Climate control is an ongoing challenge for wood instruments. In the case of woodwind instruments, even exotic high density hardwoods that are selected for their resonant and machinability characteristics and ability to withstand years of hard use are vulnerable. Here we will discuss clarinets specifically, but the same general rules apply to oboes, English horns, wood flutes/piccs, etc. There are two main challenges:

PWIC rule-of-thumb: Your instrument is made of wood, an organic material that is as sensitive to the environment as you are. If you are comfortable, your instrument is more likely to be comfortable.

Our solution

Historically, for curation of our inventory of wood instruments, we have relied on ambient humidity and temperature control. We keep our store room in a band of about 8 degrees and 35 – 45% Rh. We have recently taken a further step and now store all wood instruments with Boveda 49% Rh 2-way Humidity Control in the case. Every instrument now delivered to a PWIC client also has the humidity control packet included and activated.

Click here for more information on the Boveda 2-way Humidity Control products we use, including how to order restocks for your case, new systems for your other instruments, and 2-way humidity control for single- and double-reed storage.

Some additional thoughts on wood instrument climate control based on more than 40 years of experience playing and more than 20 years of selling to clients around the world across the full gamut of climate challenges:

  • Cracks are caused by rapid changes in temperature or humidity, so try to minimize these shocks. This includes coming in from the cold and blowing warm air into a cold instrument, or playing an instrument in a cold room. It introduces stresses on the grain when the wood in the bore is expanding while being warmed with 98 degree humid air as the exterior of the instrument is trying to shrink from the cold, dry environment.
  • The worst cases we have heard about are situations on a hot stage or pit when a stage door is opened at intermission to cool things off. Suddenly cold air rolls across the stage or into the pit, and you literally can hear the crackling or snapping sound as oboes and clarinets crack. Keep your instrument covered, or better yet, break it down, swab it out and put it in the case during the break.
  • While you may wish to oil the bore of your instrument to manage the climate risks, it may void the warranty (consult your instrument documentation!). Some oil is used in the manufacturing process, but the bore is reamed and polished after it is oiled. If the bore is subsequently oiled again, it could raise the grain which may actually change the bore dimensions and thus the treasured playing attributes of your hand-selected instrument.