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Entries in dry climates (1)

Tuesday
Oct162012

Humidifying Ukuleles in West Los Angeles

With the quick change in the weather, I went though and refilled all my humidifiers for my ukuleles. Lately, summer in West Los Angeles has had relative humidity of about 45-55%. Today, the hot winds have shown up again, and I am seeing 40% and lower.

So, I thought I would talk about my favorite system for protecting my ukuleles from large swings in humidity. I have tried Oasis, Herco, and Humistat.

Oasis is a water absorbing gel in a fabric container. Herco is a piece of clay in a plastic pot, and Humistat is a small clear plastic vial, with water in it and special holes to release the moisture.

After trying all 3, I decided Oasis was the best one for me. Even though it was the most expensive ($19-$20), it gave me the confidence of a no leak design (the gel beads absorb the water very quickly) and the visual clue that indicates when a refill is needed (see photo). I also believe from my tests, it releases more moisture than the Herco. The Humistat is an interesting design, with a see-through reservoir, but I had a defective one that leaked. The customer service was very good at Humistat, but I was still nervous that the system might leak water into my case or on my ukulele.

I use the Oasis OH6, which is a case humidifier. I find it is easy to use, and can just float in the case near the headstock. It also comes with a magnetic clip and an adhesive magnetic strip, which can be handy in some circumstances. I have hand sewn the clip to the inside lining of some gig bags, and it has worked very well. There are no sharp corners on it, so even if it floats free, it won't damage your uke. There is another version that hangs from the strings into the sound hole (OH18), but that seems like a cumbersome procedure to have to follow, especially if you are picking up your uke to play several times a day, and like to have it sit in it's case.

Oasis Humidifiers

Humistat

Herco

The Herco is an economical option at about $3.50 to $4.00, but there is no visual clue on when to refill. I have to tell you, in different climates at different times of year, the need for refills changes. So, you would have to monitor your humidity level closely to make sure you didn't leave your uke unprotected. Time flies between refills, so if you are like me and very busy much of the time, then having an obvious visual indication for refill is very important. By the way, gig bags do not hold the moisture as well as the hard cases, so be prepared to check those more often.

If you have a laminate wood uke, the need for humidifying is not as important as it is for solid wood instruments. I still will provide some of my laminate ukes with a Herco, and make sure it is refilled whenever the Oasis units need it.

So that is my experience with ukulele humidifiers in the West Los Angeles/ Venice/ Santa Monica climate. When the desert winds come, we can get single digit humidity in a matter of hours. Even if you are 3-4 miles from the ocean, it can be exceedingly dry. Ideal ukulele humidity is suppose to be between 50%-60%, so you can imagine what a shock it is to the wood if it is suddenly 15%. Typically, I refill my Oasis Humidifiers every 1-2 weeks.

 –Lori Apthorp, Westside Ukulele Ensemble