Shipping A Guitar: The Do’s and Don’ts

We know a few things about getting a valuable instrument to your door. We’ve learned it through years of sending your new children to their new homes. Sometimes the hard way…


The Cardinal Sin: The ‘Void’.

Avoid the Void.
Repeat this over and over…

What IS a void?
It is any air pocket in a case or a shipping box that can allow movement, or allow velocity to develop.

Case Void:
Assume if a guitar can move in its case – it will. And if it moves fast and hard enough – you have a problem. Correct it there first.

Luckily, with most manufacturers, especially high-end ones like we deal with – they design their cases to be snug and minimize the issue. However, some cases are desired for their ‘vintage’ aesthetics vs. their safety, so extra care has to be taken.

Put non-marring, non-sticking packing material by the sides of bodies and necks if there is play. Be careful not to stuff anything under angled headstocks (like Gibson’s!) as excess pressure there can make for a very bad day. The neck rest should do that job.

Shipping Box Void:
Just as the guitar should fit snug in it’s case, the case should likewise fit snug in its shipping box. Pack around all sides, top and bottom, front and back, with good packing material – heavy duty bubble padding, foam, foam or biodegradable packing peanuts – whatever – just eliminate the opportunity for the case to shift in the box. Enough velocity or impact can cause havoc to the instrument in the case – even if it is snug. Eliminating the box and case voids adds a dual layer of protection against impact and velocity. 99.9% of the time that will get the instrument to its destination safely.

The Box:
We cannot stress this enough… Use a STRONG, heavy cardboard box that can weather the weight of an instrument and the case along with the abuse it will take from a shipping company. FedEx, UPS, USPS, it doesn’t matter who – they have a lot to move every day – it often will not be gingerly done. If you don’t have a proper box then buy one. Many instrument stores will sell you one cheap – they are often listed on Craigslist, and if you play guitar – you have friends that play guitar – somebody has one. As a last resort, shipping companies and moving companies have them. The expense is well worth it.

Case candy is awesome! Polishing cloths, guitar picks, warranty cards, cables, hex wrenches, etc. – there are all kinds of goodies that some manufacturers can include with your new prize. But – just like the instrument, and the instrument case – you have to secure them doodads from flying about. If they are in a pocket that gets securely held shut by the instrument – not as much concern, but with open pockets – you will need to wrap those items – and, it’s not a bad idea to bag and wrap them anyway – a single hex wrench slipping between the gap in a pocket can turn a beautiful finish into Swiss cheese in no time.

Detune or Don’t Detune:
The jury is out on this one. Some will tell you to detune – some will tell you don’t detune. We typically don’t if a manufacturer doesn’t. If Gibson ships its guitars in tune globally – then it’s probably OK. Right? LOL. Sometimes, we opt for ‘Can’t Hurt’. Especially if an instrument uses heavier gauge strings, is a high-tension setup by choice or request, etc. A little slack could keep excess pressure off a neck. Better safe than sorry…

There are a couple of options in the prose above – but there is also a mantra, a mandate, a never skip – do you remember it?

Say it. Say it!

Avoid the Void.