How To Pack An Acoustic Guitar With No Case


The reason for this article: Just wrapping a guitar in bubble wrap or paper or foam blocks DOES NOT protect the guitar body from crush damage. Wrapping relies entirely on the strength of the guitar body. Wrapping will fail to protect the guitar if the box is crushed. This is why I use crush prevention as explained below.

This explains our approach to truck shipping and packing an acoustic guitar with NO case. Vintage cardboard cases, gig bags, and foam cases are not adequate protection. The packing scheme suggested below requires less packing materials so it should also save packing costs.

The most common cause of damage to acoustic guitars shipped without a case is crush damage. A lot of shippers think wrapping an acoustic with bubble wrap or cramming the box with paper stuffed very thick around the guitar will prevent crush damage. Not true. Super wrapping with thick bubble wrap actually contributes to crush damage because it cannot prevent the sides of the box from pushing in towards the guitar body.

The images below show a better way. The sides of the box are cut open only for illustrative purposes. Do not cut the box this way. Load the packing materials and the guitar in order from the open small end of the box.

Use a standard shipping box (51x21x8) for all acoustic guitars. This box is made of hard card board and is rated for cross country truck shipping. Guitar shipping boxes can only be opened on the ends, not down the middle. These boxes are available at most Fed Ex, UPS, and Postman Plus stores.

Do not use a manufacturers liner box. These are triangular shaped soft cardboard intended for use inside a hard cardboard box. These are not designed or rated for cross country truck shipping. There is a reason the guitar stores throw these in the trash.

Do not use the boxes that hard shell cases are shipped in. These open down the middle. They are way too soft. They are not designed or rated for cross country truck shipping of an acoustic guitar.

IMPORTANT! Always remove bridge pins, strings, saddle (if removable), and strap peg from guitar and place inside the body in a zip lock bag. When left in place, the wedge shaped strap peg is easily forced into the tail block causing massive damage to the guitar bottom. This happens when the delivery guy drops the box, or in the case of the USPS, slams the box on the pavement. If the strap peg is a screw in type remove and put in the zip lock. Removing all pins will prevent most kinds of shipping damage. If bridge pins are left installed, the same thing can happen to the bridge. The bridge pins act like wedges and can be forced into the bridge causing a split.

Discard the strings.

In the image below, the guitar is wrapped in a large plastic leaf bag. The open end is closed with a zip tie This prevents finish scratches. You can wrap the guitar in a single (only one!) layer of thin foam. Keep the wrapping to a bare minimum as this contributes to rather than prevents crush damage.

Packing components are listed in order as added to the box:

Add an additional sheet of cardboard against both sides of box. That was done here but you can’t see it in the image.

Glue two 7.5" X 18" card board sheets to the bottom of the box. These should lie flat on the bottom.

Add two 7.5" long x 4-5" diameter paper filled card board rolls one in each bottom corner. These rolls must be perpendicular to the large sides of the bo. Note that the card board in the rolls has the corrugations running perpendicular to the long side of the card board. You should fill these rolls with wadded paper to keep them from collapsing. Also, the cardboard for the rolls is exactly wide enough for the completed rolls to fit between the sides of the box. This is why they prevent crush damage.

Add at least 3 inches bubble wrap between guitar bottom and the two card board rolls.

Put the guitar in the box. Keep in mind, the guitar body is in the bottom of the box.

Place one or two sheets 3/4 inch bubble wrap between back and front of guitar and box side. This depends on guitar body depth. The guitar must not be tightly wedged or pressed in the box. The guitar should be free to move a little in the box.

Add foam chips or bubble wrap between guitar side, lower bout and box side.

Add one 7.5" long x 5" or 6" diameter card board roll on each side at the waist. These rolls prevent crush damage.

Note that the guitar is not crammed into the box with excessive layers of bubble wrap.

The neck is trapped between a thick roll of bubble wrap between back of box and back of neck and a thick layer (not a roll) of bubble wrap between fret board and side of box. This bubble wrap arrangement must be installed to protect against gear head whip lash.

Paper fill on either side of the gear head and neck is acceptable. You should add more rolls as needed. Do not wrap the neck.

Be sure to add packing between the top of the box and the gear head.

Add the shipping label to the gear head end of the box, not the sides. You want the truck driver to stand the box up on end so he/she can see the label.

Draw arrows on the outside of the box stating "This End Up". You want the box to stand on the bottom end, not on the front or back. Also, add Fragile stickers on all surfaces. Write in big letters "DO NOT DROP" in red magic marker.

We shipped a lot of acoustics without cases this way with not a single problem.

©2021 D.R. Hanna