What is the Best Way to Store a Guitar?

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Whether you’re a seri­ous col­lec­tor or have a few prized instru­ments in your col­lec­tion, it’s cru­cial to under­stand the impor­tance of keep­ing them safe when they aren’t in use. Keep­ing your instru­ment inside a case, on a stand, or hang­ing on your wall will pro­tect it from most phys­i­cal dam­age. Still, there’s anoth­er crit­i­cal aspect to instru­ment stor­age that is often over­looked: prop­er humid­i­fi­ca­tion

On top of that, expo­sure to extreme tem­per­a­tures can intro­duce its own host of prob­lems, often occur­ring more sud­den­ly and vio­lent­ly. And when it comes to visu­al aes­thet­ics, the most com­mon stor­age solu­tions do lit­tle to pro­tect your instru­ments from dust and oth­er envi­ron­men­tal ele­ments. Not to men­tion, you have to fig­ure out how to incor­po­rate the piece into your room in a visu­al­ly appeal­ing way.

Your instru­ments are works of art. To keep them look­ing and sound­ing as beau­ti­ful as the day they left the fac­to­ry, they need to be pro­tect­ed from intense fluc­tu­a­tions in mois­ture and tem­per­a­ture. Whether it’s a vin­tage acoustic gui­tar, a mod­ern elec­tric gui­tar, a vio­lin, man­dolin, or any oth­er string instru­ment, Amer­i­can Music Fur­ni­ture can pro­vide a stor­age solu­tion that will save space, keep your instru­ments pro­tect­ed, and fit beau­ti­ful­ly into the aes­thet­ic of your room. 

Read on to learn more about stor­ing your instru­ments prop­er­ly and how our cab­i­nets and cas­es can help keep your instru­ments healthy and sound­ing gor­geous for years to come.

The effects of temperature and humidity on string instruments

Regard­less of the age, con­struc­tion, or fin­ish of the instru­ment, tem­per­a­ture extremes and humid­i­ty, or lack there­of, can wreak hav­oc on its sound and appearance.

Wood expands and con­tracts as the mois­ture con­tent changes. What makes this a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem in a wood­en musi­cal instru­ment is that the wood doesn’t expand and con­tract even­ly. Wood shrinks much more across the grain of the wood than along the length of the grain.

While wood expands and con­tracts rapid­ly in response to envi­ron­men­tal changes, the met­al of your fret wires, strings, tuners, and elec­tron­ic com­po­nents are not as flex­i­ble. When instru­ments are stored improp­er­ly, the pres­sure of the wood push­ing and pulling against these rigid met­al pieces can cause cracks, warp­ing and sep­a­ra­tion of parts. Expe­ri­enced luthiers and repair shops have seen count­less cas­es of instru­ments need­ing dra­mat­ic repairs or being ren­dered near­ly unplayable by these effects.

Sea­son­al­i­ty also plays a role in how to store your instruments.

Summer

Gen­er­al­ly, air con­di­tion­ing removes enough humid­i­ty in the sum­mer to keep your home, office or stu­dio below 60% rel­a­tive humid­i­ty. How­ev­er, if you live with­out air con­di­tion­ing, too much mois­ture can cause just as much dam­age as too lit­tle. You’ll also find that your gui­tars sim­ply sound bet­ter at around 45% humid­i­ty, and your air con­di­tion­ing just can’t remove enough water from the air to get to that lev­el. In that case, we offer an ion­ic mem­brane dehu­mid­i­fi­ca­tion sys­tem. The ion­ic mem­brane will reduce the humid­i­ty in the cab­i­net by break­ing H2O down into hydro­gen and oxy­gen and will then push the hydro­gen out of the cab­i­net. As a result of this water­less dehu­mid­i­fi­ca­tion sys­tem, there is no tank to empty.

Fur­ther­more, dur­ing the warmer months, it is absolute­ly cru­cial that instru­ments are not left in a hot car for any length of time, regard­less of whether they’re inside a case. Research shows that on a sun­ny 90-degree day, the inside of a typ­i­cal pas­sen­ger car or truck can exceed tem­per­a­tures of 138°F! This heat lev­el can be lethal for a stringed instru­ment, and one should always plan very care­ful­ly when trav­el­ing with their instru­ments dur­ing the summer.

Winter

Cold air holds much less mois­ture than warm air, so it is vital to keep your instru­ments at a rel­a­tive humid­i­ty lev­el between 45%-50% at room tem­per­a­ture. Now depend­ing on the instru­ment builder, you will find that all of them rec­om­mend a humid­i­ty lev­el in this range, but they would all agree that going below 40% or above 60% at typ­i­cal room tem­per­a­tures will start to cause dam­age that most man­u­fac­tur­ers do not cov­er in their war­ranties. Most humid­i­ty-relat­ed dam­age occurs by the instru­ments dry­ing out dur­ing win­ter months at very low rel­a­tive humid­i­ty levels.

As the humid­i­ty lev­els change and drop, the instrument’s top will shrink and start to sink into its body. This will cause brac­ing in the instru­ment to come loose and often cause splits in the top of your gui­tar. In addi­tion to loose braces and cracks, you may notice that fret wires will pro­trude past the neck in win­ter because the neck wood shrinks. You’ll feel the sharp edges of the frets when you run your hand down the neck. Oth­er humid­i­ty relat­ed dam­age might be cracks on the back or sides of the instrument.

Common Options for Humidifying Instruments

Sound hole humidification

Sound hole humid­i­fi­ca­tion is the least expen­sive and most com­mon way of humid­i­fy­ing an instru­ment. A small sponge is enclosed in a plas­tic con­tain­er that fits in the instrument’s sound hole; the instru­ment is then stored in its case. The low expense makes it more acces­si­ble. How­ev­er, this method also requires con­stant mon­i­tor­ing as the sponge can drip or dry out, and it pro­vides no means of actu­al­ly mon­i­tor­ing your instrument’s humid­i­ty level.

Chemical humidification

Chem­i­cal humid­i­fi­ca­tion is a stan­dard upgrade from water-based sound hole humid­i­fi­ca­tion. It replaces the sponge with a chem­i­cal pack that main­tains a pre­de­ter­mined humid­i­ty lev­el. Like sound hole humid­i­fiers, it pro­vides a more bud­get-friend­ly option, but also lasts longer. How­ev­er, it still requires fre­quent atten­tion and pro­vides lit­tle indi­ca­tion of your instru­ments’ actu­al humid­i­ty lev­el. Addi­tion­al­ly, since these packs typ­i­cal­ly rest on your strings, they can cause tun­ing issues.

Room humidifiers

Auto­mat­ic room humid­i­fiers are a pop­u­lar solu­tion for those with a large num­ber of instru­ments. They are a more effec­tive solu­tion for humid­i­fy­ing mul­ti­ple instru­ments and can reg­u­late humid­i­ty, unlike cheap­er options. How­ev­er, their key down­fall is in the resources required to use one. You’d need to ded­i­cate a room of your house to stor­age, cre­ate mois­ture bar­ri­ers to pre­vent mold growth, incor­po­rate stands and hang­ers for each instru­ment and sup­ply the humid­i­fi­er with up to 4 gal­lons of water each day.


Guitar Display & Storage

We hear from every cus­tomer that they play their instru­ments more when they are not stored in their gui­tar case. If they are on dis­play in a cab­i­net they are quick­ly avail­able when you want one. As our client Derek Trucks said in a recent arti­cle “When you walk past a cab­i­net that’s lit up and a few gui­tars are star­ing back at you, it’s hard not to stop and say hi for a bit.” We do rec­og­nize that there are times you want to use a stand or wall hang­er. They are good tem­po­rary solu­tions for hold­ing a gui­tar that is in active use, but not a good idea for per­ma­nent display.

Guitar stands

With­out a doubt, the most com­mon option for dis­play­ing gui­tars is in the form of floor-mount­ed stand­alone racks and stands. Many com­pa­nies make these, and they’re avail­able in var­i­ous shapes, sizes, and con­fig­u­ra­tions, mak­ing them an acces­si­ble and bud­get-friend­ly option. Keep an eye out. It’s easy to come across many that are built cheap­ly, and their design is often unin­spir­ing. For the play­er and col­lec­tor look­ing to pur­sue a more bud­get-con­scious stor­age option that doesn’t com­pro­mise on the build qual­i­ty and aes­thet­ics that Amer­i­can Music Fur­ni­ture is known for, check out our line of guitar stands.

Wall hanging

If you’ve ever been to a gui­tar store, you’re no doubt famil­iar with the sight of a pletho­ra of instru­ments hang­ing from the wall, wait­ing for their new own­er to claim them. Wall hang­ing saves space and helps turn your gui­tar into even more of a work of art in itself, not to men­tion the ease of access it pro­vides. How­ev­er, with­out con­stant care, this solu­tion is prone to dust-gath­er­ing and has min­i­mal pro­tec­tion from the ele­ments. If you’re look­ing for the best of both worlds, Amer­i­can Music Furniture’s Nashville Guitar Habitat® could be the per­fect solution.

Other display cases

We often hear from gui­tarists who want to build their own humid­i­fied cab­i­net or con­vert an old armoire to be a humid­i­ty-con­trolled envi­ron­ment for their gui­tars. When we began build­ing humid­i­fied cab­i­nets, we quick­ly dis­cov­ered that putting humid­i­ty inside a wood­en cab­i­net that will sit in a room with 15% or less rel­a­tive humid­i­ty in the ambi­ent win­ter air would destroy the wood­en cab­i­net because of the same issues with wood expan­sion and con­trac­tion that cause gui­tar damage.

Nor­mal fur­ni­ture and fur­ni­ture build­ing tech­niques don’t need to wor­ry about keep­ing two humid­i­ty lev­els sep­a­rat­ed from each oth­er. We’ve devel­oped some very non-tra­di­tion­al tech­niques that avoid the warp­ing, crack­ing and split­ting of cab­i­net wood and doors. In fact, our door design is so unique it was award­ed a patent. Don’t ruin a beau­ti­ful old cab­i­net by putting a humid­i­fi­er in it.


American Music Furniture cabinets

Hand built-to-order from our fac­to­ry in Perkasie, Penn­syl­va­nia, Amer­i­can Music Furniture’s range of humid­i­fied instru­ment cas­es and cab­i­nets pro­vide col­lec­tors of all scale with the ulti­mate answer to safe, func­tion­al, visu­al­ly pleas­ing instru­ment stor­age. Unlike the tem­po­rary or room-con­sum­ing options, our prod­ucts stand the test of time, fit neat­ly and beau­ti­ful­ly into your home, and are giv­en the atten­tion to detail and spec­i­fi­ca­tion that guar­an­tee to keep your instru­ments safe in the long-term.

Our mod­els include:

Nashville Guitar Habitat® – Wall-mount­ed solu­tion for giv­ing one or two of your most prized gui­tars a spot­light all to themselves

Guitar Habitat® – Full-size cab­i­nets for stor­age and safe keep­ing of up to 25 guitars

Guitar Estates™ – The ulti­mate lux­u­ry for your instru­ments: a gor­geous cab­i­net for up to 25 instru­ments that includes expand­ed stor­age and acces­so­ry options

String Habitat® – Cab­i­nets designed specif­i­cal­ly to house small­er stringed instru­ments, such as man­dolins, ukule­les and mandolas.

Custom and Built-in Guitar Displays – Built to your exact spec­i­fi­ca­tions to be tru­ly inte­grat­ed into the shape and design of your room, or to fit unusu­al­ly-pro­por­tioned spaces. We often work with archi­tects and design­ers to build in a cus­tom unit unique to your space.

Violin Habitat – Gor­geous, com­pact stor­age cab­i­nets for the dis­play and humid­i­fi­ca­tion of up to two of your prized vio­lins or violas.

Features

Humidistat/controller

Humidity control

Every one of our cab­i­nets comes with a built-in humid­i­fi­er and an option­al dehu­mid­i­fi­er to ensure that your instrument’s wood stays healthy year-round. Because the humid­i­fi­ca­tion envi­ron­ment is con­tained sole­ly with­in the cabinet’s space, the unit requires much less fre­quent refills and wick changes than oth­er con­tem­po­rary solu­tions. Our prod­ucts’ superb crafts­man­ship and care­ful engi­neer­ing also ensure that mois­ture will not seep out and pro­duce unde­sir­able effects in the room where your cab­i­net resides.

Instru­ment Hang­er with LED Lights

Display features

Our cab­i­nets are equipped with stan­dard LED light­ing to give each of your dis­played instru­ments the spot­light it deserves. Instru­ments in your col­lec­tion that might oth­er­wise stay hid­den away inside a case can now become a dis­play fea­ture as they are kept in the safe­ly humid­i­fied grasp of the cabinet.

Amer­i­can Music Fur­ni­ture Medi­um-Large Gui­tar Habitat®

Storage and convenience

Putting your col­lec­tion into indi­vid­ual cas­es is not only inad­e­quate to pro­tect them from the ele­ments, but ungain­ly and space-con­sum­ing. Addi­tion­al, the Guitar Habitat and Guitar Estate mod­els include inte­grat­ed stor­age for your tools, lit­er­a­ture, spare wicks and acces­sories. Addi­tion­al stor­age options and con­fig­u­ra­tions avail­able on Guitar Estate mod­els, includ­ing side-open doors and ampli­fi­er trays.

Option­al Stor­age Drawers

Customization options

  • A vari­ety of gor­geous, nat­ur­al wood fin­ish­es for the inte­ri­or and exte­ri­or of your cabinet
  • Extra stor­age options and alter­nate shelv­ing con­fig­u­ra­tions for stor­age com­part­ments on Guitar Estate models
  • Enhanced Light­ing™ option to pro­vide addi­tion­al LED light­ing from dif­fer­ent angles, fur­ther show­cas­ing the beau­ty of your instruments
  • Supe­ri­or Inte­ri­or™ option that includes addi­tion­al fig­ured hard­wood and con­trast­ing bull­nose trims
  • Neck-Tie™ Neck Rest option to pro­vide fur­ther secu­ri­ty of instru­ments with­in the cabinet

Ready to give your prized instru­ments the care and show­case that they deserve? Check out our prod­ucts and if you’ve got any ques­tions or would like to dis­cuss cus­tomized options, contact us today or give us a call at 267-272-2460