Packing a bass to ship to buyer via UPS, FedEx, etc.

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by dave64o, Jan 31, 2005.

  1. dave64o

    dave64o Talkbass Top 10 all time lowest talent/gear ratio! Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 15, 2000
    Southern NJ
    I'm not sure if the For Sale Forum is the right place for this question but it seemed like the best fit.

    I expect to be putting a bass up for sale and am unsure how to pack it properly once I have a buyer. I just bought a new bass (from a well known bass-specific store) and there was no padding in the package - just the bass in its hard case inside a cardboard exterior box. It seemed to survive, but I was kind of surprised by the lack of any padding whatsoever.

    So what is your experience with instruments you buy and sell? Also, is the package I received something I should talk to the store about? Thanks!
  2. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY

    I would try to locate a shipping box from a music store. Should fit in just perfect. Put a little newspaper on both ends so I doesnt shake around inside. I've shipped dozens of basses w/o incident

  3. Dr. PhunkyPants

    Dr. PhunkyPants Guest

    Aug 11, 2002
    This will probably get kicked over to the Misc forum. But here's my 0.02, having shipped at least 30 basses over the years.

    1. A good rule of thumb for padding is a 5-foot drop rating. If the item inside box won't be damaged by a 5-foot fall onto any of its faces, you're in good shape.

    2. The bass itself should be tuned down a half step (to lessen tension on the neck) and you should slide something (thin sheet foam is best, but anything will do) in between the frets and the strings to protect the neck from a face-first drop.

    3. If you're shipping a hard case, you don't need anything else. If you're shipping a gig bag, fill the entire box--make sure the tip of the headstock and the rear pin have something shock-absorbent between them and the box.

    4. UPS and Fedex are about equal--just use the cheaper and be sure to take out insurance for the fll value of the bass. Oh, and NEVER let someone in Canada or any other country convince you to mark down the value of the item for customs. If it gets damaged in transit, how are you going to make a $900 claim on a bass you said was worth $300 when you shipped it?

    5. Guitar stores are the best places for guitar boxes. Basses are longer than guitars and I've often had to doctor one end to that it's rounded in a "casket" shape.
  4. Over the past few months I've sold quite a few basses both with & without cases & everything quoted above is as accurate as can be.
    Also---a hardshell case is supposed to protect a bass in transit. If any hardshell case gets damaged in...let's say...a cross country transit then A) they were bouncing your package off the wall or B) it wasn't that great of a case & you would have been better off w/ a gig bag.
  5. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    If the bass is a bolt on, then, destring. Unbolt the neck. Package the strings in a plastic bag, the neck plate and screws in another. Box body with some packing. I like a little foam rubber around the body. Bubble pack is OK too. Tape the string bag and the neck plate & screws bags to the body box. Make a cardboard carton for the neck. Make it about 2 " longer than the neck, 6 to 8 inches on a side. Place 1 " of foam rubber in the bottom, put in the neck. Drop in styrofoam peanuts around the neck to fill. Place another 1 " foam piece at the top and tape shut. Box the two items in a third that is large enough to accommodate the neck box on the diagonal. Peanuts or other packing on the bottom, then the neck box, packing to level with the top of the neck box, then the boddy box, packing to fill. Tape the hell out of the box. If I have any, I'll reinforce the box with plywood scrap, bottom, sides and top. Often I have 1/8th inch luan (mahogany) ply around as it is great stuff for templating and you can cut it with a utility knife. It is very low weight as well. Probably overkill but - I've never had to file an insurance claim on one of my shipments and I've shipped a bunch ...

    Sounds like a lot of work ? It takes maybe an hour start to finish and your bass is now packed to withstand nuclear blast ... There is another advantage. Because the length is shorter, you get a break in shipping. With insurance, I just shipped a G&L SB2 to the LA area from the boonies an hour east of Portland. The bill with insurance was 23.23 UPS ground. That is something like 1700 to 2000 miles.

    Or if the bass is shipping in a case, then I de-string, put the strings in the neck pocket. Pack the bass being careful to support the neck fully and being sure that there is relatively even pressure all the way around. You are attempting to stabilize the bass and prevent it from moving inside it's case. Close it up. Cust two sheets of 1/4 inch plywood about the length of the case and just under the width. Stand the case on end. Sandwich between the plywood pieces. Tape the sandwich up so that the 3 parts become a whole.

    Now get a box that is something like to 2 to 3 inches thicker and 2 to 3 inches longer than the sandwich. Pack with an inch of packing material (styro-peanuts works well) all around. Tape the bejesus out of it.

    This way is more expensive. $40 to $50 bucks. But the bass will arrive safely if it arrives at all. Personaly, I like shipping in two pieces. I feel that it is the safer method.

    Is all this necessary ? Not unless you end up needing it, right ? Most often it is total overkill but - the one time it isn't you'll be glad you did ...

    Last thing - because I live in the Great Northleft, a blue state generally hidden under a rain cloud this time of year ... before packing I put everything in plastic garbage bags and tape them shut just in case ...
  6. JRBrown


    Jun 21, 2000
    North Carolina
    I photograph each step for insurance purposes.

    Here are pics of the one I sent out last week:

    Attached Files:

  7. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    Good idea.
  8. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    If the bass and case arrived unharmed, no need to contact the shop that sent it unless you just want to whine about what you think to be poor shipping policy.

    If you get a used box to ship in, make sure it is in good shape. If the corners are broke down, or bends and creases in the cardboard, don't use it.

  9. todd 4ta

    todd 4ta

    Apr 3, 2003
    Some extra little tidbits of info:

    1) Make sure all old labels and addresses are removed or marked over completely on the outside of the box. This is the most common reason packages go astray, if the current shipping label comes off they may attempt to deliver it to an 'old' address.

    2) Make sure all sides of the box are taped up well. Many times people don't bother to retape the bottom or 'unopened' side of a box they are re-using. I've received several boxes that are being held together by a single strand of tape by the time it gets to me.

    3) Make sure the bass is snug inside the case. There are many cases that fit pretty loosely and the bass can get banged around quite a bit in an otherwise sturdy case. Use something (cloths, bubblewrap, etc.) to brace around the headstock and body until it is snug.

    4) I always print out two extra pages with the "To" and "From" address. I include one sheet inside the case or gig bag, and put the other one just inside the top of the box before I seal it. If a package ends up lost, someone along the line will usually open it up to see if they can find an address. Or, if it's delivered to the wrong address, hopefully seeing your name and address when they open it up will cause enough guilt to call for a pickup.

    5) There are two schools of thought on whether the strings should be loosened or not for shipping. Michael Tobias told me personally that he doesn't feel that it's necessary, and that is good enough for me. If you must loosen the tuners, just do it 1 turn or less. If you loosen them too much, I would be concerned about the effect on the neck not having it's usual tension.

    6) Measure a shipping box and record the dimensions. Use those measurements anytime you want to estimate shipping costs for fedex, ups, usps or dhl on their online estimators. I usually estimate 25 lbs for a bass in a gig bag and 30 lbs in a hardshell. That should get you a pretty close estimate.

    7) Newspaper really isn't a recommended packing material, I guess because it isn't shock absorbing. The best packing materials are bubblewrap and peanuts. If you must use newspaper, wrinkle it up and use enough to keep the case/gig bag from moving around.

    8) Put the shipping label on the side of the box that you want facing UP. While a package is moving on the belts, everyone usually tries to keep the labels facing up so they can be read by humans and overhead scanners. This is more reliable than writing 'THIS SIDE UP' and drawing arrows. (this is true for FedEx Express, I can't speak for others)
  10. JRBrown


    Jun 21, 2000
    North Carolina
    This one made it to England without any problems:

    Attached Files:

  11. M5Yates


    Feb 7, 2005
    Austin, TX
    How NOT to pack a bass:

  12. M5Yates


    Feb 7, 2005
    Austin, TX
    I use some great micro-fiber cloths from Sams to keep the bass from sliding around in the case. I also put one between the strings and the fingerboard.
  13. Steve


    Aug 10, 2001
    wow. that pic looks disturbingly like the pack job I just sent to Mike.:D

    except I didn't use any plastic wrap
  14. Ouch. I'm suprised that a shipping service would even accept a 'package' like that :rollno:
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