View Full Version : Fretboard Humidity

01-21-2017, 02:05 PM
I gave my second ukulele presentation today at the Michigan Music Conference. This will be my last ukulele presentation this school year.

One of the topics was humidity, and it was interesting to hear from many teachers that they had never considered that issue. Even laminate instruments can have issues in our Northern climates--particularly the fretboard, which is made of the same wood as solid ukuleles!

A lot of teachers said something to the effect of, "That's why the frets stick out at this time of the year." So I encouraged them to humidify their rooms if possible and perhaps to consider sanding or filing down the exposed fret ends on their instruments.

While I love the Caramels, it sure seems easier for many teachers to work with Waterman or Outdoor Ukuleles (Sure, you can throw Bugsgear in there if you want).

Anyway...after listening to the somewhat recent Ukulele Site Podcast about humidity, it is just amazing how many peoplw have no idea about the care and feeding of a ukulele. There's my next session title, by the way.

01-21-2017, 02:33 PM
That's why I always keep two Oasis humidifiers w my guitars. One in the sound hole and the other along the neck.

01-21-2017, 03:43 PM
This is so true! Witness my recent post about the fret ends sticking out on my newly acquired laminate Bonanza. Those fretboards can and do shrink!

01-21-2017, 06:20 PM
I'll be honest...after at first being very finicky with humidity for my class ukes (solid wood mainlands), I've not really bothered with humidity into my third season with them. I haven't even bothered running my room humidifier at all this year, only thing I did this year was detune during breaks to relieve string tension. A few buzz, yes, and a few have some sharper than normal fret ends, but otherwise in a class of 20-25 teenagers no one really notices lol. I think for many teachers, curriculum and lesson planning plus assessment takes up the vast majority of their time. For my presentation next week, as you know I don't even bother talking about it.

01-22-2017, 12:30 AM
That does surprise me, knowing that you have Mainlands. Perhaps the Mainland frets are set back far enough that they won't pop...the Caramels, however, reach a point where they become unplayable. That can't be, as a person was talking about their Bonanza fret ends and Bonanza uses Mainland necks/headstocks.

I have been babying our four Mainlands, having them in my office with a humidifier, in a case with a humidifier. The same goes for our Bonanza.

I also wonder what the humidity levels are in the Chinese factories. Do they keep their assembly rooms in the 40-60% range?

I only see my kids every other day, and my biggest time absorber is tuning. I am teaching my students how to tune, but this often yields out of tune ukuleles (and our first broken string last Wednesday). When I tune, it becomes exceptionally clear which instruments need fret attention.

01-22-2017, 03:03 AM
My nieces both started playing violin in school a few years before I got my first ukulele. So I got on this big humidity kick when I got my uke. But when I talked to my sister-in-laws about what they did with their daughter's violins at Christmas that year, they seemed to have little concern with what I was talking about. And that was most interesting because one of my sister-in-laws is a big bluegrass musician and plays fiddle, mandolin, and guitar. I expected her to at least have some actual real life insight on it, and she didn't. She just kind of shrugged it off. The other one told me that the school had told her that they needed to be worried about extreme temperature changes but had said nothing about humidity.

But that leads me to something that I wonder about a lot. Pretty much UU is my only source of advise in regards to ukuleles and has been since if first started thinking about it. I wonder sometimes if the people here are UU are actually representative of the ukulele community as a whole, or if they are just a small segment that feeds each other's neurosis? Because a lot of times I run into musicians in general, and ukuleles specifically, that do not seem to be on the same page.

01-22-2017, 03:12 AM
I also wonder what the humidity levels are in the Chinese factories. Do they keep their assembly rooms in the 40-60% range?

I asked myself how much angst is expended on a ukulele before it ever shows up on the shelf in the music store, or shows up on my doorstep in a box from UPS? I also wonder how many problems with ukulele are blamed on humidity instead of workmanship, or even irregularities in the wood itself? Anyway, before I start looking like a big skeptic, better safe than sorry, I pay attention to it.

01-22-2017, 03:47 PM
I stopped buying hardwood tops because of these concerns! You guys might be right in overly paranoia, but I did have an old vintage 1920's mahogany uke crack early on before I knew about humidity needs. I do have a recent Flea with solid Koa top that I keep on the floor next to my couch. I'm not bothering with humidifiers on this one to see how it goes. If it cracks I'll be sad but I just don't have the mental capacity and the patience for humidifiers in cases and such.