- Find out how to ship a guitar without a case
- Learn which packing materials to use
- Also, check out our post on the best TSA guitar cases for traveling!
Do you need to send a guitar in the mail? If so, you’re likely concerned about whether the guitar will arrive safely.
There are several steps you should take to maximize the chances of your guitar arriving at its destination safely.
We’ll explain these steps in detail below, along with some additional measures you can take to decrease the chances of your recipient receiving a bunged-up guitar on arrival.
Let’s dive in.
How Do You Ship A Guitar Without A Case?
Step 1: Loosen The Strings
You should start by either removing or loosening the guitar strings. If you try to ship a guitar with the strings held tight, there is a high risk that the strings will get broken during transit.
They may also damage other parts of the guitar if they get yanked.
Some people prefer to remove the strings entirely, while others just loosen them. This means that if something presses against the guitar, the strings can flex and will not get broken.
If you don’t remove the strings, it is a good idea to slide something between the strings and the frets so that the strings don’t damage the frets if they get pressed down.
Step 2: Find A Sturdy Box
Next, find a box that your guitar will fit into. This needs to be sturdy and ideally a snug fit, as this will protect the guitar as much as possible.
Lift the guitar into it to ensure it fits, and the box will close. Ideally, the box should be narrower at the neck than at the base, so you can prevent the guitar from rattling around or rocking from side to side.
Next, assess how much padding you will need around the guitar. You should support the neck of the guitar, and you will need padding at either end and the sides so that the instrument cannot rock against the edges of the box and get damaged.
Many people use foam padding, which is tougher than bubble wrap and won’t pop under the guitar’s weight.
The places most likely to need padding include the body sides, the space beneath the fretboard, the spaces beneath the headstock, and the neck joint.
Step 3: Pad The Guitar
Once you have the necessary padding, create a structure around your guitar to support it in the box. Place foam or bubble wrap beneath the neck, as it is in danger of snapping if it’s not supported properly.
Protect both ends, the sides, and any other areas that look vulnerable. The more padding you add, the more protected it will be.
When you’ve finished padding the guitar, try shaking the box from side to side and up and down.
How much does the guitar move? How stable is it in the box? If it moves more than about a centimeter, you will need to add more padding, as it is at risk of damage otherwise.
Step 4: Bubble Wrap The Guitar
When all the padding is in place, it’s time to wrap the guitar in a layer of bubble wrap to protect it further. Some people choose to wrap the whole instrument, while others only wrap the delicate parts that are more likely to get knocked around during transit.
Ideally, you should use several layers of bubble wrap so the guitar is well-protected. Other packing materials, like brown paper, will not offer as much protection, so bubble wrap is the best option here.
You can also place a piece of stiff card across any areas you are particularly worried about.
Step 5: Secure The Guitar In The Box
Now, put the guitar in the box and put the lid on. Holding the lid firmly in place, shake the box in all directions and check how much the guitar feels moving around. If there is a lot of movement, remove the lid and add further padding.
If not, move on to the next step. Note that if you have added any loose parts, such as a tuner, picks, etc., these should be secured with tape in a second box.
If you leave loose parts with your guitar, they are likely to scratch, chip, or even break when the box is tossed around during transit.
When you’ve finished with this, tape the lid firmly in place.
Step 6: Add A Second Box
This might seem like overkill, but it massively reduces the chances of your guitar getting broken during shipping. Put the first box inside a second box and repeat the padding process.
You can use newspaper for this layer if you want to keep the costs low, as the idea is just to prevent the inner case from sloshing around inside the outer one.
Screw up balls of newspaper or another packing material and pack them around the inner box on all sides. Check whether the inner box moves, then put the second box’s lid on and shake it again. You shouldn’t hear the box inside sliding around.
When you are satisfied that the box is firm, you can secure the second box’s lid and then address it.
What Packing Materials Should You Use?
Packing any item always means balancing weight against cost and effectiveness. Bubble wrap is a favorite material because it is lightweight and very good at padding items, but it is also fairly expensive if you don’t happen to have some secondhand.
Brown paper or newspaper can work if you screw it up into balls, as this will prevent the guitar from moving, but it doesn’t offer as much protection.
You can put a few layers in between the strings and the frets if you choose to.
Foam padding is one of the most expensive packing materials, but it is very good. It offers robust protection, and unlike bubble wrap, it won’t pop if compressed.
Some thick foam padding will be very effective in keeping the guitar secure in the packing box. It tends to be the best option, but it can be pricey.
Is It Better To Ship A Guitar With A Case?
If you have a case for your guitar, it may be safer to use this than to send the instrument unprotected. Cases are specifically designed to keep the guitar safe from knocks and bumps.
They are padded inside and hard outside, meaning your instrument should be safe inside one. That said, you should still pad the inside of the case to minimize the risk of damage.
The drawback of using a case is that you will add to the shipping weight and cost. If you are trying to send a guitar as cheaply as possible, a case is not ideal.
On the other hand, it may make packing significantly easier and could ensure that the instrument arrives safely rather than getting damaged.
If you ship your guitar in a case, you may find that you don’t need the secondary box. The case will provide the support that the inner box provides, so you can just put it in an outer box and pad the case carefully.
Do You Need A Special Shipping Box For A Guitar?
No, you don’t need a special shipping box to send your guitar, even if you are shipping it without a case. You can just use an ordinary shipping box.
You can either modify it to create a wedge shape that will support the neck, or you can just use it in its normal shape and add extra padding.
Ideally, you want the box to be a fairly snug fit around the guitar. The larger the box, the higher the risk that the instrument will move around in the box and get broken.
Large boxes also require more packing materials and may cost more to mail, being both bigger and heavier. Taking the time to find a box that is a good fit is generally worthwhile.
Shipping a guitar without a case can be challenging, but it is possible.
You will need to thoroughly pad the instrument using bubble wrap, cardboard, newspaper, and other packing materials and place it in two sturdy boxes to protect it during transit.
Guitars are fragile items that must be packed with great care to survive the journey.
Traveling soon? Check out our guide to the 7 Best Guitar Cases For Flying!