Ever Mail A Guitar 4000 Miles?

Posted: March 27, 2011 in The Roper Files

Walked into Competition Music last month and saw it right by the door. A bright orange acoustic guitar that had the University of Texas emblem inlaid on the front and the longhorn “Bevo” inlaid by the tuning keys. I knew a certain 19-year-old who just loves ANYTHING that is orange and has those logos on it (he wants to go to college there) so I had to get it for him. He had both a birthday and his high school graduation coming up soon so I got it for him as a combination birthday/graduation present from me and his Mom. Besides if I didn’t buy it some yuppie jock probably would have bought it and hung it on his garage wall in between the Ted Nugent pinball machine and the Foosball table.

Well…problem is this young man is a mere 4,000 miles away. Got on Google and put “shipping a guitar from the US to Canada” in the search engine; of course all kinds of shit popped up. Found a few posts by people who sold musical instruments on Ebay or by guitar manufacturers and very little of it was very encouraging.

Ship over-night” “NEVER ship over-night” Just like cooking barbecue, everyone had their special little way of doing it. The single useful bit of advice I found was to go to a music store and get a manufacturer’s shipping box. Good idea.

Made a phone call to the local Guitar Center and talked to someone there. He told me they got their new merchandise on Tuesdays and Thursdays from UPS and to try them then but they only opened the boxes when they needed guitars for display. Drove over there the next Tuesday and found the guy I spoke to on the phone. He disappears in the back and emerges with a fairly new box and two plastic pieces that fit inside to hold the guitar in place; perfect! I thank him and then drag the box out into the parking lot to my truck. Tied it down with bungee cords to keep it from blowing out of the back and then drove it to work the next day and used their tape machine to tape the bottom of the box a little better,  then lugged it back to my place.

The guitar didn’t come with a case; everything I read on the Web said to ship it in a case. I only had a lightly padded “gig bag” for it. Time to get creative here, obviously. Found a bunch of used bubble-pack in the trash at work, so I snagged that and brought it home and used it to wrap around the guitar. Cut a piece of cardboard to fit the bottom edge of the guitar inside the gig bag. Any extra space in the gig bag got stuffed with wadded-up newspaper.

Stuffed one of those cardboard tubes from the inside of a roll of paper towels full of shredded paper and taped that to the guitar neck as a light-weight improvised “shock-absorber” Bought myself a new office chair recently and used some of the extra cardboard inside of its box to re-enforce the front and back of the guitar box.

The two plastic pieces for the ends were hollow, so I stuffed them with wadded-up newspaper. Put the bottom one in, then the gig bag with the guitar inside. Then I began the long process of wadding up newspaper and stuffing it around the guitar. The box was 46 X 21 X 9 inches; stuffing it with newspaper until I had completely immobilized the guitar inside the box took a few minutes each day for about a week and a half.

When I finally had the box completely packed it bulged a bit and weighed 19 and a half pounds. Filled out the Customs slip and lugged the box in my truck to the Post Office on a Friday afternoon. The guy behind the counter had a “you-gotta-be-kidding-me” look on his face when I walked up to the counter with that box.

A guitar, huh? You KNOW you’re taking a chance, right?”

The Post Office said “four to six business days” on Priority Mail but I’ve had them take as long as a month to get packages to Canada. For the next thirteen days I am a nervous wreck. Finally “K” emails me and tells me the guitar got there and in one piece. Hooray! She tells me the newspaper I stuffed in there filled up two large trash bags but watching her son’s face as he slowly unpacked the guitar and recognized what it was made the two weeks of sweating worth it. One corner of the box is bashed in, apparently the victim of falling off a conveyor belt but the guitar is just fine.

Good packing or just plain dumb luck? I can’t really say but I know now that it IS possible to mail a delicate guitar. But I’m not in a hurry to do it again anytime soon…

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