Tips and Tricks on Packing Fragile Glass Items for Shipment!

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As a butter dish collector, I have received a number of butter dishes sent through the mail. A number of times the butter dishes have arrived broken because the seller did not know how to pack glass.

Mailing a butter dish presents problems because a butter dish consists of two pieces. If these pieces work their way out of their wrapping they can crash into one another and break.

Many people think that breakage occurs due to external concussion, when in fact most glass breakage occurs from internal collision. This is why many people have the misconception that they know how to pack glass. They have packed and sent single pieces and have never known breakage.

After receiving a broken butter dish followed by a rash of poorly packed butter dishes, I received a Chrysanthemum Sprig packed by Richard Sciarra, (ebay id: r-mantiques). It was evident when the box arrived that it had been packed properly, so pictures were taken as the package was unwrapped with the hope of helping others.

There was Priority tape and the word Fragile all over the box--even though having Fragile on the box doesn’t seem to mean much in shipping!

Pic #1. The package was double boxed with plenty of cushioning around the inner box.Pic #2. The inside box was stuffed tightly with more Styrofoam.Pic #3. This is a view of the butter dish as it came out of the box.

The first thing to notice in Pic #3 above, is that both pieces appear to be wrapped separately and then taped together. This assures that any movement within the box will result in both pieces moving as one. (Obviously there would be no salvage of bubble wrap on this one. This would be a difficult unwrap. Scissors would be needed!)

After cutting the two pieces apart, work began by cutting away the tape from the lid.

Pic #4. Under layer upon layer of tape was a layer of bubble wrap, under which was layers and layers of paper, plain paper. Newsprint has been known to rub off onto glass and other pieces.Pic #5. Foam was tightly packed around the knob to protect it from breakage.Pic #6. Another look at the bottom of the lid shows that it has been tightly packed with more paper. It is very important to equalize the pressure on the inside of an item so it cannot implode.
Pic #7. The bottom has also been completely covered in tape.Pic #8. The butter dish has now been unpacked and is surrounded by wrapping. Note the arrow shows how the bottom of the butter dish was stuffed just like the lid.

The above illustration is provided as an example of proper packing which will remain intact under very adverse conditions. Many would consider it to be on the extreme end of packing and choose to eliminate some of the steps. Undoubtedly the butter dish would have arrived safely had just the inner box been mailed!

The most important features to remember:

1. Stuff large open areas – it is especially important to stuff the inside of cracker jars and butter dishes!

2. Tape the bubble wrap or other cushioning material around the item--items wiggle out of bubble wrap during shipping if they are not taped. Not taping the bubble wrap allows them to crash into one another and break. Use plenty of tape. You don’t care whether or not the buyer can reuse the bubble wrap.

3. Tape the individual items together--taping the items together prevents them from crashing into one another.

4. Stuff the box--some settling will naturally occur, so pack the box so tightly you can barely close it. The post office is often blamed when a box arrives crushed. It is very hard to crush a box that is stuffed.

5. The box can be stuffed with Styrofoam, newspaper, shredded paper, foam, etc. Mixing certain mediums seems to produce problems as one will work in under the other causing a settling effect. (Plastic is is notourius for doing this!) When using newspaper, double the amount you think is sufficient. (However, remember the admonition about using newsprint!)

6. Instead of taping pieces together, some sellers section off a box, so the lid is on one side and the bottom is on the other. This works provided the partition cannot move!

7. Never pack glass in a cookie tin. Priority mail boxes are free and can be ordered from the post office. Priority tape is also free. The Post Office will also furnish you mailing labels with your return address printed on them. You can also order mailing lables with "Priority Mail" printed on them for non-Priority Mail boxes.

8. Most breakage occurs because the sender packed the item wrong! The post office insurance does not cover poor packing, (though they have been known to pay)! So be sure to pack glass correctly. Filing claims is a pain and Early American Pattern Glass cannot be replaced!

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For additional information on this subject, visit one of the following websites...
FedEx: Packing Tips
UPS: Preparing Your Package
USPS: Preparing Packages

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