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Thread: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

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    Registered User Dan Margolis's Avatar
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    Default Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    I can see it in the winter, perhaps, but an entire day still seems like overkill. But in nice weather? I waited approximately three seconds before I dug my Ellis out of its box back in October. No problems. Earlier this month I took delivery of my Collings dread with refinished back and sides. It was perfect--no waiting. Hey, do what makes you feel good, I'm just wondering...
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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    I think it depends on two things. How many instruments you've had shipped to you previously and how mortified you are over the possibility of a finish crack. For me, after a couple of no-problem shipments and given that I'm not overly concerned about keeping my finish absolutely pristine it would not take a day.

    Once I have it in the house I give the outer box, then the inner box, then the instrument case each a few (10-15?) minutes to equilibrate if they don't feel absolutely room temperature to the touch. And honestly that always seems like silly overkill to me.
    The first man who whistled
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    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    This time of year I wouldn't worry about it.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    Extreme rapid change in temperature produces finish cracking. That's what the practice of "acclimating" a shipped instrument to its new environment, through delayed or gradual unwrapping, is designed to avoid. Changes in humidity can also produce damage, but as a rule are more gradual.

    If the instrument's been shipped at close to the temperature where it's being un-packaged, no reason for delay, IMHO.
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    Registered User abuteague's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    You don't know what the conditions were for the mandolin during shipment. They don't heat the cargo areas of planes or warehouses, or it could have been in a warm part of a truck all day.
    I wait. Mandolins don't like fast temperature changes. Bad things happen.
    I might be overly cautious.

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    Registered User Fran's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    Urban legend? Considering the abuse that parcels get during transport, I don't think that waiting to open the box will make a difference! Freezing cold in the air cargo, scorching hot in a warehouse... if the instrument survived this it will survive opening the box when it gets home. Just my opinion...
    "People will be more impressed with your playing than the price of your instrument."

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    I put the box in the living room. When the sides of the box feel to the touch the same as the interior walls of my house I open the box and take out the case. When the case feels to the touch to be the same temperature as the interior walls, I open the case, and touch the mandolin. I let it sit if it feels significantly warmer or cooler than my interior wall.

    So, in the spring and fall, this procedure would take only a minute or so. In the summer, perhaps longer if the box was in a hot truck for a day and a half. In the winter perhaps a lot longer if the box was in an unheated cargo bay.

    The amount of time depends on the temperature difference. If it takes all day for the box to warm up, well thats what it takes. If there is no significant difference, then I can tear into it right away.


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    Registered User Fran's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    I'll tell you this. I would never base my future behavior on what I have been able to get away with successfully a couple of times.
    Yeah, but how do you know it worked better if you never did it any other way
    "People will be more impressed with your playing than the price of your instrument."

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fran View Post
    Yeah, but how do you know it worked better if you never did it any other way
    In the particular instance of a delivered mandolin, I consider my goals. I am not out to determine ultimate truth, or to research the veracity of handed down tradition, or even to learn anything new. I am trying to avoid finish cracks to the best of my knowledge and ability. That it might be an urban legend and there are a bunch of brainy folks laughing at me affects me ummm... not at all.

    I would like to see research and others experience to learn if what I do is effective, or necessary, but I will not do the research with my own instrument.
    Indulge responsibly!

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    Registered User John Kinn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    I'm expecting a hog dred from across the Atlantic any day. I think the waiting after the box is in house will be the hardest.

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    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    I think it's ridiculous. I don't personally know of one single person that has ever had finish damage happen to an instrument from opening the box/case too fast. If it's the dead of winter and you want to let it warm up a few hours before you open it, fine. But a whole day? C'mon. You need to ask yourself if this is a collectible you bought to look at or if it's a tool to make music. Unfortunately I know the answer to that question for a lot of people!

    On a related note a luthier friend of mine left his mandolin out in his truck overnight in the winter with temps approaching 0 degrees F. With no case! The next morning he brought it directly into his very warm and cozy shop. guess what.......not a single finish crack. I'm not advocating that you try this but the whole waiting to open the box thing is WAYYYYY over-hyped!

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    Work in Progress Ed Goist's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    Something to keep in mind (and to stimulate added concern in the over careful )...
    I have been told that finish damage from the improper acclimatizing of a premium wooden instrument may not manifest itself for years, but that the damage is real nonetheless. As a result of such damage, the finish on the instrument will display "aging cracks" sooner (possibly by YEARS) than on a properly acclimatized instrument. I have no idea if this is true, but I recall hearing it from two, independent, knowledgeable sources.
    Of course, this would be no big deal if one doesn't intend to own the instrument for decades...
    I can tell you this: It is not at all uncommon for museums to acclimatize paintings for 30+ days before opening the shipping container.
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    Registered User Fran's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    The only reason I used to wait before opening ANY box that arrived at my place is because my ex-wife did not approve of my musical hobby... She would have been doing a lot more damage to the instrument than the atmospheric conditions!
    "People will be more impressed with your playing than the price of your instrument."

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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    Quote Originally Posted by sgarrity View Post
    I think it's ridiculous. I don't personally know of one single person that has ever had finish damage happen to an instrument from opening the box/case too fast. If it's the dead of winter and you want to let it warm up a few hours before you open it, fine. But a whole day? C'mon. You need to ask yourself if this is a collectible you bought to look at or if it's a tool to make music. Unfortunately I know the answer to that question for a lot of people!

    On a related note a luthier friend of mine left his mandolin out in his truck overnight in the winter with temps approaching 0 degrees F. With no case! The next morning he brought it directly into his very warm and cozy shop. guess what.......not a single finish crack. I'm not advocating that you try this but the whole waiting to open the box thing is WAYYYYY over-hyped!
    Agreed.

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    Registered User Fran's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    Also, if you think that opening the box quickly may harm your instrument, you may as well NOT play it! Imagine the damage done to the finish when holding the mandolin, putting your fingers everywhere, plucking the strings, or worse, doing this in a room full of people, in an environment with an unknown air quality... OK, you may as well leave it in its box forever then!
    "People will be more impressed with your playing than the price of your instrument."

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    Chief Moderator/Shepherd Ted Eschliman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    I wait. Until Mrs. Eschliman has left the house.
    Not worried about the instrument being harmed. Worried about her harming me.
    Ted Eschliman

    Author, Getting Into Jazz Mandolin

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    Registered User abuteague's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    You don't wait to open the package, you just open it as soon as it arrives and you hear a "CRACK" and you wonder what made the noise. You look it all over and you can't find a thing. Later, you have it back in the case and you hear it play a note! It actually sounds like someone picked the D string while it was in the case.

    I'm glad some of you have had such tolerant instruments and that you have had no bad experiences.

    But after you experience your mandolin shifting all over as it adjusts to the sudden changes, you begin to develop that restraint when the mandolin arrives in a box.

    In Edminton in winter I went to the Blugrass Circle gathering at a community center. Everyone arrives and sets their cases down and socializes and has coffee. After 20 minutes or so the cases open, but the instrument sits there untouched. More coffee and socializing. 20 minutes later, they are picked up and tuned. I don't think I saw anyone pop the instrument right out of the case after a drive in the sub zero temperatures. No one was watching a clock. It was just automatic. They respected the affects of temperature changes on instruments.

    In shipment, the mandolin might experience some extremes that people don't tolerate. It could be bad. Damage in transit might be extreme changes in temperature as well as bumps and bruises.

    But go ahead and open the box. Maybe today is a lucky day.

    I was so unlucky I moved to carbon fiber.

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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    Quote Originally Posted by abuteague View Post
    You don't wait to open the package, you just open it as soon as it arrives and you hear a "CRACK" and you wonder what made the noise. You look it all over and you can't find a thing. Later, you have it back in the case and you hear it play a note! It actually sounds like someone picked the D string while it was in the case.

    I'm glad some of you have had such tolerant instruments and that you have had no bad experiences.

    But after you experience your mandolin shifting all over as it adjusts to the sudden changes, you begin to develop that restraint when the mandolin arrives in a box.

    In Edminton in winter I went to the Blugrass Circle gathering at a community center. Everyone arrives and sets their cases down and socializes and has coffee. After 20 minutes or so the cases open, but the instrument sits there untouched. More coffee and
    socializing. 20 minutes later, they are picked up and tuned. I don't think I saw anyone pop the instrument right out of the case after a drive in the sub zero temperatures. No one was watching a clock. It was just automatic. They respected the affects of temperature changes on instruments.

    In shipment, the mandolin might experience some extremes that people don't tolerate. It could be bad. Damage in transit might be extreme changes in temperature as well as bumps and bruises.

    But go ahead and open the box. Maybe today is a lucky day.



    I was so unlucky I moved to carbon fiber.
    I'm from "Edminton" And I'd bet that it was more about having a coffee and visiting than worrying about the instruments.
    They are coming from a warm house to a warm car to the warm
    hall and are lucky if they spend a minute in the cold weather.
    Are you the fellow with the Wilcox that I met there a few years ago?

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    Registered User Dan Margolis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    If I'm carrying my properly humdified instrument around in the winter, I always let the case warm up before I open it. And I would let an icy cold shipping box warm up, too. But in the milder weather, I can't see waiting a whole day. To each their own. Just something to talk about.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    Quote Originally Posted by sgarrity View Post
    I think it's ridiculous. I don't personally know of one single person that has ever had finish damage happen to an instrument from opening the box/case too fast.
    I do.

    If it's the dead of winter and you want to let it warm up a few hours before you open it, fine. But a whole day? C'mon.
    That is the whole thing right there. I wait till it seems the temperature has equalized. How ever long or short that is.

    On a related note a luthier friend of mine left his mandolin out in his truck overnight in the winter with temps approaching 0 degrees F. With no case! The next morning he brought it directly into his very warm and cozy shop. guess what.......not a single finish crack. I'm not advocating that you try this but
    Good, because I know of a group of college kids who put a keg in the back of their car, and delivered it empty, 400 miles later. Without incident. And if you ask me to my face I will deny I ever did that.
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    Registered User abuteague's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Bunting View Post
    I'm from "Edminton" And I'd bet that it was more about having a coffee and visiting than worrying about the instruments.
    They are coming from a warm house to a warm car to the warm
    hall and are lucky if they spend a minute in the cold weather.
    Are you the fellow with the Wilcox that I met there a few years ago?
    I was there in 2006, November 7th or so. I borrowed a mandolin. I came with an upright bass player. She did the up to speed group. I did the slow group. Great fun.

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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    I live in So. California, and we only have two weather patterns. They are Pacific Standard Time and Daylight Savings Time. I have central air conditioning and central heating and I think I used them each twice last year. When I buy an instrument that is not purchased localy, I have it shipped ground transportation. By the time it gets to California, sits in the Post Office or UPS Office overnight and finally gets delivered, it is pretty well acclimated and not a concern.

    I bought a fiddle from the UK a while back and by the time it crossed the Atlantic and then traveled across the US on a truck, it was so well acclimated that it didn't even have a British Accent.

    If you live anywhere else in the world, this might be a bigger concern than it is for us out here on the left coast.

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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    The first instrument I ever bought online was a banjo...it had all day to acclimate before I got home, was inexpensive and has a plastic (rather than "hide") head, so I tore right in...

    Second instrument I bought online was a guitar that came at a heavy discount because of finish checking and laquer issues (at the factory). Charleston, SC, late June. I let it sit for a couple of hours, but figuring the damage was already done, opened it up. Guitar was still much warmer than the house (and already checked but apparently stable from pre-shipping photos), so I strummed a chord and then closed the case back up until several hours later. I'll say I was fortunate on that one.

    Since noting the temp difference on that guitar I've been careful and tend to follow JeffD's approach. My instruments are played (poorly, but played nontheless, inside and out, in heat and cold) and NOT museum pieces, but I don't want them damaged simply because of my impatience. I don't think I've ever waited overnight, but would if I felt like I needed to. I also have a guitar that suffered some humidity damage while actually sitting in a music store for a few years before I found it. Nothing too damaging, but definitely avoidable. I'll admit to being a little skeptical as well, but that latest guitar has made me a believer in the damage that temp/humidity extremes/changes can cause.

    To those, who either don't care or don't really think such damage can occur, I wish you continued good fortune!!

    Chuck

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    Quote Originally Posted by sgarrity View Post
    ...I don't personally know of one single person that has ever had finish damage happen to an instrument from opening the box/case too fast. If it's the dead of winter and you want to let it warm up a few hours before you open it, fine. But a whole day? C'mon....
    My Martin "mutant" 00-28G/00-42 conversion has significant lacquer checking caused by a single night's chilling and warming. I had a gig at a veterans' hospital, followed by an evening caroling gig on a December night when the temperature got to 4º F. Since I was going from one gig to another, I left the guitar in the car trunk while I did the caroling, got home about 11 p.m., brought the guitar into the house in its gig bag (wasn't using its case because I had to carry it, a banjo, and a ukulele around the hospital). Didn't open the bag until the next morning, but the either the cooling-down or the warming-up process was still too abrupt, and there were fine finish cracks on the top and back.

    I was marginally bummed, but since the back and sides (anyway) of the guitar are 71 years old, I thought that some finish "distressing" wasn't that much to worry about -- and as you say, instruments are tools for making music, and I've played the poop out of that guitar for a decade or more. But never doubt that severe temperature changes can cause finish damage; I think some of those posting on this thread carry caution to an extreme -- the instrument and its environment don't have to be at exactly the same temperature to prevent damage -- but erring on the side of excessive care "is no vice," as Barry G said in '64...
    Allen Hopkins
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  26. #25
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    Default Re: Why wait a day to open a shipped instrument?

    I don't know about finish cracking but I ordered Floodtone #72 from Thomas Flood in Las Vegas during the hottest part of the summer. I live in northern PA and when it arrived the package was warm to the touch. Thomas double boxes his instruments and it was packed in plenty of styrofoam. I tore into it thinking leaving an instrument sit in its box (which I usually do) is just a winter thing. After bringing it up to pitch there was an annoying fret buzz on one string. I e-mailed Thomas about it and he swore the mandolin was buzz free when he sent it, and told me sending stuff to the East Coast always makes him nervous because of the humidity difference. His instruments are of course used to desert like conditions. Well, I came back to it 3 hours later, and the buzz was gone. Definitely something temperature or humidity related was going on. We were both relieved it straightened out on its own. So I think as a result of my experience it is important to consider the difference between the climate of where it is coming from and where you are. A big difference could be trouble.

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