Avoiding Climate Damage to your Violin

HEAT DAMAGE: Many years ago in Kuala Lumpur I left my beloved “Didion” violin in the boot of the car when I went from the Music School to a party. The problem was, I forgot all about it till I remembered around noon time the next day. Kuala Lumpur can be extremely hot and that day was. When I opened the case I was horrified to find that not only had all the strings come loose but the whole top of the violin had come off as the hyde glue had melted. Actually, if the glue had not come unstuck then the wood would certainly have cracked which thankfully it hadn’t. This is why repairs need to be done only with animal hyde glue and never with other glues. So I sent my violin off to London with a friend to have the top reglued.

At that time, I didn’t have my equipment to do the repairs myself. So what is the lesson that I learnt? NEVER, ever, put your violin in the BOOT of a car. Why? You might forget all about it like I did, and melt the glue. I recommend that you always take the violin with you when you leave the car in case someone breaks in and steals it. While we are on this subject, its also important not to put the violin near an airconditioner, a heat source, or an exterior wall. This will avoid extremes of temperature. 

ABOUT VIOLIN DAMAGE: LOW HUMIDITY causes CRACKSIn America this is a real problem as their humidity can be as low as 10-15%. So if you are traveling to a cold country you will need an HUMIDIFIER in your violin case. This contains moisture like a sponge and releases the moisture to humidify the air.

HIGH HUMIDITY causes WEAK SOUND: In Singapore, we don’t have the problem of low humidity and cracks, however, we do have the problem of high humidity causing weak tone. The solution is DEHUMIDIFIERS. Fortunately, if you leave your violin in a room that regularly has airconditioning, this problem is solved. An air conditioner dehumidifiers the air.

TYPES HUMIDIFIERS: There are two types of humidifiers: 1. those that go in the INSTRUMENT (e.g. “Dampit”  from $7.50 to $10 each) and 2. those that go in the CASE. Cases often come with both an hygrometer which measures the level of humidity and an humidifier which corrects dryness. An in-case humidifier often comes in the form of a small tube filled with water-saturated material that releases moisture at a controlled rate. For those with a D.I.Y. aptitude, you can insert several holes in a small plastic canister and insert a sponge inside which you will need to keep moist. This can be mounted inside the case with Velcro.

DEHUMIDIFIERS: For those who live in humid climates around the equator, you will need a DEHUMIDIFIER in the case. These usually consist of silicon gell or silicon pellet packets which absorb the moisture from the air in the case. They need to be placed in the microwave occasionally to remove the moisture that has been absorbed. 

(Reference: Strings magazine, October 2002, No. 105. “Drying Times – How to protect your instrument from climate changes” by Richard Ward)

2 thoughts on “Avoiding Climate Damage to your Violin

  1. I just bought a 4/4 violin with a Gabriel Didion Lutherie Lorraine label in it. There is also an “8” printed on the wood inside, and a label that says ‘France’. (The year is hard to read.) I am having trouble finding out any information about these violins. Many thanks in advance for any info you might provide on the violins or the luthier. Thank you!

    • Hi Kimberlee, great to talk to another Didion violin owner. I found the following information: “This is a copy of a Gabriel Didion violin, he was a maker who died in 1881. Following his death one of the numerous Mirecourt workshops continued to produce a model that is a copy of G.Didion violins.” The good news is that it is definitely a French violin but it is not made by the luthier Didion. I have seen them sell between US$1,100-US$1,500 and I know of one that was made in the 1920’s. I found an original advertisement at the following webpage from laberte_humbert luthiers and is from 1912: http://www.luthiers-mirecourt.com/laberte_humbert_1912.htm#partie1
      It is model 161 Violin Didion and they have it selling originally for 88 Francs which is not a cheap violin. Best regards Peter

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