Title:
Controlled humidity container
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
This invention relates to a container for an item, in which the item is selected from the group consisting of musical instruments, furniture and antiques, which container comprises a flexible, gas impermeable material adapted to be disposed around the item or a substantial portion thereof; sealing means for forming the material into a substantially sealed bag around the item or a substantial portion thereof, said sealed bag defining a chamber having an enclosed atmosphere; and means for controlling the humidity of the enclosed atmosphere. The container is particularly useful for musical instruments, especially keyboard instruments. A preservation system for an item and a method for preserving an item which utilize such a container are also disclosed.



Inventors:
Tunstall-behrens, Martin Hilary (London, GB)
Application Number:
09/968089
Publication Date:
06/13/2002
Filing Date:
10/01/2001
Assignee:
COVERALL LIMITED (Sudbury, GB)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
206/14, 206/314, 150/162
International Classes:
B65D85/64; G05D22/00; (IPC1-7): B65D81/26; B65D65/02
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
FIDEI, DAVID
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Victor A. Cardona, Esq. (Albany, NY, US)
Claims:
1. A container for an item, in which the item is selected from the group consisting of musical instruments, furniture and antiques, which container comprises a flexible, gas impermeable material adapted to be disposed around the item or a substantial portion thereof; sealing means for forming the material into a substantially sealed bag around the item or a substantial portion thereof, said sealed bag defining a chamber having an enclosed atmosphere; and means for controlling the humidity of the enclosed atmosphere.

2. A container according to claim 1 in which the flexible, gas impermeable material is adapted to define a space for receiving the item or a substantial portion thereof.

3. A container according to claim 1 in which the flexible, gas impermeable material is a plastics material or a fabric treated with a plastics material.

4. A container according to claim 1 in which the sealing means comprises a fastener selected from a zipper, a velcro strip or lacing.

5. A container according to claim 1 in which the means for controlling the humidity of the enclosed atmosphere comprises a material capable of absorbing and desorbing moisture.

6. A container according to claim 1 which further include a hygrometer.

7. A container according to claim 1 which further includes a sealable access opening.

8. A container according to claim 1 which further includes a heater.

9. A container according to claim 1 which further includes means for monitoring the temperature of the enclosed atmosphere.

10. A container according to claim 1 which further includes a warning or alarm system.

11. A container according to claim 1 which is shaped to correspond to the shape of the item or a case in which the item is located.

12. A container according to claim 1 in which the item is a musical instrument.

13. A container according to claim 1 in which the item is a keyboard instrument.

14. A preservation system for an item, in which the item is selected from the group consisting of musical instruments, furniture and antiques, which system comprises a container according to claim 1 and the item to be disposed within the chamber.

15. A method for preserving an item, in which the item is selected from the group consisting of musical instruments, furniture and antiques, which method comprises selecting a container according to claim 1; disposing the flexible, gas impermeable material around the item or a substantial portion thereof; utilizing the sealing means to form a substantially sealed bag around the item or a substantial portion thereof; and utilizing the humidity control means to control the humidity of the enclosed atmosphere.

16. A container for use in the method for preserving an item according to claim 15.

17. A container according to claim 2 in which the flexible, gas impermeable material is a plastics material or a fabric treated with a plastics material.

18. A container according to claim 2 in which the sealing means comprises a fastener selected from a zipper, a velcro strip or lacing.

19. A container according to claim 2 in which the means for controlling the humidity of the enclosed atmosphere comprises a material capable of absorbing and desorbing moisture.

20. The method of claim 15 further comprising providing means for measuring the humidity of the enclosed atmosphere.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application is a continuation of PCT Application PCT/GB00/01241 filed Mar. 31, 2000, and published in English as WO 00/60429 on Oct. 12, 2000, which claimed the priority of United Kingdom application GB/9907718.2 filed Apr. 1, 1999. The entire disclosures of both are incorporated herein by refererence.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] This invention relates to a controlled humidity container and, in particular, to a container for a musical instrument, an item of furniture or an antique which controls the humidity of the atmosphere within the container.

[0003] It is known that musical instruments, particularly those which include wood in their construction, are vulnerable to changes in and extremes of atmospheric humidity. For instance, if a keyboard instrument such as a piano is kept in a place where the atmosphere is too dry, such as a centrally heated house, the soundboard may split. However, if a piano is kept in a place where the atmosphere is too humid, such as a damp hall, church or warehouse, the steel strings may rust and the action mechanism may be damaged thereby causing the action of the keyboard to stiffen up. Other keyboard instruments will exhibit similar problems if kept under similar conditions.

[0004] Stringed instruments such as harps, guitars, lutes, mandolins and stringed instruments of the violin and viol family, such as violins, violas, violoncellos, double basses, viols da gamba and viols d'amore, are also detrimentally affected by humidity changes as their wooden parts are liable to crack or warp under dry or excessively damp conditions respectively. In addition, stringed instruments of the violin and viol family are traditionally constructed utilising animal glues to hold their component parts together rather than modern synthetic glues. Such animal glues are extremely susceptible to damp humid conditions with the result that glued joints in such instruments tend to come apart under such conditions.

[0005] Similar problems of warping and cracking may also be experienced to some extent by instruments of the woodwind family and other instruments which include wood in their construction in excessively damp or dry conditions.

[0006] Furniture and antiques, particularly those which include wood in their construction such as antique cabinets and firearms, will also deteriorate if kept in conditions which are too damp or too dry or where the level of humidity can change dramatically. Wood veneer furniture is particularly vulnerable in this respect since such conditions can cause the veneer to crack and/or lift away from the substrate.

[0007] It is apparent from the above that musical instruments, furniture and antiques should be kept in conditions where fluctuations in humidity are minimal if damage is to be avoided. However, this is not always possible for a variety of reasons.

[0008] In the case of keyboard instruments, these are generally too large to be kept in an enclosed case and it is therefore necessary to control the humidity of the atmosphere of the whole room in which the instrument is located if damage is to be avoided. If the atmosphere is too dry, a humidifier may be installed in the room whereas if the atmosphere is too humid, a heater and/or de-humidifier may be installed. However, such devices do not, in general, allow the degree of humidity in the room to be controlled with any accuracy, partly due to the nature of the devices utilised and partly due to the fact that the windows and doors of most rooms do not provide an airtight seal when closed and the atmosphere will in any case be disrupted by persons entering or leaving the room. The use of such devices can therefore generally only mitigate against possible damage.

[0009] In addition, if a piano is used for an open-air concert in the summer season, it may be left outside overnight and thus exposed to conditions of excessive dew. Such undesirably humid conditions will detrimentally affect the performance of the instrument when it is next used.

[0010] Covers are known for keyboard instruments. However, these are designed to be placed over the keyboard and the case which holds the strings with a view to preventing or reducing mechanical damage to the instrument. Such covers are generally open to the atmosphere on at least one side to facilitate the positioning of the cover over the instrument and do not therefore protect the instrument from undesirable humidity conditions. Similar covers are also known for furniture.

[0011] Stringed instruments of the violin and viol family are normally kept in soft or rigid enclosed cases when not in use, primarily to protect the instruments from mechanical damage. If the instrument is to be kept in a dry atmosphere, a humidifier in the form of an elongate sponge soaked in water may be hung from one of the f-holes of the instrument so that the wet sponge is suspended inside the instrument during storage. Such humidifiers are sold under the Trade Mark “DAMPIT”. Alternatively, if the instrument is to be kept in a damp atmosphere, a bag of silica gel may be placed in the case to absorb excess moisture. However, since such cases are not airtight, such methods are not generally very effective and in any event are only capable of providing a crude local adjustment in the ambient humidity conditions.

[0012] Soft and rigid cases are known, particularly for large instruments such as violoncellos and double basses, which are made of water-resistant materials and include leak-proof closures to prevent moisture from seeping inside the case during transport of the instrument. However, such cases are not airtight and do not therefore protect the instrument from changes in the humidity of the atmosphere.

[0013] Rigid cases are known, particularly for violins and violas, which contain a built-in hygrometer to monitor the humidity of the atmosphere around the instrument. However, once again, such cases are not airtight. Moreover, such cases do not contain any particular means for controlling the humidity of the atmosphere within the case and it is therefore up to the user to provide a crude adjustment by means of the use of a “Dampit” or silica gel according to the reading on the hygrometer.

[0014] A further complication in the case of stringed instruments is that they will frequently be transported by the player between a wide variety of locations having widely varying humidity conditions. This is particularly true in the case of international soloists who travel the world giving recitals in a wide variety of climates. Moreover, in the case of a professional player, the instrument will often be an antique, for instance, a Stradivarius instrument of the seventeenth century, which is already fragile thereby exacerbating the problems outlined above.

[0015] When a musical instrument is kept in a museum, it is generally exhibited in a rigid showcase. Showcases are known which are sealed with rubber seals to make them dustproof and airtight and fitted with silica gel which has been conditioned to maintain the atmosphere within the showcase at a selected relative humidity. Display cases are also known which incorporate an air cleaning and humidity control system. However, although such cases are effective in protecting the contents from changes in external relative humidity, they are not very portable.

[0016] A cover for motor vehicles is known which is sold under the Trade Mark “CARCOON” and is designed to protect vehicles from rusting when in storage. The cover comprises a top portion which is zipped to a base portion and then inflated using fans. The fans ensure that air circulates constantly through the vehicle and cover so that the airflow carries any moisture with it as it exits evenly through the zip panel. However, as the cover is not gas-proof, the temperature and humidity of the atmosphere within the cover will be the same as the external atmosphere. Thus, this cover does not protect the contents from fluctuations in atmospheric humidity.

[0017] In view of the above, there is clearly a need for a container for a musical instrument, an item of furniture or an antique which is capable of controlling the humidity of the atmosphere within the container and is easily portable.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0018] According to the present invention there is provided a container for an item, in which the item is selected from the group consisting of musical instruments, furniture and antiques, which container comprises a flexible, gas impermeable material adapted to be disposed around the item or a substantial portion thereof; sealing means for forming the material into a substantially sealed bag around the item or a substantial portion thereof, said sealed bag defining a chamber having an enclosed atmosphere; and means for controlling the humidity of the enclosed atmosphere.

[0019] In a preferred form, the flexible, gas impermeable material may be adapted to define a space for receiving the item or a substantial portion thereof.

[0020] In the context of this specification, the term “gas impermeable” means impermeable or substantially impermeable to gas or vapor. Gas impermeable materials thus include materials having a low permeability to gas or vapor, especially water vapor. Such materials by their nature will therefore generally also have a low moisture permeability.

[0021] The flexible, gas impermeable material may be any material which inherently possesses the necessary qualities of flexibility and gas impermeability or any material which has been treated to provide these qualities. However, it is preferred that the flexible, gas impermeable material is a plastics material or a fabric treated with a plastics material.

[0022] The sealing means may take a variety of forms provided that a substantially airtight seal is produced. The choice of sealing means will therefore be determined to some extent by the ease of access to the item which is required and/or the period for which the item is to be located in the container.

[0023] For instance, if an is to be placed in long-term storage, it may be preferred to use a sealing means which provides a more permanent seal, such as means for hermetically sealing the edges of the flexible, gas impermeable material. If the flexible, gas impermeable material is a plastics material, this could be accomplished by fusing the edges of the plastics material together to form an hermetic seal. However, in this case, access to the item could only be obtained by destroying the seal.

[0024] If the item is to be used on a moderately frequent basis, it may be more appropriate to select a sealing means which effects a temporary seal. For instance, the edges of the flexible, gas impermeable material may be joined together by any conventional fastening means, such as press-studs, clips or, more preferably, a zip fastener, velcro strip or lacing. If required, the joint may be made more airtight by the provision of suitably located airproof collar or rubber seal. Alternatively, the edges of the material may be rolled together and secured in the rolled position by any conventional fastening means. Again, a suitably located airproof collar or rubber seal may be provided to ensure that the joint is airtight. It is particularly preferred that the sealing means comprises a fastener selected from a zipper, velcro strip or lacing, optionally in conjunction with a rubber seal.

[0025] The means for controlling the humidity of the enclosed atmosphere may comprise dehumidifying means and/or humidifying means. The dehumidifying means may comprise any device or material which is capable of absorbing moisture from the atmosphere, such as silica gel. If a dehumidifying material is used, the quantity may be selected on the basis of prevailing atmospheric conditions and the volume of the container. Conversely, the humidifying means may comprise any device or material which is capable of releasing moisture to the atmosphere, such as a damp material or a sprayer which delivers a fine spray of water. However, it is preferred that the means for controlling the humidity of the enclosed atmosphere should be capable of exercising both a dehumidifying and humidifying function as necessary to maintain the enclosed atmosphere at the desired relative humidity, preferably 40 to 60%, especially 45 to 55%, relative humidity. Preferably, a material which is capable of absorbing and desorbing moisture is used for this purpose. An example of such a material is silica gel which has been conditioned to maintain the atmosphere at a selected relative humidity. Such material is sold under the Trade Mark “ART-SORB” and comprises about 90% silica gel and about 10% lithium chloride by weight. However, it is also envisaged that the container could be connected to machinery which is capable of both humidifying and dehumidifying the enclosed atmosphere. Alternatively, the container could be provided with separate dehumidifying and humidifying means which may be independently controlled by a humidistat according to the prevailing atmospheric conditions. For instance, if the dehumidifying means comprises silica gel and the humidifying means comprises a wet sponge, these could be located in separate receptacles, each receptacle having a lid with movable louvres which could be independently opened or closed as required to adjust the relative humidity of the enclosed atmosphere. Alternatively, an air conditioning unit could be provided within the sealed bag or connected to a sealable access opening of the bag which could be electronically or digitally controlled to supply air of a relative humidity necessary to maintain the enclosed atmosphere at the desired relative humidity. It is also envisaged that air of the desired relative humidity could be delivered to the container and the container then sealed to maintain the enclosed atmosphere at the desired humidity. In some circumstances, it may be appropriate to provide a temperature control device, such as a heater, within the container to ensure that the temperature of the enclosed atmosphere is maintained at or above a minimum specified temperature and does not drop below dew point.

[0026] When large adjustments are required to the ambient humidity, it may be appropriate to use a combination of two or more of the methods outlined above. For instance, if a dramatic reduction in humidity is required, a large quantity of conventional silica gel may be utilised to bring the humidity down to approximately the desired level and “ART-SORB” may then be utilised to maintain the humidity at the desired level.

[0027] In order to ascertain the relative humidity of the enclosed atmosphere at any given time, it is preferred that the container includes a hygrometer. The hygrometer may be of conventional form incorporating a dial gauge to indicate the relative humidity and, in this case, it is desirable that a transparent window be provided in the container to facilitate reading of the dial gauge from outside the container. Alternatively, a hygrometer may be provided in which the relative humidity value is provided in an electronic form which may be displayed in digital form on, for instance, an LED display within the container viewable through a transparent window or which may be passed through a cable to a remote digital indicator outside the container or read by means of radio control. The hygrometer may also be connected to a chart recorder or provided with an electronic memory to provide a record of the humidity readings over a period of time.

[0028] It is also preferred that the container is provided with means for monitoring the temperature of the enclosed atmosphere. This may be in the form of a conventional thermometer located within the container which can be read from outside the container, for instance, through a transparent window. Alternatively, a thermometer may be provided in which the temperature value is produced in an electronic form which may be displayed in digital form on, for instance, an LED display within the container which is viewable through a transparent window or which may be transmitted via cables for display at a remote location or read by means of radio control. The temperature monitoring means may also be connected to a chart recorder or provided with an electronic memory to provide a record of temperature readings over a period of time.

[0029] It is also envisaged that the container could be provided with a warning or alarm system which would be activated when the relative humidity and/or temperature moved or was about to move above or below a predetermined value or outside a predetermined range. Appropriate action could then be taken to adjust the relative humidity and/or temperature so that it moved back below or above the predetermined range. The warning or alarm system may comprise a signal, preferably an audible or visual signal, such as a buzzer or a flashing light, which may be detectable at the site of installation of the container or at a remote location.

[0030] It is preferred that the container includes a sealable access opening. This may, for instance, comprise a conveniently located flap with sealable edges in the flexible, gas impermeable material which may be used to insert an item into or remove an item from the container whilst the container is in use. For instance, such a flap could be used to insert or remove means for controlling the humidity of the enclosed atmosphere, such as silica gel, or could be used as a supply port for conditioned air as previously described. It could also be used to replace defective equipment such as a malfunctioning hygrometer.

[0031] In certain situations, it may be desirable for aesthetic reasons that the essential shape of the item is still ascertainable when the item is in the container. Thus, it may be preferable in some instances for the container to be shaped to correspond to the shape of the item or a case in which the item is located. In other instances where, for instance, speed of fitting is important, a loose fitting container may be more desirable. A loose fitting cover may also be more appropriate in situations where the item has a complex shape. For instance, when a grand piano is stored or transported, the long, straight side of the case which holds the strings is placed on a “shoe” and the legs then removed. The piano is thus effectively stored or transported on its side on the “shoe”. In such a situation, a loose fitting cover which can hold both the piano and the “shoe” is clearly preferable.

[0032] The item may be placed in the container without any other covering to provide protection against mechanical damage. Such an arrangement would be appropriate for a large item, such as a piece of furniture, which is unlikely to be moved. However, the item may be placed in a conventional case first and the item and its case then placed in the container. Such an arrangement would be particularly suitable for guitars, violoncellos and double basses, which are often placed in soft padded cases for protection during transport, although instruments in hard cases would also benefit from being placed in a container according to the present invention. This arrangement would also be beneficial for large keyboard instruments, such as grand pianos, where a conventional padded cover could be fitted to reduce the risk of mechanical damage prior to placing in a container according to the present invention.

[0033] Although the container of the invention can be used for any item as hereinbefore defined, it is particularly preferred that the item is a musical instrument. The container may be used for any musical instrument. However, it is particularly preferred that the musical instrument is a keyboard instrument or a stringed instrument, especially a stringed instrument of the violin or viol family. Most preferably, the item is a keyboard instrument, especially a large keyboard instrument such as a piano and, especially, a grand piano.

[0034] According to the invention there is also provided a preservation system for an item, in which the item is selected from the group consisting of musical instruments, furniture and antiques, which system comprises a container as defined above and an item to be disposed within the chamber.

[0035] The invention further provides a method for preserving an item, in which the item is selected from the group consisting of musical instruments, furniture and antiques, which method comprises selecting a container as defined above; disposing the flexible, gas impermeable material around the item or a substantial portion thereof; utilising the sealing means to form a substantially sealed bag around the item or a substantial portion thereof; and utilising the humidity control means to control the humidity of the enclosed atmosphere.

[0036] A container for use in a preservation system or a method for preserving an item as defined above is also provided.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0037] Specific embodiments of the invention will now be described by way of example with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

[0038] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a grand piano in a tailored container according to the invention;

[0039] FIG. 2 is a section on the line II-II of FIG. 1 (piano not shown);

[0040] FIG. 3 is a section on the line III-III of FIG. 1 (piano not shown);

[0041] FIG. 4 is a plan view of a violin in a loose fitting container according to the invention; and

[0042] FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a violoncello located within a hard case which is in turn located within a loose fitting container according to the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0043] Referring to FIGS. 1, 2 and 3, a grand piano 1 having a pedal lyre 2 and legs 3, 4, 5 is located within a cover 6. The cover 6 comprises a main portion 7, which is shaped to correspond to the shape of the main portion of the piano comprising the keyboard, soundboard, soundboard case and lid, and a subsidiary portion 8 which is shaped to correspond to the shape of the pedal lyre 2. The subsidiary portion 8 may be integral with the main portion 7 or may be a separate portion which can be attached and sealed to the main portion 7 to facilitate fitting of the cover 6. The main portion 7 is provided with sealable collars 9, 10, 11 which form a substantially airtight seal around legs 3, 4, 5 respectively. A hygrometer with a dial gauge 13 is provided within cover 6 and the reading on the dial gauge is viewable through transparent window 12. A sealable access opening 14 is also provided in the main portion 7 of cover 6 through which, for instance, silica gel 16 may be inserted or removed. A pocket 15 formed by attaching a piece of mesh fabric to the inside of cover 6 in the vicinity of access opening 14 is provided to hold the silica gel 16. Access opening 14 is sealed by means of seal 17.

[0044] To fit the cover 6 to the grand piano 1, the main portion 7 is placed over the lid and sides of the main portion of the piano and the subsidiary portion 8 placed over the pedal lyre 2. The edges of the main portion 7 are then brought together underneath the main portion of the piano and sealed. Sealable collars 9, 10, 11 are then positioned and sealed around legs 3, 4, 5 respectively. The reading on the hygrometer 13 is then noted by viewing through window 12 and the appropriate type and quantity of material required to obtain the desired relative humidity calculated. The required material 16 is then inserted through sealable access opening 14 which is subsequently sealed with seal 17. The relative humidity of the enclosed atmosphere is then monitored by means of the hygrometer 13 and window 12 and any adjustments made by inserting or removing material 16 through sealable access opening 14.

[0045] FIG. 4 shows a violin 20 located within a cover 21. The cover 21 comprises a bag of flexible, gas impermeable material into which the violin 20 is placed and the entrance is then sealed with lacing 22. A rubber seal (not shown) may also be provided. A hygrometer with a dial gauge 23 is provided within the cover 21 and the reading on the dial gauge is viewable through transparent window 24. A sealable access opening 25 is also provided for insertion and removal of material for controlling the humidity of the enclosed atmosphere, as described above in relation to FIGS. 1, 2 and 3.

[0046] FIG. 5 shows a violoncello case 30 containing a violoncello (not shown) located within a cover 31. The cover 31 comprises a bag of flexible, gas impermeable material into which the violoncello case 30 is placed and the opening is then sealed with a velcro strip 32, 33. A rubber seal (not shown) may also be provided. A hygrometer with a dial gauge 34 is provided within the cover 31 and the reading on the dial gauge 34 can be read through the transparent window 35. A sealable access opening 36 is also provided for insertion and removal of material for controlling the humidity of the enclosed atmosphere, the latter material being located in a pocket (not shown) on the inside of the cover 31, as described above in relation to FIGS. 1, 2 and 3.

[0047] It will be appreciated that the embodiments described above are illustrative of the invention and that modifications of detail can be made within the spirit and scope of the invention.





 
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