Packing An Instrument For Shipping
Here are a few techniques we've learned over the
years that have proven to help protect instruments during shipping. These
are only suggestions.
First and most obvious, FULLY insure any instrument. It's hard enought
to process any claim, but if you haven't properly insured and instrument
you have no recourse. The shipper is responsible for the instrument until
it is received. So any shipping damage is the shipper's problem to deal
The most common incident is for the Headstock to
be partially or completely snapped off. You can understand why if you
look inside a guitar case. You'll see that the body and neck are nicely
supported, but the Headstock is hanging in the breeze. So any fall that
creates a whipping action toward the head of the guitar can easily snap
the thin wood at the nut area. Two simple steps can greatly reduce the
risk of such a break:
- Detune the guitar 4 or 5 complete turns of the pegs. This greatly
reduces the tension on the problem area around the nut. NOTE: If the
guitar has a pickup system be sure to leave a little tension to hold
the saddle and pickup in place so the balance is not effected.
- Pad above and below the headstock with bubble wrap, newspaper, etc.
Do so to the point that the headstock would be supported in a fall.
You can judge the right amount underneath when the neck hit its support
above the storage compartment and the back of the headstock rests
on the packing. You can judge the right amount over the headstock
when the you close the lid and it just comes into contact with the
- Please avoid the use of foam peanuts as they create environmental
and disposal issues and make a mess as they break up during transit.
In winter months cold exposure can cause finish
cracks or worse. Finish cracks occur when a guitar gets cold and then
warm again. The cold contract the wood and the warm expands it again.
When this happens quickly or drastically the expansion pops the finish,
usually in several places or an entire top with check. Here are some
ways to reduce the risk:
- Choose a fast shipping method. Don't skimp
here, an extra $50 or $75 dollars is much cheaper than the lost
value for a checked or cracked top. If the guitar might be exposed
to cold choose overnight or 2 day shipping.
- Don't ship over a weekend if the guitar
will sit in a cold warehouse, wait until Monday.
- The receiver MUST let the instrument warm
up slowly in the box before opening it. Let the entire package warm
to room temperature for 6-8 hours before opening. Slow warming is
one key to preventing the cracks that come from expansion.
Humidity changes from source to destination
and in the hull of an Airplane is a big issue. Drastic and quick changes
in humidity have a serious effect that can cause cracks, neck bow,
etc. Here are some ways to reduce that:
- In dry conditions an in case humidifier
is cheap insurance. Simply include a return envelope and have
the receiver mail it back to you.
- Put a plastic bag around the entire case
inside the box. This will maintain the humidity of the instrument
and prevent excessive change during shipping. This is very helpful
for air shipments. The hull of a plane is very dry.
- Discuss climate conditions at both ends,
determine what the guitar will experience and try to adapt it
slowly. If the guitar is going to a dryer climate, the receiver
needs to know that so they can pay extra attention to humidifying
it properly and vice versa. Every owner of fine guitars should
have a Hygrometer measuring the humidity in the room(s) where
they store instruments. Again, cheap insurance.
Also make sure to secure small items located in the case accessory
compartment by placing in a zip lock bag and/or packing paper on top
of the items to secure them. This is to reduce the chance of small items
(such as case keys) migrating from the compartment to the guitar while
We hope these few ideas are helpful. A few easy and inexpensive steps
can greatly reduce any risk of shipping instruments. Builders and dealers
do these things everyday and they are proven to work. If you have any
further questions, please contact us.