As sweltering heat envelops the northern hemisphere this summer, it is a timely opportunity to talk about Humidity and Temperature and why understanding their effect on wood is so important for taking good care of your guitar.
Your guitar is constructed from different species of wood from around the world that range in density and, as with all woods, can be affected by humidity and temperature.
The Avalon factory is kept at a relative humidity of 45% – 50% all year round. All guitar making takes place in this controlled environment so when you receive your Avalon, how you store your guitar is a very important matter for the longterm health of your prized instrument.
When general humidity levels change, the moisture levels in the wood will also change and whilst small variations may not be noticeable, if levels drop below 40% or rise above 60% your guitar may react adversely if not stored correctly when not being played.
Too wet and the wood will swell as it absorbs moisture affecting the action, playability and tone. Prolonged exposure to high temperature and humidity can also weaken glue joints. The tone can become ‘muddy’ and develop an under par volume and bass response with a distinct lack of sparkle in the treble department.
Too dry and the wood will shrink as it looses moisture, also affecting action, playability and tone. This is more destructive because if not caught quickly the wood can crack as it shrinks. In this case the guitar will loose bass response and sound ‘thin’. You might also notice the fret ends protruding past the fingerboard edge making it uncomfortable to play. The soundboard and back can distort and flatten.
In both scenarios the lacquer can crack or craze as the wood swells or shrinks, even if no cracking in the wood has occurred. Lacquer cracks / crazing is not structurally a worry, but it doesn’t look good.
Rapid changes in humidity and temperature are the biggest concern, so give the wood time to slowly adjust to its environment and remember, your guitar is built from different woods so they will move at different rates.
Avalon recommends the Planet Waves Humidipak (Boveda) system which is a simple and mess free way of ensuring high (or low) levels of humidity do not play havoc with your guitar. http://goo.gl/5fsk8X
It’s good practice to oil the fingerboard as needed.A good quality fingerboard oil should be a mixture of natural oils, designed to clean and nourish the ebony or rosewood. It will remove any build up of dirt and grease from continued playing, absorb into the wood and help protect it from drying out. Our own ‘Avalon Fingerboard Oil’ will soon be available from the online shop – it’s our own secret recipe of natural oils, mixed and bottled in our workshop.
If you need to clean the lacquered finish, use a damp cloth for a rub down and buff dry with a soft cloth. You can also use a non–abrasive (silicon free) polish if needed but it’s best to spray the polish onto the cloth and not directly unto the guitar.
The safest place to store your guitar when not being played is in its hardshell case, not only to protect it from being accidentally knocked but it also serves as a great barrier against rapid temperature & humidity changes which can affect the wood and/or lacquer depending on the level of severity. If you store the guitar on a wall hanger it’s important to make sure the room has the correct humidity & temperature levels and that there is no direct sunlight on the guitar. Having a small hygrometer in the room is a useful aid. Never leave your guitar in direct sunlight even if it is inside the hardshell case. Never leave your guitar in a car unattended, extreme high and low temperature levels can occur very quickly.
Travel & Transportation.
Your guitar will be very well protected in its hardshell case but it’s best to take extra precautions when possible. Slacken off the strings by a few turns to ease the string pressure on the neck and soundboard. If there is a pickup system fitted it’s best to remove or secure the battery incase it comes loose in transit, you don’t want a 9V battery rattling around playing tag with the struts!