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Point A to Point B

Here's a 60 ES-345 ready to close up and ship. I use brown kraft paper instead of newspaper but newspaper works just as well if you don't mind getting newsprint all over your hands. I sometimes put an extra block of foam on the fingerboard as you can see here but it isn't necessary as long as the guitar doesn't move around in the case.

Here’s a 60 ES-345 ready to close up and ship. I use brown kraft paper instead of newspaper but newspaper works just as well if you don’t mind getting newsprint all over your hands. I sometimes put an extra block of foam on the fingerboard as you can see here but it isn’t necessary as long as the guitar doesn’t move around in the case.

There’s always this dilemma when I buy a guitar, especially when I buy it from a family member of the (usually deceased) owner who has no clue how to ship a guitar and no clue about the condition or originality.  My advice to anyone who is buying a guitar from somewhere far away is to go get it in person if you can. There are two reasons for this-both common sense. First, you’re buying a guitar based on photographs and someone else’s description. Photographs can make a guitar look worse than it is and they can make a guitar look better than it is. It seems like I’m almost always surprised when I get a guitar shipped to me that I’ve bought sight unseen. Fortunately, most folks can’t take photos very well and the guitars are frequently a lot better than they look especially after a little cleanup. But, there have been more times than I care to count when the guitar that has shown up has some undisclosed issue that wasn’t visible in the photo. That’s reason one to go get it in person. You can inspect it and then hand over the cash instead of the other way around. Nobody wants to pay good money to travel and then go back home empty handed but think about it…would you rather be out a few hundred bucks for gas or a plane ticket or pay $10,000 or more for a guitar worth, say, half that because the headstock is cracked or the neck is back bowed? It’s nice to think that you can just ask for your money back but you can’t always get it. I don’t buy a lot of guitars off of Ebay but Paypal does give you some recourse if the guitar isn’t as described. But plenty of us buy guitars from Craigslist and The Gear Page and other venues that offer no recourse at all. Caveat Emptor. The other reason to go get the guitar is buyers undying wish to receive the guitar intact. It’s pretty easy for Fedex or UPS or the good ol’ US Postal Service to break, lose or otherwise compromise your expensive guitar. It’s worth noting that even if you “buy” insurance for the full value of the guitar, it is only covered for $1000 if it’s more than 20 years old. I know, from a prior bad experience, that that’s the Fedex rule. I’m told it’s the UPS rule as well and that the USPS won’t insure past a certain dollar figure which is fairly low. So, the guitar you want is in Oklahoma and you’re in Oregon. Too far to drive and probably too expensive to fly there and get it. essentially, you have two less than ideal choices. You can try to explain to the seller how to pack a vintage guitar in what is probably an ill fitting vintage case or you can forget the whole thing. There are plenty of online “how to pack a guitar” tutorials and most are pretty good. Here’s mine: Loosen the strings but  not all the way. Inside the  case:  Wrap bubble wrap around  the headstock and where headstock meets the neck. Put a small  piece of bubble wrap or foam between the end of  the case and  the top of the headstock and another piece between the  endpin and that end of the case. Crumple newspaper under and around the cutaways and at the waist (just stuff it in there).  Take another  piece of bubble wrap (single layer) or foam and put it under the neck (on top of the case pocket). You want the guitar to be “floating” –no part of the neck should be directly touching any part of the case. Put a piece of  newspaper on top of the guitar body  (to protect he finish from  any reaction with bubble wrap) then fold  up enough bubble  wrap on top of the guitar to fill any space between the top of the case and the top of the guitar. Close the case and shake it side to side to make sure the guitar isn’t moving in there. You shouldn’t have to force the lid closed. If you do, take out some packing material. You don’t want any undue pressure on the guitar-you just want to keep it from moving around. For a 335, Get a box at least   46″ long. (I use 50″ boxes). Put a couple of inches of  either bubble wrap or styrofoam peanuts in the bottom of the box.  I hate the peanuts but they are pretty effective. I’ll never buy them but I do recycle them. Put the case in the box fat end  down. Fill the rest of the space  around the guitar case with just  about anything-peanuts,  bubble wrap, paper, foam, old sheets and  towels-it doesn’t  matter as long as the guitar doesn’t move around in  there. Put  a couple more layers of bubble wrap between the top of the  case and the top of the box and seal it up with decent quality tape. Put “fragile”  on the box  and “this end up” toward the top of the box so  the headstock is  always up. Put the shipping label on the top flap and bring it to the Fedex or UPS shipping center-don’t have them pick it up-that’s just one more ham fisted guy who will potentially break your guitar between your house and the Fedex place. I almost always have the guitars shipped and held at my local Fedex as well. That avoids one more opportunity for a driver to break your guitar-the fewer humans that touch it, the more likely it is to get there intact. I’ve had two broken guitars in the last three years shipped to me and one broken one that I shipped. That’s three too many.

3 Responses to “Point A to Point B”

  1. RAB says:

    Charlie, excellent advise as always on the risks of purchasing an instrument after only seeing a couple poor photos. Another good piece of advise is “never assume anything” about the condition of the instrument and ask a lot of questions. Of course this can be problematic with an ignorant (in the true sense of the word) seller…Your packing guidelines are also right-on. I always “over-pack”…another little tip (intentional pun) is to remove the switch tip (where the tip screws off) and place it in a plastic envelope in the case pocket. I received a ’56 LP Custom once where the switch tip had punched a hole in the top of the case and crushed the wood around the switch…no fun!

  2. cgelber says:

    I’ve gotten a Les Paul with a broken switch tip but never a 335. It certainly can’t hurt to take it off and put it in the case pocket in an envelope.

  3. RAB says:

    Yes, can’t be too careful when it comes to packing a +50 year old vintage git-tar!

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