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Humidification and Barigo Hygrometers

February 20, 2011
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It’s essential to measure the relative humidity in order to reach proper humidification levels – adding or removing the correct amount of moisture to the air, and measurement is done with an instrument called a hygrometer. We’ve arranged for Barigo, a very respected instrument manufacturer, to provide us with Twelfth Fret branded units.

After a great deal of research, we found that the Barigo hygrometers are the best available mechanical hygrometers available. Many electronic hygrometers are far out of calibration and cannot be adjusted. We find that the Barigo mechanical hygrometers are more accurate than anything we have seen. They do colour graphics for us on the dial to indicate appropriate humidity levels for guitars which is a nice feature – it’s very possible to over-humidify an instrument, and this can be just as damaging as under-humidifiying.

Personally I like to leave my guitars out on display where I can see them and pick them up to play at a moments notice. My hygrometer allows me to monitor my music room humidity levels and surprisingly, the humidity is often higher than I expected. When it approaches 40%, my guitars go back into their cases with their Oasis humidifiers fully charged with water.

Read more about humidity, care and feeding of your guitar and see our Hygrometer owners manual below.

Monitoring the humidity level in your music room is without a doubt THE most important musical instrument maintenance you will ever do. To this end, we have commissioned a scientific instrument company in Germany to produce a precision dial hygrometer.

This easy-to-read 4″ diameter precision instrument is accurate to a tolerance of 3-5% and is housed in very rugged chrome or gold plated metal enclosure. The dial face clearly indicates the relative humidity percentages complete with colour codes, including red (dangerously low), yellow (caution) and green (optimum).

Each hygrometer has been calibrated by the manufacturer and double checked by us utilizing a sling psychrometer. These instruments come individually packed complete with an instruction booklet explaining the recalibration process.

Price for The Twelfth Fret Barigo Hygrometer: $79.95  plus shipping and applicable taxes.

Humidity and Guitars
Even the finest guitars are susceptible to wood shrinkage. Unless you carefully humidify your guitar during the dry winter season you risk fret board and soundboard cracks! Most guitars are built at a minimum or 40% relative humidity and exposing a guitar to less than 40% relative humidity will cause wood cracks. An early warning danger sign is sharp fret ends protruding from the edge of a shrinking fret board. Use a guitar humidifier and moisten it regularly. Keep the guitar in the case to reduce air exchange. Stop humidifying when the humid spring weather arrives. Continuing to humidify after the dry season is over is very risky and can potentially cause very serious damage. Contact our staff anytime you have questions about humidity control for your instruments.

Hygrometer
Hygrometers are wall-mounted gauges that measure relative humidity in the environment around your guitar. They are available through music stores, “The Source”, cigar specialty shops and scientific supply companies. It is important that you humidify carefully whenever the humidity falls below 40% and equally important that you stop humidifying when the relative humidity exceeds the 50% range.

Many hygrometers are not accurate.

We have encountered many that were as far as 25% off! We suggest that you compare your new hygrometer to another more accurate hygrometer. We can calibrate hygrometers at no charge for our customers against a scientific quality “wet-bulb dry-bulb” hygrometer.

Useful hints for safe operation of Guitar humidifiers;


Oasis Humidifer:
We suggest that you gently squeeze the Oasis after each filling to ensure that no leaks develop around the cap or body of the Oasis. Use distilled water or lake-water (soft water). Hard water with high limestone content will shorten the life of the unit. We suggest that you write the date of purchase on the unit and assume it should be replaced every 4 or 5 years. At the end of the dry season, rinse out your Oasis with warm water and dry with the cap off. Next season, add more Humigel crystals before adding water. Humigel replacement kits cost $5 and last several years.

The Oasis Plus:
Used for extremely dry environments below 25%, the Plus releases moisture faster to maintain 45% inside your case.

Dampit Instructions: This was once the most common “low tech” way to humidify guitars.
To moisten; run tap water over the Dampit and squeeze to saturate the sponge with water. Wrap the wet Dampit in a hand towel and squeeze out the excess water. Suspend the Dampit between the two middle strings so it hangs inside the guitar. Keep the guitar case closed to reduce air exchange. Check the Dampit often and moisten as necessary. Do not over humidify… see the warnings listed below!

Do NOT over humidify. Some of our customers humidify their house or music room PLUS use a case humidifier. Due to excess humidity the inside of the guitar case will be like a tropical environment; extremely damp eventually causing mildew to grow on the case lining and inside of the guitar. Similarly, stop using your case humidifier when the humid spring weather arrives.

Note: If the furnace or household heating system is on, then you probably need to humidify your guitar.

Note: Humid air is dense. Your basement and main floor will always be roughly 8 to 10% higher humidity than your upper floors as humid air tends to flow downwards.

Attention: Read before use! Addendum to the Barigo owner’s manual

Accuracy: Barigo has calibrated this unit at the factory for humidity in the 45% range.

Here at The Twelfth Fret, to ensure accuracy, we repeat the calibration process on each Barigo Hygrometer.

How long will my Barigo remain accurate without re-calibration?

Provided the Barigo humidifier is kept at room temperature and not exposed to extremely dry conditions, the unit should read accurately for approximately 3 to 5 years.

That said, it is good practice to annually check your Barigo hygrometer against a scientific quality, wet-bulb-dry-bulb sling psychrometer. We offer this service at no charge to our customers. You can ship or mail your hygrometer to us.

We prefer to re-calibrate at the beginning of the dry season; early November in this region of Canada.

We can safely ship it back to you in below freezing temperature, provided it is sealed in plastic at the relative humidity of 45% that we maintain here in our guitar shop.

Re-Generation:When should I follow the regeneration procedure in the Barigo owner’s manual?

Exposure to extremely dry conditions and/or freezing conditions can affect the accuracy of this unit. The Hygroscopic element can be damaged by extremely dry conditions and readings can become erratic.

If your Barigo Hygrometer has been frozen or left in an extremely dry environment, then you should “Re-generate” the Hygroscopic element by following the saucepan do-it-yourself-method outlined in the Barigo owner’s manual.

Note: We also recommend “Re-generation” of your unit every 3 to 5 years as part of your regular routine maintenance procedure.

Will my Barigo be accurate without re-calibration after the Re-generation procedure ?

Yes and no: Your Barigo will be more accurate than it would have been if you had not done the regeneration procedure. We have tested units after this procedure and found them to be “in the ball park”. Our guess is they are accurate to roughly plus or minus 10%; far better than most electronic hygrometers one can buy.

But, that said, your Barigo will read more accurately if recalibrated specifically for the 45% range ideal for guitars.
We recommend that you send us your Barigo for recalibration after the Re-generation procedure.

Where should I keep my Barigo Hygrometer ?

Hang your Barigo on an interior wall near your guitars in your music room, away from drafts. Exterior walls are cooler in winter and will give inaccurate, higher-than-normal readings.

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