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kkimura
01-06-2017, 03:14 AM
Every Winter I read all the threads on humidity I can find looking for the ultimate solution to the low humidity issues that are discussed. So far the solutions center around RH measurement, various techniques to maintain RH around 50% and proper ukulele luthiery environment (dry wood and 50% RH).

I'm guessing that the 50% RH is used because it's considered the "normal" RH in most of the market for solid wood hollow body stringed instruments. Also mentioned in my reading is that ukuleles can tolerate higher RH extremes better than lower RH.

So I wonder why couldn't ukuleles and other stringed instruments be made with really dry wood and in 20% RH? Wouldn't a ukulele built that way be ideal for the dry Winter conditions we have in the North countries? Desert dwelling ukuleles would also benefit.

2xbass
01-06-2017, 03:58 PM
I can't really answer the question from an instrument-building perspective but one thing some people may not realise is that many of these Northern places are also really, really humid at other parts of the year. I'm in Ottawa, Canada and outdoors the humidity ranges from as low as 20% (but typically more like 40%) to almost 100% in the course of a year. During winter, a lot of places have forced-air heating and it's so even drier indoors with many places going to down below 20% unless they have some kind of humidification.

Choirguy
01-06-2017, 04:14 PM
Thank goodness for options like Outdoor Ukulele.

kkimura
01-06-2017, 04:19 PM
I can't really answer the question from an instrument-building perspective but one thing some people may not realise is that many of these Northern places are also really, really humid at other parts of the year. I'm in Ottawa, Canada and outdoors the humidity ranges from as low as 20% (but typically more like 40%) to almost 100% in the course of a year. During winter, a lot of places have forced-air heating and it's so even drier indoors with many places going to down below 20% unless they have some kind of humidification.

That extreme range of humidity is much the same here in NH. My thought was that a uke built to withstand dry 20% humidity would probably be okay at 80% humidity too.

bnolsen
01-06-2017, 05:04 PM
Martin OXK is a very good option for a ukulele where humidity is jumping around.

Dan Gleibitz
01-06-2017, 05:16 PM
That extreme range of humidity is much the same here in NH. My thought was that a uke built to withstand dry 20% humidity would probably be okay at 80% humidity too.

It doesn't work like that, for a number of reasons.

The moisture content of the wood will change with relative humidity. Importantly, this relationship is not linear. EMC rises a lot for each unit RH at very high and very low humities. It is at its most stable in the mid range. Take a look at the graph below.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5e/Hailwood-Horrobin_EMC_graph.svg/300px-Hailwood-Horrobin_EMC_graph.svg.png

EMC will rise by around the same amount if RH increases from 40 to 60% as it will for a RH increase from 10 to 20%. Expansion/contraction are almost linearly related to EMC. So an instrument built to an extreme EMC (either high or low) will be more prone to greater shrinkage/swelling, and have much further to shrink/swell than one built for a more stable EMC.

But it would work. Per your original question, you're right that an instrument built in a 10% RH environment would be untroubled by 10% RH. But you'd have to keep it that way all year round at a RH that would be uncomfortable and unhealthy for people.

And building for 10% humidity wouldn't make it okay for 80+% humidity. You'd end up with a bulging twisted unplayable mess, possibly in several pieces.:D

Griffis
01-07-2017, 12:53 AM
This is one of the reasons I prefer laminates. Obviously they are not--generally speaking--quite as resonant and often solid wood ukes are more finely made. But for my needs, a decent laminate is perfect as I travel a lot and laminates are less fussy, usually significantly less expensive and less prone to changes in temp, humidity, altitude, etc. I don't have to worry about them as a more delicate instrument or as a terribly valuable thing.

kkimura
01-07-2017, 02:52 AM
I'm not sure what "EMC" means but it appears that the luthiers of the world know what they're doing when they build solid wood ukuleles the way they do. I had forgotten that while over humidification doesn't lead to cracking, it can cause other bad things related to swelling and expansion.
And so we're back to maintaining safe humidity levels and ukes made of non-hydroscopic materials like OXKs and Outdoor Ukes or laminates.

Croaky Keith
01-07-2017, 03:20 AM
Laminate doesn't mean poor quality neccessarily, I have several that I am pleased with, but I have bought some solid top & solid wood ukes to see for myself if they are really superior.

Maybe the very expensive ones are, but they're well out of my league, pricewise, so a good quality laminate, or plastic, is where it is likely to be for me. :)

kkimura
01-07-2017, 03:27 AM
Laminate doesn't mean poor quality neccessarily, I have several that I am pleased with, but I have bought some solid top & solid wood ukes to see for myself if they are really superior.

Maybe the very expensive ones are, but they're well out of my league, pricewise, so a good quality laminate, or plastic, is where it is likely to be for me. :)

I've been surprised by some really nice sounding Kala and Amati laminate ukuleles in local music stores. But, my better half (and money manager) says I have enough ukes. :(

Twibbly
01-07-2017, 03:57 AM
Thank goodness for options like Outdoor Ukulele.

The humidity and temp issues are why I picked up an OU. I live in west Texas. It sometimes hits over 110F for weeks at a time during the summer, which means you could practically cook in the car. An OU can be left in the car while I hit the library. A laminate is probably OK, but I'd be rather worried about them. A wooden one? Yeah, no.

I've also been on too many camping trips where practically everything ends up soaked.

Mivo
01-07-2017, 03:58 AM
This is one of the reasons I prefer laminates. Obviously they are not--generally speaking--quite as resonant and often solid wood ukes are more finely made.

This is only generally true in the sense that most laminates are cheap, low quality ukuleles where the material is only part of what makes them cheap, low-quality, and as a result poorly sounding. Laminate only means that it is several layers of wood, which can be of good quality or of poor quality. The laminates made by Kiwaya/Famous are more resonant and better sounding than many solid instruments twice their price, but they also cost more than many entry/mid-range solid ukuleles. It just comes down to getting what you pay for.

In the guitar world there are also high-end luthiers who use quality laminate in their instruments, and many of the 1970s laminated guitars seem to be quite excellent still. The problem is mostly that laminate kind of fell out of favor in the eyes of the customers and is perceived as low quality and so over time this has almost turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy where nearly all laminated instruments are poorly constructed and braced, made of inferior materials, equipped with shoddy tuners, and mass-produced without proper quality control.

Can't say I'm free of some prejudice myself. In spite of having a quality laminated ukulele by Kiwaya, and knowing first hand how excellent it is in every regard, I still went for a solid top when I set out to buy an affordable guitar because a solid top is "safer" than an all-laminate instrument (and easier to find, if quality is valued). But still, the perception that laminate equals a worse sound probably shouldn't be generalized as it's only true in the sense that with instruments there is a correlation between price and quality (at least up to a point, after which you start to increasingly pay more for prestige and rarity). That shift in perception seems to have happened in or before the 1980s or so, when laminate (and plastic) became associated with low quality, low cost imports from Asia.

In the long run, solid wood is a difficult to sustain material, so perhaps there will be a shift in perception again. Some of the synthetic materials, like e-koa, the Formica stuff, carbon fiber, all look promising, in addition to quality laminate (which is still wood).

Elessar
01-07-2017, 04:56 AM
Daaaang Mivo, you's one smart and observant player. Well said all around. Most of my hobbies are governed by my budget restrictions so I've never been close to high end stuff; never even been in same room with most of the "top-of-the-line." I will agree with your comments about the paradigm shifts that take place and am glad that we have players on here that are able to present complete comprehensive reviews to provide most of us with guides for obtaining good quality instruments that fall within our individual budget. I'll say thanks to all those more experienced than me and that I'm mighty glad to be here.

Twibbly
01-07-2017, 04:58 AM
I might eventually upgrade to a solid wood instrument, but at this point, it's not going to make much of a difference in my abilities or sound, so I'll cross that road when I come to. Then again, my budget right now is only about $100 or so. Mom bought me the tenor Outdoor Uke. :)

Mivo
01-07-2017, 07:03 AM
Could also upgrade to a Blackbird or a Kiwaya laminate. :p I seriously considered a Blackbird, and it is still on my mind, but I don't think I'd be comfortable with a $1300-1700+ instrument, regardless of the material, because if something happened to it, I'd have difficulties replacing it. Went through that with my tenor and I still play it less than my more affordable ukuleles.

Twibbly
01-07-2017, 07:31 AM
Could also upgrade to a Blackbird or a Kiwaya laminate. :p I seriously considered a Blackbird, and it is still on my mind, but I don't think I'd be comfortable with a $1300-1700+ instrument, regardless of the material, because if something happened to it, I'd have difficulties replacing it. Went through that with my tenor and I still play it less than my more affordable ukuleles.

I tend not to be comfortable with most items I'd have a major problem replacing. Even my engagement ring was a $60 pawn shop find and lost within 5 months. I think I'd need a higher amount of slush fund before I'd consider a uke that costs more than a few hundred.

2xbass
01-07-2017, 09:36 AM
Although I've not yet played one, or even heard one, in the flesh, I think that the Ekoa instruments like the Farallon and Clara hold really great promise for their ability to handle weather extremes and yet sound and respond well and in fact they can do things wood instruments can't like have a hollow neck with a resonating chamber. If they had one with a cutaway, zero fret, and a bigger than 17" scale I would buy it in an instant. It's a shame there's no way to have custom luthiers make such things yet.

Booli
01-07-2017, 10:27 AM
Many of the concerns expressed here are exactly why I have several Fluke and Flea ukes in concert and tenor scale, and right now with winter humidity concerns my few solid wood ukes are cased with humidifiers in each case.

They are currently unplayed due to humidity concerns and I am seriously questioning the wisdom in having them if they are cased and away from easy use, and at risk if taken out to play right now. It almost keeps me up at night thinking about it.

Even with two room humidifiers going full blast 24/7, my music room struggles to hold 45% RH, regardless of the OUTSIDE humidity. I am putting about 8 gallons of water into the air every 24 hrs and some days even this falls down to 35% RH as per two different and calibrated hygrometers at opposite ends of the music room

Not happy. :(

kkimura
01-09-2017, 02:53 AM
Like Booli I have my solid wood ukes cased with humidifiers and a room humidifier going full blast all through the Winter. That said, I also try to play them once a week when I top up the water in the humidifiers. So far they have survived this treatment, but, I'll let you all know if one of them explodes while I'm playing it this Winter. :D

Booli
01-09-2017, 03:37 AM
Like Booli I have my solid wood ukes cased with humidifiers and a room humidifier going full blast all through the Winter. That said, I also try to play them once a week when I top up the water in the humidifiers. So far they have survived this treatment, but, I'll let you all know if one of them explodes while I'm playing it this Winter. :D

I too have taken them out to tune them and strum a song or two, but they all sound strangled and not very resonant now, maybe due to the cold, as we tend to keep the heat a little lower and put on a sweater instead.

I think that the winter environs inside the house has made them obstinate, like a stubborn child unwilling to cooperate, due to being locked in a dark, damp case. (Maybe I should start harvesting mushrooms now with all my humidification setup? LOL)

No matter the tone-wood, spruce, mahogany or cherry, they all have very little resonance (compared to the summer - I check my recordings from then), despite the inside-case humidity holding at no less than 46% at the end of 2 weeks when I refill the humidifiers.

They sound 'tight' and sad. Makes me sad. Makes me really enjoy my concert and tenor Flukes right now. It seems that their sound has not changed with the winter climate.

Mivo
01-09-2017, 03:53 AM
My ukes actually seem to sound better when the humidity is below 40%, with the best sound at around 35%, but I take peace of mind any day of the week!

kkimura
01-09-2017, 03:56 AM
Maybe too much humidity? A friend of mine says her ukuleles sound best dry, just before they explode.

Croaky Keith
01-09-2017, 04:16 AM
Good quality plastic ukes may come, as Outdoor Ukulele have proved with their tenor, just need to wait, I guess. :)

Kala are going to be making a concert scale Waterman for release soon, so I read. ;)

I have a Brunswick plastic concert scale uke which is OK strummed, with a change of strings, but not so good picked.

Dan Gleibitz
01-09-2017, 09:37 AM
And so we're back to maintaining safe humidity levels and ukes made of non-hydroscopic materials like OXKs and Outdoor Ukes or laminates.

I just don't worry about it. If I had ukuleles worth several thousand dollars or irreplaceable for sentimental reasons, I'd control their environmental variables to the second decimal point. But I don't, and for mass produced instruments I figure any environment that I can live in, so can they.

On Sunday my lightly built all solid mahogany tenor sat with me through 27% RH and 87% RH. Not locked away like a mummy, but resting against the coffee table where I could pick it up frequently. It travels with me for work and vacations with me in the tropics. I figure if a few years down the road it's bent and unplayable, I'll replace it and still be ahead because there's value in all those accumulated minutes of playing.

kkimura
01-09-2017, 09:51 AM
On Sunday my lightly built all solid mahogany tenor sat with me through 27% RH and 87% RH. Not locked away like a mummy, but resting against the coffee table where I could pick it up frequently. It travels with me for work and vacations with me in the tropics. I figure if a few years down the road it's bent and unplayable, I'll replace it and still be ahead because there's value in all those accumulated minutes of playing.

My guess is that C. F. Martin and others like him felt the same way when they started making stringed instruments back in the day. Great minds think alike.