Sooner or later we will all have to ship a guitar somewhere for something. Here a The Guitar Specialist ® we receive a great many guitars for repair that are shipped to us from all over the country (and a few form other countries as well). One of the most nerve racking feeling I can describe is sending off your beloved instrument in the hands of some guy wearing a UPS or FedEx uniform, wondering if you will ever see it in one piece again. I know for our purposes that it is important that people understand how to ship guitars properly. Goodness knows that when people send us their guitars - we don't want to have to do more repairs that was originally necessary.
When shipping a guitar the most important aspect is to make sure that the guitar is protected no matter what the carrier or how it is handled. A package being shipped whether it be a musical instrument or anything else, passes through several people's hands during it's journey. To assume that all of them are going to handle the package carefully would be foolish. I subscribe to the notion that package should be prepared in such a way that it will survive no matter how well or poorly it is handled.
When shipping a guitar the first order of business is to make sure that it is shipped in a hard-shell case. These will provide the most protection. While I don't think it is necessary to remove the strings you may want to loosen them to release the tension on the guitar. Like I said, a well packed guitar can be shipped at pitch - but if it makes you feel comfortable, you should drop the tension. If the box takes a fall this will ensure that headstock doesn't break due to a "whiplash" effect.
Remove any unnecessary Items from the case that don't need to be shipped - place anything that must ship with the guitar (stings, parts to be installed etc.) in the accessory compartment make sure that the lid can't open. You can also place any Items that must ship with the guitar in a separate small box and include that in the larger box that will ultimately house the guitar case.
When placing the guitar in the case, take up any air space in the case with crushed up paper. Newspaper is fine. Make sure that any unsupported areas of the guitar are supported with the crushed up paper. Under, over and around the sides of the headstock is most important to keep the neck from shifting around. Behind the neck, under the heel block (if there is air space there) and inside the waist area are good places as well. The idea is to keep the guitar from moving about in the case.
It is a good idea to place some folded paper between the strings and the fingerboard - and the pickups in the case of an electric guitar. In the case of an archtop - it is not a bad idea to place some crumpled paper in the gap between strings and the body at the bridge.
I like to place to whole case in a large plastic bag - this protects the outside of the case from any shipping materials (popcorn, newspaper etc.).
Get the sturdiest guitar shipping box that you can get your hands on. A local music store is a great resource - they will be glad to give the things away so they don't have to cut them up and recycle them (or throw them out depending on where you live.
Inside either the guitar case or the box include the following information:
your full name /address/telephone
number as well as the name and phone number of someone you trust
(family/friend) who could receive the guitar in case who knows what (your
telephone lines go out or something unexpected like that.
A box that has from 2 to 3 inches of extra room on all sides is what UPS recommends. Place some packing material (bubble wrap, crushed newspaper etc.) in the bottom of the box. By the way, I don't recommend shipping popcorn - primarily because I don't like sweeping it up. Besides I think crushed newspaper is better for insulation.
Place the guitar case in the box; bottom first and centered. Take up any air space in front back and on the sides of the case with crushed paper. Push the paper down with a broomstick if you can't reach. Fill the box up to the beginning of the neck area of the guitar case.
A good trick is to use a couple of smaller cardboard boxed to wedge on either side of the neck part of the case. This will keep the neck centered and add some rigidity to the box. Fill up any remaining areas with crushed paper all the way to the top of the box. Make sure that the case is not touching the box on any side.
Tape the box shut with some good shipping tape. Make sure to "seal" any of the seams to protect against rain/running water in the case that the package is transported in wet weather. Print the Ship From Address on top and the Ship To Address on the bottom of your label (many carriers provide you with a label) Print in large (red) letters. FRAGILE PLEASE! USE NO HOOKS! Always INSURE the guitar for slightly more than it's worth or the full replacement value - whichever is higher.
Never ship a guitar that you can't track. Both UPS and FedEx provide tracking numbers for their packages that you can track on line. Inform the recipient of the package of the tracking number so they can track it's progress to them as well.
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND THAT YOU SHIP A GUITAR WITH THE US POSTAL SERVICE. The only times we have experienced problems with shipping is when someone uses the postal service.
If you follow these instructions, your instrument should arrive in great shape.
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