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 Post subject: Humidifying flutes
PostPosted: Fri Mar 15, 2013 1:39 am 
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I thought I'd publish my experiment here on the forum. I read a lot about keeping flutes in good shape and for what I know between 50 and 60 % is the right humidity. I know also that with our heating systems this is hard to get, even in Belgium. Putting a tupper ware box somewhere is also something I tried but didn't kept it up. Besides if you have a lot of flutes, you need a lot of boxes and hygro meters. So I bought a good and precise hygro meter and did what is already mentioned here. We have an old oak closet here where I keep some paperwork, and bits and bobs in. It has two swing doors and a plank in the middle. I have put the flutes in there in their boxes, a plastic container with a well soaked spunge and presto : humidity stays at 50% and sometimes a bit more. Good for the old oak closet and the flutes. Maybe simple but a lot less hassle than working with humidifyers in boxes etc.. Although I have done that too but the thing is : I don't keep it up. I hope this helps to keep the timbers in shape. I know that Patrick Olwell has an old vault in which the humidity stays at 60% the whole year around. But how do you do it?


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 Post subject: Re: Humidifying flutes
PostPosted: Fri Mar 15, 2013 2:41 am 
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Sounds a bit like my plastic crate system, which I've been meaning to describe for a while but haven't got round to yet. So just have to let these photos speak for themselves right now, noting that the top (dry) layer takes the smallpipes when I don't want them in the bottom (wet) layer...

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Image

Image

(Edited to replace 800x600 images with 400x300 'thumbnails' linked to same.)

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Last edited by Peter Duggan on Fri Mar 15, 2013 11:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Humidifying flutes
PostPosted: Fri Mar 15, 2013 3:46 am 
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Wow! Solid construction. I didn't even know that there were such big boxes. How humid is it down there? And top. Do I see two cups of water and one with spunge? Good job! Thanks for posting!


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 Post subject: Re: Humidifying flutes
PostPosted: Fri Mar 15, 2013 9:59 am 
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I use a humidifier and humidify the whole apartment. I wonder (as Ronnie did elsewhere) what the proper humidity
is?


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 Post subject: Re: Humidifying flutes
PostPosted: Fri Mar 15, 2013 12:58 pm 
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Ronnie wrote:
Wow! Solid construction. I didn't even know that there were such big boxes.

These are by AUER, though I found them on (and ordered from) Solent Plastics. Not cheap at £98.16 for the two crates, lid and delivery, but exactly what I wanted (big enough at 800x600mm to take the pipes whole, and straight-sided when most/all of the alternatives tapered wastefully) when nothing else I saw was. (NB they also do smaller ones at 600x400mm and 400x300mm with a range of depths in all sizes.)

Quote:
How humid is it down there? And top. Do I see two cups of water and one with spunge?

It was pretty steady at low 50s to low 60s till we had a prolonged spell of very cold, dry weather in February, at which point I stuck in a second shallow tray of water (like the one with the sponge) to keep it there. And now the weather's been changing again, I'm typically getting 60 to 65% with the extra tray still there and happy with that. (I was getting 75% testing the concept over Christmas with much smaller crates before I got the AUER ones, but was never going to keep that set-up when it was really too 'wet' for the pipes, couldn't take the bass drone whole and would also have required multiple crates and hygrometers.)

I'm not humidifying the shallower top crate, which is there to give the pipes a break from the main 'chamber'. But I've just turned on the little hygrometer you see in there to check (the one in the main crate is on all the time) and it's saying 39% RH when I've got 60% down below, which (noting that this one always reads slightly lower than the other) suggests I'm getting about 20% benefit from the water in the big box. (One reason I rejected 'converting' a cupboard/closet was that the space proved too big to humidify easily by such simple means, whereas the other smaller crates were almost too easy!)

Regarding the actual 'humidifiers', yes, two deep tubs and a shallow tray with sponge (+ the extra similar tray still in there). Still experimenting with tubs/trays/sponges and think the sponge seems to do something, but would probably rate water surface area most important of all. These shallow trays/boxes came from IKEA (fortuitously spotted when there for something else!) and I'm still planning to get two more of the larger ones (£1.50 each) with room in the deep crate for another 'layer'.

Probably also worth pointing out that the handle slots on the crates provide useful ventilation without giving the water too much to do and the whole thing was 'designed' to be user-friendly where neither individually humidified boxes nor humidifying whole rooms really appealed to me at all. For comparison to other locations/climates, we're talking West Highlands of Scotland, there's another hygrometer in the living room currently reading 34% which has been as low as 31% in the couple of months or so I've had the whole thing going, and I'm pretty happy with it all.

(Edited for prices.)

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Last edited by Peter Duggan on Sun Mar 17, 2013 5:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Humidifying flutes
PostPosted: Fri Mar 15, 2013 1:45 pm 
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jim stone wrote:
I wonder (as Ronnie did elsewhere) what the proper humidity is?

While you get different recommendations from different makers, I'm working from Dave Copley's '55% to 80%', but aiming for low 60s because that seems to be suiting flutes, recorders and pipes alike where observation's maybe suggesting low 50s for these pipes alone.

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 Post subject: Re: Humidifying flutes
PostPosted: Fri Mar 15, 2013 2:40 pm 
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Ronnie wrote:
Wow! Solid construction. I didn't even know that there were such big boxes. How humid is it down there? And top. Do I see two cups of water and one with spunge? Good job! Thanks for posting!


Roughly the same size as my apartment. Fortunately, washing dishes brings the humidity right up, so I just leave the sponge on the sink.


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 Post subject: Re: Humidifying flutes
PostPosted: Sat Mar 16, 2013 9:51 am 
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I leave the flutes in their boxes/cases. If it's 55% +outside the box/case it's surely 55% +linside the box/case?


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 Post subject: Re: Humidifying flutes
PostPosted: Sat Mar 16, 2013 10:35 am 
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Right.

Still we don't have an answer (unless I've missed it?) to the question of appropriate humidity.
How about 40, is that too low? Anyone?


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 Post subject: Re: Humidifying flutes
PostPosted: Sat Mar 16, 2013 11:33 am 
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Some one recommended 40 to me but not lower, others say between 50 and 60. I read that some go towards 75 which I think is dangerous to get mold.


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 Post subject: Re: Humidifying flutes
PostPosted: Sat Mar 16, 2013 1:48 pm 
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Location: A long way from being an 'expert' at this
lol, be delighted if I could get below 75 humidity in the cottage, that's Galway Bay for you

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 Post subject: Re: Humidifying flutes
PostPosted: Sun Mar 17, 2013 7:08 am 
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jim stone wrote:
How about 40, is that too low?

IMHO, yes, that's too low. While numerous woodwinds had 'survived' in my house(s) for 30+ years without targeted humidification, it's obvious now (having largely reversed a number of loose joints and some ovalling bores) that most were too dry. And the ferrule on the common stock of my new pipes came loose (surprising their maker, who built them just up the road!) after just a few weeks in my living room at c.40%.

Ronnie wrote:
I leave the flutes in their boxes/cases. If it's 55% +outside the box/case it's surely 55% +linside the box/case?

If the box/case is open then, yes, surely. But (depending on the box?) don't think it has to be when shut...

Ronnie wrote:
Some one recommended 40 to me but not lower, others say between 50 and 60. I read that some go towards 75 which I think is dangerous to get mold.

While I'm theorising largely from my own observations here, I'd say you also have to consider ventilation and would personally think sustained moist storage in airtight boxes/bags more risky than higher humidities per se. When my new Copley flute (NB my first with lined head!) spent several weeks in a smaller (but still vented) 'test' crate at c.75% RH, it might sometimes have looked/felt just slightly 'clammy' when taken out (or was that the older recorders I'd been consciously re-humidifying in a smaller, not quite sealed box?). But nothing ever feels like that in my big vented crate even with it (as now, with a change in the weather and the extra water still in there) sometimes pushing 70% RH, and I'd never be keeping the pipes in there (leather bag, tweed cover and all) if I thought it 'wet' enough to be risking mould. So I guess what I'm suggesting is that the highest 'safe' humidity probably varies with size/ventilation of immediate environment (eg the various crates and boxes I've tried) and you can go higher with bigger, better-ventilated boxes.

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Last edited by Peter Duggan on Sun Mar 17, 2013 7:24 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Humidifying flutes
PostPosted: Sun Mar 17, 2013 7:45 am 
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Keep in mind that humidity levels that are good for flutes - in the 50-60% range - are also good for humans, plants, etc. If your house is too dry for your flutes, there's a likelihood it's also too dry for you; your skin, lungs, nasal membranes, etc. So, if you over-heat your homes during a dry winter, or over-air condition them in the summer, you're probably surrounded by air that's too dry for you, too, not to mention flutes and other instruments, which means you have to jump through hoops to maintain proper humidity for them individually. If you maintain a comfortable humidity level in your home, you, your flutes, other instruments, plants (which also add humidity to rooms) and furniture, etc., will be the happier for it. Then, just play your flute(s) regularly and store it in its case. If you like the place hot during the winter, add room humidifiers, which usually have a percent-regulator built into them, anyway, or, better, keep the place a shade on the cool side, and the room will stay (more) humid .

Conversely, too high humidity (can be) bad for many of us (allergies, mostly), although Peter is absolutely right that air circulation is the bigger issue, regarding molds and mildews forming. If you live (or store flutes) in a high humidity area, keep the air flowing. If you live in a tropical rainforest, I can't help you there...


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 Post subject: Re: Humidifying flutes
PostPosted: Sun Mar 17, 2013 8:45 am 
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Peter is absolutely right that air circulation is the bigger issue,


That too though can be tricky. A classic situation in the West of Ireland is that you see the humidity in the house go towards the eighties, you open the windows to air the place and within 30 minutes you return to see the hygrometer's hand go well over ninety. Not good and little you can do except turn on a de-humidifier.

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 Post subject: Re: Humidifying flutes
PostPosted: Sun Mar 17, 2013 9:24 am 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
Quote:
Peter is absolutely right that air circulation is the bigger issue,


That too though can be tricky. A classic situation in the West of Ireland is that you see the humidity in the house go towards the eighties, you open the windows to air the place and within 30 minutes you return to see the hygrometer's hand go well over ninety. Not good and little you can do except turn on a de-humidifier.



In plant nurseries, where the humidity is often kept at the 80-90%, small fans are used around the leave to prevent fungus growth and keep the air flow happening, as much like outdoors as possible - I suspect the relatively cool Irish air can be refreshing with a bit of wind, but horrible in closed spaces. Where I live in VT is often very humid (dry during the winter, if you're heated, of course), and molded bathrooms and closets are a major headache, but, again, we're talking closed spaces being the biggest worry/culprit. So I agree that absurd humidity levels you've describe are probably difficult to offset, and, yeah, dehumidifying is probably needed in such an environmnet, just as humidifying is needed in extremely dry air. At some point, we have to step in and help our instruments (and selves) out. My only point was that tackling home living conditions - I'm not sure I'd like to be surrounded by 90% humidity anymore than store my instruments in it - will help all involved, instruments and humans alike, rather than merely setting up a small-scale environment strictly for your flutes. Especially valuable, if you have guitars, fiddles, pianos, etc., in the same living space as your flutes. Then, you can simply take out your flute and play, rather than always unswaddling it from it's private environmental chamber.


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