Did you end up selling one of your guitars online? What if the person didn’t pay for a guitar case and you don’t have one to spare? So, how can you do it?
The best way to ship and protect a guitar without a case is to remove the strings, wrap it in bubble wrap, secure all parts with tape and then put it in a shipping or guitar box after which you place it in a second box.
In this guide, I’ll share how you can safely ship a guitar without its case and avoid it breaking on the way because ultimately, you are responsible for shipping.
Is it possible to pack a guitar without a case?
While some guitars can be tough, don’t let that fool you because they are also very fragile. They should be handled, packed, and shipped with care, just like all precious things.
If mishandled, any of these components can break, shatter or warp. Especially the headstock and guitar neck are sensitive, if not wrapped well.
It is difficult to pack a guitar for shipping in a way that it doesn’t get damaged during transport.
Most people choose to ship the guitar without a case after selling it and sometimes you’ll get guitars without a case when buying them so safety during shipping is very important.
You can do a few things to ensure your guitar is safe during transit. You can pack your guitar without a case and ensure it arrives in its original condition by filling up the space inside with lots of packing materials.
The good news is that it doesn’t cost too much money. But be careful it could be problematic if you try to send off the guitar if it’s not wrapped correctly.
So that’s why you should follow the steps I recommend below when packing.
Also read my post on the Best guitar stands: ultimate buying guide for guitar storage solutions
How to pack and ship a guitar without a case
There’s not much difference between how to ship an acoustic guitar without a case and how to ship an electric guitar. The instruments still need the same amount of protection.
You will need to take the strings off the guitar before you ship it without a case.
Here’s how you do that (also handy if you are looking at replacing your guitar strings):
Wrap the guitar well and secure any moving parts so that they don’t move around in the bubble wrap or the box as they can get damaged during the shipping process.
It is important to ensure that the guitar fits snugly in its box, and is padded on all sides. It is best to pack the guitar in a sturdy box. Then, place it in a larger box and pack it again.
The most fragile components of a guitar are:
- the headstock
- the neck
- the bridge
Before you can ship a guitar, you have to pack it up carefully so you’ll need some basic packing materials.
All of the materials you need are available in a store or online. But, for guitar boxes, you can visit a guitar or instrument store.
- bubble wrap or newspaper or foam padding
- measuring tape
- one regular size guitar box
- one large guitar box (or any large packing box that’s suitable for shipping)
- packing tape
- box cutter for cutting wrapping paper or bubble wrap
Where can I find guitar boxes?
You probably won’t find a shipping box too easily unless you visit a guitar or instrument store.
Did you know that guitar shops can give you a guitar box for free? All you have to do is ask and if they have a box available they’ll probably give it to you so you can do the packing at home.
If you find a guitar box it helps you keep the instrument and the removable gear compact. Use some tape to wrap it up as if it is a new instrument in its original box.
Remove or secure your movable parts
The first step is to loosen the strings and remove them first.
Then keep in mind that clip-on tuners, capos, and other accessories for your guitar should be removed and placed in a separate container.
Start by removing any unnecessary parts, such as the slide, capo, and whammy bars.
The principle is that nothing should be inside the guitar case while it’s being transported besides the instrument. Then the moveable components are placed in the second guitar box separately.
This will prevent scratches and cracks from occurring during transit. The guitar can be seriously damaged or broken if there are loose objects in the shipping box or guitar case.
So, place all the loose parts and save them in some wrapping paper or bubble wrap.
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How to secure a guitar in a shipping box
The only way to keep the guitar safe is to make sure everything inside the guitar box is snug and packed tight.
Measure the box
Before getting the box, take measurements.
If you are using a guitar box then you might already have the correct box size so you can skip the next step.
But if you’re using a standard shipping box, you need to measure the guitar to get the dimensions and then measure the shipping box. You need a box that is the correct size, not too big and not too small either.
If you use the properly sized box, it houses the guitar safely as long as it’s well secured with paper and bubble wrap.
Wrap and secure
If the instrument ends up moving around in its shipping cardboard box, it will likely get damaged.
First, pick your packing material of choice, whether that’s newspaper, bubble wrap, or foam padding. They are all good options.
Then, wrap some bubble wrap around the bridge and the neck of the guitar. This is a key step in the packing process.
After wrapping the headstock and neck, focus on securing the body. The instrument’s body is wide so use a larger quantity of wrapping material.
Since it won’t have a special protective case, the wrapping should act as a firm strong case.
Next, fill any spaces between your guitar, the box’s interior, and the outside. This ensures the instrument is snug without slipping around in the boxes.
Cardboard is flimsy so it’s best to use lots of packing material. Once you have wrapped the guitar, use wide packing tape to secure it all.
Add the bubble wrap, foam padding, or newspaper in large enough quantities so that there’s barely any visible space between the edge of the box and the instrument and its components.
Search for small spaces and fill them and then double-check all areas.
These include the space under the headstock, around the neck joint, body sides, under the fretboard, and any other area that could prevent your guitar from moving or shaking inside the case.
If you search for ways to pack the guitar almost for free, many people will tell you to wrap the guitar in cloth. This can be anything from towels, large shirts, bed sheets, etc but I don’t recommend this.
The truth is, cloth doesn’t protect the instrument inside the box too well, even if it’s filled with lots of cloth.
Securing the neck is very important
Did you know that one of the first guitar parts to break is the neck? Guitar shipping requires that you double wrap or use thick bubble wrap on fragile parts.
So, if you want to make sure the shipping company doesn’t damage the instrument, ensure the neck is properly packed and is surrounded by lots of packing material like bubble wrap.
If you want to use paper or newspapers when packing, wrap the headstock and neck of the instrument very tightly.
When supporting the neck with bubble wrap, paper, or foam padding, ensure the neck is stable and doesn’t move side to side at all.
Once it’s shipped, the guitar has a tendency to sway around the guitar box, so it must have plenty of protection around and under it.
Before you send your guitar off, perform a “shake test”
After you’ve filled in all spaces and gaps between the shipping box and the guitar case, you can now shake it.
I know it sounds a bit terrifying, but don’t worry, if you’ve packed it well, you can shake it of course!
When you do your shake test, make sure to keep everything closed. This ensures that your guitar is securely held in place and you don’t end up causing damage.
How do you do a guitar packing shake test?
Gently shake the package. If you hear any movement, it is likely that you need more newspaper, bubble wrap, or another type of padding to fill in the gaps. The key here is to shake gently!
It’s very important that the center of the guitar is well secured and then all along the edges.
Do a double shake test:
First, when you pack the guitar in the first smaller box.
Then, you have to shake it again when you pack it in the outer shipping box to make sure the box within the larger box is properly secured.
If you end up with empty space in your hardshell case after you have packed everything into the shipping box, you will need to unwrap the contents and repackage everything.
It’s a bit tiring and annoying but better safe than sorry, right?
How to ship a guitar in a soft case
These are some other ways to ensure your guitar is safe in a shipping container. One of these options is to pack the guitar in a soft case, also known as a gig bag.
This will cost more money if you have to pay for the case, but it is a safer option than the box and bubble wrap method and can prevent damage around the bridge or cracks in the guitar body.
A gig bag is better than no gig bag, but it does not offer the same protection and security as hardshell cases, especially during long shipping and transit.
But if your customer pays for an expensive guitar, a gig bag can protect against damage and ensure the instrument doesn’t break.
What you have to do is put the guitar without removing the strings in the gig bag. Then, place the gig bag in a large box and again fill it inside with newspaper, foam padding, bubble wrap, etc.
It might be hard to find large guitar boxes, but it’s worth it because you can save the guitar from a break during shipping.
Once you gather all the movable guitar parts and gear, you can pack them separately and then you remove the strings and stuff the area around the bridge and center with lots of padding.
Next, fill in any remaining space inside your box and you’re ready to ship!
But if you want to ensure you use the best quality packing material, then you can’t expect to pack it all for free.
It’s important to use good materials and pack things properly. Then after double-checking with a shake test, you’ll be sure that your guitars are pretty safely tucked in the box.
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I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.
Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:Subscribe