Moisture’s Effect on 80 Year Old Guitar

Welcome to SCGC Players Forum Forums A General Discussion Moisture’s Effect on 80 Year Old Guitar

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    • #4067

      This is my first post since the old forum. I have 10+ guitars (including several Santa Cruzes) and I live in Nevada. I’m always careful to humidify. The first guitar my father handed to me when I was 12 years old is still with me. It’s a 1933 Gibson LOO. Around 30 years ago I had some cracks repaired, and then Michael Lewis reset the neck after that. It played great for a long time and then the action became high enough that the intonation suffered. There isn’t a lot of saddle left and it’t belly seemed to increase. I’d take it out and play bottle neck with it and always keep a humidifier in it.

      Today I took it out and found that the humidifier was dry and I suspect has been for quite a while. I tuned it up and found to my surprise that that action was back down, the belly isn’t so pronounce and it’s playing in tune. I’m thinking that the top dried out enough that the  top went down.

      Having said all that, I wonder if a really old guitar, (and this one lived many years in a dry climate with no supplemental humidity), especially one so lightly built as an LOO, might absorb and give up moisture more quickly that a less seasoned guitar. I wonder if it’s happier with less moister. I welcome any comments.

      This guitar has TONE to die for.

    • #4068

      Welcome back Jimson, what a great happy accident! Those L-OO do have tone to die for, I’m sure you’ll get some fee back here, thanks for stopping by

    • #4089
      Matt Hayden

      It’s certainly possible, though I’ve found that my Martin 2-18 from about 1895 tends to be more stable than some newer instruments, notwithstanding the lack of truss rod and very light construction.  It seems to have reached an equilibrium where it doesn’t move much.

      I’m sure there’s some science on the hygroscopic variability of wood over time and whether it changes.  I’d be curious to see – I bet the people who work on old wooden boats know about this stuff.

    • #4092

      I think that an older guitar (older wood) is less likely to move with changes in humidity – once the resins in the wood are fully cured, the cells are less able to transfer moisture. But its not that wood can’t deal with different levels of humidity – it just doesn’t like it to change too much too quickly. Most builders build at a pretty specific humidity level – an average of all the locations that the instrument may be shipped to. Many guitar shops do the same, knowing that they may have to ship the guitar to someone outside their immediate area. And some players, who are in areas where the humidity changes a great deal during the course of the year, or who travel extensively, will take steps to try and keep their guitars at about the same. But really, the goal is to minimize drastic swings in short periods of time.

      If you keep a guitar at a relatively stable humidity level, it will adjust to that and not need a great deal of attention. You’d probably need to get it set-up for that level once its stabilized, but then it’ll probably be good – again, as long as it doesn’t change too much, too fast.  And generally, a drier guitar usually sounds better, more resonant. But you need to let it adjust to that level slowly, and even then, it may not be good if it is too extreme, since it was all glued together and finished at a moderate or median level.  A 90 year old Gibson is a great example of a very well stabilized set of woods!

      But thats just my opinion – and am very happy to live in a place where I don’t have to worry about extremes!

      And Welcome back to the forum!!

      Lots o’ SCGC guitars! But never ask which is my fav

    • #4102

      Thanks for the replies. Makes good sense. I’m enjoying playing the Gibson (it’s like having an old friend return) and I’m keeping a close eye on it. I do recognize telltale signs of an instrument drying out. I’ve been thinking as I get older that I have too many instruments. When you don’t play them all on a regular basis they’re harder to take care of.

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