I'm Mr. Danita, Shipping manager, caterer, Lipton tea bringer, webmaster and nighttime Manny. I will be your guest blogger this evening.
We had to ship a very large painting last month, and we thought it would be a good idea if we got the process documented so we could share it... you never know when you will need to do this, right? So, here we go.
You will need:
+ A sharp cutting blade
+ 1/2 inch bubble wrap
+ Strapping tape
+ Shipping tape
+ White glue
+ Measuring tape
+ A Long piece of wood
+ Shrink wrap or Saran wrap
+ A large painting
After you gather all your materials, set aside one or two hours of undivided attention so you can get this project right. Find a large area you can work around uninterrupted, as there will be sharp and potentially dangerous stuff laying around.
The first thing you will want to do is wrap the painting with plastic wrap. That way the surfaces are protected from brushing against the sides or the wall and the bubble wrap or cardboard. This is a very important step because it will protect you painting from coming in contact with plastic or cardboard that is not acid free, preventing it from reacting with your art.
Once your painting is wrapped, cut a large piece of cardboard as big as the face of the painting. This will give your painting more rigidity and will absorb any bump it may get. Sounds like very little protection, but the idea here is not really to protect the artwork from a direct hit, but to distribute the impacts on a larger area to reduce the force applied to a single point. It's very effective!
Start wrapping your painting in bubble wrap. The trick here is to make sure that the bubbles are facing the INSIDE of the painting, and that the seams are on the back of the painting. Keep the pieces as large as possible and tape them together. The bigger, the better.
Since corners are the weakest parts of objects, you will want to protect them with extra padding. Use a double layer of bubble wrap on the corners to make them mushy and well protected. Do you notice the space between the painting and the floor of the box? That is an air cushion you can use to put some distance between the box and the painting. If something hits the box, there will be an air space that will protect the painting.
Next, lay your bubbled painting on top of a large piece of cardboard and cut around the edge of the painting. This will be the floor of your box. Make the fit as close to the painting as possible so there will be no chance for the painting to shift or bounce inside the box.
Use the large piece of wood to guide your blade when you cut. The cut may or may not go all the way into the cardboard, depending on the size of your blade and how hard is the cardboard you chose. When you separate the cardboard, be very careful not to bend the good pieces. Bent cardboard looses strength and you don't want that to happen. Look at how I placed my fingers to separate the two pieces. The good one is the bottom, and I use my fingers to press it down while I carefully lift the other side and pass the bending force to the side that can be scraped.
With your box floor in place, start measuring and cutting each of the sides of the box. Use the actual wrapped painting for the measures and keep it as close to the size as possible. Do this for each side of the box and mark the pieces so you know which side they belong to.
Using strapping tape, start fixing each side to the bottom of the box. The reason I prefer strapping tape is because is extremely strong and will be very forgiving on your cutting mistakes. Once this thing fixes something, is very difficult to separate them without cutting trough the tape, so it's great for building boxes and containers.
Tape the corners carefully, and make any necessary length adjustments as you go on each of the sides. Run the tape trough all the length of the cardboard pieces and then cut the little piece of tape that remains. This will keep the corners sturdy and easy to handle. Don't start assembling the box yet, it will be easier to make adjustments later if you keep it flat.
When you are done taping each side to the floor of the box, pick a side, and tape the other large piece of cardboard you cut to ONLY ONE side of the box. This will create a tape hinge for the lid to lift and allow you to place and seal the painting in the end. When you're done. the box will just like the one in the picture, sort of a flatted out cube with six panels that will turn into the sides and lid.
Now you're ready to start assembling the corners of the box. Pick one, and bring it together like I did in the picture. Measure the sides and cut any excess material that may have remained, and keep it together with a small piece of strapping tape, just enough to hold the handling of the box to repeat each step for every corner. If you cut too short... Don't panic! If the gap is not too big, the strapping tape will cover it, and in the next steps, you'll see that when you reinforce the box it will hold together OK.
Can you see the little piece of tape on the corner inside? That's enough to hold it for now. The next step is to run the strapping tape trough all the outside of the box, so that the sides get together. One or two turns will be enough. Now you are ready to reinforce the corners.
Grab a piece of scrap cardboard, four or five inches in length. Cover one side with white glue and then fix it against the inside of a corner. Press it with both hands for one or two minutes until if feels in place, then repeat this step for each corner. Let the glue sit undisturbed for 15 minutes. This will keep the corners of the box very sturdy.
All that remains now is to place your painting on the box, and seal the lid to the sides using strapping tape. As a final touch, you may want to strap the closed box with two or three strips or tape running vertically and horizontally, to make sure that even if one the seams or corners rip, the box will hold together nicely.
That's it! All you got to do now is ship it and let your buyer know that the painting is on it's way.
As a final note, here are some tips I have to make things easier for you:
1. I get most of my cardboard for sending prints and smaller pieces at walmart. If you arrive around 7:00 AM or 11:00 PM, when they are re-stocking, there's lots and lots of boxes that the staff will be more than happy to give away. They are free and you are helping the world by recycling packaging materials. Also, I got the tip that visiting Pier One, you can get mirror boxes that will do for many paintings. Ask around and they will give them to you for free.
2. If you ship Priority Mail, you can build very large boxes taping together priority boxes #1098-M They are free from the USPS site and your local post office. You can tape them together, cut and customize very easily, they are great for mid-sized shipments. Just remember that they are exclusively for sending Priority Mail, it is illegal to use them for anything else.
3. The cheapest way to ship large packages is DHL. For this painting, they quoted us $45.00 less than USPS and it arrived much faster. It was in the owner's hands in 4 days instead of 3 weeks. For small and mid sized packages (Paintings up to 16x20), the best way to go is USPS priority mail. It is fast (2 days average), relatively cheap and the boxes are free from their sites.
4. If you ship USPS, save time by getting a good postal scale and printing postage online. That way all you do is drop the packages on the 24 hour Automated Postal Service boxes at your convenience. If the painting is too large for the box, but it has postage from the web, all I do is drop it on the counter without having to stand in line.
I hope you find this tutorial of use for your shipping needs. Documenting the process was fun and will be of use to me in the future... being as absent minded as I am, I know I will come back to see how I did it... LOL
If you have more ideas or tips, leave a comment with your feedback!
Thanks a lot!