How long do you need to wait before unboxing a new guitar?
It’s a frigid winter day, and the new guitar you bought online is going to be delivered today. The excitement is almost too much and you’re eager to open it up, but you know it’s not safe to open a cold guitar in a warm room. Finish checks are common, and in really bad cases, glue joints can break.
Common wisdom on guitar forums is that you should let the package acclimate for 24 hours before opening the box, but do you really need to wait that long? I was certain this advice was excessively conservative, but decided to test it to be sure. I’ll describe the test below, but let’s get to the point:
You should wait about 3 hours before removing a cold guitar from its box (or case). Wait 4 hours if it’s really cold. Here’s a graph of how quickly a guitar warmed up from about 13°F:
The test was relatively simple: I put a bluetooth-enable thermometer in a hardshell case with an acoustic guitar and boxed it with packing peanuts for insulation. I packed it as full as I could. This step is important, because the insulation will increase the warming time, and I wanted a worst-case scenario.
On a frigid night, I left the package on my front porch. I needed to be sure that the package got as cold as possible, and on that night it was about 13°. The box was brought inside before sunrise, and before the outside temps started rising. After that, we waited. The box sat untouched until it reached the room temperature, which only took about 9 1/2 hours.
The safe zone for opening the guitar case is well above freezing and within about 20° of the room temperature. It does not need to warm up all the way to be safe; we’re just trying to prevent the extreme stress that comes from rapid temperature change. The most rapid temperature change happened between about 18° and 40°F, and by 45° the rate had become more moderate.
Hopefully this knowledge will help ease the worry that comes with caring for a new guitar, and help you start enjoying it sooner.