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"Pack it up, I'll take it!"
Fragile items need to be packed properly or
else they break. The shipper who handles your
items may be doing their best, but they handle
too many packages to take the kind of care that
you might want them to. Additionally, many items
must be packaged properly when shipped, or else
the warranty becomes void. Heck, even getting
Aunt Violet's best china into the car can be an
adventure in itself. Here are a few pointers to
insure that your cargo has the best chance of
What's on the outside of your package can be
as important as what's inside. If the package is
being shipped through a commercial service, find
out if there are any specific requirements. For
instance, many shippers will not accept a
package that is wrapped in paper, or has no
return address. You will not be able to talk
anyone at the counter into ignoring these
there are packaging stores which sell new
packing materials. They're good at providing
odd-sized containers for items like bicycles
and mirrors, and are generally knowledgeable
about shipping regulations.
best packing material is the original
packing material. Especially when you buy
electronic equipment, try to save the foam
pieces that hold it inside the box.
Carefully break down the original box, and
put it all in the attic or basement.
is often cheaper to ship two smaller
packages, rather than one large one. Call
the shipper, and find out how they set their
rates. Find out if there is an extra charge
for home pickup or weekend delivery (there
Select the Container
The most common container used is a cardboard
box. Some have thin, one-layer sides, while
others are thicker, having two layers
sandwiching a third, corrugated one. Use the
second kind; it's much more protective. A few
items to consider:
new boxes are best for shipping. They often
have pre-printed areas for the address, and
are less confusing to the shippers than a
used box, with graphics and writing all over
a box that will provide adequate room for
the packing material around the item. Don't
put a large item into a box where it can
touch the sides.
something fragile and expensive? Pack the
item well in a strong box--then pack that in
another box with packing material all around
it. Don't fret paying for the additional
weight: Aunt Violet will be thrilled her
Limoges arrived intact.
can be made to fit odd-shaped items by
creasing, folding and reinforcing with tape.
Don't cut the cardboard if you want it to
retain any strength.
you're not shipping, adequate cardboard
boxes can often be found in back of liquor
stores or pharmacies. Ask a clerk at the
counter--they'll probably be glad to be rid
Choose Your Packing Materials
There's three basic packing materials that
seem to be widely available: foam
"peanuts" (choose the biodegradable
kind, please), popcorn, and newspaper.
"peanuts" are generally the best
material: they are quite resilient, and
absorb shock well. They also
"pour" well into odd-shaped areas.
(air-popped) is a nice, environmentally
friendly packing material. It's cheap, and
absorbs shock almost as well as the
"peanuts". It's not as resilient,
though, and is generally best used once.
when crumpled into semi-tight balls, works
almost as well as the other two materials.
It's the cheapest of all, if you have old
ones lying around, and it's interesting to
unpack a box years later and read about old
happenings. It is not very resilient,
though, and is adversely affected by humid
Tackle the Tape Issue
You're going to need more tape than you
think. When you rebuild a new box, you'll reform
it by taping the seams, and reinforce it by
taping the edges and sides. With a used box,
reinforcement is even more important, so don't
skimp. You'll even want to tape the corners of
very heavily packed boxes
tape is not nearly as tough as the
reinforced kind, but works well for all but
the heaviest boxes. The clear kind is
generally a bit heavier than the brown kind,
which makes for easier handling. In any
case, make sure it's at least 2" wide;
3" wide is better.
Paper tape is now less common: it needs to be
wet with a sponge for the adhesive to stick.
It's good for closing boxes, less so for
reinforcing edges. Again, 2" to 3"
wide is best.
Pull It All Together
We all know what the goal here is: to make
sure that all objects are securely packed and
protected from rough handling. There are a few
things important to mind; they might seem
obvious but are still essential to your
sure that packing materials cover the bottom
of the box, before you place anything into
that the objects do not touch the sides of
the box. If you can, keep at least an inch
of packing material between the objects and
the sides of the box: you'll do just fine.
things tightly and leave as few gaps as you
can. When you finally close the box, it
should feel like you're compressing the
Pick up the box and
shake it, if you can. You should not hear
anything rattling around in there. Once
satisfied, seal the box with a piece of tape
that's long enough to extend several inches
down either sides of the box.
Reinforcing the box with
tape is very important, especially when
shipping commercially. When following the
diagram below for placement, use continuous
pieces for each wrap.
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