How to pack your guitar for shipping, best practice!
We are pleased to report, we receive a lot of positive comments from customer about our shipping procedures. While we are all worried about shipping guitars and other instruments, whether to far away places or just across town, this step by step process has served us well.
Much of what we do is just precautionary common sense, however - our experience rivals many for shipping hand-crafted instruments. Every day we are on the receiving end of shipments coming from our builders, shipping guitars from California, Texas, Virginia, & Maine to us in Nashville. In all types of different weather, we have seen the best and worst case scenarios from builders who ship more than 2,000 instruments per year.
Here are the procedures we have refined over the years, we hope they will also serve you well:
- Detune the guitar to relieve tension on the neck. Do not "totally" detune the strings, because if there is no string tension the bridge pins can come loose and find themselves rolling around in the case.
- Secure all "loose items" in the case compartment. Usually wadded or crushed paper stuffed on top of items works here, to prevent any case keys or items from coming loose in transit.
- Support the headstock (both over and under) with a cushion of crushed 40# paper (newspaper will work fine). You are trying to create a wedge shape, front and back, which will "hold or suspend" the headstock inside the case, reducing any "shock" factor.
- Wrap the headstock in tissue & / or bubble wrap, so the 40# paper won't leave any marks.
- Wrap the entire case inside a full size plastic bag to prevent "Box Burn" to the case. This will also maintain a bit of environment, protecting from temperature / humidity changes (a plastic bag this size is hard to find, so if doing this yourself, you might want to use a couple of large trash bags, the kind you use for yard work).
- Attach to the plastic bags with shipping tape, large double-folded sections of bubble wrap on the outside of the lower bout of the case (front, back, and bottom). If you are using bubble wrap from a roll, these are usually sectioned in 12" lengths. One 12" square double thick attached to the front & back will usually be sufficient. Fold one double thick section in half, and tape it long ways across the bottom of the case.
- Create a "cushion" on the floor or bottom of your box. Crushed paper will do well here, though it needs to be crushed tightly. Build up the corners in the bottom of the box where the case will rest, as the case is round on the bottom.
- Insert the guitar & case inside the box, while tightly packing crumpled 40# paper around the upright case until full (the idea is to totally suspend the case inside the box, away from the outer container. When done correctly, you can turn the case upside down and notice from "feel" the case has not moved and should be stable in shipping).
- Place "Wait 24 hours" weather warning label on top of box flap (of course we "wait" a full 8 to 24 hours on most all our instruments, summer or winter - to avoid any rapid change in temperature to the instrument).
- Mark the box with arrows "THIS END UP", on all 4 sides near the top of the box - add "FRAGILE" labels or write this visibly on the box as well.
In our experience, your best bet is to ship all instruments via FedEx (FedEx Express service costs more, but offers a higher level of package handling as well). The final word on shipping? Make sure you have private insurance to cover the replacement cost of you instrument - don't get caught trying to settle a claim with a shipper who will usually find fault with your packing efforts, regardless of how good they might be... Good luck!