Shipping Musical Instruments
Packing The Instrument in the Case
Ship the instrument in it's own, well fitting case, this is its best protection. If you do not have a case for it, make that your first priority before considering to ship it.
You may wish to tune the instrument down a step or so to reduce string tension. Just remember, if you loosen the string tension and the instrument has a floating/moveable bridge (like an archtop or mandolin) remove and secure it.
Make absolutely sure there is nothing left in the case that can get loose and do a tap dance across the face of your instrument during it's journey here. Check for loose items in the pick pocket, loose screws, whammy bars, etc. Damage done by poor packing is not covered by shippers. If loose parts can not fit securely in the cases pick pocket consider packing them in a box beside the case.
- First and foremost...you do not want the instrument to be able to move around in its case. You can place bubble wrap or newspaper around the body, heel and peghead to stabilize and secure it. Some instruments (like Taylor guitars) come in well fitting cases that do not require padding around the body but it is always a good idea to have the peghead well supported and protected by placing newspaper below and above it.
- After packing the instrument in it's case grab the handle and shake the case, if you can hear your instrument moving in the case after packing then you have not done your job.
Packing The Case in The Shipping Carton
Now that your instrument is packed in the case you must place it in a shipping carton/box. Music stores frequently throw out boxes that new instruments are shipped in so you can usually get a box for free, I would highly recommend using one of their boxes as they are generally very sturdy and are appropriately sized. You may also consider obtaining a box from a moving company or storage facility but bare in mind that a greatly oversized box can double your shipping expense. Shabby boxes do not offer the protection needed and even more importantly to you... shippers will deny any damage claims where an instrument was packed in a flimsy, battered box. Make shift/ pieced together boxes are a very poor choice.
First place some newspaper or suitable packing material in the bottom of the shipping box and lower the case in. Then pack newspaper around the case in a manner that keeps the case centered in the box. I like the idea of having the peghead as far away from the side of the box as possible.
Shipping & Seasons
When receiving an instrument shipped to you in winter it should be given time to acclimate to room temperature before opening or removing it from the box. You want to avoid sudden and drastic temperature changes as this can cause finishes such as lacquer to check. Extreme heat can also potentially harm an instrument. Glue joints can soften if left in extremely high temperatures for an extended period of time, another reason it's a good idea to loosen the strings a bit and reduce tension.