Cross country, cold weather, acoustic guitar shipping

doctormrd

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I have several outstanding opportunities to buy acoustic guitars. These are custom models and of somewhat limited production. I am concerned about them being shipped across the country in unheated freight trailers (USPS, UPS, FEDX, etc.) and subjecting them to very cold temperatures.
Does anyone have thoughts about this situation? Solutions ? Experiences?
I didn't give it much thought until my tastes turned to custom, vintage, and limited production models.
Thanks for any and all opinions.
MD
 

geoguy

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My approach would be to minimize an expensive guitar's time in transit (splurge on overnight or 2-day shipping, for example).

I would also want to be reassured that the shipper knows how to carefully pack an instrument for shipping (frets.com has a good tutorial on that topic).

Lastly, take the usual precautions about slowly allowing the carton to warm indoors before opening the instrument's case.
 

Boneman

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I think it all depends on how they pack them up for shipping really, and that no one opens up the case to look at it during its transport in the back of the cold old freight truck. :)

Should be fine as long as you let them acclimate where you are. And even if so, while the finish may haze, check, ripple it shouldn’t impact the structure or tone of the guitar. Of course you want to avoid messing up the appearance so as mentioned, just as long as you don’t rip open the box and case to play it as soon as it arrives you should be fine.

And if you think about touring bands; playing outdoors, the bus rides, plane rides, cargo holds, the winter weather, summer weather. Golly their guitars come in and out of all sorts of conditions on a daily basis and they don’t seem to be having any problems.

Sounds exciting though, you say several, how many are you gunning for?
 

doctormrd

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Thanks folks!

I didn't think about the touring musicians and their constantly changing environments for instruments. I would venture a guess that their special, extremely valuable, or favorite instruments travel with them in whatever vehicle they are using. But, I don't know that as a fact.

I always allow a very slow and controlled acclimation to the room in which I am initially introducing the guitar. The shipping carton or container is not opened for at least half of a day, and sometimes overnight, after arrival. Even the less expensive items (including keyboards and amplifiers) get the same treatment.
I have sent my shipping tips and requirements to the sellers and they are agreeable. They even have some good ideas of their own.. Those requirements are detailed, specific, and numerous. I am sure most of us are well aware of what to do and what not to do when packing a guitar for a possible journey through hell. I am always willing to learn about packing for shipments. I will take the required actions to do it right.

I know that overnight and/or two day shipping would help reduce the possibilities of exposure to extreme temperature changes. However, that is very pricey at the moment but probably worth it.

I am chasing three special guitars right now. A Gibson, a Santa Cruz, and a Guild Orpheum. I have not made any firm commitments due to my concerns about the temperature extremes involved with shipping during this season.

Thanks for the thoughts. It will help me decide what to do.

MD
 

Guildedagain

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Try not to have a guitar shipped during a "Bomb cyclone" or "Polar Vortex" or "Heat Dome" in the summer, I can attest that you will pay the price.

If you must have a guitar shipped, overnight it.

If that's too much dough, 2nd day air, or my old standby, USPS Priority mail, roughly 3 days coast to coast.

"Acclimatizing" a guitar will only ensure that a rapid temp change doesn't occur once in your possession, but plenty of damage can happen on the way when a) someone ships a guitar during a Polar vortex, b) springs for USPS "Ground Select" some no tracking service that can have an item seemingly lost for up to a month, at a shipping price that's usually within two bucks of Priority Mail, truly a mystery service that one.
 

richardp69

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I've shipped and received a whole lot of guitars in frigid weather. I've never had a problem but it still worries me quite a bit. In the last few years I've tried to not buy anthing after Dec. 1st and to not ship until after April 1st. But, if I see one I'm really lusting after I'll break that general rule willingly and often.

All the comments above are good advice I believe.
 

HeyMikey

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I might take a chance on buying at this time of year if the weather is not too bad. I would not do it during the dead of winter here in the northeast. My cutoffs are generally the same as Richard’s.

However, there is no way I would ship one of my guitars in the colder weather, because I have zero control over the buyer acclimating it.

I do acclimate mine a good 24 hours. In the colder months going from the unheated basement boxed, then unboxed, then to a heated room, then finally opened. In the hot summer months with AC blowing I do a similar thing from warmer to cooler.
 

Charlie Bernstein

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My two rules:

- Never ship in winter.

- Never ship by air.

Cold frets and other metal parts can badly check the finish around them. If the guitar is already checked to death, it's no big deal. But if the finish still looks good, cold shipping can ruin it.

So when I ship or order instruments, I only do it in warm weather, and only by ground.

As discussed above, it's true that there are steps you can take to minimize the risk. But there's still a risk. For instance, the rugged hardshell case promised might turn out to be inadequate or nonexistant. And a trip that's harmless for one instrument might be lethal to another. Or the seller might forget to loosen the strings.

All in all, it makes me highly nervous. So I'm a fair-weather buyer and seller. But if a deal is too good to pass up, you can pay now and have it shipped when winter is safely out of the way. Or just take the plunge and hope for the best.
 
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GAD

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I have never waited for warmer weather to buy a guitar. I’ve owned probably 200+ and have never had an issue. Most of those were not acoustics, but many were lacquer.

The only problems I’ve ever had were due to shippers not packing well which led to damage. Some from well established collectors, too.

I might be inclined to avoid sub-zero (F) temps but probably not.

If I were selling I’d certainly cater to the buyer’s wishes, but as a buyer so long as the guitar is packed well and allowed to acclimate I have no problems buying in the cold. I do agree that the less time in a shipper’s care the better, but I wouldn’t pay for overnighting a guitar.
 

davismanLV

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There are a few high-end builders who use poly finishes, and that's a huge relief to shipping in cold or hot. Poly is much more resistant to temperature changes. Nitrocellulose lacquer, not so much. (y)
 

wileypickett

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I've had one or two badly packed guitars suffer damage (this over roughly four decades of shipping and receiving guitars) but no guitar that was shipped to me has ever suffered because of weather conditions.

Keep in mind that all guitar makers (all the big names and all the boutique makers) ship guitars year-round, coast to coast and overseas. (It'd be interesting to know how many Taylors or Martins are shipped every month, but it'd have to be in the thousands, and I've never heard of any of them pausing because of cold or hot weather.)

Take the recommended precautions and (at least based on personal experience) you have little to worry about.
 

Westerly Wood

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Winter’s am ideal time to ship acoustic guitars if you like tone flames.
 

West R Lee

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I have several outstanding opportunities to buy acoustic guitars. These are custom models and of somewhat limited production. I am concerned about them being shipped across the country in unheated freight trailers (USPS, UPS, FEDX, etc.) and subjecting them to very cold temperatures.
Does anyone have thoughts about this situation? Solutions ? Experiences?
I didn't give it much thought until my tastes turned to custom, vintage, and limited production models.
Thanks for any and all opinions.
MD
I suppose we all have our own opinions. I have, and have had some very expensive guitars, and have had a couple of them shipped during very cold weather. The latest was a Collings CJ which I ordered one January from Chicago Music Exchange and shipped here to Texas during mid teen weather in Chicago.

The issue is that wood and nitro lacquer expand and contract at different rates, and to me the real danger is exposing a very cold guitar to room temperature or warmer. As Tom mentioned earlier, a poly finished guitar is like having a sheet of hard plastic on a guitar, and I've never heard of one cracking.

Personally, if I have a guitar coming from a cold weather climate, I place the box in the garage for a few hours. Then I bring the box into the house and allow the box temperature to acclimate to room temp for several hours. After several hours in the house, I take the guitar case out of the box, then allow it to acclimate a few hours. Then I'll open the case after I'm sure the inside of the case/guitar are at room temperature.

It's not easy to do sometimes, but the was I look at it is that I've taken the time to shop, pay money, and wait on shipping........I can wait several hours while the guitar acclimates.

West
 
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wileypickett

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The Taylors are poly finished, so they don't worry about that.

Thanks Tom -- I didn't know they were all poly finished now. But the point is the same -- they and other makers have shipped hundreds of thousands of guitars over many decades (most not poly finished) and they shipped 'em everywhere, year round.

Of course, when I say ". . . you have little to worry about," I know that won't cut much ice (so to speak) with people who whose makeup includes the "worry gene."

We're all different. I take precautions, but I tend not to be a worrier. Sometimes my not worrying has bit me (I learned the hard way about keeping my guitars hydrated for instance) but I seem to just naturally not worry too much about things -- or at least things I have limited control over.
 

HeyMikey

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I bought a new inexpensive guitar that had finish cracks from being stored in a cold warehouse then brought into the retail store too quickly by an unknowing employee. I decided to have some fun and further the process to “relic” it with compressed air since it was already toast. Pretty shocking how quickly it can happen going from ice cold to room temp.
 

GAD

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I bought a new inexpensive guitar that had finish cracks from being stored in a cold warehouse then brought into the retail store too quickly by an unknowing employee. I decided to have some fun and further the process to “relic” it with compressed air since it was already toast. Pretty shocking how quickly it can happen going from ice cold to room temp.
People with Historic Les Pauls have been known to do all sorts of crazy things to get vintage-looking lacquer cracks. They’re a nutty bunch.
 

HeyMikey

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People with Historic Les Pauls have been known to do all sorts of crazy things to get vintage-looking lacquer cracks. They’re a nutty bunch.
And they pay extra for that!
 

jp

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I just shipped a vintage bass across the U.S., and it's supposed to arrive tomorrow. The customer didn't want USPS which would have been faster, and it's taken a week. It's supposed to arrive tomorrow, and even though I packed it for wartime, I'm dreading the arrival outcome. A somewhat famous Nashville musician bought it, and I really hope it arrives intact for him. The cold weather is the killer. Fortunately, he knows to let it acclimate before opening it. Fingers crossed! 😣🤞
 
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