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View Full Version : Care of a solid wood Uke?



ejnovinsky
04-03-2012, 11:42 PM
The Mainland I have coming will be my first solid wood uke. Ive seen alot of horror stories on here about issues pertaining to improper humidity, just wondering whats the best way to care for my new toy? should it stay in a case with a humidifier? What is a proper humidity? Or is this something I shouldnt be too concerned about?

UK Paulie
04-03-2012, 11:56 PM
This may be a worthwhile investment especially as most of us have not stopped at one solid wood ukulele. It will tell you whether and when to humidify.
http://ukerepublic.bigcartel.com/product/oasis-digital-hygrometer

Enjoy your ukulele!

Pondoro
04-04-2012, 12:49 AM
I keep my solid ukes in cases with humidifiers, so far no horror stories. My cigar box uke (solid cedar) was left out since I had no case to fit it. It has wooden tuning pegs, last winter one peg started slipping badly, so it now lives in a humidified box. That has solved the peg slippage.

My laminated Lanikai lives without a case and has been in airplanes, the trunks of cars, etc. No problems. But that is what plywood was made for.

connor013
04-04-2012, 01:10 AM
My sense of it is that it depends on geography (obviously) and your home environment (less obvious, to me at least).

I was nervous about winters in MA, but our house is on the harbor and we have radiators, so we get plenty of humidity. You can pick up a hydrometer at CVS for $20. Then you can go room by room (if you're as wacky as I am) until you find the perfect uke-storage site.

How interesting that the best spot for the ukes in my house is exactly where I wanted to keep them... much to my wife's dismay.

Cheers.

coolkayaker1
04-04-2012, 03:42 AM
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?57739-Tip-On-Inexpensive-amp-Extremely-Effective-(too-effective-)-Humidor!

wickedwahine11
04-04-2012, 05:20 AM
Jeez, what haven't I done? I used to display my ukes on the wall with Hawaiian themed wall hangers. That was fine and dandy until one of them had a seam separate and another developed a crack on the top. So I bought a room humidifier and kept the door closed to my office -- it worked pretty well (keeping the room around 47-50%) but was a real hassle having to keep the door closed and refilling the loud humidifier.

I ended up putting each of them in their case with an Oasis uke humidifier inside. That worked okay except it made them a lot less accessible and I lacked the convenience of playing them so I found I was playing them a lot less.

So I bought a custom wood cabinet to house the four most played (and expensive ukes). It is really beautiful and I got the hygrometer inside, with some humidifiers. For the first week or so, I was doing great, keeping it in the 50s. Over the last couple of days I saw where the levels inside were dipping as low as 35% -- and humidity where I live was in the 20s for those days. So now I have put some painters tape on the edges of the glass to make it more airtight until I can get some weather stripping -- hoping to make it as airtight as a uke case but still providing display and access advantages.

Other people I've read don't have to do anything. So it really depends on the weather where you live. I would recommend getting a hygrometer though - a digital one is nice as the readout is large and easy to see from across the room. If you store your uke in its case, you can easily get a humidifier from Oasis, Dampit or other brands. A lot of people also make their own with sponges or film canisters. Trust me, after having injuries to two of my ukes, it has become an obsession for me (trying to regulate the humidity controls). Don't let anything happen to your uke.

Couloirman
04-04-2012, 05:59 AM
I hang them on the wall, and leave them on floor uke stands. I like fancy solid ukes, but not as collectors items that I want to stay pristine my entire life. If I buy something that I love Im going to use it until it disintegrates. If I kept all my instruments in cases I'd play them way less. The more accessible they are, the more I play them and the more enjoyment I get from them. If it means they will break sooner so be it-- at least they lived a good life.

WOBster
04-04-2012, 06:01 AM
I live in the Pacific Northwest so we have essentially perfect Ukulele humidity all year long... I own a humidifier for my cases but have not neede4d to use it so far unless I travel outside of the local area. I second the advice of getting one of those Oasis hygrometers (or similar) so you can check humidity levels.
I got my Hygrometer in a package deal with an Oasis case humidifier.

quiltingshirley
04-04-2012, 06:12 AM
If you make your own from a Pez dispenser (soounded easy but have yet to do it), can you just mount the Pez on the wall between the hanging uke neck and the wall? Would that do any good? I have a Hygrometer in the area where all the ukes hang and so far it stays in the range it should. That area stays just about perfect but I figure if things ever dry out (it went down to 40 once), I need a back up plan. If I don't see the ukulele, it wouldn't get played. I'm too lazy to go in the closet and get it out of the case, actually too lazy to open the cases that might be on the floor under the hanging ukes. Until we put up more hangers, I hadn't played the 8 string for ages.

Couloirman
04-04-2012, 06:15 AM
Along these lines, I wonder if the type of finish on a uke (satin vs gloss etc...) has any effect on crack resistance in the future due to humidity and temp changes. Anyone have info on that?

OldePhart
04-04-2012, 06:18 AM
I was nervous about winters in MA,

As well you should be! :) The only cracked uke I have is a Mainland tenor that I bought off fleabay - it came from MA and was about 2-3 years old. It wasn't cracked when I bought it but popped about a 3" crack in the back when I was waxing it right after I got it - I rubbed a little too hard and it popped with an audible snap. I knew where it came from and it looked like it had been sitting unused in the case for most of its life; if I'd had half a brain I would have waited until my case humidifiers had a chance to get some moisture into it before waxing it.

The crack mostly closed up after a few weeks with the humidifiers and it appears pretty stable anyway (the runout was stopped where the back was glued to a cross brace) so I'm not really worried about it. All of my other ukes I got new or only a few months old and I've had no problems - but I have homemade humidifiers in every case, too.

Still, word to the wise, you folks in harsh winter climates keep them babies humidified! LOL

On the other hand you can over humidify. Generally the symptoms are less severe (swelled tops and high actions) and self-correcting if the uke is dried out, though, so I'd rather err on the side of too wet than too dry.

John

ejnovinsky
04-04-2012, 09:12 AM
All good info. Thank you! Obviously we have harsh winters in Ohio. My Uke is coming tommorow according to ups. Didn't expect it so soon so I don't Even have a case yet. So I got some shopping to do I guess.

Karen110
04-23-2012, 06:09 AM
I'm getting my first solid wood uke tomorrow, and living in NY in a well heated apartment, I need to plan my humidifying strategy. I don't plan to keep the uke in the case, because I plan to use it often! Unless keeping it in the case overnight with the humidifier in there would help significantly.

I ordered a hygrometer and will be checking the room humidity.. I figure that too low humidity isn't healthy for either me or the uke, so it makes sense to get the room humidity in range in any case. I hope that the room humidifier will do the trick, although it's loud and cumbersome to keep refilling, so not a perfect solution either.

Does it work to keep a uke humidifier inside the instrument itself, so it can stay out of the case?

coolkayaker1
04-23-2012, 06:23 AM
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?57739-Tip-On-Inexpensive-amp-Extremely-Effective-(too-effective-)-Humidor!

my solution, rational and photos, karen

mattydee
04-23-2012, 06:30 AM
I'm getting my first solid wood uke tomorrow, and living in NY in a well heated apartment, I need to plan my humidifying strategy. I don't plan to keep the uke in the case, because I plan to use it often! Unless keeping it in the case overnight with the humidifier in there would help significantly.

I ordered a hygrometer and will be checking the room humidity.. I figure that too low humidity isn't healthy for either me or the uke, so it makes sense to get the room humidity in range in any case. I hope that the room humidifier will do the trick, although it's loud and cumbersome to keep refilling, so not a perfect solution either.

Does it work to keep a uke humidifier inside the instrument itself, so it can stay out of the case?

I use an evaporative humidifier with built in hygrometer, which, once it gets the room to optimal humidity, only needs filling once a day or so, sometimes less. And it's pretty quiet too. It's moistair brand, available at Sears, and home depot, I think...

I kept all my ukes out all winter using this solution, and had no issues. Your mileage may vary, of course.

I got mine on a ridiculous super sale, but they generally run a bit less than a hundred bucks. Sort of expensive to start, but a fine investment for insurance, with health benefits too!

Karen110
04-23-2012, 06:33 AM
Thanks, this looks great.. I actually have a Sterilite 3-drawer cabinet that isnt air-tight, that would fit one soprano uke but not my concert, so I may just spring for a bigger container. There's something a bit esthetically wrong with keeping a beautiful wood instrument in a plastic tub though, but I'll get over it :)

Karen110
04-23-2012, 06:36 AM
Re. The room humidifier, yeah, I may need to keep that going too, but the maintenance and filling every day is a nuisance especially with a sore shoulder, so I'm not trusting myself to be reliable enough with that :)

Kauai808
04-23-2012, 07:32 AM
By no means am I advising you to not humidify your uke but I don't put my kanilea in its case unless I have the central heater on. From March to October it is sitting out in my living room 24/7. Been doing this for two years and no cracks whatsoever. By all means, take better care of your uke than I do but I don't think humidifing your uke should cause you to lose sleep at night. I live in Austin, Texas for reference. I really do believe that these instruments are tougher than we give them credit for.

Karen110
04-23-2012, 08:52 AM
Ah, to be in Texas right now..! In upstate NY we actually had snow this morning! And I tend to be chilly, so I keep the thermostat turned up.. and visitors are always taking clothes off :D

Then it pretty quickly turns hot and humid in summer and there are a good number of days requiring A/C. So I'm sure this indoor environment needs some improvement anyway, but it's good to hear that the instruments aren't so exquisitely delicate, thanks for that suggestion.

beautifulsoup
06-23-2012, 02:20 PM
Along these lines, I wonder if the type of finish on a uke (satin vs gloss etc...) has any effect on crack resistance in the future due to humidity and temp changes. Anyone have info on that?

I'm wondering the same thing...

itsme
06-23-2012, 03:03 PM
Along these lines, I wonder if the type of finish on a uke (satin vs gloss etc...) has any effect on crack resistance in the future due to humidity and temp changes. Anyone have info on that?


I'm wondering the same thing...
IANAL (I am not a luthier), but I'd hazard a guess that a glossy finish may be more resistant to humidity changes because the finish is thicker. Some satin finishes are basically just lightly polished/oiled wood, whereas glossy finishes are more drenched in a type of lacquer.