The Heat Is On

So i guess it must be time to "winterize" our systems !!! : )

I just thought i'd start a thread about some of the things that i do when this time of year comes around, kind of like an annual ritual. It would be great if others could add their "rituals" or other things that they consider "good ideas" to this list.

First of all, i fire up the humidifiers in the house. Not only is this a health issue ( i have sinus problems ), it can and does effect how we hear things. In some cases, it can DRASTICALLY effect the performance of components. Electrostatic speakers coming to mind first and foremost. Other than this, the humidity helps to reduce static build-up and having a "shocking experience" when touching our gear or other metal objects.

The second thing that i do is rotate some of my speakers from left to right. Some of my systems have a speaker near a window ( which lets in UV rays that can cause cabinet fading and foam rot ) and has the other speaker near a heat vent ( which can also speed up foam decay ). In order to even out the "seasonal abuse" that each speaker sees, i will swap them from side to side once a year. This not only keeps the cabinets a somewhat even color ( in terms of fading ), it helps to reduce foam rot in the drivers due to the concentrated heat coming out of the vents.

Speaking of cabinets and fading, i also clean the wood on all of the speaker cabinets using a very mild concentration of Murphy's Oil soap and warm water. Once this is done, i'll typically go over the cabinets with Crisco cooking oil and a damp rag. The oil helps to feed the wood deep down and provides a very glossy finish. Due to the slightly thicker consistency, it lasts longer than other furniture polishes.

Obviously, i was just kidding about the Crisco. Thought you folks could use a good laugh for a change. Did i get ya with that one ??? : )

I actually use Lemon Oil to treat the wood after cleaning it. I typically make the rounds on all of the cabinets that need it and then go back and apply a second coat. The wood is typically pretty dry and it sucks the first coat right up. I usually do a repeat of this procedure at the beginning of summer. I really should do it more often, but just don't get around to it. The use of some type of furniture polish / protectant might do the job for a "quicky", so i'll have to check into this. I do have some lemon oil Olde English furniture polish in a spray can that i have previously used, but it does not seem to last very long. I probably need to apply "real" lemon oil and then do occasional "touch ups" as needed. I'm open to ideas and suggestions on this one : )

As mentioned in another thread, i have also equipped my racks with a "static discharge unit". This is simply a piece of metal that is electrically connected to the AC wall plate and mounted to the rack. If you are interested in doing something like this, use whatever you like that is handy, cheap and inconspicuous. This allows you to discharge any static build-up that you may have accumulated from walking across a synthetic carpet or rug prior to touching any of your gear. This mimimizes the potential damage to your sensitive digital gear, as static build-up can actually reach into the kilo-volt range.

One need not use a heavy wire to connect the "static discharge unit" to the AC ground, so don't go crazy here. 16 - 18 gauge is more than heavy enough and should be small enough to be inconspicuous at the same time. If you don't want to permanently mount a static discharge device on the rack, try using some double sided tape or use another device that is located close to your rack. The key thing here is to get into the habit of using it EVERY time you are going to touch your equipment. It may only take one good "zap" to pop your transport, dac, cd player, etc...

Something else that i've also gotten into the habit of doing is wiping down all of the plastic parts of all the gear with a cloth that has been sprayed with Static Guard. This includes, but is not limited to, the drawer mechanism inside of transports, CD players, etc... I also do this once in a while in the summer, but i tend to do it more often in the winter. I honestly do think that it helps the sonics of the system a bit, so call me crazy if you'd like. If you are going to do something like this, just make sure that you don't leave a "puddle" of moisture on the disc tray and / or bits of the cloth behind you.

Other than that, nothing else changes around here much. I go about life as i normally would in the summer, except i typically have a lot more clothes on : )

How about you folks ? Got any "winter rituals" that you'd like to share with us ? Sean

i turn my digital theromostat from "cool" to "heat." i try for a year 'round average ambient temp of
Glad to see you back, knucklehead : ) Sean
Now that I've got my big 'ol VTL tube mono's, I plan on a long, fattening winter of S'mores eating. Just make sure you don't drip melted marshmallow down those tube socket holes! (I find my metal FM whip antenna makes an ideal 'stick'.)

Oh, and if the inclement weather keeps you in front of the computer buying too much stuff on Audiogon instead of getting outside and enjoying the winter wonderland (or if you don't live in the snowbelt), then when all that gear arrives it can be fun to dump out the styrofoam squigglies on your listening room floor, lie down in 'em, and make 'angels' just like we did when we were kids.

Remember to remove your earmuffs for critical listening!
I too clean the speaker cabinets w/ saddle soap (OK, ok, stop laughing). Then I treat the wood with a non-beeswax base furniture product. I also treat the foams/rubbers around the cones with a silicon-based product (armor-all, etc). I treat the cones VERRRY carefully with Nordost anti-static cleaner (lotsa muck there). And I vacuum the grilles (which I don't use for listening -- but, what the damnation). I use 'puter antistatic liquid cleaner on the cd tray. AND, when I get down to it, I use regular anti-static products on the cables.
And of course, start the humidifiers.
Winter cleaning of sorts...
I bring my CD player and receiver in from it's summer residence, the shed facing my pool. I also put my summer car away in the garage for the winter, which means I usually pass the winter months "improving" my car stereo. Seasonal stuff that has to be done.

I vaccum my electrostats and use a good furniture paste wax on the wood side rails. Once a month I get a box of Pledge Dry Dusting Mitts and go nuts getting all the dust off my gear. Wonderful invention those dusting mitt things. I also clean my interconnects, speaker wire, and power cords every two months with a 95%/5% mixture of pure alcohol and Caig R5 Power Booster. I usually set aside several Sunday afternooons (while watching football) and get out my Nitty Gritty machine, cleaning my entire LP collection.
At the same time you can wipe all your connectors clean with the soulution of your shoice. Clean the spades on power cords, all the speaker connectors/

I alos make a homemade solution of 1 Part Fleecy to5 parts water. Put it in a spray bottle and spray the carpets to keep the static away.
I had my wife cryogenically treated too. Now the sex is the same, but the dishes keep piling up!
To those who have had their wives cryogenically careful that they are not 'playing around' in Ted William's tank!
"There'll be a cold time,
In the old town tonight!"
Part of the start of my Winter ritual is well underway: I have not been putting in any time for the last wo weekends with my system due to the fact that I have been out in the back of my house with a hydraulic wood splitter, turning Oak and Ash trees into firewood. I provide at least 50% of the heat to my house via an Avalon Ranier wood stove which is built into my fireplace opening. The fireplace is in a room central in the house, and the use of a blower and a ceiling fan distributes heat throughout the house (H shaped ranch). My speaker system, turntable are in this room so dryness is a big factor. I will treat the wood rails of the speakers(Magnepan MGIIIA) with an oil to keep them from drying out, and a cast iron kettle full of distilled water kept full on the part of the stove top that sticks out of the fireplace. I clean out the whole house humidifier attached to my furnace system and set the humidity % levels.
I also try to keep a lot of the plants that summer outside on my deck and front proch distributed around the house to help with humidity levels. I have also found that a static discharge bracelet worn by computer techs is really useful around your gear on very cold dry days and nights.
ALERT.!! PLS READ THIS!!! My post, re: treating rubber surrounds w/ armor-all or other product containing solvents. PLS DO NOT DO THIS!!!

I just got feedback that this has caused premature ageing (rubbers losing elasticity & cracking). Many thanks to the kind A'goner who took the trouble to e-mail me...

Although I have not suffered such effects (fortunately), PLS DISREGARD this part of my post COMPLETELY.

When/if the resident chemists / CE's or I, can identify harmless commercially available solutions, there's sure to be feedback.

And, Sean, and all, please accept my sincere apologies!
Hi, Kelly!! Good to have your comments back on Audiogon -- it's been pretty dull without your wit!

I want to elaborate on one of Sean's comments about woodcare. Among my various hobbies, I am an avid woodworker and carver (mostly Northwest coast native American style), and I've spent quite a bit of time reading about and trying various ways to take care of wood.

Contrary to popular opinion, almost none of the furniture oils and polishes (such as Johnson's or lemon oil) do anything beneficial to wood beyond serving to highlight their appearance (usually by helping to emphasize the grain). If you want to use an oil that will actually provide some degree of protection, use 100% pure tung oil (not the blends of tung, linseed, and mineral spirits sold in most hardware stores). 100% pure tung oil cures in the wood pores and will provide some degree of protection from water, alcohol, dust, etc., whereas the commercial furniture polishes and oils provide virtually no protection whatever. Because tung oil and boiled linseed oil does not form a film on the top of the wood (it settles down into the pores), it allows the wood to breathe, which can be a plus for wood that lives indoors. (I should also mention that tung oil has a much more pleasant aroma than boiled linseed oil, which can have a pungent odor that lasts a long time and probably will NOT appeal to the wife-unit.)

There is a variant of tung oil, called polymerized tung oil, that is even clearer than regular tung oil, but it is moderately expensive and may be overkill for the application we are discussing here. Like regular tung oil, the polymerized version provides a soft, water-resistant finish, and dries with a rather dull sheen that you may want to enhance with a good paste wax, such as Trewax or Mylands (an excellent English product sold in woodworking stores such as Woodcraft). The Mylands paste wax contains no toluene or other petroleum-based solvent, and is comprised solely of shellac, carnauba wax, and beeswax. It dries to a fairly hard finish, and the only downside can be a bit of difficulty buffing it out if you let it dry too long after application . Paste wax by itself offers little protection, other than providing a slick surface that tends to minimize scuffs and marks. The most positive feature of a good paste wax is that it lasts a very long time, since it does not oxidize, and it does not darken over time. If the waxed surface has nothing placed on it, it will normally be sufficient to apply paste wax once a year (or maybe every 6 months if you are obsessive).

I care for the wood on my speakers by using the combination of regular tung oil and paste wax described above. If your speakers get a lot of wear on their surface, or you place objects containing water on them (glasses, potted plants, etc.), then you may want to protect the wood with a film finish such as lacquer or varnish (satin or semi-gloss). Lacquer does not darken the wood as varnish will, but it can dissolve if exposed to alcohol (lacquer is alcohol-based). Varnish is probably the most durable finish, but it tends to darken with age. I do NOT recommend spar varnish for furniture, however, since it will darken the most when exposed to sunlight.

There is an "in-between" solution that is perhaps the easiest to apply and care for: the oil-varnish mix. There are a lot of commercial products that have this composition, with Watco Danish Oil being the best known. There are better oil-varnish products on the market than Watco, but that's an entirely separate thread, and doesn't have much to do with audio. If anyone wants to pursue this topic further, drop me a personal E-mail and we can talk about it. As an alternative, there is an excellent new book on wood finishing that I have found to contain excellent information: "Understanding Wood Finishing: How to Select and Apply the Right Finish", but Bob Flexner (published by Reader's Digest Press). The book can be purchased from for about $15.

I use Statmat MkII (a rider mat) for CD's, a Zerostat gun on LP's and Howard Feed-N-Wax on wood speaker cabinets.

I also try to dine on grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup once a week (Yorkshire pudding and some nice rare muscle meat, tri tip is good, once a month).

Works for me.
From the Bay Area California: "What is winter?" LOL

Actually, I kinda miss the Midwest winters where I grew up every once in awhile (for about 10 minutes).

We have the opposite problem here where the humidty is higher in winter with a good deal of rain from Dec.-Mar. Then it is bone dry again the rest of the year.

Sean, the static discharge "unit" is good advice and well employed.

SD is right on the beam about wood treatments, based on my earlier life as an apprentice furniture bulider to my grandfather. However, careful, careful with any beeswax-containing product. If you use, use SPARINGLY. If allowed to build up, you will not like your finish and, short of stripping, it is very hard to get back to whence you started.
Good comment about the beeswax, 4Yanx. Most of the commercial paste waxes, including the ones I mentioned, use a blend of waxes. Beeswax is used as an ingredient because it has a low melting temperature -- 140 degrees -- whereas carnauba wax melts at about 180 degrees. These temperatures are relevant since you must raise the temperature of the wax by buffing to be able to polish it. If you get too much paste wax on the finish, you can either remove the old stuff using a paint thinner or Murphy's oil soap, or by using a paste wax that contains a petroleum solvent such as toluene -- applying a new coat dissolves the older coats.
Any suggestions for wood products with UV blockers that are safe for the finish of a speaker? I have a pair of curly maple Soliloquy speakers that are darkening slightly on the side exposed to the windows. They are finished in either a matte laquer or varnish.

I haven't found any wood products that specifically address the UV issue. ProtectAll lists wood as one of the things you can use the product on, but I'm not sure it's the best choice and am reluctant to try it. Any suggestions?
I am not aware of any wood care products that are applied after the primary finish that will block UV. Some finishes, such as varnish, have little or no UV blocking ability -- infact some, such as spar varnish, will darken considerably when exposed for long periods to sunlight. Lacquer and shellac tend to stand up to the effects of UV better than varnish. The method I wrote about earlier in this thread, using tung oil and then a good paste wax, is a combination that itself stands up pretty well to UV exposure, and while this finish does not tend to darken much, it will not prevent the wood itself from changing shade over time.

The other factor that is important here is the type of wood itself. Cherry, for example, darkens with age, and the only way to minimize the darkening is to use a non-darkening finish, such as a gel stain followed by an application of lacquer or polyurethane. No matter what finish you use on cherry, however, the wood will still get darker over time.
The curly maple you have in your speakers is a lovely wood, and tends to darken less than many woods, particularly if it finished with lacquer.

The only "sure-fire" way to prevent UV damage to wood is to keep it out of direct sunlight. If your listening room has bright sunlight, you might want to consider making a 3-sided "jacket" for the speakers made of a soft fabric that blocks the light (such as felt), with the front side left open. Keep these covers over the speakers during daytime, and take them off at night.
Well, SD, while we are on the subject here, my Thiel literature says not to use anything other than Endust for cleaning up the finish on my Morado-veneer speakers. I assume this is because they are finished in polyurethane or something similar? I bring this up because many readers may not be dealing with a suitable factory finish for applying oils and waxes, much less varishes, shellacs, or solvents. Fascinating stuff though, thanks for the info.
Zaikesman: Very good and valid point. I would hate for someone to try "cleaning" or "oiling" their speakers, thinking that it was okay to use a specific product because it was something that we recommended here, and end up destroying / altering the finish.

Sd: Good to know that someone around here has a good working knowledge of various woods. If it's okay with you, we'll just refer to you as "ol' wooden-head" from now on : )

The info that you provided about Cherry wood was pretty interesting. I've always thought that most woods lighten with age, but i'm far from being considered knowledgable when it comes to stuff like that. I know that Cherry can "bleed" VERY badly into carpeting if the wood gets wet, etc... This would make me think that the natural stain / dye within the wood was unstable and would gradually lighten up on it's own. I guess i was wrong. Then again, i'm sure that you and everyone else here already knew that this was not the first time i've been wrong : ) Sean
I can verify the cherry darkening phenomenon, from a dining table my folks had custom-made, many years back when I was a teenager, from 40-odd year old air-dried cherrywood logs (that's how long the wood had been drying in a barn before it was bought and cut into planking and dried for a few more years by the cabinetmaker). The table-top is just natural, unstained, sanded and oiled solid cherry, joined together from several pieces a few inches wide each to form an unembellished flat slab with a beautifully varied knurly grain. The color initially ranged, in different parts of the wood, from almost maple-light to pale pink to light reddish brown, but the man who made it told us it would darken continuously over the years, getting redder as it went, and that's exactly what it's done. It now looks much more richly colored than right after it was made, and has only been ocassionally wiped down with teak oil using 0000 steel wool for cleaning. The expansion leaves, stored underneath inside the mechanism and not exposed as much to the air and light, are now definitely lighter-toned than the regular top. (I have to add, though, that this wood looks nothing like anything I've seen labelled 'cherry' on a speaker finish, which is usually just an innocuously straight-grained and uniformly light tan wood with some mild streaking at best, next to which this table would seem a different and quite exotic species. As I remember, according to the maker, this appearance in cherry is hard to come by, and requires the tree to have been very old. Additionally, only heartwood was used.)