How to Pack and Ship Drum Sets and other Large Boxes

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Read this guide if you want advice on efficiently and cost effectively shipping large items such as drum sets.

Knowing how and where to cut costs will both save you money and make buyers who hate paying excessive shipping fees love you.

(If you find this guide helpful please recommend it at the bottom of the page)

1. How to list shipping charges?

First and foremost, before you even list your item you should decide which courier to ship with, and how much to charge.

Shipping charges are largely up to the seller, and there are many different approaches that you will have to decide:

- Free shipping: for a while ebay offered search advantages for free shipping, but now the main advantages of offering free shipping are (hopefully) receiving 5s on your shipping cost Detailed Seller Ratings. Buyers of course love to not have to worry about thinking about shipping cost when bidding, so may be more attracted to your auction, but it is debatable whether or not buyers take shipping into account when placing bids on items. It is debatable whether by offering free shipping you will recoup the expenses from a higher sales price.
-Another detriment is that if the shipping charge is accounted for in the sale price, your final value fee charged by ebay will include the hidden shipping cost.

-Calculated shipping: -Using Ebay's shipping calculator to display an item's shipping cost. Many sellers use this approach. For most accuracy, the item will need to be packaged and ready to go before being listed, as the shipping cost is based on package weight and size. An advantage of this is that (almost like offering free shipping) buyers may offer higher DSRs if they know that they are paying the exact shipping price and not a charge that is up to the discretion of the seller. A disadvantage for the seller is that unless they specify a handling fee they will not be reimbursed for any shipping material costs.
-Also note that Ebay shipping calculator is only integrated with UPS and USPS. So if you plan on shipping Fedex, DHL, or another courier, this may not work.

-Flat Rate shipping: -Seller specifies shipping price. This method may be the best for the seller as they get to charge whatever they want for shipping and use whatever service they want to, but may not be reflected so well in the buyer's eyes. With this method the buyer may feel that the seller is exaggerating or overcharging on shipping. High flat rate shipping charges may result in low DSRs for shipping price.

Note: Whatever is listed as your shipping charge at the beginning of the auction should adhered to. Buyer's may get angry if shipping turns out to be more expensive than you listed, and may refuse to pay any further shipping charges.

2. What Courier to Use

Most sellers choose between the big three - USPS, UPS, and Fedex.
I have no affiliation with any of them, but will list my perceived advantages of each.

-USPS: If you offer international shipping USPS Priority Mail is the way to go when sending an item to an international buyer. It is by far the cheapest and unless you need to mail an oversize item (for most countries this means above 108" length plus girth) or need 2-day shipping, there is no need to look further.
USPS is also cheap and fast for most small and lightweight items.
-So this means whatever small pieces of hardware, drum catalogs, international packages you need to send, use USPS for this. -Domestic Priority Mail takes 2-3 days, and if you need to send something out fast, this costs a little more than parcel post or other ground services, but is a good deal compared to other courier's 2-day mail charges.

-USPS is the only Big 3 courier to offer free pick-ups. This means you can print off labels at home, leave packages by the door, and save yourself a trip downtown.

-Unless shipping labels are purchased online or you are shipping internationally, tracking numbers will not come standard with shipped packages.
-USPS is fully integrated with Ebay, and you can print shipping labels directly from the sold item page.

-UPS: Widely used for medium to large packages from snare drums to cymbals to drum sets. UPS is in most cases the most expensive courier to use for both small and large items, but the company has many loyal followers that believe it to be more reliable and professional than other shipping companies.
-Pickups cost $4 to 5 per box for ground service.

-Fedex: Cheapest courier for medium to large packages in weight and size. Sellers can receive even further discounts (15% off) with a fedex account number. Time in transit is comparable to UPS, sometimes 1 day faster. Like mentioned before, Fedex and Ebay shipping calculator or Ebay print shipping lable are not too compatible.
-Pickups cost $9-$13 per week for ground. ($13 if total shipping cost that week is <$60)

3. How to pack your item

Here I will focus on packing a drum set. This is usually the most complicated item to pack, and techniques used here can be used in most other items.

Find supplies: first and foremost a box and packing supplies need to be found. This is largely up to the seller's discretion, and in general, don't expect to be compensated for purchased supplies, as adding $10 fees to the shipping cost even if that is how much the box cost, will not be acceptable to a buyer, and may hurt DSRs.
The same goes with supplies like bubble wrap and tape.

As a general rule, keep all of the boxes (and packing material) you receive if you buy items on ebay or through other websites, as reusing these will save money.

In some cases purchasing a new perfectly-sized box instead a used slightly-too-large box will save money. After choosing a courier to use, it might be worth experimenting with the company's Estimate Shipping Fees option, manipulating variables such as size and weight.
This also applies when deciding whether to use old newspapers or shredded paper as packing material or buying bubble wrap.

I recommend using bubble wrap when possible. It provides more protection than most other options and is also lighter than most other options. The downside is that if you don't already have it on hand, it can be pretty expensive.

What size box? - Try to use boxes 2"-4" larger in each dimension than the product going in the box.
-For a 14"x5" Snare drum, a 16"x16"x8" may be perfect. If it has bulky hardware, 10 lugs, or a parallel strainer mechanism, an 18" box might be ideal.
-For shipping drum sets internationally: the largest box possible to ship through USPS International Priority Mail is 24"x24"x18" or a 22"x22"x20"

Safe and Secure: The goal of packing the item is:

1. For the package to arrive safely with no shipping damages to the item.

2. To minimize shipping costs as much as possible.

One way to do this when shipping a drum set is to take the rims and heads off of each drum and then pack drums inside of each other.

Supplies used for packing a drum set are similar to the general guidelines outlined previously, with some important additions.

-Judge the size of the box needed by the bass drum dimensions. For this discussion our hypothetical drum set will be a 3-piece with sizes 22"x14", 13"x9" and 16"x16".  If heads and rims are included with the drum set it might be best to add an extra 2" to the height of the box in the Box Size rule.

If drums have a spread of 3" or more in diameter, they are usually packable inside of eachother. (Remove tom mounts if necessary, as they are sometimes too bulky for drums to fit) So a 22",13",16" drum set will all fit in one box. 

So a 24"x24"x18" would be perfect for this drum set, and would meet all international shipping guidelines.

Step 1.

Remove heads and hoops from all drums that will have another drum going inside of it. In this case that means the 13" drum heads do not need to be removed if it can fit inside the 16" drum.

Put all small parts (tension rods, misc) into a separate bag.

In some cases the hoops/rims can go right back on the drum. Just be sure to tape them on by placing a piece of tape from the interior over to the end of a lug to hold on at least two sides of the drum to hold the rim in place.

Step 2.

Cover the exterior of each drum in one layer of bubble wrap (more if neccessary, like around a bulky or sharp piece). Bubble wrap should be taped together and secure to the drum. 

Once all pieces of small hardware are in the bag, tie the bag shut, and cover with bubble wrap.

Step 3.

Now after placing 1-2 layers of bubble wrap and/or a small layer of foam peanuts on the buttom of the box, place all of the drums in the box - 22" first, 16" inside that, and 13" inside that.

-place the bag of hardware on top of the 13" tom if it will fit (you should have about 7" of space on top of the 13" tom head)

-Also, cover any floor tom legs, spurs,  and/or tom mounts in bubble wrap and place them in corners of the box (the circular bass drum will leave a good amount of space in each corner of the square box)

Step 4.

Fill in all the leftover space between and around drums with packing material. Foam peanuts are perfect for this step.

Step 5.

One the peanuts or packing material come to the brim of each drum, place the drums on the tops of each drum. Smallest heads first, largest heads last. This way all of the packing material is sealed inside each drum and the heads nest in a way as to minimize space.

-Add peanuts/other packing material on top of drums with drumheads as needed.

Step 6.

Place layer of bubble wrap on top of the bass drum heads, and fill in any gaps, making sure everything is secure and there is no movement, and there are no loose pieces of hardware floating around.

-Instead of filling more packing material if there is still space between the bubble wrap on top of the bass drum and the top of the box, you can cut each edge with scissors to the level of the top bubble wrap to minimize box size.

Step 7.

Seal up the box with tape. Either schedule a pickup through your chosen courier, or drive it there yourself. 

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions. Don't forget to take a look at my Vintage Drum Store

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