The 5 "don'ts" of clarinet/sax shipping.

The 5 "don'ts" of clarinet/sax shipping.

I got a great question out of the blue from a guy named Michael (no relation).

Michael writes:

I just had a question on shipping a Bb Clarinet. This is my first time selling an instrument online and I wanted to know if you have any advice for shipping a clarinet or saxophone. I’m honestly a little nervous about this and I don’t want the instrument to get damaged during transit.

Well, I’ve seen instruments show up packed in all different ways. But the most memorable was when I got a bass clarinet that was only wrapped in a ton of bubble wrap — as in, there was no case! — and it was just fine. Normally, when you ship an instrument the safest place for it is in the RIGHT case. A crappy case will be what causes the most damage to an instrument in shipment. Why? Because a bad case doesn’t immobilize the instrument, so the instrument rattles around inside the case like a Hetsu maraca seed. (Zelda reference. You’re welcome.)

So with that, here’s what to think about when shipping

Don’t let the instrument hurt itself. Immobilize the instrument as much as possible INSIDE the case. You don’t want keys flapping around, so you can pick up small cork wedges to close all normally-open pads. Wedge those things under the appropriate linkage (the part that touches the clarinet when the pad is open—note, this is usually NOT the key!), and then put the instrument in your case.

Don’t let the case hurt your instrument. If the joints of your instrument are loose inside the case, there are still a few things you can do. Wad up paper towels and add them to one of the joint ends so they do not wiggle. You can also add a couple layers of paper towels on top of the joints to remove any space between the instrument and the lid. Note: do not use newspaper! The newsprint can tarnish keys badly, and sometimes irreversibly. So unless you want to read the New York Times every time you practice in front of a mirror, hear me now, believe me later. Note #2: Don’t add so much paper that the case is hard to close; you could bend keys and rods.

Don’t let the lack of a case instrument. Put plastic wrap over the case for added security. This is worst-case scenario insurance — if the box breaks open during transit, this step would keep the case from opening.

Don’t let the box hurt your instrument.  Box size does matter—but not in the way you might think. A bigger box is not a better box. Why? Styrofoam peanuts compress, and air bags pop. And that means your case will move around inside. You really only need a box that gives you a few inches of space for packing materials. Which brings me to…packing material.  I usually keep all of the airbags that come with my Amazon shipments. But in order of preference for security, I choose 1) styrofoam peanuts, 2) air bags, 3) bubble wrap, 4) nothing, 5) wadded up paper. (Yes, wadded up paper is worse than nothing. False sense of security.) Whichever material you use, make sure all voids are filled. If you use styrofoam peanuts, pre-compress by pressing down on them and use more than you think.  When you close the lid on the box, you should be able to shake the box and feel nothing moving on the inside. Then Tape all seams, (even ones that may already be taped from the last shipper).

Don’t let the carrier hurt your instrument.  Or, rather, if they do hurt your instrument — or worse yet, lose it! — you need to be covered. First, you can insure your instrument for the replacement cost, but this is usually only collectable if the shipper loses your package entirely. More likely than a total loss, is damage. UPS/FedEx, etc will not reimburse you for damage. So if you want to be 100% covered, you’ll need a third-party insurer. I haven’t used them, but Shipsurance is a provider that will cover you in case of damage, too.

So there you go! A lot of information, but this should keep you—and your instrument—safe and happy.

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