Ship shape

I have to ship a project today. If the past is any guide, the task will likely take more time and effort than making it.

I’ve stated before why I can’t be a full-time professional woodworker, and the main reason is that I’m just too fussy and take way too much time making things. I never leave good enough alone, even when a project is perfect, and as a result my hourly wage would plummet.

But here’s another reason: I hate shipping stuff.

As with the creative process, the packing-up-and-shipping process is one I spend way too much time on. It’s usually complicated from the beginning by just finding a box for shipping – nothing is ever the right size. Either the best box I have on hand is too small, or so large it would require numerous cubic feet of packing material just to take up the empty space. Trying to buy a box typically has the same results, and usually I have to take a way-too-big box and cut it down to a reasonable shipping size.

Once I’ve obtained (or made) an appropriate box, I then obsess over the packing. I’m always afraid the project will break in shipping, so I go ridiculously overboard on protecting it with peanuts, bubble wrap, crushed newspaper, excelsior or what the heck have you. Invariably, I never have enough and the packing ends up being a mish-mash of materials.

After an hour or two the project is packed, then comes taping the box up. I should take a clue from Amazon, since I order so much from them. Their packages typically have a single strip of tape over the box seam and they always arrive fine. But when I’ve got the packing tape in hand, paranoia strikes and I go nuts with the stuff.

A couple hundred feet of packing tape later, I usually spend another half hour making a shipping label that’s clear, concise, and easy to read. Then, because I’m terrified the label will get torn, come off or become illegible due to the elements, I slather on a few dozen more feet of clear packing tape over the label.

Make a box of the right size. Pack it safely and securely. Tape it to death. Label it like it’s going to the moon. Then and only then can I head to the shipper.

If it hasn’t already closed.



  • Chris Wong says:


    I hear you loud and clear! I laughed when I read your first sentence because I’ve done the same thing.

    One habit that I’ve gotten into is putting an invoice with my address and that of the recipient inside the box. That way, if the labels on the outside of the box are torn off, the shippers still have that information.


  • Chuck R says:

    I have all the same problems and now I have a slightly bigger one. I was passing through a small New England coastal town a couple months ago and happened to sell an Innkeeper a small end table/bookshelf. Now I am wondering how to pack and ship it two hundred miles…

  • Fred Friar says:

    for heaven sake AJ your making a mountain out of mole hill. Go to Sam’s or the local hardware and ask for a few boxes they have plenty. Pick up one of those clear tape dispensers (at Sam’s) or office supply. If I can ship rockers all over the country you sure can ship your stuff that is a major part of our business “filling the order”. You should be happy to do it every day it is called cash flow.

  • J D says:

    I have found using 4 x 8 foam insulation sheets cut to size serves as good protection.

  • Chuck R says:

    Perhaps Fred Friar could share some shipping tips with us? I can do a lot of things, but I wouldn’t have a clue as to how to ship a rocking chair.

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