Packing a Steel Guitar For Shipment

There's been some discussion about how to properly pack a steel guitar for shipment. I've received them (always in their case) packed in styrofoam peanuts inside a cardboard box and also just with a thin layer of cardboard around the case. Both were in fine shape when received. Consensus seems to be that the guitar case protects the guitar and the outer packing protects the case. With this in mind, I wrapped the steel in towels and added bubble wrap around the pedal rack and rod/leg pouch so everthing was tight and nothing could move or rub. I then proceeded to wrap the case in 2 layers of large bubble wrap followed by 2 layers of cardboard (single walled). After bending the cardboard by forming it around a straight edge, I pounded the seam with a hammer and it ended up looking like a factory carton. This seemed to work better than scoring the cardboard before bending it. The handle was left exposed and since it had a spring return on the handle, it would not hang outside the package and catch on any UPS equipment. It was however easily accessible by delivery people and labels all around the carton pointed to it. My Williams steel came with an exposed handle and the UPS guy came up the driveway using it. This was they are less likely to drop it and if they do drop it, it will already be close to the ground!

Bubble wrap is pretty cheap and $20 delivered will buy 2 huge rolls of it from most vendors. It comes small, medium and large bubbles. I chose large because it supposedly handles the most weight. My packing is probably overkill but at least it gives me piece of mind! I did consider using a foam shell like the amp packing shown on this site and don't know which is better. Look at it this way, the guitar has 5 layers of protection around it!

Another thought (thank you Steel Guitar Forumites!): The case partition between the steel and the legs/pedal rack is not as solid as the exterior sides of the case. If the case is dropped, it's possible that the entire weight of the steel will be thrust against this partition, totally shattering it and exposing the guitar, rack and legs to damage. To prevent this, it is wise to add two blocks of wood, one at each end of the partition, to shore it up and prevent it from breaking or shifting.

Peanuts? Just plain nuts! I have received two steel guitars, both from major steel stores and builders, that were shipped in a box filled with peanuts. In both cases, the peanuts shifted around allowing the steel case to directly contact the box and the case ripped right through the box. In these cases the guitar was not damaged as it was protected by the case, but the case got scuffed up somewhat. Another result can be that the peanuts will leak out of the card board box leaving you with less packing inside!

One other thought and method I have used is to pack the steel in it's case surrounded by two 3/4 layers of rigid foam. This is a little more expensive than bubble rack, takes more time and results in a bulkier package. I believe it provides the best protection but sometimes I just don't have the patience or think this level of protection is a requirement. See my amp packing page for some pics showing how this is accomplished.

The pictures are self explanatory so I didn't add any text to them. Click on one if you want a larger view.

Update for 03/22/2017 - Packing a Williams guitar with sheet foam

This guitar was shipped to me in the case just surrounded by a layer of shipping cardboard. This is the second Williams guitar that was shipped to me this way and both arrived in great shape with no damage to the guitar or case. Being a bit more concerned about possible shipping damage myself, I shipped this guitar out surrounded by 2" thick sheet foam, the type used as house cladding insulation. You can buy the Dow Cornng 4' x 8' for $30 a sheet or get the somewhat less dense 2" thick R-Tech foam sheets from Home Depot for about $17 a sheet. It adds about 6 pounds to the shipping weight of an S-12 guitar and it took just over half a 4' x 8' sheet to enclose this guitar. You can save a lot on weight and foam by just building 8 foam corners or just 2 foam end caps to suspend the guitar case inside the outer packing. I used industrial double wall cardboard for the outer layer. The guitar and case arrived at the buyer's house unscathed! Overkill? Probably, but it brought me peace of mind as it went on the UPS truck. Not a fast job to pack though as I spent 4 hours doing all the cutting, fitting and taping.