I live on the Colorado Front Range and any that either lives, lived or visited here can attest to how dry it gets in this state. Under 10 percent humidity can be common and can be very damaging to your guitar if left unchecked. For example, I have a 97 Martin SWD certified wood guitar and I love it. It’s actually my brothers guitar but it was rescued by me because the guitar was rendered useless because proper humidity wasn’t maintained in the care of the guitar. By rendered useless, I mean the neck contracted in a way to render many of the frets dead. It also developed a crack right below the bridge of the guitar. (see pic) What was the solution to this? Proper humidity applied to the guitar.
According to Martin, it is ideal to keep 45-50% humidity and around 72-77 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature. It’s very tough to maintain those constants in Colorado, especially in the winter. Temperature was fairly easy to tackle. I just purchased an oil room heater and that was enough to maintain the proper temp. Humidity was a bit harder and I tried many different contraptions. Below is a list of what I tried to humidify:
- Room humidifier: Tried a couple of models but they were too loud and I had to refill water over and over, sometimes daily. I was able to keep decent humidity levels but the Martin still wasn’t happy. I also had to keep the door shut in my office all the time to keep the humidity in. If it was open for 15 minutes or so, the humidity would drop 10 to 15 percent.
- Planet Waves System: With it being suspended on the strings, I thought this would be sufficient enough to do the job. It fell a bit short in the aspect that I would have to keep the case closed for 2 or more days for it to revitalize the guitar. The reason being that there was nothing to cover the sound hole to keep the moisture in. It also didn’t seem to last very long either, maybe a few months and then I would have to buy a new one. Seemed pretty wasteful to me.
- Grover guitar humidifier system: This one is almost the same as the Dampit system that I have used in the past. Basically a sponge in a green tube attached to a piece of plastic that seals the sound hole pretty well. This unit worked perfectly. My Martin was back to normal and playing well within 24 hours.
There are many other systems out there that should work like the Grover and Dampit systems. The Keyser system comes to mind. The only draw back with the Grover system is that it slides under the strings and if your action is low like on my Martin, there is a chance the plastic will scratch your guitar over time. Just by the shear repetition of removing and reinserting the system every practice. That’s why I’ll probably try the Kyser someday because it looks like it might be a bit softer on the guitar. I’m sure the Planet Waves system works well for others who might read this but the combination of how sensitive my guitar is and the dry weather of Colorado makes that system pretty useless for me. If anyone who reads this has any insight on other guitar humidifier systems, please share them with me. I would rather learn from everyones experience instead of figuring out for myself.
Kyser Humdifier System
Guitar Maintenance Thoughts
I also have a SWD among other guitars, live in Colorado, and have had the biggest challenge with the Martin SWD as far as keeping it humidified. I use the Kyser’s on three guitars and have been very happy with them. On the SWD I have to sometimes loosen the string while keeping the Kyser nice and moist for a week or two if the guitar really gets dry. I have tried the other humidifiers you mentioned and agree except that I my experience with the Dampit is that it dries out very fast compared to the Kyser, (Taylor Guitars recommends not using the plastic cover). I had also tried a Planet Wave and like you will throw my away because it is now useless. I do think that part of the challenge with the SWD is the softer birch which allows it to dry out and shrink faster than harder woods. I still enjoy the bright sound so I’ll keep my around and water it regularly.
Thanks for your posted comments.
Thanks Larry for the comment. I’m glad to hear that I’m not alone with the Martin. The Kyser has worked really well for me two but I did have to put it in the case for a day or two. Humidity was at about 5% and it couldn’t take it. I didn’t know that birch was part of the guitar so thanks for that information and that does explain a lot. I know the sides are redwood but coudn’t get a definitive answer on the rest. Not much info on the SWD’s out there.
Once again thanks for your thoughts and agree that the bright sound of the SWD is wonderful, when kept watered.