Whether you are a touring musician gigging across the country or an acoustic enthusiast moving into your new dorm, you need your instrument to reach its destination in pristine condition. However, the shipping challenges facing musicians today can be daunting, especially if you play large, fragile instruments like guitars. To avoid cracks, splinters and even irreparable damage to your instrument, there are several crucial things to consider when shipping a guitar.
First guitar shipping todo must is to prepare your instrument for shipping. When shipping a guitar, there are three elements to consider: the instrument, the case and the box. Let’s look at some of the ways you can protect the instrument itself.
• Secure the instrument’s moveable parts. Begin by removing all the unnecessary parts, like the slide, capo and whammy bar. Basically, anything that does not need to be in the case should go. This will help prevent scratches during transit, where loose objects have the potential to do serious damage.
• Loosen the strings. You do not have to remove the strings entirely—although if you are shipping a guitar without a protective case you probably should—but detuning them a little will relieve some of the pressure from the headstock and reduce the risk of the strings snapping in transit.
• Wrap the headstock. Covering the headstock with bubble wrap is an effective way of protecting the tuners from the case. You should also place a rubber band around the bubble wrap to keep it from coming loose while the guitar is in transit.
• Place padding between the strings and the fretboard. By sliding a towel or a strip of folded newspaper between the frets and the strings, you can help keep them from smashing into each other during shipment.
Now on to packing your guitar in an appropriate case. The right case is just as important as the internal packaging. When shipping a guitar, it is always a good idea to pack the guitar inside its case, as this provides an extra layer of protection for the instrument.
• Choose the right sort of case. Place your guitar in a hard, protective case, not a gig bag. While a gig bag can defend your instrument from some minor scratches when you tote it around, it doesn’t offer the same level of protection as a hard case during the more rigorous movements of shipping.
• Fill in the holes around the guitar. Once you have packed your guitar in the case, there will naturally be a bit of empty space. You’ll want to reduce the chances of your instrument moving around inside the case during shipping by using cushioning material like bubble wrap or air cushioning to fill the gaps. It is also important to pay attention to supporting the neck of the guitar, which can be easily damaged.
• Do a “shake test.” Now that you have filled in all the empty gaps within the case, it’s time for a shake test. Gently shake the case, and if you hear any movement, you will know that you could still add a little more filling.
Finally, it is important that you get the outer packaging—the box—right, as this is the first barrier against damage when shipping a guitar.
• Choose a sturdy box. Make sure that you are using the best outer packaging materials available for your instrument.
• Fill the empty space. Just like you did for the case, you will need to fill in all the empty space within the box. Use at least two inches of inflatable air cushioning or bubble wrap as void fill, and ensure that the guitar case fits snugly within the box.
• Do the final “shake test.” After you have sorted everything else out, it is time for another “shake test”. Once again, if you hear the case moving around within the box, you need to go back and fill the gaps—foam planks are a good option for this. If you want to be extra cautious, you could even double-box your guitar case.
• Seal the box with tape. After you are satisfied that the case is secure within the box, it’s time to secure the box with packaging tape. Remember, it is important not to use duct tape, masking tape or any other kind of tape.
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