There is no better expert for guitar care than the manufacturers themselves. And, for those of us in the Northern hemisphere, the Winter months can wreak havoc on wood - which means on our precious guitars.
The folks over at Hagstrom Guitars posted on their Facebook page a two part winter guitar care guide for not just Hagstrom, but all applicable wood/materials instruments. We found their information incredibly helpful and thought we would put together in one spot for you:
"As we try to make the best of the weather by keeping our homesteads warm while we pear out into the Nordic tundra from within our warm dwellings, there is also something else going on with our prized possessions that are also exposed to the heat inside of our homes... Our musical instruments.
As we heat our homes and the air outside is generally drier at this time of the year, our guitars need a little extra love and attention during this colder/drier season. Heating systems that warm our living spaces, fireplaces, electric heating elements, etc. etc., are also drying out the air that we breath, where our wooden musical instruments are especially susceptible to such drier conditions.
This is a very important topic for many of us working professionally with musical instruments, where we cannot stress enough to customers about properly looking after their musical instruments, especially at this drier time of the year. By taking certain simple steps helps avoid possible problems, which could easily be avoided just by giving your instruments that little extra love that they obviously deserve.
Today, we are going to look at keeping our fretboards clean and most importantly "oiled".
Fretboards made of Rosewood or Ebony require oiling at least once per year. As our Hagstrom Resinator fretboards are composed of a special 50/50 (composite/wood) formula, is it recommended to also treat your Resinator fretboard just as you would a Rosewood or Ebony fretboard with oil, once per year.
As we are now in the middle of the drier winter season, why not take the time this weekend to make a point of oiling your fretboard, and to reward your instrument with a new set of fresh strings?
Which oil should you use on your fretboard?
We highly recommend to oil your Resinator fretboard with “Paraffin Oil”, which can be purchased at most hardware shops. Paraffin oil can also be referred to as “cutting board oil” and works equally well on both Rosewood and Ebony fretboards with amazing results. Paraffin oil is clean, odorless, and rather inexpensive.
1) Remove the old strings from your instrument
2) Using a clean cloth/rag, apply approximately 1-2 Tablespoons of Paraffin oil
3) Massage oil into the entire fretboard – For areas where excessive dirt and grime may have built up, continue to massage the oil until the dirt and grime has lifted from the fretboard. In extreme cases, use a soft toothbrush to remove excessive dirt and grime. Reapply oil to the cloth/rag as required.
4) Once the fretboard is thoroughly oiled, use a new clean cloth/rag and carefully remove any excess oil from the entire fretboard
5) String your instrument up with your favorite brand of strings, and enjoy the look and feel of your freshly oiled fretboard. Your guitar or bass will thank you!
6) Repeat process in exactly one years’ time
Heating systems are working double time to heat our homes/living spaces, where many may suddenly start noticing those all too familiar “electric shocks” flying from our electrified fingers through a major build-up of static electricity in our bodies due to these dry indoor environments (anyone remember terrorizing siblings growing up, by dragging your feet across the rug to power up a well-executed surge of “magnetic electricity” to zap your unsuspecting siblings’ ear?).
What’s happening is that the environment inside your home is suddenly dropping its humidity level to extremes, due to the drier air during the cold winter season. Multiply this factor with our heating systems, and suddenly you may be experiencing indoor humidity levels of down to 30% air humidity, or even less.
So ultimately, what might this mean for your musical instruments?
Guitars feel their best when the humidity levels are at a consistent 45% humidity. This is what guitar owners should strive for, where your instrument will thank you. You may ask what signs your guitar might be communicating to you, if the humidity drops to dreadful levels that your instrument might not be enjoying?
Strings lay closer to the fretboard, necks become back bowed (suddenly fretted 1st fret notes sound like a buzz saw), sharper fret ends, are a few of the most common signs that the humidity level is too dry.
More extreme signs of low humidity levels over longer periods of time might show such issues as:
- cracks in fretboards, and even the instruments hardware coming loose
(in very severe cases).
- on acoustic instruments which are far more susceptible to
climate/humidity changes, the wood of your tops, sides and backs may
crack, the surface behind the bridge may become flat (and severely
lower the string action of the instrument), support braces within the body
may release from the top or back (and suddenly cause ringing inside the
body when playing the instrument), which do not include any of the
issues as mentioned above concerning fretboard and neck issues.
Might you be experiencing any sudden changes with your instrument this winter?
If so, now is the time to address them, where there are a few simple steps to take to reduce the risk of damages of your instrument caused by improper storage of your instrument in such dry conditions:
Store your instrument in a hard case when not in use – Consider purchasing an “In-Case humidifier” to maintain moisture levels, and REMEMBER to keep it moist. Just by owning an “In-Case humidifier” and not keeping this moist and under close tabs, will NOT protect your instrument from the dry air. It’s ideal to check it once a week, and remoisten as required.
Does your house have a basement? – Moisture levels in basements are generally higher than the rest of the house, where if stored in a heated basement this is a more ideal environment for your instrument.
Use a Hydrometer – These come in all shapes and sizes (both digital and analog), where you can keep a closer eye on the humidity level in your home. These can also be placed in your guitar case, which is an essential for the proper storage of your instrument.
Use a humidifier – Somewhat pricier compared to a incase humidifier, these add moisture to your home and help maintain a consistent humidity level. It’s better for your skin (say goodbye to chapped hands and lips), better for your health, wood furniture, and will even help reduce costs of heating your home (humid air tends to keep a more consistent temperature). The benefits are many, where fellow family members will also thank you.
When was the last time that you oiled your fretboard? – Oiling your fretboard will help to directly inject moisture levels into your fretboard. This will protect the instrument from dry cracks, sharp fret ends, etc. In more extreme cases, binding can start releasing from the fretboard and fret inlays can suddenly fall out. Keep your fretboard oiled and re-apply once every six months."