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Does anyone have experience/recommendations regarding the in-case humidity control packs made by Boveda? This system was recommended to me by a violinist friend.  It's a sealed pack that fits inside a fabric pouch, and either absorbs or gives off moisture to keep the humidity in the case in the 45-55 % RH range.  Where I live in Canada we have very humid summers, and very dry indoor air once the furnace comes on the the winter.  I'm thinking of trying it in a double case where I keep my Morse and Wally Carroll.  Previously I have used a unit which needs to be filled with water, but had a near miss when it started to leak.  The company website doesn't mention concertinas or other free reed instruments- only stringed and woodwind instruments.

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I use these for my Lachenal Edeophone 56 keys...ebony ends. I keep two of the humidity packs inside a flight case from Button Box, one for each side of the concertina...but not touching the instrument. They seem to work well in the rapid variaions of humidity and temperature in West Virginia.   RJ

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These "in case" devices no doubt help.  However, I think of these as a "static aid".  Each year I usually remind concertina players that playing their instruments in humidity poor environments is in effect drying them from the inside out as the dry air gets pumped through.  I like to think a more dynamic approach to helping a concertina through the winter is to actively add humidity to the playing environment.  

 

I recommend a small room humidifier in the area where the concertina gets played most often.  I've found that while concertinas can adjust to lower humidity over time they seem to prefer 50-60% relative humidity.  Your skin and respiratory system might enjoy the increased humidity in the music room as well.

 

Greg

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Thank you Greg! I also keep a humidified room, as I have fretted instruments. My wife calls it The Jungle, as it is warm and humid...though perhaps she is also referring to the happy absence of tidiness.

 

This creates another question-worthy scenario, as many room-humidifiers blow out a  fine white dust, even when using distilled water. The distraught musician seems to do less practicing than he/she does cleaning-up. But those old British concertinas certainly sound best when they remember the damp of London, where they breathed in fog as they were played.

 

Robert

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One thing to keep in mind is that woods lose moisture to the air at a much higher rate than they regain it.  This is especially true for thin wood like violin plates.  In concertinas, the pad boards are generally one of the thinner parts, with the reed pans being next.  The ends if wood, are commonly laminated and are less vulnerable.  
   Room or house humidity control avoids the sharp changes of in case to out.  In case humidifiers are a second best, but still worthwhile bit of insurance.  
   I have used a large console evaporative humidifier for a long time for my shop to aim for that 50% rh level  in winter with no white dust,  they have their own problems, but don’t make a mess.

   Cooler temperatures reduce the need for extra humidity.

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I live in Wisconsin with forced air heating which can get pretty dry in winter.  I’ve been using a Venta brand room humidifier. It consists of a slowly rotating plastic drum with multiple fins which is partially immersed in water as a fan blows the air above it.  It puts about a gallon of water per day into the room air where I practice.  It’s able to keep the RH at about 40%, but that’s about it.  There’s no way it could reach 50% unless I bought another one.  The nice thing about it is that there are no pads to change and no dust problems.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Wim Wakker has sent me some advice about an instrument that he has just built for me, which will be shipped when the check (US$, so US spelling!) arrives (which could take a while, considering recent postal delays). His advice includes this:

"As you might know, the standard 'shop'  relative humidity for musical
instruments is 30%. This assures perfect wood density, correct glue curing
(hide glue), and instrument tension.  This has been an international
standard for centuries. Your instrument is built according to these
standards.
"In order to keep the relative humidity of the instrument under 40% in its
new location,  I would advise to keep a silica gel container and a small
hygrometer in the case if your humidity is higher, or a humidifier with
hygrometer is your levels are loer. You can also use a (de)humidifier in the
room you store the instrument. Humidity levels above 40% can damage the wood
(warping) and affect the hide glue. Over time, the instrument will become
less sensitive, and will adjust to higher humidity levels."

 

RH in Britain is usually well above that, even indoors in winter. A hygrometer in my house is currently indicating 49%, and that's with the temperature 9 °C outside and 22 °C inside.

 

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That's an odd claim. 30% R.H. would be regarded as exceptionally dry in this part of the world. 50-65% is more normal here. I don't think instrument makers in Europe/UK have been using dehumidifiers in their workshops for centuries, nor have musicians typically needed to keep their instruments in a dehumidified box.

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A lot of the instruments that we have repaired, displayed symptoms of being albeit desiccated by central heating. We would recommend that humidity of around 55% is ideal, especially for older instruments. My uncle Andrew (who works on very expensive high end violins villas and cellos, in Minneapolis) has humidifiers to keep the workshop at 55%. 
 

Colin is currently battling with two Jeffries that have been dried to death. 

The frustrating thing about concertinas is they are, by design, a wood drying machine 🙄 Thanks Charley! 

 

If you put a humidifier in the case, how does that humidity get into each sealed chamber of the reedpan? 

 

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I suppose that you could put a humidifier in the bellows, but then the bellows might fall apart and the reeds will rust 🤪

 

If the humidity is over 70% then mildew will attack the instrument and you’ll have to bin the bellows, and it’s possible that instruments with older valves that are made of leather that is not pH stable, will then release acid that eat the reeds

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It's a constant battle to keep the humidity up in a house where the outside humidity is low. Wood heat is another big problem, and the only remedy is to have a kettle on the woodstove and a room humidifier running full blast. Even then with temperatures down to -20C or lower, at some point we just have to do our best, and right now my hygrometer is reading 34%, despite best efforts.

 

I once had a banjo spontaneously split down the neck while sitting leaned against a wall. Scared the lights out of me, it sounded like a lightning clap going off in my living room. Maybe it was some dark force smiting the banjo? After that I invested in a humidifier. I've been lucky with my violin, an old but very stable instrument that seems to take whatever humidity it can get - but, from a repair label inside, I know it was in Reno, NV in 1969, so its had its time to dry out.

 

I have a Jeffries here that belongs to a friend, he's owned it for many years and found it in an estate sale in Montreal. It never seems to react to changes in humidity, so I suspect also it has stabilized over the years. So far my Dipper, which Colin knew was destined for Canada, has been behaving very well despite the change in humidity, thanks to some wise material and design choices (walnut ply reed pans etc).

 

I'm curious what Wally's shop humidity is at and what his stockpile of wood is stored at, and whether he runs into any issues on either side of the pond. He uses solid sycamore, but perhaps it is aged and dried closer to ambient N. American levels before use. 

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Advice to keep humidity low is ironic in my case! One Lachenal I have, another modern, UK-built concertina, and my uilleann pipe reeds all refuse to cooperate in the winter here in the US because I can't get the humidity up to 40% without extreme measures (yes, I know the tricks and am trying new ones, that discussion if needed perhaps best in a separate thread). Maybe we need to do a big instrument swap?  8o)

 

My instruments need to be in the damp ol' British Isles where they were designed. Count your blessings if you get to live in the right humidity.

 

Ken

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