Tech Topics: Packing A Sax For Shipping . . .

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Perhaps you are  interested in buying or selling a sax on the web. With the large selection available — virtually world-wide — chances are excellent that you will discover the sax you want out here somewhere in cyberspace.
The keys to a successful transaction are few & simple:
1) Have a good idea of what you want & can afford
2) Shop extensively
3) Know with whom you are dealing 
4) Get clarification on any questions that arise 
5) Bargain diligently to obtain the best price & terms 
6) Assure that your new sax will be properly packed 
to arrive safely & in the condition in which you purchased it
Insuring a package isn’t enough
Claims procedures vary widely from carrier to carrier and are invariably a drawn-out hassle. UPS, for instance, insists on returning your sax & all its packing to the shipper! Besides, this is your new sax, so the last thing you want is a long delay in enjoying it — or see a rare & valuable instrument unnecessarily damaged. And keep in mind:
Damage due to improper packing is NOT insurable

CyberSax ships & receives saxes virtually every day. Saxophones packed according to our guidelines routinely arrive without damage. The steps below require only easily obtained, inexpensive materials and a moderate degree of care.


Inexpensive Materials
  • Package Tape, good quality, heavy-duty
  • Duct Tape, or a utility tape that doesn’t leave messy residue (masking tape hardens & is difficult to remove)
  • Soft Packing for inside sax case. Bubble Wrap is available at discount & specialty stores. Foam from old cushions works well, as do carpet pad scraps. Note: Be sure all material is clean & odor free. No one wants athlete’s lips!
  • Hard Filler for between case & carton walls. Plastic peanuts are ideal, but well-crumpled newspaper is quite effective. Hint: music & electronics stores often have boxes to which you are welcome, and which are filled with the perfect packing materials for sensitive merchandise.


Neck Plug
The No. 1 cause of damage to saxes in shipment is failure to place the neck plug into the sax body neck opening.
The neck plug both protects the neck cavity & octave mechanism from damage, and assures the sax fits snugly into the case. When the sax is not snug within its case the body flows back & forth in pile-driver fashion as a result of shipment motions. The results are quite predictable: bent octave mechanisms, warped neck sockets. broken neck screws, bow dents, damaged cases, and in extremes, bends in the sax body itself. Since failure to install the neck plug is improper packing, none of this damage would be insurable.
Sax manufacturers supply neck plugs in the same finish as the sax. In case the original plug is lost, inexpensive replacement plugs made of plastic are sold in most music stores & instrument repair shops.
Manufacturer’s supplied neck plug, properly installed into sax body neck cavity. Should it not fit snugly enough with the neck screw’s tension, secure it with a small piece of utility tape.
So, you’re ready to ship a sax and there’s no neck plug! A suitable one can be fashioned easily & quickly by wrapping utility tape around any stiff, small round object, an inch or so in length. Wine bottle corks are perfect for this purpose.

Leave Nothing Loose in Case
Bag all accessories. Sterilized mouthpiece is also separately wrapped, then can go in a snack size, self-sealing plastic bag along with ligature, cap, strap & reeds. Neck is wrapped alone in a soft bag or cloth. Note: the familiar ‘blue sock’, is perfect for bagging your necks.
Place bagged accessories in the case’s utility compartment. If utility compartment is not sturdy, tape or glue it until it is sound. If a satisfactory utility compartment is not available, box or wrap accessories separately & place in the outer box, outside the case.
Fill accessory compartment with packing so everything inside is snug when the compartment door is closed. Door should close with just a little effort so as not to over-stress your hinge.

Block Sax within Case to Protect & Prevent Movement
Most vintage sax cases were designed to store & protect the sax within the immediate possession of the player. It’s fair to say modern forms of transportation — at today’s speeds — weren’t on the radar screen in the early part of the Century. Cases, therefore, must be augmented to protect your sax during transit. Begin by lining the case with bubble pack to caress the sax & make bottom of case more form friendly. This step may not be needed with modern molded flight cases. 
Note: Utility Compartment is 
securely taped closed.

Many cases have a socket for the neck & neck plug. Please note how the sax neck is fitted fully into this socket. 
Block the bow of the sax so there is no back & forth “jack-hammer” effect permitted. Also protect the sax from rocking to & fro within the case with a pad between the case front & sax bell. Place the block to avoid stress on the easily-damaged bell lip. Note use of foam from discarded sofa cushion.
Cover sax with second layer of bubble wrap. At this point no motion or sound should be detectible with case lid closed & fastened. When your sax cannot move in any direction within the case, it is reasonably safe from the Boys in Brown … now to protect your case’s exterior …

But first … wrapping your well-packed sax case in utility tape will assure that it does not jostle open in-transit, allowing your best-laid plans to go awry. Trusting sax case latches older than you are is a stretch, yes ?

Protect Your Case With a Substantial Carton
Select a cardboard carton large enough that the case will not touch the outside at any point, once packed. Fill the bottom of your carton with a firm, resilient packing material. In this instance we have used plastic peanuts, but well-crumpled newspaper works fine.
Place your sax case on top of the bottom-fill packing and firmly fill around it on all sides with additional material. Judge the correct degree of packing fill by visualizing how an impact to the outside carton might be absorbed by the packing. Your sax case cannot be allowed to ‘slosh’ inside your carton.
Fill the remainder of your carton with packing material to a slight overflow point. The idea is to pre-stress the packing material while closing  the carton, suspending the sax case firmly within the packing material. When the packing is properly tensioned, your carton can absorb significant blows without damaging your case or the well-packed sax inside.

Final product ! 
Sealed with plenty of good quality packaging tape such as Scotch brand by 3M (about $1 per roll at your favorite warehouse/wholesale club). Finished package is clearly labeled with both origin & destination — conspicuously marked ‘FRAGILE’, of course . . . 
Bon Voyage . . .

Notes: 1) Well-packed Altos weigh approximately 18 pounds, Tenors, 22 pounds. All bets are off with bari’s — finding cartons to fit them is problematic 2) CyberSax and the vast majority of reputable web instrument dealers with whom we are familiar pack well for free.

We offer the information in this article to our web friends as a guideline. Should you find a better way, by all means, employ it — and tell us, too, please ! ! ! 


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