Thoughts on Shipping A Violin...


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I've shipped violins, mandolins and banjo's in the past but always in hardshell cases. I've never had one damaged luckily. I'm very curious how others handle the packaging and shipping of instruments.

It seems that things are getting worse because I receive lots of damaged items no matter what carrier I choose.

I think of people like padah hound who ships violins all the time and I think he advertises that he has custom boxes made for shipping. His shipping prices seem very reasonable and I hope he reads this and can offer some suggestions. Can anyone provide a supplier of not so expensive cases that would survive the trip?

I have one friend who ships everyone of his violins overnight despite the cost because it cuts down on the handling.

I would be really po'd if one of my violins got run over by a fork lift. And I've also heard it is another hassle trying to get your insurance refunded. What type of hoops do you have to jump through if that happens.

In my experience the USPS was the hardest to get reimbursed. It really is kind of a crap shoot, isn't it?

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The best way to ship an instrument is with the sound post knocked down, bridge removed and the end pin removed. Only works when shipping to a dealer or repair station. One of the common sources of damage when amateurs ship instruments in old or cheap student cases is that the bow comes loose in shipment and then the end of the bow plays drums on the top of the instrument during the rest of the shipment.


I use a somewhat different method than shown in the videos. First, if peanuts must be used, a surplus (over-fill) of peanuts must be added to the box--if not, the case can settle in the box since the  peanuts can move around. Peanuts are a pain to deal with while unpacking. Instead, I wrap both ends with the large 1" bubble-sized wrap, with one half of the length of bubble wrap hanging off the end. This surplus is then folded over and tapped, providing an effective cushion on the ends when the box plows into other boxes on the conveyor belts.


The scroll of the violin should never be touching the bottom of the case--the neck should not be strapped tightly to the neck rest in the case. These two contact points become fulcrums if the box is twisted or bent which can occur when boxes jam up on conveyor belts or when stacks of boxes collapse inside semi-trucks. The other issue is a hard lick to the end of the violin (endpin) which results in a cracked end block.


Lastly, if you are so unlucky as to have a very short delivery person in one of those tall delivery trucks, they may well stand on your violin box to get packages off the top shelves. Bridge gets smashed through top of violin--remove the bridge if at all possible. Once I know the height dimension of the boxes I am using, I cut up strips of cardboard to that height and line the interior with an extra layer of cardboard. This is actually easy to do. Just collect boxes (guitar or bicycle) and cut the strips on a table saw to the right dimensions.


The videos out there shows us what to do but do not help in understanding what are the sources of damage. Cases are different and boxes and available packing materials differ. Good packing involves recognizing and thinking about scenarios that could cause damage and then how to minimize the chance that they will occur.

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Agreed about the dropping of the post and removing fittings. If it isn't going to a shop, I would almost rather pull it all down and contact someone in the area who I can pay to set it back up.


A few other suggestions:


1-Next Day Air-We have found that the longer it is in transit, the greater the chance it will be damaged.


2-With UPS, insure-oh, sorry...Declared Value (they don't offer insurance...) of over 5k gives the item special care and handling.


3-UPS requires 2" of packing space around the item, inside the box. A double box is best, but increases the dim wt and thus, the cost.


4-A new, unused box-Shippers will say that they can't tell if the damage to the outside of the box came from a previous shipment. 


Also, if you haven't thought about it-a sound post in motion will remain in motion until it is acted upon by a greater restraining force. If the box falls  

8 feet, stops, and the loose post is a little projectile inside the instrument, it can and will go through a rib. 


Don't ask how I know...

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I don't have any specific advice, but I consider two dangers that a violin needs to be protected against in shipping:


1.  Abrasion by repeated rubbing against hard objects like a bow.  To protect against this, the violin should be completely surrounded by some soft protective material.  It is easy to protect against abrasion.


2.  Crushing.  To protect against this, the violin would ideally by inside a well-padded sturdy case, and the case would be packed, surrounded by more padding, inside a rigid box.  It is a lot harder to protect against crushing.  You have to decide what level of protection is reasonable.  Should the violin be protected against someone standing on the box, as brokenbow suggests?  How about someone jumping up and down on the box?  How about a truck running over the box?

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I liked the video very much, especially its emphasis on holding the fiddle down into the case, either with neck strap or with rolled  bubble wrap so that bridge can't slam into case lid.


The only additions I'd have for what's already been stated:


--A shipping case for violin only is not a bad idea.  It's about 6 inches shorter than the standard violin + bow case.  But it should have all the padding, suspension and straps that a high quality violin + bow case has for the fiddle, and should be packed into an additional cardboard box, just as one would a full size case, but you can select a shorter box.  Bobelock is a good source for shipping cases.  There may be others who also make such cases.  Those cases are also great for airline travel if you're not bringing along a bow.


Here's Bobelock's current shipping case:

I have an older model that's all wood and is about 2 pounds lighter which I like a lot.


-- FedEx used to have a 2nd day air shipping option which was a good compromise between the expense of overnight shipping and the length of slower shipping.  I don't know if that option is still available.

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