After leaving Intel in 2015, Damon DeBusk, and his wife Linda, formed Center Valley, Pa.-based Origineer Design, LLC, with the goal of developing and licensing niche products that didn’t use chips or software. The initial product came about after struggling to keep guitars tuned – especially in the winter months when heat was constantly running and inside relative humidity might drop below 15 percent.
“I accepted early retirement from Intel to do something different after 35 years in the semiconductor industry. I actually semi-retired and joined a chemical company as a quality manager where I still work with Intel engineers almost daily. Can’t seem to break free from Intel, until I fully retire in a few months,” Damon DeBusk told musicretailer.blog.
Despite being a longtime Intel employee, Debusk has a long history in the music industry. He is a semi professional musician and have been performing 6 and 12 string guitar and vocals for live audiences since the ’70s.
Damon began using a sound hole humidifier, which involved wetting an elongated sponge inside perforated surgical tubing, wringing out excess water, inserting into the sound hole, and closing the case. Every few weeks, he would check the dryness of the sponge and recharge as needed. Maintaining the sound hole humidity made an improvement in performance, but didn’t seem to be a complete solution. Even so, the bridge eventually cracked and had to be replaced, and “fret sprout” where the fret wires on the neck protruded out just enough to create mini speed bumps – sharp mini speed bumps.
He purchased hygrometers with longs leads that he placed at various locations around guitars stored inside their cases – with and without various humidity sources. The cases used in the testing were high quality, original cases from major guitar suppliers. He observed that the relative humidity with sound hole humidifiers varied inside the case as much as 28 percent, from back to front and end to end.
He investigated other humidifying options. Pouches offered improved control over the sound hole and headstock humidity with less variation than sponge sound hole humidifiers, but at a cost. A guitarist he knew reported spending nearly $100 per year on pouches for a single guitar. For Damon’s six guitars, this didn’t seem like a cost-effective solution. Additionally, some musician forums reported problems with water leaking from pouches and damaging instruments. A fairly well-known online guitar teacher shared his experience with a concert classical guitar that cost him $10,000 and started to develop some serious finish issues from contact with case humidifier pouches.
None of these solutions seemed optimum or satisfying. “Humidity is big problem for string instruments especially in dry regions of the country like Arizona and Colorado year round, and northern states during colder months when home heating is running regularly,” DeBusk said. “A properly humidified instrument may require only occasional tuning. Musik Tent provides a low maintenance way to maintain wood instruments at a uniform 45% to 55% RH, which is generally the humidity of the materials at the time the instrument was fabricated. Please see benefits list I provided.”
The motivation became to find a better way to maintain wood instruments at the correct humidity while keeping them displayed and quickly accessible. Believing stringed instruments were like art to be displayed, storing them away was not a preferred option and likely meant they weren’t being played – since out of sight, out of mind. Also, once a musician loses their calluses, it becomes literally painful to play the instrument. Another upside to having instruments displayed, rather than in a case under a bed, is they are readily available at moments of inspiration or boredom.
As with music stores that may humidify a special room where acoustic instruments are maintained, they first evaluated a room humidifier. It became evident after only a few weeks of testing that this was not a viable solution. The humidifier required daily refilling, left a white dusty film on all the surfaces in the room, and created an unpleasant musty smell. Additionally, there was no way to sustain the humidity when away from home. Whole house humidifiers and humidity-controlled cabinets of glass and wood were not considered due to them generally costing thousands of dollars, making them unaffordable to many musicians who’d rather spend money on instruments.
The limitations of the current humidity solutions became the inspiration for Musik Tent instrument humidors. The first prototype was little more than a framed clear garment bag placed over the instrument and stand. They experimented with ways to release water vapor inside the bag, starting with water beads similar to products used in cigar humidors. They placed beads inside a mesh bag and submerged them in water for up to 4 hours until they grew to their full size. This actually worked very well, but there was no practical way to control the humidity level, and every few weeks the beads had to be recharged or replaced. They considered ways to feed water to the beads as a constant means of keeping them wet. This worked so well they soon discovered they needed only the feed mechanism, and not the beads. The approach allowed for easy control over the amount of water vapor being emitted and became the basis for the patented method for moisture delivery used in various Origineer Design products.
While fine tuning the moisture delivery system, they discovered a portable greenhouse that mostly met the needs as an enclosure. It had a clear enclosure, was the right height, width and length for housing full size guitars on traditional stands, was sealed well enough to hold in moisture, and light enough to be easily moved around the room as needed. By adding the moisture delivery system with an entire gallon of distilled water sitting on floor behind instruments, it became possible to control the humidity to as high as 70-perecent RH if needed, a level high enough to store cigars. This offered a very uniform humidity that varied by a few percent – much less than the 28-percent observed in the testing of other humidification schemes inside cases. And unlike with case humidifiers, some requiring recharging every few weeks, Musik Tent could go six months on a single gallon of distilled water.
This original version of Musik Tent was marketed on the Origineer Design company website and local guitar shows for $99, where it gained a certain following over time, mostly by musicians with high end instruments. A downside of the design was that some potential customers complained about the looks – it still looked like a portable greenhouse. Sales remained soft for the next year or so.
Due to air gaps at the bottom of the enclosure from being open to the floor, some customers struggled to achieve humidity control. It was sometimes necessary to suggest taping the bottom of the sides to the floor to achieve a seal. This became a regular complaint and created the need for a frequently asked questions page to address issues they might be experiencing.
To improve the sealing integrity of the enclosure, they located a hanging enclosure used for clothing that met the size requirements needed for 2 full size guitars. This enclosure provided a reasonable and consistent seal that limited exposure to outside air. It also allowed users to mount the enclosure on a door or wall, from a ceiling, or in a closet away from pets, kids, visitors and sunlight. The new enclosure required leather hangers commonly used in guitar stores. The change also created a need for hanging a reservoir of distilled water, as it was no longer possible to use an entire gallon of distilled water due to the excessive weight. Even so, the sealing integrity was so much improved that a reservoir resembling an I/V bag and containing about 3 cups of water still only required refilling about every six months.
Origineer Design began offering this new hanging version of Musik Tent in 2017, and sales picked up sharply.
In August of 2019, a major US based guitar manufacturer purchased a Musik Tent and began providing feedback to further improve the product. They suggested offering a way to humidify cases, since dry cases were known to rob moisture from instruments causing damage. By simply lowering the hanging version so the bottom of the enclosure was supported by the floor, this allowed cases to be inserted.
In October of 2019, Origineer Design released a freestanding version constructed of furniture grade PVC tubing that included a built-in, adjustable stand capable of storing 2 guitars, or a guitar and case. This version enabled musicians to place their instruments anywhere inside a room or closet, and had only a 15” wide by 19” deep footprint and stood 54” tall.
With the continuous improvements and growing customer base, Origineer Design experienced repeat, three-peat and four-peat orders, which Damon and Linda consider an important indicator of success. Origineer Design expanded offerings to other websites, such as Reverb and sales have surpassed 500 Musik Tents worldwide.
Thus far, feedback for the product has been excellent regarding both MI retailers and consumers. “Feedback from customers has been overwhelming positive and a large number reorder additional Musik Tents. Some retailers have expressed interest in carrying Musik Tent, but we weren’t able to work out an arrangement that kept the prices low for the end customers,” stated DeBusk.
In the future, DeBusk plans to continue to grow. “We have been developing off-shoot products based on our patent, including what we believe may be the world’s best cigar humidifier,” concluded DeBusk. “Dubbed HumiForm, and similar to Musik Tent, this humidifier is very simple to use, virtually maintenance free, all natural – chemical free, maintains uniform moisture inside humidors in the 70-percent RH range, has reduced cost-of-ownership compared to pouches, seasons humidors in about 3 to 5 days, infuses cigars with Cognac, Brandy, Whiskey or Other, humidity level is quickly and easily adjustable, and is designed and assembled in USA.
“Additionally, we plan to continue building sales for all of these products and eventually license the technology. We joined NAMM in 2021 and attended Summer NAMM last year and are considering having a booth at the June show in Anaheim.”