Close this window to return to BookThink

Update to Shipping Suggestions for Booksellers

Sealing the Multi-D Box with Hot Glue

by Craig Stark

#114, 11 February 2008

Several months ago I recommended an ingenious box manufactured by Packaging Control Corporation - the Multi-D.

Everybody I know who's tried these things loves them. The process of packaging books with them is exceptionally fast, they provide significant protection against damage, they freeze books in place, three available sizes accommodate most any size and thickness of book, and they're reasonably priced. Who could ask for more?

Well, maybe one little thing. If you use tape to seal them, you may have experienced occasional problems with them popping open en route to their destinations. The likelihood of this happening seems greater with heavy and/or thicker books because gaps open up if the packages are lifted by the edges:

The additional stress this creates on the taped seam can be enough to break the seal, and who wants the contents to be exposed even if it doesn't break? This can be overcome to some extent by wrapping additional tape vertically around and near each end or by wrapping tape horizontally across the inset ends of the package, but I'm not fond of either solution - the former because it doesn't close the gaps much and the latter because the tape at the ends spans an open cavity and can be easily broken. Not to mention that tape is expensive and, in this case, time-consuming to apply.

Anyway, I started thinking about other possibilities, sort of left it as a question in my mind, and one day last week when I was packaging some books, I opened the door to a storage cabinet to pull something out and saw my hot glue gun lying inside. Bingo. Given that cartons manufactured in industrial contexts are often sealed with hot glue, it seemed at least like a good possibility - and some experimentation was definitely in order.

Using a 40-watt gun and general-purpose glue sticks - you can set yourself up with this stuff for less than $20 - I grabbed the heaviest/thickest book handy and settled on the following gluing configurations (see the black lines), careful to apply wavy (not straight) beads in fairly generous quantities.

First, once you practice some, this method is fast, certainly faster than either taping process described above. Since the surfaces are porous, the glue sets up almost immediately. (Do be careful not to purchase slow-setting glue.) Second, the resulting seals are exceptionally strong - significantly more so than taped seals. And third - best of all - the resulting package is tight at every point. You can lift it by the edges, shake it, whatever, and it stays sealed. No gaps at all. Also, these boxes can be readily opened with your bare hands simply by tucking your fingers under the top flap and pulling.

To date I've packaged and shipped dozens of books using this method - so far without incident. If you try this yourself, I think your instincts alone will confirm how secure the packages are. They have a solid feel that taped packages don't. I should point out also that boxes containing lighter and/or thinner books can be adequately sealed with a single bead along the edge of the top flap. It isn't necessary, that is, to lay the additional four beads down. As you gain experience, you'll be guided here.

The mad scientist in me rarely is satisfied with good results, and this is no exception. I have since ordered a more expensive gun - a 100 watt model (which can deliver more product faster) for about $50 - and some glue sticks designed specifically for carton sealing operations. Once I've tried these out, I'll report back. The gun I've been using so far is a humble Arrow TR550 purchased at Home Depot.

Oh - and whatever type of glue you use, I'd strongly recommend getting the 10" or 15" sticks, not the 4". You'll spend a lot less time feeding the gun.

Some final thoughts about cost. For every dollar you're now spending on tape, I'd estimate that you'll spend at least 1/3 less if you use the hot glue system - and of course your savings will be even greater if you've been taping the heck out of your boxes.

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

Copyright 2003-2011 by BookThink LLC