When not being played, your hand crafted guitar should be kept in and protected by a rigid and well fitting guitar case. You should make sure that the guitar fits comfortably into the case so as to avoid any movement but also to make sure that there is no pressure on the bridge or soundboard. Hard cases will also protect your pride and joy from accidental damage caused by children, house guests and pets. It is a good idea to occasionally open the case to allow the guitar to breath.
Relative humidity is an important factor and extreme changes in humidity should be avoided. Humidity between 40 and 60 percent is desirable with a temperature range of 60 to 85 degrees. Central heating can be very damaging to classical and flamenco guitars, as can enclosures with a moisture rich environment. Therefore, if keeping your guitar in either of these circumstances is unavoidable, make sure that you have some form of humidity control system to avoid the risk of cracking, swelling and warping.
Proximity to central heating radiators and air conditioning units or similar should be avoided at all cost. Never leave your guitar in a car in the heat, as even in its hard case it will be affected by the dramatic and rapid increase in temperature. When transporting your guitar, it is a good idea to place a small humidifier in the case. (Planet Waves’ Humidipak System is the best, see “Essential Guitar Care Investments” below).
A Few Essentials to Maintain Your Hand Made Guitar in Excellent Condition
An accurate hygrometer or humidity gauge is essential for daily monitoring of the humidity around your guitar. Hygrometers are available from local stores and on line retailers.
A room humidifier to ensure that you are able to maintain the correct humidity range (40 - 60%) where you play and store your guitar. You can purchase a humidifier to suit you room size from local hardware stores, department stores and on line retailers.
A good in case dehumidifier such as the Planet Waves’ in case HUMIDIPAK SYSTEM should not be considered a replacement for a room humidifier but when travelling with your guitar this product is one of the best products on the market. It has dual functionality in that it adds moisture to the air in a guitar case when a case environment is too dry and it draws moisture out of the air when the case environment becomes too moist. I do not recommend the use of an in case humidifier that seals the guitar sound hole. This type of product can damage your guitar by keeping unwanted moisture inside a guitar body.
Bridge Bibs are products that protect your guitar soundboard from scratches and unwanted dents while you are changing your guitar strings.
A soft chamois leather or similar cloth is excellent for wiping fingerprints off your guitar's surface between playing and keep your guitar's finish in tip top condition. Chamois' are available at hardware stores and on line retailers.
If your guitar has been finished with a traditional French polish, care should be taken to avoid playing your guitar if you have sharp objects like buttons or zips in/on your clothing or about your person as it is more delicate than a lacquer finish. French polish is also susceptible to alcohol and perspiration and should always be wiped down with a damp cloth or chamois after each use. Depending on how fastidious you are, you may consider using a protective water proof cloth between you and the guitar when you are playing, this could also be an item of clothing. One significant advantage of a French polish finish is that guitar repairs and touch ups are much easier.
When changing your guitar strings, always consider using a string bib or a clean piece of light cardboard to protect the soundboard both in front of the bridge under the strings and directly behind the bridge. This will ensure that you minimise the possibility of accidentally marking the soundboard.
I recommend replacing the guitar strings in order and one at a time rather than taking them all off at once. The only circumstances where it would be OK to remove them all is where you want to clean the frets and fingerboard and carry out some general maintenance on your guitar. I would also not recommend that you use extra high tension strings on your classical or flamenco guitar.
Lubricating your machine heads should probably be done once a year or more frequently as required, with something like vaseline grease.
Applying these few simple measures diligently should give your guitar long life and years of playing pleasure.