Posted by Joe S. on May 14, 1999 at 01:07:23:
I made it clear earlier that I am swearing off "gig bags" forever, due to my wake-up call regarding my own clumsiness (after all - being someone who does repair work), the horrible dent that I had to remove from my instrument, and the sick feeling that it gave me - almost like I get when I see one of my kids fall down. I strongly cautioned all to do the same. A couple of folks took it as an insult or something. (sorry) It wasn't mean't to be. It was just a loud warning that "Your day will probably come".
Since I realize that I can't talk many of you out of your beloved bags, (Does anyone want mine cheap? It will remove temptation. - Tuxedo "top loader" 186 Miraphone max. size) I am posting the method that I used many times to get my bagged tuba on and off of airplanes without incident (survived British Airways, KLM, even Northwest!):
1/ Locate a first-generation non-recycled excellent-condition heavy-duty cardboard carton that is about eight to ten inches longer and fatter than your tuba in its bag. This will be the hardest part, but it is do-able. Maybe even a tuba importer would ship you one in collapsed form, but I believe that you can acquire one without having to do this.
2/ Also find or buy enough of a roll of that clear plastic wrap with the 1" circular air bubbles ("bubble wrap") to wrap around your bagged tuba so that, no matter where you "punch" , you will hit "cushion" and not bag padding (worthless) or, godforbid, the hardness of the instrument itself. (Wrap it well with bubble wrap.) Secure it around the bag with packing tape.
3/ Place the wrapped bagged tuba into the carton with the bell pushed well away from its end of the carton. If you can wrap your garment bag around the bell end inside the carton, all the better. Then secure the carton with packing tape. Don't forget to have your home address and phone number in big writing on the carton.
4/ When you arrive AT the destination airport, undo the tape, completely collapse the big carton into a flat unit, roll up all of the bubble wrap as small as possible (Do the best you can.), and secure the rolled-up bubble wrap with tape. (This will also allow you to inspect for damage, RIGHT AT THE AIRPORT.)
5/ You will now be sporting: a/ a tuba in a gig bag b/ a flattened cardboard carton c/ a roll of bubble wrap & d/ your garment bag (with a roll of packing tape tossed inside).
6/ When the hotel limo-van comes for you, slide the flat carton under the two back bench seats (if full of folks, OK if they put their feet on your carton - no one has ever minded), stuff the roll of bubble wrap inside the back doors, and stow your tuba and garment bag in the normal manner.
7/ When returning home, show up at the airport PLENTY early to reassemble this, as you will be repacking this assembly AT the airport.
When I owned a small vehicle, I would put this assembly together at both the departure and the destination airports. It has been quite some time since I have done this, but, especially being only one carton and not too heavy, I was never charged for "excess baggage".
Cases are the best protection for normal use. However, unlike us, the owners of stuff, shipping companies and airlines THROW things (FedEx loaders have admitted it to me.) I think that, in the particular case of THROWN tubas, this packing method is actually SAFER than putting it in a normal case, and in past decades, each time that I had to travel with my tuba, it caught me by surprize with no time to order a flight-quality "anvil"-style case.