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Packing and Shipping
Shipping vintage guitars is not difficult. It just requires some easily available materials, and some common sense. We ship hundreds of delicate instruments throughout the world safely and securely every year. Here's a simple, step-by-step guide that can help you prepare your guitar for shipment safe and sound. You may wish to print this page out now so you can keep it handy while packing.
Please email us for your consignment form at email@example.com. You will find our shipping address printed on the form. Please make sure to enclose your completed form inside the instrument case, not the shipping carton. (If the instrument is being purchased by us, please include a bill of sale that includes the date, make, model, serial number and sales price as well. A preprinted form isn't necessary: you can write this info on a plain sheet of paper.)
-Loosen the tuners enough to slide the bridge out from under the strings. This simple step helps protect the soundboard from impact damage in transit. (Most archtop bridges are not permanently attached to the guitar, and are easily removed when the strings are slackened. Please leave bridges in place on solid body and thinline guitars.) Do not remove the strings from the tuners or the tailpiece. Finally, re-tighten the tuners just enough to pull the string ball ends securely into the tailpiece slots. This is important, as loose ball ends can damage the instrument finish in transit.
-Stow all loose parts in the accessory compartment. Secure the two halves of the bridge together with a rubber band or blue painter's tape (no masking or Scotch tape please), and stow it in the accessory compartment of the case, under the lid that lies beneath the neck. If a removable pickup like a Dearmond is attached, please remove it before shipping. Finally, remove the end pin, which should be located at or near the tailpiece. Make sure no other objects like screws, cables etc. are loose in the case, as they will cause serious damage to the finish in transit.
-Pack the accessory compartment. Use wadded paper to ensure that loose items won't escape into the case and damage the instrument in transit. Any items too large to fit safely in the case should be boxed separately within the shipping carton, with the words "Other Items Included" written clearly near the shipping label. Please note that to facilitate unpacking the carton, we will open your parcel from the bottom, and may miss extra items unless we are alerted to their presence
-Pad the tailpiece with folded paper to keep it from banging into the top and denting the finish. Avoid using tape when packing in general, as it can damage the finish on contact.
-Pad the case. Fold some paper to make a pad underneath the neck heel and shoulders of the guitar. This supports the body, so the neck does not bear all the weight of the instrument. Continue to equalize the load by securely padding the area under the peghead and neck as required. (Paper padding is recommended inside the case, as bubble wrap can adhere to the instrument finish in hot weather. Packing beads should never be used inside a guitar case.)
-Pad the peghead. Place the guitar in the case, and position another paper pad over and around the peghead as shown. This will help protect the head and neck against damage due to whiplash.
-Pad the pickguard. Tuck a small piece of folded paper between the pickguard bracket and the soundboard, to protect the top from impact damage in this sensitive area. If the guitar has a floating pickup, pad underneath the pickup and under any controls mounted to the pickguard in a similar fashion.
-Pad the soundboard. Wad a single piece of paper into a small pad about 6"-8" in diameter, with a single smooth side, as shown. To avoid scratching the finish, place the smooth side of the pad against the guitar top. Position the pad along the bass side of the soundboard, on the opposite side from the pickguard, as shown. Test your packing by closing the case lid: you should feel just enough gentle pressure to keep the guitar from rattling loose in the case. Be careful not to pack too tightly, as too much pressure on the guitar top can result in damage to the soundboard in transit.
Latch the case and shake it gently. If the guitar is still loose in the case, add padding until it is completely stabilized. Many older cases especially can fit the instrument quite loosely. On these, it is especially important to pad the tailblock area with some folded paper inserted between the endpin area and the case lining. Once again, please remember to remove the endpin if possible and stow it in the accessory compartment: it can act as a splitting wedge if the instrument is dropped on its tail in transit.
-Put your completed consignment form in the case. This is important. It's how you get paid. If you don't have one, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you the form ASAP.
-Get a shipping box made specifically for an acoustic guitar. Most music shops will be happy to give you a box from their recycling bin for free. Use a rectangular carton for dreadnought (D) size guitars or larger: boxes from Taylor, Gibson, Martin and Guild are all just fine. (Solid body or thinline electric guitars may be shipped in smaller cartons.) Don't try to make a bike, wardrobe or appliance box work, as it will cost you dearly in excess freight charges: commercial carriers calculate the shipping cost of guitars by the size of the parcel, rather than the actual weight.
If your local music store is out of cartons, we can ship you one at a modest cost, just inquire. Otherwise, boxes and packing peanuts are also available in most areas from any shipping supply house. To locate your nearest dealer, enter "Shipping Room Supplies" in your Dex Online directory here:
Remember: freight charges are based on the size of your carton, not the actual weight on a scale, so your ideal box dimensions need not exceed around 48" in length, 21" in width, and 9" in depth, to provide adequate protection for most guitars. Boxes over 108" total length and girth (width plus depth) are accepted by commercial shippers, but are not accepted by most postal services.
-Cushion the bottom of the guitar box with an inch or two of padding. Bubble wrap is best for this, but newspaper will do just fine. Lower the guitar case into the box, bottom (wide) end down.
-Fill the box. Use packing beads, bubble wrap, kraft paper or wadded newspaper. We especially recommend the biodegradable cornstarch peanuts here:
These should also be available from your nearest shipping supply house, above. If you do use them, please do not mix packing beads with newspaper or other recyclables. (It's a terrible mess to separate them, so please use one or the other only.) If you pack with newspaper, use a broom handle or short stick to tamp the padding down evenly around the guitar case. We suggest extra packing on the top (soundboard) side of the guitar case, as it is the most vulnerable area to damage in transit. Do not pack too tightly, as your parcel needs a little flexibility to resist damage from compression in transit. Before sealing the box, check it by shaking it to make sure the case doesn't rattle around in the box. Add more padding if necessary until the case is firmly stabilized.
Needless to say, stringed instruments must never be shipped without a case. Here's why. The photo at left is a closeup of a parcel received by us from the US Postal Service. The parcel handlers managed to pierce the shipping carton (in background) and crush the new hardshell case inside, smashing all 5 wooden plies of the case shell right at the peghead. However, the instrument inside, with replacement value of $7500, emerged unscathed. Had this instrument been shipped without a hardshell case, the headstock would have snapped like a matchstick, and we'd be sweeping up a nicely lacquered pile of kindling. 'Nuff said?
If for any reason, the instrument is lacking a hardshell case it must be double boxed, using an inner box inside the main container. Shippers will not accept or pay damage claims on instruments shipped without a solid case or double boxing. Finally, please do not try to make your own box, as it can be ruinous to your delicate instrument. (See bad examples, below.)
-Go online to ship. Shipping online will save you the extra costs charged by UPS Stores or Fedex/Kinko outlets. You can pay with any major credit card, and register free at the UPS website here:
-Complete the online forms with your name and address, and our address, which you will find on your consignment form. Measure your shipping box and enter the dimensions in the online form. Commercial shippers calculate your shipping charge on the size of the box rather than the actual weight, so an approximate weight estimate is just fine. If you can't weigh your parcel easily, just enter 25 lbs.in the appropriate box. (NOTE: US Postal Service does require actual parcel weight, not an estimate.)
Important: Ship your guitar by air service only. Ground shipping is extremely punishing to delicate instruments, and poses significant exposure to structural damage from impact, road shock and the temperature extremes found in uninsulated truck beds, especially in summer and winter. (We can assure this with the certainty of hard experience, as our most badly damaged parcels have invariably been those sent by ground.) The small extra charge paid for air freight shipping is the least expensive and most effective insurance you'll ever buy for your guitar. Don't cheap out.
The cardinal rule for safe shipping is: the shorter time in transit the better. The shorter the interval your shipment is out of your hands, the fewer opportunities for damage. For shippers outside of the Western US, we recommend shipping via UPS 3 Day Select service as the safest and most cost-efficient air service. Shipping on a Monday or Tuesday is recommended, so the parcel doesn't languish in a hot warehouse or freezing truck over the weekend. (If you are located in the West, use Second Day Air, as 3 Day Select will travel to us by ground anyhow.) For delicate or extremely high value parcels, Next Day Saver service is highly recommended and surprisingly affordable. Make sure to insure the parcel for its full value, and check the box to have UPS send us an automatic confirmation to our email address. (To ensure promptest delivery, please do not specify "signature required for delivery" on the waybill. You'll avoid an unnecessary extra charge, and UPS will confirm delivery for you on the web anyhow.)
-Print the label and shipping receipt on your printer. Using wide, clear packing tape, attach the label to the top lid of the shipping box, with the top of the label facing up toward the narrow end of the carton. It is very important to put your label on the top flap only, as the safest shipping position for the box is sitting on its bottom end as shown, with the label side up. (Boxes laid flat in transit may wind up at the bottom of a heavy stack of cargo, subjecting the instrument to damage from compression.)
-Tape the top and bottom flaps securely. Make sure to write your name and address, and ours elsewhere on the parcel with a marking pen as well. Finally, draw some long arrows along the four long sides of the box, pointing up toward the top lid, with the words "Fragile: This End Up".
-Ship the parcel. If you ship online, you may request a pickup of your parcel at your location at a time of your choosing. Otherwise, drop the parcel off at any UPS Customer Counter or UPS Store. Your nearest location may be found here:
There is no charge for dropping off your prepaid parcel. Bring the shipping receipt, have the agent sign off on it for you, and keep it for your records. Then email us with the tracking number when you get home: we'll confirm delivery as soon as your parcel arrives. Again, shipping on a Monday or Tuesday will minimize transit time for safer shipment.
For shipments within the US, USPS Express Mail can be fast and very economical as well. Insurance limits are currently $5000, and parcels may not exceed 108" in length plus girth. For measurement instructions, visit the USPS website here:
-You're done. If you follow these instructions, you will maximize the safety of your parcel, and minimize the cost and transit time. If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch by email at email@example.com, or call toll free 877/850-1978, or 206-325-3737 outside the US. We'll look forward to seeing your parcel on our doorstep safe and sound.
Kids, Don't Try This At Home
Finally, here are two actual "parcels" we have received, textbook examples of how never to pack a guitar. Miraculously, both of these ludicrously packaged instruments actually arrived undamaged, which can only be proof that the Lord has an excellent sense of humor. If you are tempted to try any similar stunt, run, don't walk to your nearest UPS Store or Kinkos and they will pack it for you. Thanks, and may the parcel gods be with you.
Instruments /Accessories / Ordering / Tips / Friends / Selling Your Guitar