Friday, January 21, 2011

Selling Your Guitar Part 5: Packing it Correctly for Shipping


Today I am wrapping up my series on selling your guitar on the internet by giving a few tips on properly packing it up so it does not get damaged on the way to its new home. Or, if it does get damaged, giving you peace of mind that your claim may be paid.

Over the years I have gotten plenty of broken guitars from people on the internet. They were fine when they were shipped, but somehow got mangled en route. They include: 2 MusicMan basses, 3 Les Pauls, a Gibson ES 335, and 2 acoustic guitars. NONE of these were packed properly, and they would probably still be around today if the person that packed them up had a clue about how to ship a guitar. By the way, two of the Les Pauls and the ES 335 were sent by Musician’s Friend. Go figure.

Before I get into this subject, I would like to say that if this seems like too much trouble or if it is too difficult, you could juct drop off your guitar at the UPS Store or Mail Boxes Etc. But, they will charge you a fortune, and it will probably be about $150 to $200 to pack and ship the guitar domestically. So, maybe you should give it a try first.

First off, you will need to get the guitar ready for shipping. Should you loosen the strings? Will it hurt the truss rod if you loosen them? Will it hurt the truss rod if you do not loosen them? Take this as a clue: ALL guitar manufacturers ship their guitars to their dealers fully tuned. With one BIG exception. If it is a Gibson guitar, loosen the strings to release tension from the headstock so it does not snap if the box is dropped somewhere along the way. This is a recommendation from Gibson’s own repair shop, and the broken ES and Les Pauls I received all had broken headstocks and were shipped to me with fully tightened strings.

Be a nice guy and clean your schmutzy fingerprints off the guitar, and put a cloth between the strings and fretboard. This is especially nice on basses with roundwound strings so they do not dig into the fingerboard.

If you are shipping in a hard case put the guitar in it and shake it a little. If you can feel (or hear) movement of the guitar inside the case, this is bad. If the guitar is loose, it can act like a slide hammer as the case is moved in transit, and damage itself. Pack some towels or cloths around it inside the case to take up any slack. I do not recommend using bubble wrap inside the case, as sometimes it sticks to the guitar’s finish.

While you are in the case, see what else is in there. If you are shipping a whammy bar or accessories, wrap them to keep them from damaging the guitar in transit. I had a seller one time who thought he was being helpful by including a nice heavy slide in the case, but it came out of the accessory pocket and beat the bejesus out of the guitar. He was nice enough to let me return it to the guitar to him, but what a horribly expensive mistake to make.

Next up is finding a box. You can dig around behind your local Guitar Center and hope to get lucky. Make sure the box is not too huge, or it will take a ton of packing material to fill it up, and UPS will charge you a fortune to ship it. I only use new boxes that I get from I get model S-4922 which cost $7.88 each with a minimum order of 5. Why do I use only nice boxes? Because they fit right and protect the guitar well. Also, if there is ever a damage claim, UPS looks very closely at the box and notes whether it has been re-used.

Now you will need to come up with packing material to go between the case and the box. You need at least an inch or two between the case on all sides. DO NOT USE PACKING PEANUTS. No matter how tightly you pack in the peanuts, they will always settle, and the case will be able to move around in the box. Remember the slide hammer thing? Use wadded up paper or bubble wrap. I only use bubble wrap that I purchase (also from uline). I get 1000 feet for $76 (Uline S-3930P, 4 rolls @ 250 ft each). Compare this to the price you pay for bubble wrap at Office Depot, which is $13.39 for 25 feet. Ouch!

Use plenty of tape around the ends (at least 2.0 MIL tape), and NEVER USE DUCT OR MASKING TAPE. Measure and weigh the package as it is very important that the package be under 60 inches long and less that 108 inches length + girth, or you will get serious over size charges. You will also need these measurements for when you purchase the shipping label. It is easiest to purchase and print the label from home, so all you have to do is drop it off at the shipping location. Both UPS and the Post Office will let you do this.

When you affix the label to the box, use clear packing tape to hold it down. Do not put it in one of those clear sticky envelopes. They frequently get torn off during the automated parts of the shipping process. Also, it is a great idea to write the shipping and return addresses on the box, in case the label goes missing during shipping.

That is all I have, and I hope this series helps you out sometime. Come back soon for my usual blend of equipment and album reviews!


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