Most of us usually takes good care of acoustic guitars but electrics also needs attention when it comes to controlling temperature and humidity. Slight changes can do serious harm and reduce your guitar to a useless piece of wood.
Most of us live in a country with seasons that change dramatically. In Norway, where I live, the summer temperatures reach 30-35c while the winter goes well below -20c. Although the temperatures are more constant inside the house the summer will still be hotter and more humid while the winter will be colder and drier. Keep in mind too that in the winter, your house or at least some of the rooms are usually much colder at night than during the day when your fire is lit and all the ovens are on.
So what does this do to your guitar? Although the summer can get too hot and humid for a guitar the winter is much worse. Basically everything but the metal dries up. Although the thick lacquer makes electric guitars less exposed than acoustics the wood will dry up. You can easily recognize this during the spring months after a long winter by running your hand up and down the neck and feel how the frets are sticking out.
The neck curvage can also change dramatically for the worse. Poly lacquer can reveal tiny cranks and what looks like bubbles. Iâ€™ve also seen nitro finishes that cracks like glass almost comes off in sheets. A trained eye may not see it but Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ve experienced that the string action suddenly gets too high or that the neck feels slow and hard to play.
The best maintenance is to keep the guitar stored in an environment thatâ€™s about the same as where it was produced. The ideal storage should be a room with a constant temperature around 75f or 22c and humidity between 45-55%, which probably isnâ€™t a problem during the summer months but during the winter you should at least have a thermometer and a hygrometer to see whatâ€™s going on. In extreme cases, like here in Norway, I recommend that you keep a radiator and a humidifier in the storage room during the winter. A small investment that will save you a lot of trouble.
DONâ€™T leave the guitar in a hot car, in direct sunlight, in the attic or near a stove of heater. Also, be careful with placing the guitar too near a wall if your house has problems with draft. The temerature in the corner near the floor might be several degrees lower than in the middle of the room.
If you travel a lot remember to ALWAYS take your precious guitar with you on the plane. A single flight with the guitar in the storage room where the temperature drops dramatically within minutes can totally ruin it. It gets even worse when you place the guitar on a stage in front of a 1000w light just a few hours later. Some political regimes consider this an effective way of torture.
If you donâ€™t play that much or go away for a longer period of time I recommend that you store your guitar in its case (ideally a hardcase or flight). Release the tension from the strings (but not too much) and have some silica gel packs in the case if you live in a particularly humid environment.
Neck maintenance is also very important. While maple necks usually have a thick layer of lacquer rosewood and ebony necks needs a good rub of lemon oil at least twice a year and I recommend that you do this during a restring late autumn and early spring. The reason for this is that the lemon oil will help keeping the neck moist and itâ€™s vital that you do this before you start shaving off any frets that might be sticking out. Add a generous layer of lemon oil and wait until it dries. A healthy neck should dry within 30-60mins but if the neck is dry after a couple of minutes you need a second coating. Restring and let the neck settle for a day before you adjust the truss rod.
Donâ€™t do this too often though because the acids in the lemon oil can dry out the natural oils in the neck. Another good tip is to always wash your hands before playing and if you do sweat a lot itâ€™s a good idea to wipe off the strings when you put down the guitar. Sweaty and dirty palms are like acid on the neck and besides â€“ your guitar should always look clean and pristine.
Is all this necessary? Naturally I’d be more concerned if the guitar is a vintage heriloom or above average expensive. A humidifier for well under $100 is a small investment but perhaps not needed if your guitar is within the budget range or considered a working horse that’s gone through a lot of beating already but it’s wise to at least acknowledge that changes in the temperature and humidity will affect your guitar and small measures like using lemon oil on your rosewood neck and not exposing the guitar to unnecessary changes will prolong its life and save you a lot of agony and money.