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Dwight Brown

Packing a Violin for shipment

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I need to ship my much loved Matsuda violin to Mr. Matsuda for a little varnish work. It's scaring the hell out of me. The violin is fully insured (even in shipment) but it means a great deal more than money to me. I sprung for one of the small Boblock shipping cases (Fiberglass big enough for a violin, but too short for bows etc.) it seems very solid and nice. I loosened the strings a bit and wrapped tissue around the bridge and put a folded paper towel under the fingerboard for support. Should I put more stuff under the strings or do this thing completely differently? I plan on using Fedex as they are easier to get to than UPS. I am going to pack the case in a large sturdy cardboard box with lots of bubble wrap around it (or peanuts?) Please, any good advice would be welcome as I have had a tragedy with a bow already in my life and I would die if anything happened to my fiddle. I wish I could just drive the damn thing to Illinois, but I just can't. I added soft flannel cloth under the strings on both sides of the bridge and in the C bouts.

Nervous in Del Rio,

Dwight

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Hello Dwight,

I've shipped a number of violins myself, and all but one arrived safely. I sent it with the strings up to tension, and the bridge completely shattered. The person I sent it to had no clue about violins, but is a musician, so I thought I'd leave it tuned. There was no other damage. Insurance paid to have a new bridge fitted.

Most people probably didn't answer, fearing they would be held responsible if anything happened, including myself. I would bubble wrap the violin in case, use a larger box, and fill the rest with peanuts. As long as the strings are off, soundpost down, bridge wraped in a paper towel, it shouldn't be a problem. Use over night or second day shipping, which gives them less time to screw it up.

Sometimes, you just have to let it go, and pray that the Gods are with you. Been there, done that.

(wish I was in del Rio now)

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I only shipped a violin once and did all the things suggested here so far. However, I did not wrap the tailpiece and the attached E string tuner. When it arrived, it had scratched the varnish quite badly, earning me a scolding from the recipient and rightly so. It was shipped to Shar in the early '90's for sale, so I'm sure someone present here might have been working there at the time. It was a nice Nicolo Gagliano.

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Be sure to ALWAYS pack in more peanuts than needed to just fill the box. They settle like crazy and if you fill it well enough for the sides to bulge just slightly it'll probably arrive with some wiggle room. Be sure that the case is "floating" in your packing material.

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I need to ship my much loved Matsuda violin to Mr. Matsuda for a little varnish work. It's scaring the hell out of me. The violin is fully insured (even in shipment) but it means a great deal more than money to me. I sprung for one of the small Boblock shipping cases (Fiberglass big enough for a violin, but too short for bows etc.) it seems very solid and nice. I loosened the strings a bit and wrapped tissue around the bridge and put a folded paper towel under the fingerboard for support. Should I put more stuff under the strings or do this thing completely differently? I plan on using Fedex as they are easier to get to than UPS. I am going to pack the case in a large sturdy cardboard box with lots of bubble wrap around it (or peanuts?) Please, any good advice would be welcome as I have had a tragedy with a bow already in my life and I would die if anything happened to my fiddle. I wish I could just drive the damn thing to Illinois, but I just can't. I added soft flannel cloth under the strings on both sides of the bridge and in the C bouts.

Nervous in Del Rio,

Dwight

++++++++++++

Touch up? I would do it myself or bring it to a local luthier.

If you want it to ship out, wrap everything in a paper towel and fill the space with crumble brown bag paper

(grocery store brown bags). Pack it in a box and put the box in a bigger box. (Box in a box). Crumbled brown paer fills all

space.You can drop your box within 5 feet without

breaking anything inside. Imagine if the bridge falls down it hits the paper towel wrap before the belly. How can it damage anyrhing?

If you lay the bridge flat, it will never hit the belly even if you want to.

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Hi Dwight,

Alf Studios frequently ships instruments, and I have recently shipped by Ole Bull violin for trial. We ship violins via overnight delivery in a case with foam blocks on both sides of the bridge -- the foam blocks go against the sides of the bridge between the top of the instrument and the bottom of the strings, one from bridge to tailpiece, one from bridge to fingerboard. The case then goes in a larger box with dense foam pieces a few inches thick around the case. In my time there, it has worked fine with no serious damage to any instruments, but, of course, there is always some risk in shipping a fragile object.

Zak

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Hi Dwight;

If it makes you feel any better, I've been responsible for and/or personally packed and shipped many thousands of violins & bows over the last 25 years. Had very few mishaps, but they do occur. In most cases, when it happens, rough handling combined with errors in packing is the culprit. Loss (the shipper actually losing the package) is very rare, but I can think of a nice Sartory bow sitting somewhere in a warehouse out there.... ouch... that was 15 years ago and it still hurts.

Anyway, I pack instruments similarly to the method Zak describes. Use a reliable carrier... and I do suggest overnight service.

Cheers!

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I have shipped lots of violins and would suggest not using peanuts. They are small and can shift and leave areas without protection. Wadded up newspaper works much better as protection layer. It doesn't shift, it is cheap, available and is also much more recyclable.

Also I would use over night service. I agree the last thing I want is one of my violins sitting in a hot warehouse somewhere to save a few bucks!

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Thanks everyone for the great advice. I might add that the Bobelock shipping case is really nice. I may buy one of their regular cases. I will let everyone know how it came out.

Dwight

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I ship a lot as well. We leave the instrument set up to help keep the sound post in place, roll bubble wrap and tuck it under the fingerboard and tail piece. It's important to keep the instrument from shifting around in the case, so we put padding in as necessary, and wrap the scroll in bubble wrap so that it is supported.

The fiberglass shipping case is a good choice. Put it in a sturdy box with two inches space all around the case and fill with dunnage. We use peanuts in the interest of saving time, but well crumpled newspaper does great if you have the time and the paper.

We ship regular UPS, and haven't had a problem in years, but we self-insure. If you are worried about insurance, I'd use Fedex or USPS Priority Mail. (Check insurance limits with USPS. I just sent a fiddle to Finland, and USPS would only insure up to $600 ?!)

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FedEx 2nd day air has worked well for me. If saving a bit of money isn't a concern, then FedEx overnight is even better.

Shipping with strings, tailpiece and bridge off is ok since you're shipping to the maker and he will be able to put all of that back together. If you do that, make sure to pack those loose parts somewhere where they can't bang against the fiddle. If you're going to take all that stuff off, take the pegs out, too, so that they don't come loose in transit and bang against the fiddle.

Why not call Matsuda and ask if he prefers fiddles shipped with all that stuff removed or he wants the fiddle shipped under tension. If it doesn't matter to him, I'd take all that stuff off (but label the pegs to go back into correct holes) and pack them inside the case well padded to stay in one place, maybe under the neck, so they can't knock around.

If you do take all the fittings off, put the chinrest back on, because the foam pad at the tailpiece end in the case lid would normally press down against the chinrest. You need that pressure to keep the fiddle in place.

Styrofoam peanuts shifting around is not a problem if you fill the cardboard box the case goes into with enough of them so that you have to use some mild force in closing the box flaps. In other words, you slightly overfill all spaces between case and the cardboard box with the peanuts.

If using bubble wrap instead of styrofoam peanuts, go with the small bubbles under the theory that a single small bubble breaking will not compromise padding as much as a single large bubble breaking.

Bobelock used to have a wood shelled 26 inch oblong shipping case that was very sturdy, and had the advantage of being, I'd guess, a couple of pounds lighter than the current 7 lb fiberglass one. But that fiberglass one looks really strong, maybe sturdier than the wood one.

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Dwight,

Can I ask a favor? What is the length of that Bobelock fiberglass shipping case? The Bobelock website states 24 inches. That can't be right. That's too short by at least about an inch. I've emailed Bobelock asking for the length dimension, but never got an answer.

Thanks

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.... It's important to keep the instrument from shifting around in the case....

Everyone always says this, and I admit that I always try to immobilize the instrument in the case myself for shipping, but I'm not sure that it really matters. As long as the inside of the case is padded with something soft, I can't see the harm that would result if the violin moved around a bit. If moving around in padded cases really harmed instruments, we should immobilize them when walking to the pub for a session or when driving across town for a rehearsal. Would someone care to convince me otherwise?

Of course it would be quite a different matter if the inside of the case were some hard rough material, because then the violin would become scratched if it moved around.

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Everyone always says this, and I admit that I always try to immobilize the instrument in the case myself for shipping, but I'm not sure that it really matters. As long as the inside of the case is padded with something soft, I can't see the harm that would result if the violin moved around a bit. If moving around in padded cases really harmed instruments, we should immobilize them when walking to the pub for a session or when driving across town for a rehearsal. Would someone care to convince me otherwise?

Of course it would be quite a different matter if the inside of the case were some hard rough material, because then the violin would become scratched if it moved around.

Secondary impact and vibration can do quite a bit of damage. I've seen necks come loose from impact with only minor damage to the container, and bad varnish rubs from vibration. If the case has plenty of padding around it, it's better to keep movement within the case to a minimum - not tight, just snug..

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Dwight,

Can I ask a favor? What is the length of that Bobelock fiberglass shipping case? The Bobelock website states 24 inches. That can't be right. That's too short by at least about an inch. I've emailed Bobelock asking for the length dimension, but never got an answer.

Thanks

Howdy,

Mine measures 25 1/4" (and that includes the 1/4" rubber pads on the exterior.")

All the best,

A.C.

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Everyone always says this, and I admit that I always try to immobilize the instrument in the case myself for shipping, but I'm not sure that it really matters. As long as the inside of the case is padded with something soft, I can't see the harm that would result if the violin moved around a bit. If moving around in padded cases really harmed instruments, we should immobilize them when walking to the pub for a session or when driving across town for a rehearsal. Would someone care to convince me otherwise?

Of course it would be quite a different matter if the inside of the case were some hard rough material, because then the violin would become scratched if it moved around.

I agree with you that a very slight bit of shifting in the case can't do any harm as long as the fiddle is not hitting some unpadded object.

As a matter of fact, I think the effort to totally immobilize a fiddle in a case, for instance, by packing enough packing material around the fiddle inside the case, may actually be harmful. If some strong force were to strike the case, all that tight packing material would transmit the force (or some of it) to the fiddle.

If, on the other hand, the "packing material" around a securely fastened down fiddle (by neck strap and chinrest pressure pad in case lid) is dead air, as occurs in a suspension case, then any strong knock to the case can't be transmitted directly to the bridge and soundpost area of the fiddle.

So, in an effort to make sure that a fiddle doesn't shift around too much in a case, the packer should make sure not to undo the benefits of the dead air padding that a suspension case provides around the bridge and soundpost area. In other words, put no padding inside the case that connects the bridge and sound post area with the exterior of the case.

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Howdy,

Mine measures 25 1/4" (and that includes the 1/4" rubber pads on the exterior.")

All the best,

A.C.

AC,

Thank you.

That makes the Bobelock shipping case the same length (within a 1/4 inch) of the violin only BAM Hightech Overhead case, which BAM made for airline carry-on. The Bam Hightech Overhead weighs less than 3 lbs, and is very strong. I've used it as an airline carry-on and really like it.

But for shipping, I think the extra weight (and thus, I assume, the extra strength) of the Bobelock would be reassuring.

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Mine is 25 1/4" as well. It comes with a nice outer cover too. I bought the cheaper one that had velour instead of velvet. The velour is very nice and the velcro for the neck is sturdy. On a better note, all ten of my Jr. High students got "1's" on their solos at contest today. They are not very advanced, but they all practiced and were rewarded. Sorry for the thread drift.

Dwight

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I have been shipping instruments since 1974. A vast-vast-vast majority of them make it. I have seen bridges smashed through the top due to something heavy falling on the box, soundposts rammed up through the top, tops split from end to end (happened a month ago), scrolls snapped off, and end blocks split. If someone is shipping to a dealer, I would suggest taking the endpin out, tailpiece and bridge removed and the soundpost knocked down. THis makes sense for a shipment of a violin to be repaired, since this is going to be done by the luthier anyway--you are saving her some time. Nothing will protect a box that ends up under the tires of the delivery truck (happened once), but removing all those parts reduces the opportunities for heavy boxes falling on your box to do damage. In nonsuspension cases, removing the endpin reduces the chance of splitting the endblock from a hard blow or long drop to the end of the case. The scrolls being snapped off seems to be a function of case designs within which the back of the scroll touches the back of the case and the velcro strap that holds the violin in place was tightly wrapped around the neck--all it takes is some sort of bending of the box/case to snap the scroll--a fulcrum effect when boxes become arranged in a certain way. THe neck should be able to move a little bit to avoid this. Violins being split from end to end are probably due to a very heavy box smashing at a high rate of speed into the end of the case/box stopped on a conveyor belt. Also, I have seen one case of a violin arriving with the varnish blistered. This was a new fiddle, perhaps the varnish wasn't completely cured and the shipping container got extremely hot.

The most common damage I see with shipping violins to me is the failure to put paper or cardboard under the tailpiece after removing the bridge. Most of us have seen the arc shaped scratch caused by the fine tuner swinging back and forth under the tailpiece, across the top, during its long journey in a semi truck.

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This might be more important for cellos and other large instruments, but remember that bubble wrapping the instrument in the case could be dangerous if the shipment goes in an unpressurized air cargo compartment. The bubble wrap will expand and put pressure on the instrument.

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Hi Dwight,

Alf Studios frequently ships instruments, and I have recently shipped by Ole Bull violin for trial. We ship violins via overnight delivery in a case with foam blocks on both sides of the bridge -- the foam blocks go against the sides of the bridge between the top of the instrument and the bottom of the strings, one from bridge to tailpiece, one from bridge to fingerboard. The case then goes in a larger box with dense foam pieces a few inches thick around the case. In my time there, it has worked fine with no serious damage to any instruments, but, of course, there is always some risk in shipping a fragile object.

Zak

Zak,

Can you tell us more about the type of foam used? Source?

Mike

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If the violin is to be sent with a setup, I use soft upholstery foam... cut and place thin strips between the fingerboard and strings (tighten strings down onto foam), and between the tailpiece and the top. I place two soft foam blocks to hold the bridge up, and a block of foam at the peg box and above the tailpiece to suspend the violin.

I prefer shipping instruments with the bridge down.

You can purchase this foam at any craft store.

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