Tips on shipping dulcimers

Bob Stephens
Bob Stephens
@bob-stephens
one month ago
4 posts

Here are a few photos of the shipping crate that I use for the dulcimers I build.  It's basically a plywood crate inside a cardboard box.  There are additional wood stiffeners at the corners and at two places along the length so that the crate is not easily crushed.  Total shipping weight is about 20 pounds.  Dulcimers have been shipped all over the US with out incident.  This may be overkill for some instruments, but when the value of the dulcimer is well over $1000 and it has taken 4 months plus to build, I feel the it is justified.

IMG_6276.jpeg
IMG_6276.jpeg  •  4.1MB

IMG_6278.jpeg
IMG_6278.jpeg  •  4.4MB

Kristi Keller
Kristi Keller
@kristi-keller
3 years ago
86 posts

Just a reminder to anyone shipping instruments in extremely hot or cold weather, try to be at home to  accept package and check that box shows no signs of damage!! It has been over 100 here in our area of Arizona and I hate to think what the inside of a box must be like for wooden instruments.

Many makers suggest that their shipment be brought indoors and allowed to come to room temp for several hours prior to opening. Hard to imagine that anyone has that sort of self control so  I leave home for lots of errands!

Kristi Keller
Kristi Keller
@kristi-keller
4 years ago
86 posts

Reminder that shipping our instruments in HOT weather is good reason to delay opening the box. Inspect container for damage and be patient for several hours or overnight until box has cooled to room temperature. Then check temp of the case and do the same. All this requires superhuman self control (which is not one of my strong points).

Open, tune and enjoy for years to come.

Jan Potts
Jan Potts
@jan-potts
5 years ago
440 posts

Glad it arrived safely!




--
Jan Potts, Lexington, KY
Site Moderator

"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." Henry Van Dyke
Kristi Keller
Kristi Keller
@kristi-keller
5 years ago
86 posts

The instrument arrived safely which is a relief for seller and me. He paid $26.00 for 2-3 day delivery which should have been Friday December 4th. Yesterday was December 12. No refund to seller as far as I know. Package showed some signs of being placed under heavy objects in spite of Fragile stickers. Dave was a careful packer so the dulci is OK. I will not permit packages to be sent here via USPS.

Kristi Keller
Kristi Keller
@kristi-keller
5 years ago
86 posts

Another rant against USPS which received a dulcimer on December1. So far as we can tell, it may be in Chicago since it has never been scanned elsewhere. The seller paid for 2nd day delivery which should have been on or by Dec. 4th. Apparently the USPS "rents" space on commercial planes as available. 

I will post again when and if the dulcimer arrives here safely...... The postmen and women here in Tucson do an excellent job, their professionalism and care are great. But paying for 2nd day receipt and getting sled dog delivery is terrible.

Kat Vallish
Kat Vallish
@kat-vallish
5 years ago
1 posts

I have a retail store where I ship items daily.  In the past 6 months, UPS and the USPS have become brutal in their treatment of packages.  It took me a while and a lot of broken glass, to figure out what the problem is. No matter what kind of stickers or fragile messages you put on the outside of the box, a lot of weight is often piled on top of the box.  Your box needs to be able to withstand hundreds of pounds of weight in order to arrive safely.  Hard dulcimer cases, would be of great help.  Lots of vertical cardboard would help in preventing the dulcimer from being crushed. 

I double and sometimes triple box items that I send. 

 

joe sanguinette
joe sanguinette
@joe-sanguinette
5 years ago
74 posts

i shipped hundreds of dulcimers USPS over the years with no problems.  proper packing is the key.  the cardboard tubes

are a great idea.   i used USPS because they were cheaper.......especially to destinations outside the USA.

Jan Potts
Jan Potts
@jan-potts
5 years ago
440 posts

Kristi said, "Whoops, guess I should have mentioned treatment presupposes a cased dulcimer. "

I was thinking "cased", too.  I would wrap the instrument in cloth and then fill in packing materials in all the empty spaces.  Close the case.  Then I would wrap the case in bubblewrap because I've never had a problem with it, if it's not right next to the wood inside the case. Now comes the more difficult decisions.  How valuable is this instrument?  Is it irreplaceable?  How far is it traveling?  Who's shipping it?  If you followed the advice to put it in a "corregated cardboard cement form tube" then you'd just shove it in there, fill in the spaces, fill in both end, tape, and you're pretty much done.  But I've never done it that way, so my experiences is only with cardboard boxes.

You will pay a whole lot of money to ship UPS, esp. if they pack it.  I've personally had experiences where shipping the dulcimer was more than the price I paid for it--that just doesn't make sense!!!!  If I have the time to pack it well and send it USPS, then that's what I do.  It saves a lot of money, but you do need to pack it well!  If you can double box it, that's best. But if you can't, then PLEASE get a VERY STURDY corregated board shipping box, add extra pieces of cardboard front, back, wrap cardboard around the ends of the case, and make sure ALL the spaces are filled. Shake it. Add more. 

Just please do NOT use a box that a vacuum cleaner came in from the department store, etc.  They have no STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY--"the ability of an item to hold together under a load, including its own weight, resisting breakage or bending.'  You have to assume rough treatment by shippers.  When you get done packing this instrument, you should at least be confident that IF you stood on it--but don't!!!--then the package would not bend, collapse, etc.  If that's too hard to wrap your mind around, then think about it being at the bottom of a stack of boxes--and each of those boxes on top of it are holding a case of copy paper or two....

I once had an irreplaceable instrument sent to me in a practically indestructable instrument case--that I was not able to buy--and then paid to have the case shipped back across the country...and that was the right solution for that item.  The case was then packed, as I described above, in a sturdy outer box. 

I had someone send me an instrument that was rattling around in a box with a few sheets of newspaper crushed into balls at the bottom of the box.  That it survived the trip of 100 miles without even being in a case is, in fact, a miracle. 

Hope these tips help.  Just don't put yourself in a position where if something goes wrong, you say "I should've".......




--
Jan Potts, Lexington, KY
Site Moderator

"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." Henry Van Dyke
marg
@marg
5 years ago
545 posts

"double box instruments"

If the dulcimer has a hard case, should it still be double boxed or just good box with padding?

marg
@marg
5 years ago
545 posts

Do you find one company is better than another for shipping? Reading the post sounds like maybe UPS is better than the others. Has anyone ever have UPS help pack the instruments and would they do a decent job of it? Or - are their boxes to thin?

Kristi Keller
Kristi Keller
@kristi-keller
5 years ago
86 posts

Whoops, guess I should have mentioned treatment presupposes a cased dulcimer. 

Jan Potts
Jan Potts
@jan-potts
5 years ago
440 posts

Good suggestions, Kristi!  I like to receive my instruments wrapped in cotton cloth (part of an old sheet or several old T-shirts will do).  Then, whatever packing material is used doesn't come in direct contact with the instrument.




--
Jan Potts, Lexington, KY
Site Moderator

"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." Henry Van Dyke
Kristi Keller
Kristi Keller
@kristi-keller
5 years ago
86 posts

Popcorn, while a grand snack, is also good insulation for shipping instruments and other fragile items. (Please use unflavored and unsalted for reason to follow.) Popcorn is biodegradeable but the birds and squirrels love it too! 

You should still ship in a container which allows enough packing material all around the instrument. I like to "pad" both top and bottom and then go crazy with popcorn. Have been told that some states (Montana) forbid use of the styrafoam peanuts due to landfill space. But popcorn will make the birds adore you!

 

Never put bubble wrap in contact with any wood since it can "gas" the wood finish and leave it looking like an intro scene from Lawrence Welk show. I recently got a pre-loved carefully packaged dulcimer and spent hours working on the finish after consulting with the maker. His advice worked and I am very pleased.

 

Our temps here are among the nation's highest (buzzards carry tiny bottles of catsup sorta like brandy with Saint Bernards) and some guitar makers have large print on boxes reminding the eager owner to wait at least until the box has cooled to room setting. Then I allow the cased instrument further time to settle into room temp. This process is much harder than learning to play all parts of Handel's Messiah overnight! I must confess that several times I have yielded to temptation and opened case for a peak.... But I try.

 

Someone spent many hours creating the dulcimer of your dreams and it makes sense to give their offering a safe chance for survival.

Jan Potts
Jan Potts
@jan-potts
5 years ago
440 posts

Another source of boxes (if you can't somebody to give you one) is Uline packaging, online  http://www.uline.com/BL_406/Long-Boxes.  You have to buy a bundle of 10, but the cost of the whole bundle is cheaper than taking your instruments to a a commercial shipper. 

Just another option....




--
Jan Potts, Lexington, KY
Site Moderator

"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." Henry Van Dyke
Karen B
Karen B
@karen-b
5 years ago
2 posts

After spending an afternoon at office supply stores and the Post Office looking for a box --to no avail, I wandered into Golf Galaxy and asked by chance if they had any discarded boxes from a set of clubs or a club carrier.  Voila!  A sturdy, corrugated box with room enough for peanuts (the biodegradable kind!) around my bubble wrapped dulcimer.  Guitar Center also said they would give me a box, but I would have to wait until their next shipment. 

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
5 years ago
1,736 posts

I use a 6" tube for narrow old style dulcimers, or 8" for wider instruments.  I have trouble finding 6" tubes, but they do exist.

Karen B
Karen B
@karen-b
5 years ago
2 posts

Ken Hulme:
When I ship dulcimers, I use the ultra heavy (1/2" thick) cardboard tubes used as concrete molds for piers and posts, which you can find at Home Depot or Lowe's. It costs a couple bucks, but that's not a problem. I cut the tube a few inches over length and make end caps from corregated cardboard and tape one in place with balled up newspaper or whatever for end padding. Inside, I roll the dulcimer up in bubble wrap until it's a snug fit, side it into place, then tape on the other end cap. Because of the shape, any weight place on it or shoved into it tends to be deflected. Either that or the carrier stands it on end.

KEN:  Thanks for this idea.  I see these tubes come in different widths.  I'll take my dulcimer to Lowe's to check it out, but what do you usually use?   

Kristi Keller
Kristi Keller
@kristi-keller
6 years ago
86 posts

Glad you bought a Lynch student model to enjoy while vacationing. With most instruments, you get what you pay for. David's inexpensive student model exceeds the tone and quality of numerous far more costly instruments.

This dulcimer community is full of music loving people who "share" a diversity of likes and dislikes but whose primary interest is in helping one another.

In that spirit, I'd like to remind everyone to send a donation so that FOTMD remains available for all of us.

Colleen Hailey
Colleen Hailey
@colleen-hailey
6 years ago
67 posts
Thanks. That makes me feel better. My family and friends think I'm nuts to buy another one, just so I can have one to practice on whilst on vacation. I did buy a used student David Lynch model and am having it shipped to my mothers house. Of course, it is still being sent UPS, but I trust that the banjo store where I bought it has far more experience (and better packing materials) than I do, as far as shipping musical instruments goes.
updated by @colleen-hailey: 07/04/15 10:44:55PM
Jan Potts
Jan Potts
@jan-potts
6 years ago
440 posts

Colleen, I think that's a good way to go. I purchased an inexpensive one and had it shipped directly to my mother's home so that I wouldn't have to risk carrying one on an airplane...or, worse, having it checked. Sometimes, though, the airplanes end up being such tiny ones that they would make me "valet check" it, anyway, and then who knows what would happen to it.

It always amazes me how much faith folks put in the various delivery personnel to get a package from point A to point B in as good a shape as when they wrapped it. If folks would at least contemplate whether or not they could safely stand on their package, it might convince peopleto use sturdy boxes (2 is best), adequate protection both inside and outside the case, and all spaces in the box filled in with materials that maintain the sturdiness of the package. I recently received an instrument in an ordinary black zippered "envelope" type bag which was simply put in a box without anything wrapped around it. That is wasn't totally crushed in transport is mind boggling--and a miracle.

Let's remember, too, that sometimes these instruments are very much "one of a kind" and that the artistry thatgoes into a particular instrument may not be able to be duplicated, or the wood or other materials no longer available.

While my success and good fortune of receiving instruments in good shape has been nearly99%, the fewthat didn't make it are a real shame.

I hope folks can learn from others' mistakes. In forklift v poorly packaged mountain dulcimer, it's almost always the forklift that wins. Frown.gif




--
Jan Potts, Lexington, KY
Site Moderator

"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." Henry Van Dyke
Colleen Hailey
Colleen Hailey
@colleen-hailey
6 years ago
67 posts

After reading this thread and the various threads concerning traveling with dulcimers on airlines, I'm thinking that I may try for option number 3--buy a cheap (but nice) cardboard dulcimer and have it shipped directly to my mother's house. That way, I'll always have a dulcimer to play when I visit and won't have to worry about packing for UPS or the airlines. I don't have my original dulcimer box anymore for my student model. I do have a cheapie Craigslist model, but just because it was cheap doesn't mean I want it smashed due to my own poor packing or luck. Common sense says no, but I would like to be able to practice whilst on vacation....

Sue Wood
Sue Wood
@sue-wood
6 years ago
2 posts

David Lynch successfully shipped two dulcimers to me. Packed in an ample box, with packing. I think it was USPS. No problems at all. Thanks for careful packing and safe delivery!

Monterey
Monterey
@david-messenger
6 years ago
21 posts
Being a sewing machine mechanic I am also into antique Singers. Last year I bought a 1918 Singer 127 shuttle-bobbin sewing machine on E-bay and had it shipped Canada Post from Charlottetown, PEI to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Despite having sent the seller links to proper packing instructions and asking him to heavily insure the machine at my cost, Canada Post somehow managed to put something through the top of the carton. Thankfully the machine was in a vintage portable case that saved the old girl.The case however was damaged beyond repair, and although I argued with Canada Post up and down that it was irreplaceable, the seller had apparently put the minimum insurance on it.
To make matters worse they would only deal with the seller and not me, and would only pay the insurance out to him, although the machine was mine, and I had paid the shipping and insurance. Also They refused to tell me the amount of the settlement which they paid out to him. I had to wait for the seller to pay the insurance out to me, the amount which I had to trust was correct as I was never shown a receipt of the settlement.
In the end I did get enough to buy a beautiful old treadle cabinet for her.
The reason I mention this is because I have a machine in upstate New York I need to get home, and Treadleon, a sewing machine group I'm a member of on Yahoo groups does what's called "Pony Express"- people belonging to the group arrange to move each others sewing machines back and forth across USA and Canada at no cost and with much more care!
Foggers
Foggers
@foggers
7 years ago
64 posts

I have had the trauma of having an banjo beheaded by ParcelForce in the UK; there was a big dent in the box suggesting an external impact of some force.

I have also safely received dulcimers overseas from the States. My bowed dulcimer from Ken Bloom was in a wooden carry case and then packaged with a good 6" of foam chips all around it. And I received a vintage Ledford dulcimer double boxed ( with bubble wrap around the instrument, inside a small box, then foam chips and a bigger box).

I do admire Robin's cunning psychological approach of providing a handle!

Kristi Keller
Kristi Keller
@kristi-keller
8 years ago
86 posts

Today I am in happy possession of a Jerry Rockwell teardrop sold by Craig Hammond. Fed Ex delivered it exactly where I requested and it sounds wonderful. While Fed Ex screwed up on delivery date on their website, they did not damage the instrument. Bravo!

John Keane
John Keane
@john-keane
8 years ago
184 posts

YAY!!! Grin.gif

Kristi Keller said:




Keith Young "Youngster" dulcimer arrived safely from Dusty Turtle. It appeared on my birthday with nary a boo boo via UPS. The voice is lovely and I am very happy. At last, a safe delivery!


Kristi Keller
Kristi Keller
@kristi-keller
8 years ago
86 posts

Keith Young "Youngster" dulcimer arrived safely from Dusty Turtle. It appeared on my birthday with nary a boo boo via UPS. The voice is lovely and I am very happy. At last, a safe delivery!

Cheryl James
Cheryl James
@cheryl-james
8 years ago
4 posts
Kristi did you pay via PayPal ? I'm sure that eBay will sort out the situation. Did you leave the dulcimer at the post office? The sender actually has to file the damage claim but it shouldn't affect you if you have pictures of the damage and proof if your purchase, etc. in my case I did also go back to eBay and filed a dispute and because I had paid via PayPal I was refunded rather quickly but I had turned the dulcimer over to the pt office as part of the claims process to assist the seller in is attempt to collect on his insurance claim. When it didn't go through he told me I could go back o the pot office and take the damaged instrument but I was so heart broken over it I jut didn't want to have anything further to do with it. Cheryl
Kristi Keller
Kristi Keller
@kristi-keller
8 years ago
86 posts

Hi Cheryl,

Our problems seem similar with reasonable packaging and forklift and USPS denial of insurance claim. At this time I have had to file with paypal against the seller and that does not make me happy. But he does not offer to refund my $ and has had payment while I have nothing. Side of dulcimer has continued to collapse and top was dangerous weapon. Sad fate for a nice Yocky. Would you mind sharing info about your battle for refund. I will friend you.

Cheryl James said:

I can feel your pain...I had purchased an early Edsel Martin dulcimer that the US Postal Service managed to maul through several protective layers. Though the seller had it fully insured, and the packaging was good/solid, the USPS workers declared that the damage was due to the seller's packaging of the instrument, even though one end was completely torn off and crushed. The seller refunded my money but in the end lost out on his end. After this very sad experience and others that friends have had it seems that UPS is a much safer ride for our precious instruments. I had a great talk with Aaron O'Rourke about this and an instrument I purchased from him that he had a guitar shop pack and send UPS. Triple layer protection in the packing, but even the box seemed perfect when it arrived a few days later. I think that they do take better care of their packages, but I also really like the idea of sending items in a tube...I would never have thought of this, thanks Ken!

john p
john p
@john-p
8 years ago
173 posts

I can attest to the strength of Ken's Sonotube idea.

Don't let the word cardboard fool you, this is something that has to be cut with a saw rather than a knife.

May turn out a bit heavy if that affects shipping charges though.

john

Cheryl James
Cheryl James
@cheryl-james
8 years ago
4 posts

I can feel your pain...I had purchased an early Edsel Martin dulcimer that the US Postal Service managed to maul through several protective layers. Though the seller had it fully insured, and the packaging was good/solid, the USPS workers declared that the damage was due to the seller's packaging of the instrument, even though one end was completely torn off and crushed. The seller refunded my money but in the end lost out on his end. After this very sad experience and others that friends have had it seems that UPS is a much safer ride for our precious instruments. I had a great talk with Aaron O'Rourke about this and an instrument I purchased from him that he had a guitar shop pack and send UPS. Triple layer protection in the packing, but even the box seemed perfect when it arrived a few days later. I think that they do take better care of their packages, but I also really like the idea of sending items in a tube...I would never have thought of this, thanks Ken!

Kristi Keller
Kristi Keller
@kristi-keller
8 years ago
86 posts

Kevin, Thanks thanks for your response. I thought it interesting how beautiful the wounded "Wingspan" sounds even with gaping hole on side and top. Right now the dulci is living with blue paint masking tape. Quaint but think of Waylan Jennings worn through wreck of a guitar.Frown.gif

Kevin Messenger said:

I have shipped many instruments here and abroad with out a single problem. I build cradles within the box to support the instrument, and add lots of buffer padding all around. It has worked great so far. By the way , what has become of the damaged instruments. I build and might would be interested in repairing or maybe purchasing.

Steven Gonzales
Steven Gonzales
@steven-gonzales
8 years ago
8 posts

I actually shipped the Yocky and packaged it well. I have sent two other dulcimers the same way without issue. From the pictures of the damage and from Kristi'sexplanationit looks like the box was ran through with the blade of a forklift. I think the only packaging that might have worked is what Ken Hulme uses, because it probably would have deflected. Anyway, I feel horrible that it was damaged because I used and took care of it after purchasing from original owner in 2006. It was in very good condition. If I ever sell one again I will do it locally.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
8 years ago
1,736 posts

When I ship dulcimers, I use the ultra heavy (1/2" thick) cardboard tubes used as concrete molds for piers and posts, which you can find at Home Depot or Lowe's. It costs a couple bucks, but that's not a problem. I cut the tube a few inches over length and make end caps from corregated cardboard and tape one in place with balled up newspaper or whatever for end padding. Inside, I roll the dulcimer up in bubble wrap until it's a snug fit, side it into place, then tape on the other end cap. Because of the shape, any weight place on it or shoved into it tends to be deflected. Either that or the carrier stands it on end.

Robin Clark
Robin Clark
@robin-clark
8 years ago
253 posts

I have one simple tip for shipping. It has served me well with my guitar business and so I do the same with the dulcimers I send out. Over the past5 years my shipping damage rate for guitars plus dulcimers is 0.25% (1:400) and I'm sure that is largely due to this little trick.

I put one of those heavy duty plastic box handles at the balance point of the box.

331_forums.jpg

I find that the couriers naturally carry the box by the handle, load it the way up I want it loaded, and are less likely to drop or throw the box (it is easier to place the box than throw it once you have it by the handle). It is a bit of a psychological trick as well as a practical device - but it does seem to be working.

Robin

Kevin Messenger
Kevin Messenger
@kevin-messenger
8 years ago
88 posts

I have shipped many instruments here and abroad with out a single problem. I build cradles within the box to support the instrument, and add lots of buffer padding all around. It has worked great so far. By the way , what has become of the damaged instruments. I build and might would be interested in repairing or maybe purchasing.

Kristi Keller
Kristi Keller
@kristi-keller
8 years ago
86 posts

The last two dulcimers I purchased met awful fates during transport USPS. A lovely early Jerry Rockwell arrived with head snapped off. Packaging in that instance was a fool's dream that a box which is too short can be extended by bending ends to "wrap around" or grow box. Box may have been bumped but showed no external damage.

Recently a Tom Yocky came in a box which appeared to have had a bad moment with a forklift which rammed into side of a beautiful instrument. Insurance results may take weeks. Tom looked at pictures and said cost would be prohibitive to attempt repair. I don't think any normal packaging could have protected Wingspan...


Please double box instruments unless shipping in a heavy wood solid case! Even then the professionals tend to allow a minimum of two 2 inches inside between instrument and box. There are no seatbelts used by USPS or any other transport! I used to buy and sell very expensive ukuleles and frequently shipped and received internationally. Instruments do not have to be ruined due to lazy packaging or sloppy transport.

One small trick I learned was to put case inside a heavy trash bag. The bag helps keep the case looking nice. Plus I save the bag and use it for a raincoat for my instrument. Grin.gif


I would really be happy for some of our luthier friends to offer their suggestions on preparation for shipping!


updated by @kristi-keller: 04/13/18 07:54:43AM