Manmade materials have come along way, but as far as many musical instruments are concerned, no other material compares to wood. The warm, organic sound produced by a wooden instrument cannot be matched by anything else.
Since wood is an organic material, however, it is prone to becoming damaged from the environment it’s stored in. If you spend any amount of time and money selecting wooden instruments, it is imperative that you also learn the correct way to store your wooden instruments.
Preventing Moisture Damage
Wooden instruments are especially prone to damage from moisture. If wood absorbs too much moisture from the air, it swells, expands, and becomes heavy. Being exposed to air that is too dry is even more damaging, as the instrument can become brittle or even crack. The ideal humidity level for wooden instruments to be stored at is 45-55%.
Controlling Humidity in an Entire Home or Room
For many musicians with multiple instruments who are concerned about moisture damage, the easiest solution is to control the humidity in the entire area that the instruments are stored in. Air conditioning, central air, and dehumidifiers all reduce the amount of moisture in your interior space.
In cooler climates, many types of heating systems dry out the air in the winter months. Portable humidifiers are an effective, inexpensive way to add back moisture in the air.
As changing seasons and weather conditions will change the humidity level of your home, you will need to check it regularly with a hygrometer. Controlling humidity is crucial to learning the correct way to store your wooden instruments, and also has the added bonus of making you and your family more comfortable. The humidity level your instruments are safest at is the ideal humidity level for you to live in, as well.
Controlling Humidity in Only Your Instrument Cases
You can also choose to control only the humidity in your instrument’s case. Even if you use a humidifier, it is a good idea to purchase a case humidifier, as well. Case humidifiers can be as simple as a sponge in a tube or as complicated as a climate-controlled case, with countless options in between.
Special Tips for Long Term Storage
If you are not going to be playing wooden instruments for awhile, you will need to take special precautions to keep them in working order. A climate-controlled storage space is ideal for this purpose. If that is not practical, you will need to take additional measures to store your instruments your home.
Consider the following tips to be sure that you are utilizing the correct way to store your wooden instruments at home:
Do not store instruments in attics, garages, sheds or basements.
Wood is delicate, and your instruments will quickly become damaged from being stored in areas prone to unsafe temperature changes and humidity levels.
Store instruments in an appropriate hard case.
For additional protection, you may choose to wrap the cases in plastic.
Do not store instruments next to doors or windows, or on the floor.
The closer your instrument is to the middle of a room, the safer it is from climate fluctuations. Instruments should also be raised off the floor. Even wooden pianos should be set on casters.
Loosen the strings on a stringed instrument before long term storage.
The instrument will warp if stored with tension on its strings.
Inspect instruments regularly.
Be sure to regularly check your instruments for signs of damage. If you notice mold, discoloration, deformation, or insect damage, bring it to a professional right away. These problems will become much worse if not taken care of, and your instrument could become irreparably damaged.