Some guitars are built tough but don’t be misled – they are fragile instruments. Like all things precious, they must be handled with care. Guitars are typically built using wood and some hardware. Any of these components could break, shatter, warp, or get knocked off if mishandled. This is a nightmare for people who wish to pack a guitar to ship it out. Getting the instrument packed in the safest way possible so it is not damaged during the transfer can be a real challenge. However, it is not entirely impossible. There are things you can do to keep your guitar safe in transit. Learn how to pack a guitar for shipping without a case and ensure that it arrives intact and in one piece.
Here is a very helpful video:
First Things First
Are you packing and shipping an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar? If you examine each type of guitar care must be taken, it is easy to notice how fragile the instrument is. Acoustic guitars are made with thinner wood panels and held together by glue and screws. They have a hollow body that is protected only by a lacquer finish. Even the highest-quality acoustic guitar is not invulnerable. It still needs proper care to reduce the risk and prevent damage.
An electric guitar on the other hand, is a bit tougher thanks to its solid guitar body. However, it can still break or crack if not packed properly. If you are shipping a guitar without a case, there is a higher risk that it will arrive in its destination badly damaged. To learn how to pack a guitar for shipping without a case, keep in mind the things that keep a package intact. These are:
The Right Guitar Shipping Box. The proper box to use for a fragile item such as a guitar is a corrugated cardboard box that has the right design, shape (rectangular), and size. The box should be just the right size to allow sufficient cushioning and prevent the guitar from shifting inside the box. It should also be the right type of box that can withstand punctures and possible crushing. Many boxes are rated based on their ability to protect the item from crushing and puncturing.
Immobility of the product. Once inside the box, the guitar must be packed in a way that keeps it from moving. This can be done using cushioning, such as foam, packing peanuts, and other types of padding.
Protection from the elements. Chances are, the packaging will be exposed to heat, rain, snow, and sunlight. If it is packed and sealed correctly, it should be safe.
Protection from drops. There are boxes that are rated based on their capacity to withstand drops and crushes. You could ask shops about the best type of box to use or do your research on the right type of box specifications for shipping fragile items.
How to Ship A Guitar for Shipping Without a Case Or Gig Bags
Even if you are using a standard box for shipping guitars, it is still prudent to measure the guitar to get precise figures. You do not want a box that is too big or too tight. A correctly-sized box will house the guitar safely as long as it is immobilized properly.
Use the Right Box
There are guitar boxes available that are designed specifically to hold the instrument in place for shipping. Most boxes sold at guitar shops and box companies can fit most electric and acoustic guitar models. Note that most of these boxes require a guitar case to pack the instrument safely. A guitar box usually has a side-loading or top-sliding design which may make it difficult to add cushioning to protect the guitar. There are, of course, boxes with the ideal specifications to pack the guitar in from the top, so ask the box vendor or company for assistance.
Remember Box Cutter Orientation
This may seem like a negligible part of prepping a guitar for shipping but do not ignore the damage that box cutters can do. When packing the instrument, be aware of the position of the instrument in relation to the flap openings where the recipient is most likely to use a box cutter. A deeper cut can scratch or tear the guitar in places. To avoid this, make sure there is enough protective layer between the guitar and the flap to avoid a mishap.
Prep the Guitar
First, loosen the strings on the guitar. This will reduce tension so the strings do not scratch the fretboard. It will also help ease the pressure on the neck of the guitar. To protect the fretboard further, lay a soft cloth or a layer of paper between the fretboard and padding between the strings as an extra layer of protection.
Keep Movable Parts Secure
Everything inside a packing box should be immobile when in transit. In case you are packing a guitar that has moving parts or parts that can be pushed or pulled (tuning pegs, tremolo bridge, toggle switch, etc.), make sure these are wrapped and taped securely using paper, cloth, or some other packing material.
Protect the Headstock
The headstock is the part of the guitar that houses the tuning pegs. This is a fragile area and should be given extra protection. Once the tuning pegs are secured, wrap the guitar headstock using bubble wrap or any material that will provide a buffer against any hard object or external force.
Remove Empty Space
Place cushioning material on the bottom part of the box before putting the guitar on it. To completely immobilize the guitar, check all empty spaces within the box. These are cases that must be filled to prevent the guitar from moving. You can use crumpled newspaper, packing foam, void fill, and other packing materials to fill in the holes. Make sure all empty spaces are filled. The goal is to remove gaps and voids between materials so the guitar remains in place. Give it a shake test as well to make sure nothing is moving inside the box.
Tape It Up
Use the best adhesive tape you could find. Tape does not only secure the package but it will also help seal the box to prevent dust, dirt, and moisture.
Make sure the top and bottom parts of the box are labeled correctly so the courier such as Fedex will know which way the box should be laid down or stored during handling. Mark the box “Fragile” to emphasize its handling requirements.
- Check the guitar before packing. Make sure it is clean and dry. If you are selling the musical instruments, check for damages, scratches, dings, etc. and take pictures to document the condition before shipping.
- Send only through a trusted courier. We all know a few delivery horror stories where items were not handled correctly in transit. With a trusted courier, you have a better chance of getting the guitar safe to its destination.