
  5. fu22ba55

    fu22ba55 Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2009
    I'd say have a neighbor come refill the humidifier, or ask your local violin shop / luthier if you can leave it at their space (or maybe do some needed maintenance) while you're gone?
    lrhbass and longfinger like this.
  6. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    definitely use the dampit, keep it in the case, sealed all the way take the endpin out?)

    keep the bass away from the source of heat - lay it in the middle of the floor if you need. loosening strings may be cool too?

    turn down the heat before you leave...

    or i do like the idea of leaving it with a luthier - drop it off for some side bumpers or fingerboard dots - though not a permanent solution, it can get you out of this jam!
  7. When I went out of town last fall for 10 days in November, I left a large Rubbermaid storage tub filled about 2/3 of the way with water and hung a towel in it from hooks in the ceiling. With a half dozen basses in that room on consignment as well as a handful of consigned violins, and about 50 of my own violins, I really didn't want to come home to find everything full of cracks should Vancouver happen to suffer an early cold spell.

    We're going away for two weeks, starting tomorrow, and I'll be doing the same thing. At the moment my two digital hygrometers are saying 48% and 51%, so I'm not worried for the coming week as temperatures are supposed to remain similar and it's going to rain for some days. But one never knows. An Arctic outflow can drop it to freezing, the furnace can kick on 24/7, and suddenly humidity drops to below 30% where cracks become inevitable. Looking at the history of humidity on one of my hygrometers last November I saw it had dipped to 35%, so that's still in the safe zone. At 33% I get worried, and at 30% things go very bad. Had that experience with three symphony player's basses back in about 1995 when it dropped to -9C within an afternoon, from a balmy, comfortable February day. The furnace downstairs was busy drying our air while I was on the porch trying to build an emergency heated greenhouse for my small collection of bonsai... when my girlfriend came out to tell me she was hearing "scary noises" coming from those ancient basses. I threw a stock pot on a hotplate and boiled water, and in half an hour the noises stopped. I had a number of hours of previously unneeded repair work to do after that. Lesson learned. The cracks and seams which opened in just a couple of hours would likely have opened at their owners' houses just the same but this was on my watch. Never again.

    So yeah, I have a good feeling about the big tub of water, dipping a bath towel in it and suspending that in the water, about 2/3 of the towel exposed. Makes a good big wick to keep drawing more water up - the towel was completely soaked when we returned after 10 days. This time my downstairs neighbour says he'll check the hygrometer and start up an ultrasonic humidifier if things dip below 35%, filling it every day, but I suspect the instrument room will be fine with just the tub and towel.
  8. The problem is forced-air heat. I’ve had precisely one crack occur during a terrible winter since I’ve bought and occupied a home heated by wood.
  9. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Yeah, it looks like the humidity stays around 60% in Dec. It seems like the cracks were more from the sudden drops which do happen here, in Dec. it should be pretty stable. I'll put out the water and towel, and loosen the strings a bit and it should be fine.
  10. A few years back I had an antique fiddle come to me with about a 5" long crack from the saddle up to the bridge area. Came from a small house up the coast which was heated only by a wood stove. The owner was shocked. Had no idea a wood stove could dry out the air. I convinced her, after the repairs were completed, to get herself a $20 hygrometer, then report back to me about what it said. During a winter evening, with heavy rain outside, the hygrometer was reporting as low as 20%RH. That's very bad. So she put a big pot of water on the stove and the humidity climbed up over 35% by the end of the evening.

    There's only so much a luthier can do with reinforcements. Maintenance is up to the players. I put linen patches around the ribs on a new bass, and when restoring an old one, and that does wonderfully well at stopping further rib cracking. Same for the highest stress areas across the lower belly, and along centre seams. But if it gets dry enough a bass will find some other place to crack.
  11. CaseyVancouver


    Nov 4, 2012
    Hi Gerard hope all is well! If you are off for a two week holiday have a good one. I'm off to Vegas Monday. Too rainy here heh heh.

    I always thought Vancouver was rather kind to instruments. I guess not.
    Damon, Gerard knows his stuff. Best of luck with it.
  12. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    What is this "Winter..." of which you speak?
    Greetings from LA!
  13. Thanks Casey. We expect to see a lot of the West Coast, much of it for the first time, so it'll be a great trip. Have to confess it has more to do with domestic bliss from my side though... my gut wants me here, working on a new bass. But I'll return with renewed energy and get busy carving the belly again.

    The biggest problem with Vancouver and instruments seems to be the rainy winters. Folks figure that since the air is so often saturated, and because we don't get those dry prairie winds (or only rarely), dryness can't be a problem. But modern homes are often the worst. They're heated thoroughly with little if any leakage, so the air gets bone dry unless there's a humidification system built into the heating system or some other added source of moisture. One poor fellow had a big belly crack open up on his bass because he didn't think of how the lower angle of winter sun was shining through a huge window right onto his bass, while the baseboard heaters were driving out humidity from the apartment. A hygrometer is the only way to know for certain.
  14. fu22ba55

    fu22ba55 Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2009
    If only that were true.

    I have 5 hyrgrometers in my music room: a couple cheap ones ($10) and couple spendy ones ($40 - $60) and NEVER ONCE have they all read the same thing. They are always at least 10% apart from each other. And yes, I've calibrated them.

    I shoot for a safe average among all the readouts.
    tonequixote and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  15. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I am pretty gun-shy about luthiers - this thing isn't going near one unless it is unplayable until I get a second bass. You have to be prepared to not see the bass for too long once you bring it in! Also, unless it is Dunkin' Donuts, everything is twice as much as it should be in New England (That is the one thing I would have put in the closed Upton thread - it isn't them exactly, it is the whole region that is arbitrarily over-priced), so, I am pretty much waiting until I move out of here before getting any serious work done. I still get my rehairs in Texas.
  16. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    thats unnecessary. I've never had upton do anything for me, so i can't comment on that. but i've never had to wait more than a few days for normal maintenance

    I can give a free plug to my friend and master bass luthier Jeff Bollbach. he's on long island, but he has never made me wait more than i was able to - for open seams a 24 hour pickup is pretty normal.
  17. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I am being a bit hyperbolic, except about the prices up here. Things get better in south, and by "south" I mean NY!

    groooooove likes this.
  18. oldNewbie

    oldNewbie Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2016
    One stupid-simple solution I’ve used on an old acoustic guitar is to put it in the case with a dampit then wrap the case in polyethylene, either food or pallet wrap. The water will diffuse out but much more slowly and certainly damp the sudden changes. It won’t last for long , I check the thing about once a month and find the dampit dry by then but it it’s worked for me in the Midwest.
  19. I hear you regarding regional spendyness. Around here it is well known that if you're wanting the best price when selling an instrument, take it to New York. An American Standard might sell for $2,500 to $3,500 here (in tiny Canadian dollars), the rare times they come up for sale, but I know a guy who took one to New York (he was doing a gig there anyway) and got $4,000USD for it. Same sort of thing for nice carved basses. Our local market tends to keep sale prices fairly low. Everyone's money goes to housing costs in Vancouver, it seems.

    I understand about hygrometer inconsistency. My two are fairly close, about 2% apart, and they haven't let me down so far. The old dial types were really bad. Modern digitals are more often accurate than not, in my experience anyway. Certainly better than just hoping one's instrument doesn't crack.
  20. Once I packed a DB using this method, thinking it was a good idea. I could not return to the bass for a long time and when I pulled it out I found that it was damp and crush-unstuck. This has never happened when storing bass in a regular bag. Plastic does not let moisture through, but also does not release it, and water may condense inside the bag. Consider my mistakes.

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