How to Pack a Guitar for Shipping
When packing a guitar for shipping one must take great care that it is properly secured to minimize any chances of it being damaged. The key is to pack the guitar properly within the box so that it can endure the external forces that can occur during shipping and handling. Here are some guidelines and tips to help you assure that your guitar will reach its destination unscathed.
The safest way to ship guitars is to double box them. The inner box can be a hardshell case or a triangular shaped cardboard guitar box. The outer box should be a sturdy double walled cardboard box. Finding a box big enough to ship a guitar can be a challenge because of the length of the instrument. Some cardboard box companies make specific ‘guitar boxes’ that are 50″ x 20″ x 8″. Ask your local music store, and they may willing to give you both a used triangular box and a suitable outer box from shipments they have received. Take note of the actual dimensions of the box: length, height, and width. These are very important to calculate shipping costs and in keeping with regulations of shipping package sizes. Remember that you can always cut a box down if you need to.
First, prepare the guitar for shipping. Strings should be loosened to reduce strain on the neck. In hollow body archtops the bridge should be removed from the top if possible and secured elsewhere. Newspaper or other padding should be placed between the strings and the body of the guitar. Some suggest removing the strap button from the bottom of the guitar (especially in hollow bodies) to prevent damage when the box is in the upright position.
Next place the guitar in the inner box (or case) and fill any spaces with packing material. Pay special attention to the neck joint of the guitar. This is the most common place damages occur. Make sure there is plenty of padding to support this area at the end of the neck.
Once the inner box is secured place several inches of packing material at the end of the outer box. Stand the box upright and place the inner box (or case) into the outer box with the body end (not headstock end) of the guitar down. Now fill spaces around the inner box with packing material. Give the inner box a few good shakes during this step to make sure the packing material fills all the spaces. Top the box off with several inches of packing material for the end, cut any excess length of the box, tape it up, and you’re done. If you have packed the guitar properly you should be able to shake the package and not feel anything move around inside.
A few words about packing material. There are a lot of choices here that will work fine. Newspaper, Styrofoam popcorn, and bubble wrap are most commonly used. One of the most effective packing materials I’ve seen used for guitar packing is gift wrapping paper. If you can get it for cheap it works really well.