View Full Version : Rehumidifying a Ukulele .... Would this Work?

01-20-2010, 10:36 PM
I would like to rehumidify a couple of ukes that have dried out over the years and also have sharp frets. I live in a arid part of the country and need to have them in a case with some kind of humidifier. I get tired (lazy) of constantly changing them out. What I am currently doing is: I bought a couple of big plastic containers that have snap off lids. I can lay a ukulele flat within the container on a towel. Next to the ukulele I have a plastic bowl containing distilled water and also a couple of hygrometers. My question is.... Is there any real problems that you can see in using something like this. Could I over humidify or cause tuners to rust, etc. I currently have two ukuleles in two different containers with water right now (solid acacia and a solid koa). But now I am getting nervous and I am thinking that maybe I shouldn't be doing this. Any thoughts on this??

01-21-2010, 08:24 PM
I know little about ukulele repair or humidifying, but i do know that its pretty hard for metal to rust just from humidity in a short amount of time. Over long periods, sure, but if its only temporary then I wouldn't worry about it.

If you are noticing water condensing though, remove it from the container, condensed water will not only have the potential to rust the metal of your tuners, but can warp the wood. thats a bad thing

Keep in mind I'm basing my answer off of experiences not directly related to Ukulele repair whatsoever.

01-21-2010, 11:14 PM
vacum bag the uke and a humidor is the easiest way........

01-22-2010, 02:07 AM
Seems okay to me.

Since the consensus seems to be that our ukes like as close to 50%RH as possible, anything over would help to add moisture to your instrument; however, if your cases/containers are air tight, a bowl of water inside the container can quickly get the RH (relative humidity) up towards 100%... besides the issues of wood warping and metal rusting, over 80% invites mold growth and wood quickly starts to rot away at over 90%RH... and that might not be good for your uke.

I would use those hygrometers to see what the RH is in there... and take out the bowl of water when it gets too high... of course if your uke hasen't completely equalized yet it will continue to absorb the humidity in the container and the RH will go down until equilibrium is reached. you can reintroduce the bowl of water to raise RH and repeat till the RH in the container stays near 50% with only the instrument in there. Theoretically, if the container is air tight, and the uke has been equalized to a particular %RH (say 50%), then you should be able to maintain that RH in the container indefinitely.

If you are looking for a less finicky solution, you can get better control of the humidity levels with cigar humidor products... adding a humectant like propylene glycol to your bowl of water can help to maintain a certain level. 50/50 propylene glycol and water solutions commonly used for cigar storage might be okay, but cigars are stored at higher RH (60-75%) so in an air tight container 50/50 might not be ideal... a different mix of propylene glycol and water might work better.

There is also a product that cigar peeps call "beads". Its manufactured by a company called Heartfelt Industries and , like the propylene glycol and water solutions, also tries to keeps RH at a predetermined level. you just spray/mist distilled water onto the "beads" and they will release or absorb water as needed to keep RH at the set level. "Beads" are available in RH levels as low as 60% which might be good enough for ukes.

Personally I use a product called Boveda Humidity Packs (also a cigar world product) which are pretty cheap and maintain RH at a set level and are available as low as 65%RH... which hold RH in my less-than-air tight cases at between 45-60% depending on the case. They are not supposed to be reusable but when they dry out I just throw them in a air tight container with a lot of distilled water (not touching the pack) and the very high RH inside the container rehydrates the packs effectively making them reusable.

as for the sharp frets, if re-humidifying your uke doesn't work... a file will... get someone that knows what they are doing to file them down. I find that a lot of times, especially on vintage ukes, re-humidifying is not enough.

good luck!

Ronnie Aloha
01-22-2010, 04:59 AM
Dang Jinny, are you a scientist who is also a cigar aficionado??? I've got a few hundred cigars myself.

01-22-2010, 08:43 AM
Dang Jinny, are you a scientist who is also a cigar aficionado??? I've got a few hundred cigars myself.

I guess so. I started UCIrvine as a Biology major... but the premed track was too competitive for my laziness... I transferred to UCLA and got my Bachelors in Geology with a specialization in Computing/Computer Science (they didn't have minors At UCLA at the time).. I also went thru the EMT/Paramedics program at the UCLA Center for PreHospital Care... where I learned that I am not good with blood, death, and sick people. I guess that sorta qualifies me as a scientist... well, the degree gets me the "Scientist" discount on my auto insurance! So yeah!

I do indeed enjoy cigars. although I smoke a lot less since there are very young/impressionable ones in the family now. I still have a few handfuls aging in a couple humidors and a cooler-a-dor.

I also roast my own coffee from "green" coffee beans...

Ahhhh... a Uke plus a cup of hot, fresh roasted and fresh brewed coffee and a nice cigar on a beautiful SoCal day... perfect. I'd do it now, it if wasn't so wet outside at the moment... well, maybe not the cigar, just the uke and coffee part. I don't really smoke near home anymore.

Ronnie Aloha
01-22-2010, 09:38 AM
Yep, I'm pretty much banned from smoking at home. I just pack them for the golf course or sports vacations with the boys. That's why it will take me a decade to get through my current inventory.

01-22-2010, 09:21 PM
Thanks to All for your ideas on this. A big thanks to Jinny for taking so much time. I just checked my plastic containers (I now have three going). All sharp edges are just about gone. One Kamaka Soprano had a slight caved in top and sharp frets, but now the top is just about back to normal. No condensation on anything. The humidity on the containers read.... 60 and 65 and 70 after just a couple of days. The room humidity has been about 20 percent. I have a couple of hygrometers in each container to average out the numbers. I have all three containers stacked on each other so they take up little room. After they all look to be back to normal I will try to regulate the humidity by how much water is in the container or put some holes in the plastic top to let humidity slowly escape. I may try Jinny's Boveda Humidity Packs too.... Might be a better approach. All this might just be a crazy diversion and that I should be spending more time playing the ukulele rather than baby-ing them.... LOL

Ronnie Aloha
01-23-2010, 06:53 AM
babying them is half the fun!

01-24-2010, 05:22 AM

glad to hear that ukes are being well cared for.

I forgot to mention that it might be a good idea to put a humidifier in the room that you keep your ukes... then you can keep 'em humidified and out for display too. :)
and if you play in that room too, even better. And the moisture ain't too bad for you either... does wonders for the skin. if you dont want to deal withe the complications and expense of a store bought humidifier, then a big plastic paint bucket partially filled with water can help too. keep the doors and windows closed and seal drafts wherever possible. A pro-musician buddy of mine does the paint bucket thing for his studio... he has a LOT of guitars most out on stands on the floor... many rare ones too... he has individual sound hole humidifiers in some of his instruments, but the couple buckets of water that he has serves the room. He tells me that RH isn't rock stable but it is a least closer to ideal than without. Regular tap water should be fine for the bucket method. No reason for the extra expense of distilled water. the cigar world recommends distilled because minerals in regular water can clog the porous spanish cedar wood that lines most humidors and also possibly impart a taste to cigars, but I dont think that is as much of a concern for ukes... at least not that I've heard.