When you need to ship a guitar, like any other fragile item, the most important thing is making sure it arrives at its destination safely.
The best way to do this is by shipping the guitar in a hardcase, but that might not always be possible.
Either you don’t have a hardcase, or the higher shipping costs involved are a bit prohibitive, but you still need to ship the guitar.
Don’t fear, you can still ensure your guitar reaches its destination safely and securely if you take the time to pack it right.
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Shipping a Guitar Without a Case
Shipping a guitar without a hardcase means that you’ll be shipping it in a box. Just like any other valuable object, much of the same things apply when you ship a guitar.
There’s a short checklist for making sure your guitar is ready for shipping:
- Use the right box
- The guitar isn’t loose in the box
- The guitar is protected from drops
- The guitar is protected from the elements
Preparing the Guitar for Shipping
For the most part, any rectangular box will work just fine. As long as the box is large enough to fit a guitar in.
Ideally you want a box that is just slightly larger than the guitar. This will help give you the best fit to secure the guitar.
Take measurements of the guitar to help you get the right sized box. Remember that the size of the package also affects the shipping cost, so you want the box to be as small as possible anyway.
You can probably get the right box form your local guitar or instrument store. Most guitar boxes open from the side or the top and are designed to hold guitar cases.
This might make it harder to pack the guitar in the box, but you can cut open the front of the box to make packing easier.
Prep the Guitar
Once you have the right box, it’s time to prepare the guitar for packing.
First, loosen, or even remove, the guitar strings. This prevents the strings from scratching the fretboard, and relieves the tension on the neck.
You can also place some cloth or soft paper towel between the strings and fretboard for extra protection.
Make sure all the moving parts are secured. The tuning heads, knobs, pickup selector, floating bridge if your guitar has one, anything that’s loose or moves.
You can use paper or cloth to wrap these parts until their tightly secured. A good way to secure tuning heads and floating bridges is with packing foam.
Cut out small holes and slits in the foam just big enough for the tuning pegs to fit in. Use one piece of foam for all the tuning pegs to make sure they don’t move.
Wrap the headstock in bubble wrap after securing the tuning pegs to protect the headstock.
For a floating bridge, just cut a piece big enough to place behind the bridge to hold it in place.
Prep the Box
To prepare the box, place packing foam wherever the guitar might touch the box.
The idea is to remove any empty space between the guitar and the box so that the guitar doesn’t move around.
Glue the pieces of packing foam to the box at all the points you want to place the foam.
To get the best placement and sizes, place the guitar in the box before putting in the packing foam. Mark all the point where it looks like the guitar might touch.
Measure how much packing foam you need to place between the guitar and the box. Take extra care behind the neck, you want the neck to be as tight as possible so that it doesn’t move.
Packing the Guitar
Once the box and guitar are ready, place the guitar in the box and wrap packing material around it.
The best thing to use is bubble wrap, but any packing material is fine as long as the guitar is packed in securely.
Wrap the box with plastic wrap and tape it up with the strongest adhesive you can. This will help keep dust and moisture out of the box and away from the guitar.
Label the top and bottom of the box so that the courier knows how to store the box. You don’t want it store with the headstock at the bottom. Make sure you also label the box visibly as ‘Fragile’.
Of course, the best way to ship a guitar is in a hardcase. Even a gig bag provides better protection than a box.
No matter how you ship your guitar, most couriers offer shipping insurance which is always worth the extra cost.
You want to be covered in case anything happens to your instrument, especially if you’re shipping a thousand dollar guitar.