Dangling by a string
October 3, 2010 8:10 PM   Subscribe

Do I risk damaging my nice acoustic guitar by keeping it on a wall hanger?

I have a fairly nice acoustic guitar - a mid 90s Martin D1. I don't play it often enough because I keep it safely stored in it's case. I have a couple other cheaper guitars hung on wall hangers and I tend to play those more often because they're visible and easily grabbable.

Would I be risking damage to my Martin by leaving it on a wall hanger? (Aside from it falling off the wall and crashing to the ground?) I live in the SF East Bay, so excess humidity or dryness doesn't seem to be an issue. Floor stands are out since I have a toddler and instruments need to be out of reach.
posted by gnutron to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Be really careful about humidity- with any guitar worth more than 500-750, I'd keep a hygrometer on the wall next to it at all times. It's better to be slightly wet than slightly dry, but even better to be right at 47%. Dryness is probably your biggest concern with keeping it on the wall.
posted by supercres at 8:29 PM on October 3, 2010

Most guitar collectors I know have their guitars on wall hangers (in a humidity-controlled room). There are some really nifty ones; I can't remember just how they work, but the gist is that you don't even have to unlatch them...they just magically do it! Posh.
posted by nosila at 8:58 PM on October 3, 2010

I remember with my first guitar, I developed a buzz. When I brought it in, the first thing the repair guy asked was: do you keep this out of its case? Humidity is a huge issue.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:17 PM on October 3, 2010

Humidity would probably be an issue in the Bay Area, no? That, and temperature and humidity variation are the killers of musical instruments. I had one guitar with a gently undulating soundboard teach me this particular lesson.
posted by bardophile at 12:31 AM on October 4, 2010

[Hygrometers are unfortunately notoriously imprecise, often misfiring in the range of 10% of relative humidity up or down, so be aware of this. (I have two, and compare and guess. Works better than what it sounds).]

What level of humidity is acceptable depends on the environment an instrument is, so to speak, used to. If a guitar has been put together at 50% and stayed at 50% most of its life, 45-60 may be okay, 90 not. An instrument that is regularly kept at, say, 75% will probably not be totally happy at 45%. And so on.

So both dryness and humidity can be an issue no matter where you are, and it is difficult to define "excess". What you want to avoid is exposing your guitar to anything substantially different from what it usually is exposed to.
That said, humidity outside a protective case should not be substantially different from inside, provided it is kept in the same environment. The case dampens the effect of very sudden humidity and temperature shifts, is all. So the things I would avoid is direct sunlight, nearby-ness to open windows, air conditioners and heaters, and sudden temperature changes; and I'd put the instrument inside the case when absent and when the weather is about to change.

[I know quite many happy harpsichord owners in the Bay Area who don't report any trouble with the climate there. Harpsichords are always kept out of the box + they are annoyingly sensitive to humidity changes]
posted by Namlit at 3:53 AM on October 4, 2010

Don’t set your instrument next to a source of heat or hang it on a wall where it will dry out. At all costs, avoid hanging your guitar on an outside wall during winter months. The wall will be cooler than the inside air. The result is a conflict between the temperature of the top and back, with potential damage as a result.

From here. A PDF.
posted by gjc at 6:30 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

This would be worse on the east coast. Excessive humidity changes are bad, but moisture itself is actually pretty good for an instrument. (People put sponges in their guitars, after all...)

If you are turning on the heat regularly, I'd be more concerned.

If you want to be really safe, put it in the case. Finer instruments will be made lighter, and more prone to breaking.

You could also just get an old Yamaha, they sound pretty darn good and are made from plywood and extremely durable.
posted by sully75 at 7:36 AM on October 4, 2010

Make sure it's a genuine String Swing or suchlike hanger that's specifically designed for instruments. The cheap vinyl-covered U-brackets you can get at Home Depot look like they'll work just fine, but they'll damage the finish of your guitar.
posted by bink at 9:08 AM on October 4, 2010

Have you considered making a wall case? Basically creating a glass-doored area of controlled environment, that's still easy-access.
I've got a project brewing but haven't pulled the trigger yet - I'll be using an IKEA Billy bookshelf with glass doors and an overhead halogen light as an instrument display case. A hygrometer (or two) inside, and humidity can be increased by means of a sponge dish (much like DampIts inside a case) or decreased by leaving the light on. Structurally, the Billy relies on one center shelf for a cross-bar and has a wimpy cardboard back; I'd get rid of all the shelves, add metal corner braces, and use a large rectangle of 1/4"-3/8" plywood as backing - something sturdy enough to hold hangers as well as act as a crossbar for overall stability.
posted by aimedwander at 12:57 PM on October 4, 2010

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