Impressum © Thilde van Norel 2014 - Violin Maker Berlin


How to survive the cold winter

I just had a violin and a cello in my workshop for repair. They had two things in common. Both were new instruments and both suffered from winter dryness causing a crack. A lot of players don’t seem to realize the importance of humidity control. I´d like to explain to you why you should.

Wood is hygroscopic

Your skin cracks and dries out in winter. You can see your breath in the cold air. This is all due to the fact that cold air can hold less moisture then warm air. This also affects our instruments! Wood shrinks and swells by exchanging moisture with the surrounding environment. The change in weight is more than you probably would expect. On a cello front plate I measured for example a difference of 8 grams weight loss when the humidity dropped from 50 to 40 percent overnight. So now you know: with the change in humidity your instrument -which is made out of wood- changes in weight and size! What does this mean? Under 40 percent or above 60 percent humidity, this will cause excessive stress to your instrument: joints could fail, seams will open up, or worse, a crack appears. The good news here is that your luthier can repair it. The better news is that there is stuff you can do to protect your instrument from the winter chill.

10    dos and don´ts to keep your instrument safe

1.     Get a hygrometer (and make sure its a proper one, many

        cheap hygrometers are not much of a use).

2.     Keep the humidity between 40 and 60 percent.

3.     Don´t leave your instrument next to the heating.

4.     Don´t hang your instrument on a cold wall in a warm room.

5.     Have a few potted plants in the room where you keep your instrument to  

        keep the humidity up.

6.     Keep your instrument in the case as much as possible.

7.     Use a case humidifier if necessary (the sponges are safer to use then the

        rubber tubes).

8.     Have a room humidifier.

9.     When you go to a rehearsal and it´s cold outside, allow your instrument to

        warm up to room temperature inside the case before you take it out.

10.   If this all doesn´t work for you: move to a warmer country or play the trumpet