• Lightweight Recyclable Hybrid Container.

    Hybrid "Soft Pack" style crate

    One of the most satisfying aspects of what we do is putting together solutions that address the unique circumstances encountered in any given exhibitions move or collections relocation. This particular situation is one of those instances of where with methods and materials thoughtfully employed - less can end up being more.
    THE SITUATION A medium sized municipal museum is doing an exhibition consisting primarily of textiles - costumes to be specific. There are four lenders are in LA. When crating estimates are provided they exceed the budget allowed and the question becomes "What do the objects actually require to travel safely"? After all, the costumes are stable, flexible, and have no friable surfaces. They are already packed in sturdy blueboard storage boxes measuring 6.5" high 60" long, and 18" wide. The client initially inquired about grouping the inner boxes into heavy duty commercial corrugated cardboard bins.
    Since the objects are being transported to this single venue by a professional Art Services Provider this seems to be a reasonable option.
    Unfortunately, while these inner boxes may be a standard size familiar to those who deal with costumes everyday, they don't really correspond with any standard sized commercially available bin-type boxes available in the Los Angeles area.
    Luckily the odd size of these boxes when stacked in multiples does lend itself to an obvious solution.
    In other words there is a style of container that fits the bill quite well.
    CCI - the Canadian Conservation Institute, has a nifty publication that deals with hybrid styles of container construction that utilize a combination of cardboard supplemented by the judicious use of light wood framing.
    Below is the link to CCI Notes 1/4.


    Exact duplication of the solutions that they illustrate there don't really apply in this particular case partially due the dimensions involved. The illustrated CCI solution would be too small based on the materials available. Luckily though standard sheet sizes of doublewall cardboard can dovetail well when used with a variation of the CCI design applied to this specific situation.
    Also in this case due to the light weight of the contents in this case 48" by 96" sheets of DWCB (instead of triwall) will be used to form each side and half-lid of our container to provide a self limiting set of dimensions.
    This allows for two top lid closures of 12' each adding up to a box that is around 36" high and 24" wide by up to 96" in length (92.5" ID - 97.5" OD w/ handles).
    Where larger sheet sizes of DWCB or TWCB are available the size mentioned above does not represent an absolute limitation to the system.
    Some good things about these dimensions are that they result in a container that can fit through the relatively narrow interior doorways found in non-museum venues and that the height limitations keep the wieght down relative to the structural capacity of the materials being used.

    Below is a "step by step".

    Shown above components of the bottom and end panels of the crate.

    The 1 x 2 strip is used to trap the bottom panel to the end panels.

    Put together ready for sides.

    A bead of glue will provide strength and rigidity when fully cured.

    Use a staple gun to tack the DWCB side in place.

    3/4" long waferhead screws reinforce stress points.

    After the first side is attached the container is turned over and a straight edge is used to help score the fold for the lid flap.

    The excess portion of the 48" side wall folds over to make one of the two lid flaps.

    The second side is only secured partway up to allow for a drop front.
    NOTE: Top loading crates shouldn't exceed around 30" in depth for handler safety.

    Detail of waferheads reinforcing the fold.

    Handles are placed at 22".
    Handles should be somewhere between 21" and 24" so that on the lift the handlers arms are in a relaxed extended position with the bottom of the crate well above the feet and ankles . NOTE: Handles set too high necessitate lifting with the arms and shoulders. Proper handle height encourages safe lifting using the legs.


    Shown above with the container turned upside - a key to its structural integrity is the use of four inch #10 screws placed in well-countersunk holes in each corner. This ties the containers bottom runners and deck to its 2x2 uprights.

    The lid flaps and drop front can be secured with tape, 1" waferhead screws, or a combination of both.

    Even if the interior boxes are wrapped separately, a recommended additional step is to lay down a lightweight layer of poly inside the crate before loading. High Density Polyethylene in the form of a 12' wide roll of "painters plastic" will provide an additional vapor/moisture barrier. This barrier can be folded over the top of the entire inner package and sealed providing and additional level of protection but requiring little effort and minor expense.


    Any container made in this style that exceeds 24" in width or has a significantly focused load should be reinforced. Here by 1" x 3" pine battens screwed in through the 2x2 runners.
    Obviously in instances where greater overall weighs or higher PSIs are involved a thin plywood base could be employed as well.
    Also the use of Coroplast or some other corrugated plastic product will provide greater puncture resistance and environmental control. Higher material costs and increased labor go along with these variations as well as a greater environmental impact. If however there is an increased capacity for re-use then those changes might balance out in the long run.

    When the combination of height and width of the container exceeds the limits of the 48" wide side sheet a flat piece of DWCB can be adhered to one of the two lid flaps. This option can be desirable as a standard practice on all containers using this design when superior strength for the lid is needed.

    This design worked in this instance because of a combinatiion of the nature of the objects themselves and the method used to transport them. The chioce is similar to deciding when softpacking a painting is appropriate and when it must be fully crated.
    There are other combinations of cardboard and wood in use - like augmented standard commercial bins that can represent an economical and environmentally responsible set of options in the right application.
    With these there are established methods for important factors like employing interior braces and such that will have to wait for another article, but the basic notion here is that there are many design options available to collections care professionals for the transportation of art/objects.
    It also needs to be stated that "Doing things on the cheap" when the circumstances really demand higher levels of protection can result in catastrophic damage to objects. Consult an experienced packer/crater with a solid track record for help in making these kinds of choices.