When it comes to caring for a fiddle, exposure to temperature and humidity extremes are concern number one.
Because cold air holds less moisture than warm air, keeping my house’s humidity level at between 40-60% is very difficult during the Winter. It is not unusual for this level to be in the 20-30 range for us. While this range is not the best for anyone’s health, it is also not the best for the health of my fiddle.
The fine and sensitive wood of a fiddle does not like extremes like low Winter humidity which causes contraction and high Summer humidity which causes expansion. Expansion and contraction can cause minor inconveniences such as buzzing or open seams or major problems such as cracks, but there are ways to minimize this game of tug of war.
Supplementary humidification from a cool mist, steam humidifier, or evaporative wick humidifier in the Winter will help raise the room humidity level. A dehumidifier or air conditioning will help lower the room temperature during the Summer. The use of a instrument humidifier such as a Dampit, or a case humidifier such as a Stretto or Oasis in the Winter months when humidity drops below the normal range is also helpful. If short on money, moving any potted house plants into the practice room will help keep the humidity level higher provided they are watered regularly. Even a pan with water placed on a radiator or next to a heating register will help; adding a fan blowing across the water will increase the evaporation. A hygrometer, an instrument that measures humidity, should be placed in the case or hung in the room so the humidity level can be monitored.
A fiddle should be kept in a place free of drafts and away from direct sunlight. Keep the instrument itself or the case in which it is stored away from outside interior walls and corners of the room. The outside wall may be colder than the inside room temperature, especially in older houses and apartments. The fiddle would then be exposed to warm, room-temperature air on one side and a cold wall on the other: this is a dangerous combination that could cause cracks. Never leave the fiddle in a car and avoid situations where it could get wet.
Think of the fiddle as a human being. If the temperature and/or the humidity level is uncomfortable for you, it is most likely uncomfortable for the fiddle as well. Like your yearly health checkup, at least once a year, bring the fiddle to a qualified luthier to for a checkup. Little problems, caught early, can prevent a disaster down the line. Follow these guidelines and your fiddle will be happy and serve you for many years.
Here are two links to Fiddle & Fiddle Case Humidifiers and Room Humidifiers. If you enjoy this website and decide to purchase any of these humidifiers, please consider using my link to Amazon. Whatever small commission I make goes directly back into maintaining this website. Thank you.