View Full Version : Packing a life size resin sculpture

mcv artist
01-21-2011, 11:33 AM
wow, what a great site!
So, I am an artist shipping one of my pieces overseas. I have a background as a carpenter and tech director, and as such, and at the clients preference am crating it myself. Having never crated artwork, i wanted to get some expert opinions...the sculpture is bonded bronze and of a woman and child...ie, fragile -ish. It is about 6' long, 2 feet deep, and 16" tall, with a wooden base (for strength as well as style), and weighing about 200lbs. I have built the crate with 3 1/2" interior clearance in all directions from the widest points. I built it out of 1/2" ply with 3/4" ply battens. Basically my client trusts me to do a good job, and won't mind paying for it. At the same time i don't want to waste money unnecessarily on what will be a one-time use. I also don't want to go too overboard on materials if there is a cheaper better solution.
I was planning on putting a 2" thick layer of Ethafoam on all interior surfaces. Then i would wrap the piece in a sheet...and bubble wrap it, then place it in the crate and then put some of those expandable foam packs inside that at the widest points to lock it in place. That seems to be the best product out there to ensure a really tight, solid, and yet cushioned fit. Then i figured i would fill in the rest with some stryofoam block i have around...and, well i guess other soft stuff...haha...
I have packed pieces that were not particularly fragile and could have internal battens to lock them down in case the crate was tipped on edge or upside down...and contemplated that approach as well.
i was wondering if maybe there is a cheaper foam to line the inside, and then i could just use strips of the ethafoam as i have seen recommended on other posts here.
I was also planning on putting 6 of those donut cushion feet on the base... I assume you want to get the ones that are rated for the specific weight, right? Masterpak recommended the orange ones at 125 -225 lbs each. It seems to me that if they are rated for a higher weight, they will be too stiff to be optimum for something lighter..but i am new to this.
Again, I want to do an A+ job on the packing, but do it the most efficient way.
I tried to give as much info as seems relevant. Thank you very much for any and all replies.
- Mark

Paul Brewin
01-21-2011, 03:40 PM
Sounds like you've considered lots of options! It may not be necessary to line the crate fully with padding, but to adequately pad strong points on your sculpture and avoid sensitive parts from being exposed to stress. A layer on the bottom may be advised, but depending on your wooden base, you may get away with several wide strips rather than having to cover the entire bottom of the crate. Mark the crate so that it is not tipped or rolled (much less upside down); it may be a good trade off to pay more to have it shipped by an outfit that understands how to handle object crates rather than try and plan for a worse case handling scenario (which may be impossible to predict just how badly it might get handled). I've only seen one exhibit crated using those cushion feet -- not saying they are not worth the expense, but proper planning when building and padding your crate will probably negate the need for the feet. They are nice on heavy crates if you plan to slide them around, or if they are being reused over and over.

No shortage of ideas on making it work, and I'm not even a crate builder! I'll ring up a couple of other regulars here and see if they can add their two cents. If you wish, post a picture of what you have built and/or what you are packing, that would help. Good luck!

T. Ashley McGrew
01-22-2011, 11:10 AM
You've got a good start on your crate. The 1/2" ply with battens is pretty much standard and you have included room for cushioning. 2" of cushioning when properly calculated is almost always adequate.
The key is using the right amount based on the wieght of your object. If your sculpture is horizontally oriented and has a broad base then solid ethafoam is going to be way too much surface area. In other words it will be too stiff to provide the "springy" effect you need.
There are several ways to calculate how much foam to use and all of them are based on the individual foams "cushioning curve" (or an intuitive understanding of same based on years of experience which goes way back into the tradition of packer/craters). A more concise approach would be to use a program put together by the folks at the CCI - (Canadian Conservation Institute) called

PadCAD (http://www.cci-icc.gc.ca/download/PadCAD-manual_e.pdf).

I don't think their instructions are as good as they could be but it is still very useful.
Just remember that the overall idea is about providing a rigid, protecting the objects, surface, and allowing (carefully) caculated movement between the crate shell and the object inside (cushioning).
An easier way to think of this is with double container design. An inner box hold the object rigidly to limit unplanned movement between object and contact material (friction/abrasion), while the outer container provides structural stability with all of the calculated movement (cushioning) taking place in between
the two.

The addition of the plastic donuts is actually a good idea. It is more useful to think of it as shock absorption than cushioning though. They don't have enough movement to really cushion per se, but it helps during that initial contact of the crate to the floor if there is a drop.
Your crate and its contents get the benifit of that effect before it even gets to the cushioning provision of your crate design.

For some reason that doesn't always make sense to people. One way to think of it is to imagine that someone is about to hit you in the head with a 2x4. Would you rather be wearing one of those plastic donuts for a helmut or just take the hit straight?
Yeah exactly. In this context though, the 2x4 is the concrete rapidly closing on your falling crate and your head is the crate itself.

Your plan has a good start without knowing more specifics but crating is a complex discipline. If you can post a picture and provide more details either I or another member might be able to help more.

Chris Barber
01-24-2011, 05:53 AM
I agree with Paul and Ashley on using strips or blocks of ethafoam rather than full lining, and calculating how much overall surface area that you want for the foam. As already mentioned, you can hold the piece where it has a more solid structure and "float" it where it is delicate. I would avoid styrofoam if you can... It is certainly better than nothing, but its relatively poor memory and cushioning properties can potentially make the crate's interior too stiff if it engages the piece before the ethafoam does. I would also look for a way to hold the piece down in the crate, even if shipping via art handler. Padded 2x4 braces will usually do the trick, if you can find enough appropriate areas to grab.

mcv artist
01-27-2011, 07:18 PM
Great stuff all around, thx...Yeah, you guys delivered just what i needed, which was to sort of bat some ideas around. From what i gathered i think i am going to go put the donuts on to prevent ---or at least minimize the shocks from it being picked up/set down...and well...hopefully not dropped, but it only takes on drop...The box within a box sort of thing is pretty obvious when you think about it, but what i basically got from that is that i want to create a shell working in toward a soft core padded connection holding the piece in place...but with a little give. To that end, I will have the crate on the outside with ethafoam (strips placed at strategic contact points) and then a softer cushioning between the ethafoam and the piece...what is best suited for that inner cushioning i am unclear on. I also think i will put some internal batens with a similar ethafoam/softer pad up against the piece to secure it to immobility. I figure i could sort of "capture" the base as well, as there is little danger of damaging it if the cushioning does not adequately dissipate the force of a drop/shake/whatever. For what it is worth, the piece is a hollow cast bonded bronze (aquaresin) backed with fiberglass and reinforced with steel (and wood so it could be bolted to the base - with room for expansion). I think i successfully added a pic... any further insights are very appreciated...thanks again...you guys are an invaluable resource...