View Full Version : Guitarists and cabinet-makers, I need some advice, please

Flying Orca
09-01-2009, 08:03 PM
OK, so without really trying I've amassed a collection of guitars, and given the near-absence of humidity in these here parts during the winter, I've decided to build a display cabinet (total capacity, eight guitars plus some storage above and below) to house, show off, and humidify my treasured sidekicks.

I'm thinking some kind of blond, one-side-good ply for the exterior, with suitable trim; interior of Tyvek and aromatic cedar, with dual plexiglass doors and interior lighting (no, not incandescent, probably LED but maybe fluorescent). The guitar compartment itself (and if I can design it to limit humidity to that compartment I'll do so) will be somewhere in the neighbourhood of 40 cubic feet.

It's the humidifier that has me stumped. I don't like the idea of a vaporizer unless there's some kind of diffusing barrier between the steam and the guitars; ultrasonic might do the job, but I'd like something with a humidistat. I'm checking into piano humidifiers, and who knows, I might go low-tech and just use a hygrometer, a pan full of sponges, and a jug of distilled water. Of course that means remembering to check it occasionally... :o

Now, I know there are plenty of guitar enthusiasts here, and given that anyone who is into wooden boats AND guitars must be at least near-genius, I figure we have the perfect solution somewhere in the Bilge's ever so addled hive-brain. So let me have it all - comments, suggestions, or better yet, the web address of the perfect humidifier supplier for this somewhat esoteric spec.

Um, please? :D

Captain Intrepid
09-01-2009, 08:20 PM
You could always go the sponges route and use something like this.


Put the remote sensor in the case, keep the base unit somewhere handy, and an alarm goes off if your preset max/min humidities are exceeded. Add or subtract sponges as needed.

That'd be the low end answer without just taping two thermometers together and wetting the end of one. It'd be nice to have something more automatic.

Dave Gray
09-01-2009, 08:28 PM
Maybe a couple of these:
http://www.neptunecigar.com/pr/cigar_oasis_xl_electronic_cigar_humidifier.aspx?SR C=Nextag

Ron Williamson
09-01-2009, 08:44 PM
Whyfor the Tyvek?
It is made to pass water vapour,but not liquid water or wind.

Flying Orca
09-01-2009, 08:58 PM
You could always go the sponges route and use something like this.


That's intriguing, and I like the alarm. I'll see whether I can find a price online.

Maybe a couple of these:
http://www.neptunecigar.com/pr/cigar_oasis_xl_electronic_cigar_humidifier.aspx?SR C=Nextag

Yeah, I've been looking at that kind of thing... pretty spendy, though. And I'm not sure they have the output to keep up 40 cubic feet of really dry air.

Whyfor the Tyvek?
It is made to pass water vapour,but not liquid water or wind.

I did not know that. Hmm, maybe some other kind of moisture barrier then. I would think plain old plastic sheeting would do the trick, if it's even necessary.

P.S. thank you for the suggestions, keep them coming!

09-01-2009, 09:12 PM
Keep it low tech. Don't mess with a vapor barrier--the enclosure will be enough by itself.

Build what fits the room and your tastes, get an accurate hygrometer, put small bowls and wet sponges at either end and wait. If the hygrometer shows too much humidity take out a sponge. If it shows not enough add a third or fourth sponge until you get the magic 47% RH you're seeking. Or something close.

You'll learn soon enough that running your heater a lot will mean you need more sponges or frequent additions of water.

Or, address the problem in the entire room or house. During our rare cold spells I solve the humidity problem with a teakettle full of water on the simmer burner, running day and night. During a wet spring or fall when the AC and/or heat isn't running much I've found I can bring the humidity down to acceptable levels by putting an empty cast iron skillet on the simmer burner. There are advantages to keeping your entire house properly humidified--your solid wood furniture and floors will love you for it.

Bruce Hooke
09-01-2009, 10:04 PM
During our rare cold spells I solve the humidity problem with a teakettle full of water on the simmer burner, running day and night.

Definitely coming from someone who lives in a warm climate! It would take a bit more than a kettle on simmer to humidify the air in my house on cold winter day!

Paul Girouard
09-01-2009, 10:07 PM
This other forum has a thread on it. The cabinet in this case isn't , ah,,,,,,,,,, very nice, but the low tech sponge idea works for this guy.


As for any seal he sez the inside stays plenty wet enought just with the door he has and no seal.

Which I'd think would be fine, the sponges in the Tupperware with holes would release the moisture pretty slowly as long as the door where kept shut.

Another thing would be to place the cabinet away from any forced air heat ducts. If you have that type of heat , and a long ways from a wood stove if you have/ use wood heat.

Bruce Taylor
09-02-2009, 06:56 AM
I'd remembered seeing and liking the cabinets R. E. Brunť built to house instruments by the likes of Panormo and Torres (and Brunť himself). But what did he use for humidity control? I googled his website (http://www.rebrune.com/)...turns out he has the entire 4000 square foot building in climate control. For a luthier, he seems to be doing pretty well. ;)

Don't bother with vapour barrier -- just varnish or shellac the interior of your cabinet. A bit of air flow is not necessarily a bad thing, if you can control the rate of exchange.

The piano humidifier is an interesting idea...I'd be interested to hear the results of your research. If you go low tech (as I probably would, if I had the good sense to protect my instruments instead of just hanging them on the wall over the hot air blowers :D), I'd install air vents in the cabinet to allow manual control of air exchange. Consider adding a gentle heat source for dehumidification in summer (I use a small lightbulb in my basement wood cabinet).

Install a hygrometer in an easy-to-read location. I would set it up so that you can read the dial from the outside at a glance.

Above all: make it beautiful. :)

09-02-2009, 07:15 AM
Plexiglass doors? I wouldn't. They'll have a tendency to haze, they'll scratch, and they'll look cheesey.
A tightly fit Spanish Cedar slip liner should be plenty of vapor barrier. I'd guess that a few humidor "hockey pucks" would do the trick of keeping the moisture content where you want it once you get it to where you want it. WWW.Rockler.com should have hygrometers and humidistats.

Bruce Taylor
09-02-2009, 07:28 AM
Yeah, definitely...real glass and Spanish Cedar.

Flying Orca
09-02-2009, 07:36 AM
MAM - unfortunately I live in a fairly drafty apartment building, so the "whole house" approach is out. I tried running a humidifier last winter and it didn't really keep up.

Paul - I have hot water heat and the cabinet will be on the other side of the living room from the radiator and windows.

Bruce - do you think varnish or shellac will interfere with the desirable qualities of the cedar, or are you thinking of the plywood below? I like the idea of vents... as for dehumidification, I've been keeping track over the summer and although we have the odd spike for 24 hours or so, the RH is otherwise pretty consistent around 50%, so I think I'll be OK in the summer.

The piano humidifier thing is intriguing, but as cost is a factor and people seem to think it might work, I'm tempted to try sponges for at least the first winter. Maybe a small fan to facilitate air circulation within and exchange when necessary.

Lefty - thanks for the link, I'll check it out. I hear you on the plexiglass (Dad had the same objections), but I'm concerned about both the weight and the cost of proper tempered glass doors... Maybe I should just frame the doors and use plain old window glass, and be hella careful not to break them.

Great food for thought here, gentlemen, and I thank you. I'll post some pix when I have them. Meanwhile, other comments and suggestions still welcome!

09-02-2009, 07:49 AM
Double stregth glass should be fine unless you're a gorilla. You could put several mullions in to keep the size of each light (piece of glass) down, and reduce the overall apparent size of the case.
Don't seal the Spanish Cedar!!!

Uncle Duke
09-02-2009, 08:10 AM
Humidity is simple - put a couple of houseplants in there and water them occasionally.

Bruce Taylor
09-02-2009, 08:11 AM
Bruce - do you think varnish or shellac will interfere with the desirable qualities of the cedar,

The main desirable quality of cedar is "smelling awesome." That, and being reasonably stable. So: no finish with a cedar lining.

When I suggested varnish, I assumed you'd be building with some kind veneered ply (which would be perfectly acceptable, if you don't tell Krenov or any of his Noysey disciples). :D

09-02-2009, 08:15 AM
I think pre-finished Maple ply with Maple frame doors would be nice... Saves a lot of brush work too....

09-02-2009, 11:01 AM
If it should please you Kind Sir i would be interested to know what kind of Guitars you own..

I think i have around 8 too.

09-02-2009, 11:14 AM
Humidity is simple - put a couple of houseplants in there and water them occasionally.

a container of salt and water ..

Flying Orca
09-02-2009, 12:42 PM
Humidity is simple - put a couple of houseplants in there and water them occasionally.

If I could remember to water houseplants I would probably have some in my apartment. :o Although if I get a humidistat with an alarm, maybe I'd remember to water the plants... hmmm...

I think pre-finished Maple ply with Maple frame doors would be nice... Saves a lot of brush work too....

That's kinda what I'm thinking, given the preponderance of blond-ish wood in my living room (piano excepted).

If it should please you Kind Sir i would be interested to know what kind of Guitars you own..

I think i have around 8 too.

Hmmm... two high-end acoustics, a '71 Martin D-28 and a Morgan CM. My first "real" guitar, a Fender dreadnought of uncertain vintage (prob. late 70s) and pretty decent tone, but largely of sentimental value now. An Aria dreadnought bought way cheap from a buddy who was moving, acquired strictly as a spare stage acoustic before I got the Morgan; probably up for sale as I don't have even sentimental reasons for keeping it. A Godin electric (Strat-ish) I quite like, and a Tradition Les Paul knockoff about which I know very little but I also like (acquired in the same deal as the Aria). Rounding out the collection, and stretching the category of "guitar", are a Godin A-8 mandolin and a five-string bass I just bought from an old buddy and whose brand escapes me at the moment. Oddly enough, about four or five owners ago, it was the first bass I ever played onstage... Winnipeg's music scene is like that.

Building the cabinet to accommodate 8 instruments will allow me to store all of the above, and passing the Aria on will make room for my next guitar (yeah, I've got GAS, and next on the agenda is a Rickenbacker 360- or 370-12).

Bruce Taylor
09-02-2009, 01:18 PM
A Godin electric (Strat-ish) I quite like

I've been quite interested in their nylon electric line...especially the fretless 12-string semi-solid.

09-02-2009, 01:55 PM
Humidity is simple - put a couple of houseplants in there and water them occasionally.

:) Reminds me ... The seasonal shift of sunlight coming through a window had reached the spot where I keep one of my guitars so I moved it to another corner of the room; not quite, but near directly, under a hanging plant. Well, one day I'm cooking breakfast and SWIMPAL is cheerfully going around watering the plants and I look over just as she's up on her tiptoes trying to aim the spout into the plant container over my Precious! :eek: "Could you please move my guitar before you water that!" I think I said "please", might have sounded more urgent than I should have ... I got one of those looks.

Hmm, yes, reminds me ... I still need to build a wall rack or throw some hangers up.

09-02-2009, 02:18 PM
I hardly play my 1966 D-28 since taking up the classical guitar 15 years ago but its still my prize. No heirs to play it so I guess it goes in the ground with me.


Uncle troutman! ;)

09-02-2009, 02:24 PM
I'm not in the same department guitar wise as you are...but....I have a maple finished case that I purchased at an Ethan Allen furniture store, with glass sides and door panel.....I have an electronic "hygrometer" inside that has three LED's on it to indicate hi-low and green where it's supposed to be...cost about $20 wherever I bought it 20 years ago...one 9 volt battery lasts a couple of years or so.
My guitar lineup is full of inexpensive boxes, the '62 Fender Stratocaster/'62 Gibson Melody Maker, a Taylor that I horsetraded the nephew out of because he wanted something new, and my Yamaha Concert Master acoustic......the water jar/sponge trick works just fine, low tech and reliable.....the Yamaha gets used more....

Flying Orca
09-02-2009, 05:08 PM
Man, I wouldn't call a '62 Strat out of my department in any direction except up... ;)

09-02-2009, 05:45 PM
I got the fender and gibson from a dude that was shipping outta country owing me 300 bucks back in '64....probably the cheapest guitar acquisition that I made. That and the VOX amps that the Beatles used in their Manila Concert.

Todd Bradshaw
09-03-2009, 01:41 AM
Neat idea, However, heed the warnings that the guy who built that cabinet got about the garden hangers. The plastic on cheap hangers (including an alarming number of those made specifically for guitars) can really do a number on the finish - including staining, softening or melting it where the hangers touch the headstock. One of my twelves has stains from where a previous owner hung it on a cheap hanger and the plastic reacted with the conversion varnish (which is generally very tough stuff). Luckily, in this case, it just stained it. I've owned other guitars where it has melted all the way through to the wood.


P.I. Stazzer-Newt
09-03-2009, 02:06 AM
You can wrap the fingers of a hanger in plumber's PTFE tape - inert but slippery so be sure the hanger doesn't reply on friction.

Flying Orca
09-03-2009, 07:03 AM
Todd, do you know whether there's a problem with these Hercules locking hangers (http://www.herculesstands.com/guitars/GSP40SB.html)? That's what I'm tentatively planning to use, and I know they use them in music stores... but that's no guarantee of course.

Bruce Taylor
09-03-2009, 07:13 AM
Todd, do you know whether there's a problem with these Hercules locking hangers (http://www.herculesstands.com/guitars/GSP40SB.html)? That's what I'm tentatively planning to use, and I know they use them in music stores... but that's no guarantee of course.

I believe Todd uses Hercules hangers.

I do too, but I don't take very good care of my gear. ;)

One thing I don't like about the "garden hanger" cabinet Paul posted is the proximity of the humidifiers to the bottoms of the guitars.

Edit...Just had a look at my strat, which spends its days in a Hercules floor stand. Finish looks fine. However, I would expect the foam padding on the tines to react with some finishes. If I were anal, I'd put cloth sleeves over them.

09-03-2009, 08:26 AM
A few years ago, back when I was hanging out on acoustic guitar forums instead of wooden boat forums, I came across this gem from Kevin Ryan. Apparently it's something he sends to customers along with his guitars.


Dear Friend,
Here is a chart I have made for your reference. If you become familiar with these numbers and are conscientious about proper humidity for your instrument, your guitar will remain in pristine condition through many, many years. If you have any questions about this, please give me a call here at the shop. Enjoy your new Ryan Guitar!

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan Guitars
Westminster, California
April 2004

The figures below represent RH (Relative Humidity):

100%; You shouldnít really be playing your new guitar out in the rain

95%; This is dangerous for your instrument; glue joints are compromising right now and the thin wood plates are highly stressed and buckling due to their swollen condition

90%; This is far too humid for your instrument; the action of the strings is very high; maybe itís time for some air conditioning for both of you? Bad things are possibly going to start happening to your instrument

85%; Too humid; your wood plates are beginning to swell with the moisture; this isnít good

80%; A little too humid I think (plus, arenít you getting uncomfortable?); soundboard movement is starting to affect the action (making it higher over the frets)

75%; Probably getting too humid; if it keeps up you may actually notice the soundboard movement; sort of OK for awhile

70%; OK for awhile but donít let the guitar get too warm; more wood movement with the soundboard bellying out somewhat perhaps

65%; A little too humid; there might be a small bit of wood movement but donít panic

60%; Still sort of OK

55%; Not too bad

50%; OK


40%; OK

35%; Time to think about humidifying your guitar; the soundboard is starting to sink in; probably will be OK for a few days so donít panic (yet!)

30%; It is really time for humidifying your guitar, (a few days might be ok); action starting to get low; maybe you can start to feel the ends of the frets beyond the edge of the fretboard (which has shrunk back due to moisture loss); install the Planet Waves Guitar Humidifier when you are not playing the instrument

25%; Time to be really concerned; time is not on your side; take corrective action now; use the Planet Waves Guitar Humidifier and put the guitar in the case until the dry conditions are over; cracks are planning their assault; frets are hanging over the edge of the fretboard now

20%; Danger Will Robinson!!! You are living on the edge now; huge stresses are building up in the plates of your expensive instrument and; cracks may start to appear at any moment; the soundboard is sunk in and you have string buzzes

15%; Give me a call and we can discuss a time slot for your repair

10%; Now we need more time to fix all those cracks and glue the thing back together

5%; Itís over!

<unquote :) :)

Todd Bradshaw
09-03-2009, 01:59 PM
I have a whole bunch of Hercules hangers, holding guitars with a variety of finishes, some of which have been hanging up there for about five years with no signs of damage whatsoever. The foam padding does pack down a bit over time, but they are all still doing fine. I drilled out the holes in the oak base blocks, tossed the original screws and anchors and put them into the studs with 3" deck screws because some of my basses are pretty heavy and I don't trust drywall anchors, but that's the only change I made to their system. I don't hang my acoustics, but only because keeping them in their cases with a Dampit in winter makes it easier to control the humidity (plus, I'm out of wall space). Being a bit of a klutz, I really like the security that the Hercules hangers offer. So far, I haven't dropped anything. The hangers hold them about 4" out from the walls, so they aren't bumping into my sand-textured paint and they're not hanging right up against an exterior wall.

In a display case, I'd bet that a damp sponge or two in a perforated Tupperware tub and a decent simple hygrometer would be all you need. I doubt I'd bother with alarms and such. You learn pretty quickly how often you need to "water" your guitars. For me, I just made it part of the routine and every Friday during the heating season, I re-juice the Dampits on the acoustics.

If you decide to buy a Rick twelve and want some advice from the peanut gallery, let me know. All things considered, I'd probably go with a 360/12 (2 pickups) over a 370/12 (3 pickups). They are more readily available, yield a lot more picking space between the pickups and I haven't found much difference in the sound. I re-wired both my 370/12 and my 340/12 so that the middle pickups are on their own circuits and would contribute more to the sound when I run the guitars in stereo-mode, but the vast majority of the time, I just leave the middle ones off and run them like a 360, using just the neck and bridge pickups. There are a bunch of short one-man-band, multi-tracked "office recording" clips in this sample that were all done in two-pickup mono mode with a fair bit of Rick twelve in them (except the last one, which is my old Hagstrom 8-string bass dubbed over a demo from one of our guys singing and playing a D-28).


P.I. Stazzer-Newt
06-30-2016, 09:50 AM
How did it turn out?

Flying Orca
06-30-2016, 12:55 PM
Never did find a way to keep the damned thing humid enough, but it looked great. Then Oystagirl and I bought a house, which is easier to humidify than a cabinet in a dry apartment, apparently. The cabinet lives at jqpublick's place, at least for now, and my guitars are mostly hung on the walls of my dining/music room.

Turned out OK looks-wise, I think:


P.I. Stazzer-Newt
06-30-2016, 01:12 PM

I know a man who has just bought his grandaughter - a Marimba - and a drum kit!.

Which are now fighting with his harpsichord for floor space.

Flying Orca
06-30-2016, 02:08 PM
Met a guy once (my brother's girlfriend's father) who collected antique pianos and harpsichords. He was an architect and had built his house to accommodate his collection. I really enjoyed checking it out.

My place, at about 70 square metres, is a bit small for a piano; I got rid of my upright and play a Nord Electro these days. I really like its versatility and relative portability.


06-30-2016, 06:00 PM
Maybe a couple of these:
http://www.neptunecigar.com/pr/cigar_oasis_xl_electronic_cigar_humidifier.aspx?SR C=Nextag

This would be my suggestion as well.