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Thread: Shipping a mandolin for repair / setup work !

  1. #1
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Shipping a mandolin for repair / setup work !

    Nothing is perfect, nor is anything safe from the big shipping companies these days, but....

    This is a great example of what I like to see when someone ships a mandolin my way! An equal amount of effort was put into securing the mandolin inside the case.

    One of the tricks that I'll often use, I learned from an archeologist friend. Rather than cutting foam like this one, I will wrap the entire case in several oversized plastic garbage bags, then fill half the crate with spray foam, layer one more bag on top of the foam, insert the wrapped case, lay another full bag over the case and crate, then fill the other half with spray foam. That gives you a sort of open book like two halves that fit perfect and that you can separate....like shipping a big T rex skull....

    Mandolins are easy and it does not take much extra effort to safely pack and ship them. I also regularly ship upright basses around the world- those are a half week project, take approx. $400 in materials to crate, and the shipping prices can sometimes exceed the cost of a nice mandolin! Ask me sometime about receiving a bass a few years back with the entire crate destroyed and the neck sticking three foot outside and bent at 90 degrees from the body.....
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  3. #2
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Shipping a mandolin for repair / setup work !

    I do something similar when I ship my mandolins but I don't use case inside the foam. The case is the weak link here. Often the instrument breaks when it is loose inside the case so packing it tight in the case is important.
    I make crate out of thin 5mm poplar plywood (easy to cut with utility knife). For the inside I use four layers of styrofoam usually 2.5cm/5cm/5cm/2.5cm (that is 1"/2"/2"/1"). I glue the thin outside layers to the neighboring thicker with spots of epoxy and then carve the thick layers to accept the mandolin and sandwich the mandolin inside. The layers are good sign for carving to stop - I just meet the outer thinner layers when I'm finished carving. Carving is messy but easy with utility knife with a long blade all exposed.
    I glue the bottom and sides of plywood to this assembly after carving and top piece of plywood to upper half of sandwich. I strengthen the edges with pieces of cloth and white glue. Mandolin fits snugly inside with no movement whatsoever and I fill any space above headstock with additional wedged/ shims of foam. The final box is surprisingly light and rigid. Lighter than mandolin in case alone.
    I pack mandolin into old t-shirt or such and pickguarg and tailpiece cover goes to separate notches beside mandolin. I also add small rectangular pieces of foam under strings between bridge and tailpiece and bridge - fingerboard so bridge won't move anywhere.
    I also pack this whole crate in thin kitchen foil to prevent water damage.
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    Adrian

  4. #3

    Default Re: Shipping a mandolin for repair / setup work !

    This reminds me of a thread I read hear about a year ago about a ~$10K mandolin shipped across the country for fret work in a Calton case. It suffered significant cracks. What a heartbreak. Even the best case is no match for shippers.

  5. #4
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shipping a mandolin for repair / setup work !

    I love using foam insulation to pack fragile items. You just stack it and build the alcove for the item. I had to ship some servers overnight from California to New Jersey and packed them the same way. They were big and cumbersome but packed inside their own foam world they booted the next morning all the way across the country. It can be done. Nice work whoever did the packing.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shipping a mandolin for repair / setup work !

    I'm very impressed with the care and effort put into this. It truly is the way it should be done. I also like the method you described with the spray foam sandwich, and HoGo's method as well. Smart stuff!

    I did something somewhat similar to build a temporary case for my late beloved F-12, which I got without a case. I took a couple of sheets of styrofoam cut to just bigger than the instrument, then cut out the inner sheets to form a cavity for her to fit into. These went into a cardboard box from a dressmaker's chop that was just the right size and shape. I don't recall how I held it together, but I think it was just with a bungee. Sounds awful, I know, but it was better than my first approach - some wooden shims glued in place in the box to keep her from shifting around. Those dug some small but noticeable grooves into her neck just by the join. The styro kept crumbling; little bits had to be brushed off every time I took her out. I was very glad she survived this ordeal long enough for me to work up the money to buy a real case.

    Toward the opposite end of the spectrum was what her replacement was shipped in. I've told the story about how after the late lamented F-12 was stolen up in CT, I bought the late Mindy Jostyn's A-00, the one I'd found for her years before, from her widower. I thought I was going to be able to buy it right off the wall, where it was hanging, just gathering dust. But he decided to have it appraised at the local store up there, in NY state. So I had to drive all the way back to FL without an instrument and wait nearly a month. When it arrived, it was in a large box, no case, no nothing IIRC - not even packing peanuts or bubble wrap. It's a miracle it survived. Maybe it was just the right size box.

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    Ask me sometime about receiving a bass a few years back with the entire crate destroyed and the neck sticking three foot outside and bent at 90 degrees from the body.....
    I would ask you, but I think you gave away the punch line.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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  7. #6
    I really look like that soliver's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shipping a mandolin for repair / setup work !

    I used to work for a high dollar white glove moving company. During my time there the company owner also acquired an art handling company to add to the services offered by the company. With my background in the arts and experience as an installer, I was given the opportunity to participate in a lot of really interesting jobs were we packed, handled and moved a lot of priceless artwork and artifacts for museums and galleries across the eastern half of the country. The method that James showed above we called "contour packing" which was done with layers of a softer (squishy sponge-like) foam called Etha-foam. It was very appropriate for sculptural pieces and 3 dimensional artifacts... we would cut the foam with a fillet knife one layer at a time and fill any voids with tissue... very tedious, but very effective.

    Great method you guys who use it! If I ship an instrument in the future, I will give it a try!
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  8. #7
    Registered User tree's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shipping a mandolin for repair / setup work !

    That is my shipping case, thanks all for the kind words. Must be obvious I'm retired and have more time for such things these days . . .

    Adrian Minarovic (Hogo, see post 2 above) gave me the idea, he posted those same photos a couple months ago in an earlier thread (I think it was "UPS insurance is a ripoff").

    I sure wish I had thought of spray foam. Spray sounds much simpler and easier, I did not enjoy cutting the styrofoam curves with a utility knife. Digging out for the bulges at the top and bottom of the case (and for the mandolin, inside the case) was the worst, I used a big homemade gouge with a shallow sweep that was made from an old file (not by me). I did enjoy building the wooden box.

    I used the discarded cutouts of the case to create the same situation inside the case, cutting them in various layers and combinations to immobilize the instrument (no pick guard, no strings, bridge in case pocket) INSIDE the case. I figured the mandolin and probably the case are 100 years old, I don't want my instrument slamming around inside a case when the package is dropped or tossed or shifts inside the truck or worse. I assume all that is going to happen once the thing is out of my hands.

    I also never worried about shipping the instrument during the cold a couple weeks ago (see recent thread on "too cold to ship"). James was never going to open it immediately during this cold weather anyway. Conversely, I think I would be equally confident of shipping it during the summer, because I think it would be well protected from heat buildup, which is potentially more damaging than cold.

    At any rate, it was the sort of project that takes longer than you anticipate when you first get the idea; by the time you're closing in on it you are doing it mostly out of stubbornness, because you've invested more time than you thought. And because that 1921 A2 is one of your best friends.
    Clark Beavans

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  10. #8
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shipping a mandolin for repair / setup work !

    Nice job! Hey, if you're not too busy nor too far away from where my newly acquired A-4 is, and want to whip up a case like this for it and send it to me, I'd be ever so grateful!

    That's OK; I'm fine with my decision in this matter. But boy howdy - that is some fine secure packing. Beyond what the local UPS store was going to do. Which may well have been just fine. But this is A+ quality work.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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  11. #9
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shipping a mandolin for repair / setup work !

    I had to ship a $3000 bowlback mandolin to a friend halfway across the country about 15 years ago. I found some excellent padding material from my daughters' old toy chest. They were in high school by then so I lined the box with quite a few stuffed animals and Disney and Sesame characters. My friend was very amused by my packing expertise and I cleared a good space in our family room.
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