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February 28, 2008 | Tips for shipping mandolins

If you suffer from chronic MAS (Mandolin Acquisition Syndrome) and subscribe to a prudent "catch and release" strategy of "one comes in, one must go," shipping instruments is a very real issue for you. With the luxury of internet (global) communication and a vast array of shipping company resources, it's never been easier to move your former pride and joy across the continent (or ocean!) to be someone else's new pride and joy.

Having shipped over three dozen instruments over the past few years, we can give you some valuable tips on how to pack these treasures, and assure safe arrival. It's no secret; the chain of labor handling your cargo along the way won't have even a fraction of the emotional investment, and to protect yourself, you'll need to go the extra mile in the way you pack your container.

Detuning: Even the builders themselves will differ on how necessary it is to lessen the tension on an instrument's top. We've received mandolins completely tuned to pitch, and some with the bridge and strings completely removed. Lean to something in the middle here. The instrument's is designed for tension (and it's a hassle for a customer intonating a bridge), so taking it off isn't the greatest idea. If you do, put masking tape where the bridge is supposed go. Not everyone knows how to adjust this. It probably doesn't hurt to detune the instrument a few notes.

Budge: You want to pack well, but not so well that there is no "give" to the surrounding packing. Wedged in too tight, you run the risk of energy from outside jarring and dropping transfering directly to the instrument. Allow for a very slight bit of "bounce" so the packing absorbs these inevitable blows.

Shifting: On the same note, like a cereal box and airline overhead compartment, some shifting of contents will occur. If the instrument shifts its way in transit completely to the boxes edge inside, the packing material is doing no good. A good idea is to wrap bubble wrap around the case before surrounding it with other packing (peanuts, paper, bubble pillows).

Temperature: The Northern Hemisphere is coming out of winter, but consider the destination's climate. A healthy rule to live by is subfreezing weather requires a 24-hour acclimation prior to opening the box. Demand from your buyer this period of time before unpacking (add to your trial period!), as neither of you want to see the finish checking that occurs when a frozen instrument's wood warms at a different rate than its finish. (You only have to see this happen once, and you'll never allow it to happen again...) Err on the side of caution.

Lock down: Watch what you have inside the case. If you have accessories, don't allow them to scratch the instrument in transit. If you have room inside for the instrument to move around the case, you'll want to stabilize the instrument with some packing material using the principles we've already suggested.

Timing: Some advocate paying premium shipping to reduce transit time. If you ship at the beginning of the week, your chances of arriving at a destination with no weekend stay are greatly increased. Our suggestion is to put your money and effort into the way you pack more than the service itself.

Measurement: Of course, you want a box with sufficient room for maximum padding, but if you are shipping an international package through the US Postal Service, check the dimensions of the box and subsequent pricing. Postage is calculated by adding girth and length; mandolin boxes are a funny size where a 1/2" difference in the length of the box can double the shipping price (maximum girth plus length total=108 inches). Find out what your dimensions are; you may save enormous shipping costs by scoring the inside of the box and folding the container to a smaller dimension. Check the USPS website for more information on international shipping.

Posted by Ted at February 28, 2008 9:32 AM

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