View Full Version : best shipping for unframed works

06-18-2014, 09:45 PM

So I recently needed to send some unframed work to a gallery, and had a local professional frame shop package it up for me and ship it. Unfortunately, each of the four 36"x24" pieces in the package arrived damaged beyond repair.

I am now finishing some more work and will (in a very stressful and time-pressed fashion) ship it to the same destination for the show that opens in a couple of weeks (and that will still need to be framed upon arrival).

In this case, the edges were destroyed, as has happened sometimes with shipments of Ampersand boards from various places (it looks like they didn't follow through on the edge protection we'd discussed). But the surfaces themselves also appear to not be in great shape--one was scratched somehow, and one of the others appears to have some kind of impressions on it.

They had been wrapped in glycine, and pieces of masonite were sandwiched in between the pieces (and on the outsides). All pieces had been sprayed with Krylon prior to shipping.

As I've only had experience with pieces shipping already framed, I would be immensely appreciative of any advice out there on shipping unframed work. A professional preparator will be doing the packaging, but I don't think he has necessarily shipped this kind of work before, so any advice/wisdom I can give him would I'm sure be very helpful.

Are there any suggestions anyone would be able to make?

Many thanks, T

06-18-2014, 11:19 PM
If I were shipping something like this I would:

1. Make sure the Krylon was absolutely bone dry for several days before shipping. Just because it feels dry to the touch doesn't mean it's completely dry.

2. Wrap each piece tightly with a few layers of butcher paper to protect it from the other pieces.

3. Use packing tape to bind all 4 wrapped pieces into a tight bundle, with the artwork facing inward (2 pairs facing each other). There should be no sliding or shifting of the pieces when it's done.

4. Cut two pieces of tempered masonite (dark) to 40"x28".

5. Take one of the masonite pieces and tape the bundle to it in the center, so there is a 2" border all around. Use plenty of tape so the bundle is held in place with no ability to shift. This is very important.

6. Put the other piece of masonite on the other side of the bundle and tape it all together to make a tight sandwich. Now, if it were to be dropped on a corner, the masonite pieces will take the punishment before the artwork is touched. Thin plywood (1/4" or 3/8") would be even stronger, but I'm not sure how much heavier it would be.

7. Get a sheet of 4'x8' of 2"-thick insulation foam. It's pretty rigid and generally comes in pink or blue at a hardware store. With a box cutter, slice it into two pieces of 44"x32".

8. As before, tape the bundle tightly to the center and use the other piece to make a sandwich. Now you 2" of rigid foam surrounding the masonite bundle.

9. Wrap it in cardboard from something like an appliance box, or build a custom crate.

10. Ship it.

I would feel confident shipping something of my own this way. Unless someone ran over it or dropped it from several feet it would be fine. When in doubt, increase the dimensions of the masonite or the foam to give more corner protection. The further the artwork is from the corners, the better. It could also be argued that the artwork bundle could be taped to the foam instead, with plywood on the outside. I'm sure there's more than one way to do it.

I should also mention that I'm very sorry your first shipment didn't make it. Even if the pieces were insured, it would have made me sick to think they were ruined.

06-19-2014, 12:13 AM
First off, thank you very much for your compassionate words, they are much appreciated. It's definitely been difficult...(the package was insured, but I have a feeling they will make it hard to collect/recoup, and honestly, the money is obviously just a piece of the whole story).

In any case, I am deeply, deeply appreciative for the time you took to give a detailed set of shipping tips!

There is a chance that we will go ahead and frame here before shipping, but it would be easier for various reasons for us to send them unframed, so this advice will be invaluable. I thank you most sincerely!

All best, T

06-19-2014, 01:42 AM
What an absolute tragedy to have 4 large pieces ruined in this way. I am deeply sorry for your loss and the pressures that have ensued. Have you checked into Strong Boxes. That's the brand name. They are an extra heavy duty shipping box lined with shaped dense foam. Using such a box you would bundle the art work as Scratchmaster advised, wrapped tightly in tape and butcher paper, lay it in the foam in the box, tape the box and ship. These are expensive but you attach a return label so the box gets returned to you. I have had satisfactory service with one.

06-19-2014, 07:17 AM
I agree that using heavy duty shipping boxes is better than losing your art. As I am in the process of receiving art for the ISSA show, so far I've seen some smashed boxes (frame had to have a repair) and two exquisite boxes - the airport worthy ones. The art is shipped one per box - nor scratching or shifting!
Otherwise, I'd pack as "Scratchmaster" suggests.

06-19-2014, 11:55 AM
I think Scratchmasters method would certainly work! For a quicker, though probably not cheaper alternative, Airfloat and masterpack lined strong boxes (same product, two different brands) are by far the safest way to ship artwork that I know of, but make sure you size so that there is a minimum of 2" of foam around the outside edges of all the artwork and secondly make sure that the work is secured so that it can not slide around at all.I would probably wrap each work in acid free foam, and then tape the whole package together so no shifting at all and then put inside a strongbox.

I have also shipped work with extensive bubble wrap around the foam wrapped securely taped package (don't ever put bubble wrap directly against artwork as it can leave marks or stick). I wrapped with about 3" bubble wrap one way, then wrapped with another 3" the other way so all edges had 2-3" of bubble wrap. Then I added even more to the corners. So much wrap that the package barely fits inside the box no the box actually bulges out a bit... For sure no shifting and lots of protection.

06-19-2014, 12:00 PM
Many thanks for the additional advice! A friend who is an art handler also mentioned Strong Boxes, and now I am off to their website to see what is possible in the time frame. Thanks again, all!