Packing Models for Shipping

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Packing models for Shipping

Wether you need to send a model in the post, or are about to move house, there are times when you need to pack your precious, and fragile, models in a box, and entrust them to the care of a third party. I use the term 'entrust' with some reservation, as we all know how much care the parcel companies give the parcels we pay them to transport. As a driver I have seen how some of those dock hands 'load' the trailers, so I have a pretty good idea what I need to protect my models from. I use a method to pack my models which is secure, cheap, and does not require anything other than what can be scrounched at your local shops. I can throw the box from the stairs, without damaging the box.

1. I will use this Panther which I just sold, to show how I pack my models. So far, they have all arrived safely, apart from one, which was savaged by the Brazilian Customs...

2. Find a heavy gauge cardboard box, which should be quite a bit larger than your model. Ask around at your local shops. Especially the smaller ones are happy for you to take some of their hands, as it saves them in their waste. Paper shops, card shops or indeed your local hobby shop, are examples of the kind of shop that are likely to receive goods in boxes of the quality and size you will need.

3. For the packing you need newspaper. Quite a lot of it, but it need not be all from the same paper... Again, if cost is a consideration, save those free local (advertising) papers you get in your letter box.

4, 5 & 6. To begin, take a single page, and loosly scrunch it up, keeping it roughly flat, rather than in a ball. Don't scrunch the paper to tight, it needs to be springy. These pieces go in the bottom of the box, covering the bottom. This layer should be thick enough to cushion the model.

7. Place your model on this bottom layer. If you model is not evenly flat shaped underneath, you may need to add some smaller crunched up paper underneath for support.

8 & 9. Next, loosly scrunch a page into a longer roll shape. Fold it in half, and you will find that it is quite springy, and this is what will secure the model.

10 & 11. Place this piece of paper between the model and the wall of the box, using the springy action to secure it. Add paper like this all around the model. You may need to adjust the size of the paper to fit between the model and the box. This step is important, as this will stop the model from moving about. The paper needs to be tight enough to stop the model from moving, but not so tight as to rub hard against the model, as that can damage the finish. This damage is what often can happen when you use the styrofoam balls, peanuts, or bubblewrap.

12 & 13. Once the model is secured against (sideways) movement, you need to add smaller, more all shaped piece of paper. These will secure the model, and provide security against outside forces which could crush the box.

14 & 15. Fill the box with these smaller pieces, taking care to avoid the more fragile parts of the model. in the case of tanks etc, the most fragile parts tend to be on the top, and by packing the paper around the edges, and over the engine deck and glacis, you can leave the turret area free from paper. If neccessary, pack some extra small pieces underneath the the barrel if it needs the extra support.

16, 17 & 18. Fill the box, until the paper spills over the top. This part needs some 'test fitting', as the paper is compressed when you close the box. Add enough paper to push the paper down without needing to exert great pressure. This step will secure all the paper, and your model, without so much pressure as to damage the model.

19. Tape the box with heavy duty tape, and there you are. Short from something very heavy or sharp, this will keep your model save.

When you send your parcel, do not write 'Fragile or any such warnings on it. This only serves to attract attention, and will almost certainly invite the handler to treat your parcel with added contempt. Trust me on that one.

Add your own address as the 'return' address, parcels without one will atract the attention of customs. It may also bring the model back to you, if for whatever reason it can not be delivered to the receipient.

Don't skimp on postage cost. Adding a small amount for a 'Signed on Delivery' service, gives peace of mind, as it is unlikely that a parcel that is thus tracked, will go missing. Mark your parcel as a 'Toy' and a value below approx 50, this means that both the Customs, and the Taxman tend to leave it alone.

Good luck.
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About the Author

About Henk Meerdink (Henk)


I am wondering how good this will hold up for models that have highly fragile details? The brushing up of the paper against the model will certainly remove those small detail pieces...won't they? I had a similiar delimma and unfortunately my guntruck, both Stryker models(ATGM & Mortar) were completely destryed)
JUL 31, 2008 - 06:41 AM
The idea of this method is that the paper has enough 'spring' to be secure, without moving. Because you use the springyness of the sqrunched paper, rather than force, to keep the paper (and thus the model) in place, the paper does not usually damage the model. To avoid damage to really fragile parts, the best way is to surround the piece with a 'ring' of scrunched up paper. The model only needs to be secured at a few points on all sides to stop it from moving. By filling the rest of the box with very lightly scrunched up paper, you prevent model from accidentaly moving, in case the handler decides to be excessively rough. I'm confident that my models will survive a game of football (yes, parcel handlers will play football with conviniently shaped boxes... , I've seen it. ) , as long as the box is not actualy broken. It is imperative, to use a very heavy gauge cardboard box though, because the strength of the box determines how secure the model will be. Standard shipping boxes as supplied by the post office etc, are not very strong, and must only be used as a last resort. The Panther, incidentally, has arrived save and sound. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. Cheers Henk
AUG 01, 2008 - 04:20 AM
I'm packing up all my models right now, and have a different method Plastic shoe-box, Styrofoam, lots of cutting, peanuts, and glue needed -certainly more labor intensive. Line the bottom with a thin layer of Styrofoam. Use a thicker layer on top (glue it), with a hole in the middle cut out in which the tank/model smugly fit (usually the running gear takes that little pressure) Cut other pieces so that the turret, gun tube, etc secured by them, and unable to move, and it fills out the box (so that these Styrofoam pieces cannot move by accident either). Fill up the remaining space with peanuts. I have to say, it takes a while, but it does not let the piece move. I can upload a few photos if someone interested. (Sorry, Henk, didn't mean to take over the topic.) About shipping unbuilt models... After much deliberation, and with a bleeding heart I discarded the huge boxes, and put all the sprues bagged into two bigger cardboard boxes, defiling them, essentially. Now, if someone has a good idea about the cheapest way to move them through the Atlantic...
AUG 18, 2008 - 09:55 AM
I have shipped over one hundred models from US to Europe, Asia and as far away as Australia with no damage to date. The gentleman before closely described the method that I have been using for three years. I use a very cheap plastic shoe box as well but with a slightly different turn. I remove the turret from the AFV and rap each separately in Celophane (clear plastic) wrap. Once this is done, I place them in the shoe box which has been lined with a cushion of batting,......the stuff you fill a pillow with. This is the key to the whole process! Tape the shoe box up with clear packing tape and then that goes into a cardboard box full of the same white batting. In the US, I buy it at Walmart for three dollars. This is enough to pack at least three boxes. For boxes, I go to the corner liquor store. There are always plenty of empty boxes the manager wants to get rid of. The boxes used for shipment found here are incredibly strong owing to their main purpose,......shipping heavy, liquid-filled glass. Perfect! The box is then tapped up and wrapped twice with heavy brown paper I buy at the hardware store. This is then taped up very well. I also wrap the end with "Fragile" marker tape such as the moving company uses. I have shipped everything from single models to rather large dioramas. It works everytime.........and to tell you the truth,.....Tim Sloan gave me the original idea. All I added was the shoe box. Thanks Robert Liles
AUG 20, 2008 - 02:35 PM
When I do it if I sell anything from afv's to ships, to $1000+ pocher builds, I use styrofoam bases. I either wire it down or built a frame to support it with foam and hot glue(this takes practice with foam). Then build supports to anchor the 'base' up the sides so it can not move. Essentially the model 'floats' so even if it is inverted its ok. This is always double boxed so no impacts hit the box with the fitted base directly. The heavier foam used for this Pocher (24" long, $900)was from computer equipment. And all the new owner had to do was lift out the vertical side panels and snip the foam on the 4 green lines with scissors. It's trickier, but I've even shipped 1/350 battleships with hundreds of pieces of etched railings, masts, and whatnot. I would 'frame' out the shape of the hull so it can't slide around, build 'bridges' over the turrets with foam, build pieces that sat on the turret tops(the only place not covered with etch), and support the bridges to the box edges so it can't move around. Packing something like this is a real nightmare(roughly 300 pieces of etch on this thing):
AUG 30, 2008 - 02:09 PM
Although, I DID have one casualty. Not sure how this happened, but it must of been Ace Ventura at UPS on this one(half of the packaging is missing from the photo, it was tight) and yes, the front sprocket is actually broken in half:
AUG 30, 2008 - 02:20 PM
I moved from Botswana to Germany about two years ago and was quite concerned with how my collection of 30 odd tanks would hold up in the move north. The manager of the moving company came out to my house for the pre inventory and I brought my collection to his attention. He came up with a great solution. Moving companies have small boxes for packing CDs. Each box is designed to hold about 20 CDs but it will hold most tanks, some larger tanks M1, King Tigers or tanks of similar size you will have to remove the turret, otherwise they fit perfectly pack with some "popcorn" and then place in a larger box and presto a very safe and efficient moving method. I kept all the CD boxes and use them to move my completed projects to my office.
SEP 03, 2008 - 09:17 AM
To you has carried, that similar packing you do not send model to us to Russia. I think, very much the little would escape inside of a box.Therefore, if suddenly somebody will have a necessity to send something mail in Russia - to pack the item of mail it is necessary much more carefully (I think, in a titanic box, it is desirable bulletproof)
FEB 24, 2009 - 09:19 PM