How to Pack Your Instrument for Shipping

It's easy to do it right!

(1st Edition)

We receive approximately 20 instruments per day for resale at Gruhn Guitars. Most are shippedthrough a service (UPS, FedEx, etc.) and more than 99% of them arrive safely. The 1% or less that do not arrive safely could have been packed to better withstand the rigors of shipping.

The main requirement in proper packing is suspending the instrument in its case so that any shock to the case will not be transmitted to the instrument. Violin case makers have designed "suspension" cases (shown above) which support the instrument inside the case without letting it touch the case walls. They do this by supporting the instrument under the heel of the neck and over and under the tailblock (where the endpin is located).

The supports are foam pads that will absorb shock. One advertisement for this type of case shows a violin case that purportedly fell off the roof rack of a car going 60-70 miles per hour. The case was practically destroyed, but the violin inside was unscathed -- and still in tune!

The advantage of this type of support is that it suspends the neck of the instrument inside the case. Heel and headstock breaks are by far the most common type of shipping damage. Padding beneath the heel of the instrument will protect it from a heel crack as long as the neck is not resting on the neck support built into the case. The headstock can be protected by using a pad on top of the headstock to absorb the forward momentum in case the instrument should fall face down.

Wrapping some packing material around the tuners will keep them from getting bent, but do not put supports under the headstock. The photos illustrate a banjo case, but the concepts are the same as the diagram below:

Other basic packing procedures:

Some of these precautions are just common sense, but they can save a guitar, mandolin or banjo from costly cracks, dings and scratches.

> Use bubble pack or paper to cushion the instrument

> Slack the strings

> If your guitar has a tailpiece (like most archtops), put padding between it and the body

> Pad under the pickguard if it is raised off the body

> Place any removable pieces -- especially bridges -- in a bag inside the case

> Pack the case inside a box for shipping, and follow the above instructions to suspend the case so it doesn't move inside the box.

> Clearly label the box and case with your return address. A note with details about the transaction (salesperson; consignment; etc.) would help, too.

Special Note About Gibson Banjos

In addition to the above precautions, special attention needs to be paid when packing banjos with resonators and flanges. We often see pre-World War II Gibson banjos in otherwise excellent condition arrive with broken flanges and split resonators caused by improper packing. The one-piece flange is the culprit, but you can avoid a broken flange with careful packing.

When packing a resonator banjo for shipping, the pot assembly should always be supported so that the flange does not touch the sidewall of the resonator. This can be done by placing bubble pack between the bottom of the rim and the inner surface of the resonator. The resonator should then be secured to the pot assembly with the thumbscrews so that it will not shift during shipping.

Gruhn Guitars
2120 8th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37204
615.256.2033, fax 615.255.2021
Our hours are 9:30am to 6:00pm Central time, Monday through Saturday.