CARING FOR YOUR MANDOLIN IN COLD TEMPERATURES
Your mandolin is made mostly of wood and before it was used to create your prized and beautiful musical instrument, its main purpose was to soak up moisture, nutrients and sunlight. Yes, that’s right. Your favorite instrument was once a living tree! It is no surprise then, that as the cooler seasons approach, your precious instrument is subject to structural change and even damage due to moisture and temperature changes. Therefore, It is vital that you know how to care for your musical instrument during these transitional seasons. The following are a few tips for caring for your mandolin during the Fall and Winter months.
Check the Humidity Level
Low humidity levels can cause your mandolin to warp and crack, and this is something that often occurs in the colder months – as humidity levels drop and the mercury dives with the falling temperatures. Even if your mandolin is not exposed to the cold directly, the external dry weather can reduce humidity levels inside the house, affecting your instrument. The ideal humidity level for your instrument is around 35 to 45 percent. If the humidity levels inside your home fluctuate often, you can buy an inexpensive humidifier to maintain the required levels. You can tell if your mandolin is getting dry by looking out for a few simple warning signs. These include a shrinking top and fingerboard, buzzing strings within the lower action, cracking finish, and opening bindings. If you live in an area where the humidity stays low most of the year, you can place a small humidifier in your Instrument case to prevent the wood from getting too dry. It is not recommended to place a humidifier inside a mandolin body.
Protect From Freezing Temperatures
If you live in an area where it gets freezing cold in the Winter, this change in Winter and Fall weather could damage your mandolin's finish by causing cracks in the wood and checks in the lacquer. You must protect your instrument from freezing cold and drastic, immediate, temperature changes at all costs. The best thing is to keep it in its case, especially if you have to carry it with you outside. Exposing your mandolin to frequent temperature changes can also cause damage, so make sure that if it's in the case, you leave it inside the case for a period of time before taking it out in a warmer environment. This will allow the instrument to slowly adjust to the temperature change. Wood can swell in moist environments and expand. More damage can be done to your instrument through excessive moister or over humidification than a dry environment. Some signs of your instrument getting excess moisture are: action raises, top swelling, and or you start seeing cracks along seams or checks in the finish. This is common in areas where there is high humidity. An example would be moving from a location or gig in a cold area to a location where the temperature or humidity is significantly higher. For instance, traveling from a gig or location in the west during the winter, to a gig or location in the south where temperatures and humidity are significantly higher.
Most mandolins are made to withstand moderate temperature and humidity changes but additional care is necessary for instruments in colder environments to keep them properly protected. The right maintenance of your mandolin will prolong its life and keep it intact in spite of the temperate and humidity level changes in Fall and Winter. Don’t forget to check on the humidity levels in the place where you store your instrument and remember that if you turn on the heat or air conditioner, you are altering the humidity where you keep your instrument.
I briefly mentioned in the video above how the difference between kiln-dried and air-dried tonewood can effect your instrument. Here it is again if you haven't seen the video.