Shipping Solutions for Booksellers

by Craig Stark

1 June 2009

How to Build Your Own Boxes

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I recently sold a copy of my favorite dictionary:

Some of you may recognize this as Webster's Second New International Dictionary - at over 600,000 entries the largest English language dictionary ever produced, not to mention the heaviest. In recent decades it has become, ironically, collectible for its more prescriptive content, which differed radically from Webster's Third, first published in 1963.

Webster's Second has never been reprinted, so all existing copies of it are at least 47 years old. Given that it weighs nearly 17 pounds, it's an understatement to say that the joints/hinges on these books are typically subjected to serious stress over time. Therefore, when shipping one, one must be especially attentive to safe packaging, the two most critical factors being protecting the extremities against bumping and freezing the text block in place to prevent damage to the binding.

Now, there are several approaches you could take, but in situations like this I'm forever looking for something that gets the job done cheaply and quickly - and preferably with an additional factor of safety built in. In this case, I looked no further than building a custom box with a corrugated pad.

Corrugated pads are similar in construction to the cardboard used to make most boxes - double-skinned with a fluted core - but, since they're designed for separating and supporting layers of often very heavy products on skids, are far more crush-resistant. Also, when folded along the grain of the flute, they produce an exceptionally strong edge. Cost? For this project, about $.70, and it took me about five minutes to build the box.

I started with a piece cut to 15" x 48". The dictionary was about 12" from head to tail, so this left me 1 " on each end to insert the end caps. Much less than this, and there really isn't enough gluing surface; much more, and you start wasting materials.

200 lb. test corrugated pads can be purchased at, for example, Uline in sizes ranging from 15" x 15" to 48" x 96". For purposes of packaging books, 24" x 48" pieces seem to work well for most applications. In this particular case, the 48" length allowed me to fully wrap the book and have a full panel left over for gluing, but of course a smaller book would require considerably less.

To build the box, first measure the width of the book (from spine to fore edge, allowing for any bubble wrap, etc., that will be subsequently wrapped around it), mark the pad on each edge, and, using some sort of straight-edged implement, make your first fold. It's important to use a straight-edge because this material doesn't always cooperate by folding uniformly along a flute.

Next I measured the thickness of the book and, after marking the pad, made a second fold and so on until I ended up with this:

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