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Humidify! Humidify! Humidify!


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If you suspect extremes of humidity there is a digital hygrometer, one of which lives in my fiddle case, on Amazon for small money, which has a memory so that you can track what's happening to your precious box in terms of both humidity and temperature. Otherwise, let's consider that our concertinas have, since the 1800's, been left in all sorts of damp and disgusting places, attics, mantle shelves, box rooms and junk shops, and survived. The only reason I have one in my fiddle case is that the fiddle was recently built for me, and I want it to settle down with all the advantages in life. After that, it's on its own... That said, it is worth a few quid to monitor the environment of your instruments.

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Otherwise, let's consider that our concertinas have, since the 1800's, been left in all sorts of damp and disgusting places, attics, mantle shelves, box rooms and junk shops, and survived.

And many have not survived!

 

Obviously you've not seen any of those that have been damaged by too much or too little humidity. As a repairer I've seen more than enough. Ranging from the Aeola stored in a leaky cupboard for a decade, the reed tongues are just a crust of scale, all the glue has gone from the woodwork and the bellows are mouldy and falling apart. It's completely ruined. Cracked action boards are common as are cracked fretwork ends. Ends can of course suffer mechanical damage, but cracked action boards can really only be down to low humidity. So do take care and give careful thought to storage conditions.

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Carleen Hutchins of the Catgut Acoustical Society did some research on wood drying vs taking up moisture maybe 30 years ago. It was related to violin plates which are thin, but not too much thinner than reed pans ( same ball park ). Weight changes from humidity or lack of it can have a pronounced effect on playability in these instruments. What she found was that wood loses moisture at a much higher rate than it takes it up. Drying in a thin piece 3-4mm only takes a few hours to reach a new equilibrium, while regaining the lost moisture can take days. What this means to concertina owners is that going from a stable more humid environment into a dry one can cause relatively rapid shrinkage, while the opposite is less of a problem. Changing seasons is a more gradual process thankfully, but a sharp cold front coming through can dry things out in a hurry.

Regarding air tightness, the law of partial pressure of gasses says, if a gas is present in a mixture of gasses in one place but not in an adjoining volume, there will be a pressure difference for that component and if there is a path between them, the gas will flow under pressure to equalize the mixtures. Unless you have one of those military style sealed cases, a pretty tight case won't get you much. Use a small humidifier in the case and regularly check that it has water. I like the old plastic film cans with a 1/4" hole in the cap with a piece of mold resistant Ocello brand sponge I. It that I soak and then let the excess water drip out of. They fit nicely in the cases and hold a good amount of water.( maybe a weeks worth in winter )

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Otherwise, let's consider that our concertinas have, since the 1800's, been left in all sorts of damp and disgusting places, attics, mantle shelves, box rooms and junk shops, and survived.

And many have not survived!

Obviously you've not seen any of those that have been damaged by too much or too little humidity. As a repairer I've seen more than enough. Ranging from the Aeola stored in a leaky cupboard for a decade, the reed tongues are just a crust of scale, all the glue has gone from the woodwork and the bellows are mouldy and falling apart. It's completely ruined. Cracked action boards are common as are cracked fretwork ends. Ends can of course suffer mechanical damage, but cracked action boards can really only be down to low humidity. So do take care and give careful thought to storage conditions.

I sure hope people take this to heart! Damage can be minimal from crushed wood fibers around reed shoes, to the all too common extremes Theo mentions. Some concertinas do survive better than others, whether from being made of better quartered wood, or assembled in a drier part of the year, who knows, Concertinas are made with wood going all different directions. They all start together, but when the wood dries or picks up moisture, each piece of wood goes it's separate way. If a shrinking piece of wood is constrained, the forces on it can be quite large, large enough to tear it apart.
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