View Full Version : How cold is too cold?

10-18-2009, 04:15 PM
I may or may not be doing some out door performances in the coming months and it's starting to get a little cold outside. My question is how cold is too cold to bring my instrument out? I'll be using a full laminate and I'd be out there for about 2 hours, at what temperature should I stop performing outdoors under those conditions?

10-18-2009, 04:28 PM
I tend to think that if I wouldnt stand out in the weather for 2 hours, neither should my instrument.

but thats just me

10-18-2009, 04:34 PM
For myself, if I need a jacket it probably isn't ukulele weather. If I need more than that, I skip the gig regardless. I practice too hard to sound bad because my gear isn't happy, and I work too hard to buy good gear and don't want to ruin it.

10-18-2009, 04:42 PM
citrus, haolejohn and I had our koalohas outside, they were good.

10-18-2009, 04:45 PM
yeah and it was raining. With a laminate I am sure that as long as it isn't snowing or under 40 you should be fine. I have had my laminate kala out in 35 degrees and other than having to tune every two or three songs there was no damage that I saw.

10-18-2009, 05:00 PM
whats the weather range for a solid wood uke?

like how cold or how hot should i not bring my uke out

10-18-2009, 05:42 PM
whats the weather range for a solid wood uke?

like how cold or how hot should i not bring my uke out

if you can take it, so can your uke. Just... not in the rain or snow or something.

10-18-2009, 05:54 PM
whats the weather range for a solid wood uke?

like how cold or how hot should i not bring my uke out

Once again I know I have taken my ukes out inthe snow (real quick to film a video) and I live in Georgia so my ukes have been out in 95 plus degrees. I also have a friend I was in the Marines with that took his Takamine guitar to Iraq. I didn't leave them out in the weather and I tried not to let too much sun hit them. Once I really started sweating I went indoors with the ukes. I'm no expert and I think the duribility of the wood comes into play but have you ever been to a concert in the summer? Those guys got more money invested in their instruments than we do. If you don't feel comfortable then I wouldn't take it out. I am from the camp that an instrument is made to be heard not looked at. Buy yourself a cheap laminate for extreme weather conditions.

10-19-2009, 12:25 AM
A friend of mine owns a guitar shop and he told me the most important thing is not to subject an instrument to SUDDEN changes. Don't take a warm uke right out of it's case on a cold day: let it drop in temperature gradually in it's case.

10-19-2009, 01:01 AM
until your shrinkadink is pretty embarrassing :P

10-19-2009, 02:07 AM
Probably shouldn't be a problem (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kgzOSytFL8)... But I could be wrong...

10-19-2009, 02:49 AM
Bearing in mind that the OP said we're talking about laminate uke here...

What Paul said about sudden changes being the worst thing is quite right. It's a good idea to give the uke a while to reach ambient.

That aside, most laminates are pretty robust. Indeed, the cheaper the laminate the tougher they seem to be. A good wood with a very thin, delicate decorative veneer will be less tough than a bullet proof plywood Makala.

I have a couple of laminate ukes which get no care at all. My pink Makala laminate lives in my car with no case or bag. It gets full-on, in-car summer heat in excess of 35 C and it gets sub-zero. It gets sat on. It gets thrown.

But above all it gets played. Every lunch time I slip out of the office to the car and play for 45 mins. That freeze-dried, oven-baked Makala is in one piece and it intonates and plays perfectly in tune.

When they announce WW III or the arrival of the next dinosaur-killer asteroid impact, I'm hiding inside a Makala uke.

Punchline: If it's a Kala or Lanikai laminate I wouldn't hesitate to play it outdoors until my fingers froze. If it's a more up-market laminate, not built for use in unarmed combat (Kiwaya etc), then I'd take the same precautions I'd take with a solid wood uke.

10-19-2009, 04:14 AM
You never mentioned what temperatures...

Laminate wood is tough stuff. Dimensionally it is very stable. The grains of plys running across each other add strength. You aren't taking a thin solid wood instrument outside. I don't worry about my Flea and cold. It's gone camping with large temp swings and aside from having to retune it nothing has happened.

With solid wood instruments cold alone isn't a concern. As others have shared, it's quick changes that one should avoid. Both cold and heat can be dry. So you need to be aware of what the ambient humidity level is like outside compared to what it is like where you store your instrument - not paranoid about it, but aware. You may need to bring a case humidifier to help mitigate humidity swings traveling to and from the gig (in the Pacific NW you may need desiccant packs or something similar to absorb humidity...).

Cold causes items, including instruments, to contract. This will make instruments go out of tune as the item contracts. Expect this and plan on checking the tuning.

Quick changes from hot to cold, or cold to hot, cause the instrument to contract or expand rapidly. This can cause problems. Different materials contract and expand and different rates. If done too quickly the materials may fight against each other as one contracts faster than another. In such a case you might see things like gloss finishes crackling over time and repeated quick changes.

With large temperature differences, always bring a solid wood instrument in and out of extreme environments gradually. The wider the temperature difference the more you may want to watch this (house to garage and let it sit for a while, garage to car truck, etc.). Use a case. The case will help mitigate quick changes by providing some insulation, and help the instrument warm up more gradually.

I used to set my bagpipes (in their case) out in the inslutaed but non-heated garage for a while if I knew I'd be playing outside in the cold (40°-45° F). This gave the case and instrument time to cool down slowly. Then I'd transport it in the trunk of my car because it would not be heated.

When I came back I'd put the case in the garage for a while to warm up, then move them into the house and leave the instrument in the case until the case warmed up. Finally I'd open the case, but leave the pipes in their foam holder. This let the inside warm up, but the foam was still some insulation.

Solid wood bagpipes are more expensive than laminate ukes, and as the solid wood ages a wonderful tone developes, so this amount of work was worth it to me.

Uncle Rod Higuchi
10-19-2009, 04:52 AM
Where are you located, Citrus? With a name like that I'm thinking Florida.

Here in Seattle, some of us play at the Greenlake Holiday of Lights in December, when it's been known to snow at times. Practically everyone complains about the frozen fingers. We have developed "ways" to keep our fingers flexible enough to play - fingerless gloves, dancer ankle warmers on our wrists, hunter hand warmers, etc.

What the other UU members have counseled re: rapid temp changes makes a lot of sense to me. I'll need to be more careful about that.

Temp-wise, it's probably right around freezing when it snows, so 32 or so, and we're still playing outside (under cover of an open-sided tent).

Hope this helps.

10-19-2009, 08:08 AM
Where are you located, Citrus? With a name like that I'm thinking Florida.

close, georgia

thanks for the feedback everybody, I think since this uke is built like some kind of bull and/or tank I'm gonna go ahead and do it, especially since I'm trying to impress one of my lady friends who will be working with me

10-19-2009, 08:12 AM
I'm trying to impress one of my lady friends who will be working with me

Oho! Good luck! :D

Ahnko Honu
10-19-2009, 08:15 AM
When your strings get brittle and start breaking like uncooked linguine noodles... that's when you know it's too cold.

Here in Hawai'i it's when you have to wear anything thicker than a cotton T-shirt to stay comfortable. ;)

Rick Turner
10-19-2009, 09:48 AM
Here's Henry Kaiser playing one of my acoustic guitars...all solid woods...outside of Earnest Shackelton's hut in Antarctica...

Scroll down...


It was well below freezing there that day...no harm done to guitar or player.

10-19-2009, 12:19 PM
whats the weather range for a solid wood uke?

like how cold or how hot should i not bring my uke out

I think the better, more important question is how dry is it?

10-19-2009, 12:41 PM
I think the better, more important question is how dry is it?

I had the Koaloha out on the patio last week, and suddenly decided to check the weather to see what the humidity was...it was almost 80%! I immediately brought it back inside. Probably just paranoia, but better to err on the side of caution, I say...