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Packaging and Shipping Delicate Scroll Saw Work
Many of us have given some of our scroll sawn items for gifts. Nothing beats the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ we hear when someone we care about unwraps something that we created. Whether it is a scroll sawn box with fretwork overlay or delicate dimensional scroll sawn ornaments, it is a pleasure to see our hard work so appreciated.

But what about those of us who live away from our loved ones and have to ship the fragile items we created? We’ve all heard horror stories of how postal services mishandle delicate packages. Both machines and human carelessness can contribute to broken or damaged pieces. With the volume of packages which are sent through the mail, it is inevitable that some rough handling may occur. In my many years of working with and having to ship fretwork and scroll sawn items, I have discovered some helpful tips which will assist you in packaging your creations for shipping and minimize the amount of breaking and damage that will occur to them. Following are a few tricks you may find helpful:

There are several easy-to-find items that are very helpful in shipping that you probably wouldn’t associate with shipping. The inner cardboard tubing from carpet rolls is great for putting small items in. The thin foam sheets that are used for underlayment on flooring is a wonderful, lightweight padding. You can even use the swimming ‘noodles’ which can be found in the dollar store for spacers and padding. (I use both the flat and the round ones!) And foam pipe insulation can also be extremely handy when shipping plaques and pictures. All of these items can easily be found in the dollar store or your local hardware stores for a very small cost. Following are some examples of how I use these for shipping.

packaging scroll saw projects


When packing boxes, a snug or tight fit isn’t always a good thing. Although it may seem the safest way to pack things so that they don’t move around much, packing this way doesn’t allow any room for impact. It the box is hit or bumped on the side with any degree of force, whatever is inside will have nowhere to go and probably break. A better idea is a box within a box. Place the item in a box where there is little room for it to move around, and then place it in a larger box. Fill in the extra area with shredded paper or packing peanuts to keep the inner box from sliding around too much. You can even use crumbled newspaper to stabilize the inner box. This way, if it is hit from one of its sides, the brunt of the hit is absorbed by the outer box and the fill. The inner box is usually spared. Packing several smaller objects in one larger box is also a good alternative.

packaging scroll saw projects


When shipping delicate ornaments, there are several items that will assist you in keeping them intact. If they are flat, you can use the thin foam underlayment used for flooring to create little foam ‘envelopes’ to place each ornament in. I just use a stapler and after cutting the pieces to size, staple the sides and tuck in the top flap. Be sure to allow at least a quarter of an inch around all sides. If you have several ornaments to send this way, you can rubber band them together in little packets. Place the packets in a larger box with some fill in it and you are ready to go.

packaging scroll saw projects
packaging scroll saw projects


If your ornaments are dimensional, cut lengths of the cardboard inner tubing from carpet and make little ‘pods’ for each ornament to fi t into. You can usually get the tubing for free at a flooring or carpet store and they are very sturdy. You can either stuff crumbled paper at each end to hold the ornament inside, or stand them up in a box like little soldiers. You could even use duct or packaging tape on the ends to keep the items inside. If the ornaments are extremely delicate, you can loosely wrap each in a piece of tissue prior to placing it in the tube to minimize it moving inside it. Again, place in a larger box for shipping.

packaging scroll saw projects


Many of our plaques we make have delicate fretwork edges. I found the best way to ship this, or any plaque or picture is to use the foam pipe insulation available at hardware stores. The foam is already split, and you simply measure, cut and place it over the edges of your plaque. You can then wrap the piece with the thin foam sheet, as if you are wrapping a package, or even use the flat foam ‘noodles’ to make a sandwich and protect it.

packaging scroll saw projects


Bubble wrap makes a great base for fill in the outer boxes. I also use peanuts if I have some on hand, but I am not a big fan of them because they tend to have a life of their own and take over the house whenever a box is sent with them in it. I like to put them in a smaller bag if I am going to use them for padding, leaving them slightly loose. Remember if your box receives and impact, Whatever is in that first layer needs somewhere to move to. Allowing some room can literally make or break your project.

packaging scroll saw projects


You can also wrap individual items with bubble wrap. As with the thin foam, I like to make little ‘envelopes’ to put the items in by stapling the sides. The staples and edges give a little sturdier padding as opposed to just blanketing the item in the wrap.

packaging scroll saw projects


It may seem like a little more trouble to double box things and make little individual envelopes for your ornaments and such, but when you think of the time and care you invested in making your treasures, it just seems like a shame not to take the same time and care when shipping them. I have learned the hard way through experience – especially since I moved here to Canada and have to ship to the United States so much – that some extra attention and a little extra money is a great investment. I pride myself that my editor has told me that he could practically throw my stuff off the Empire State building and it wouldn’t break. (I just hope he doesn’t try it!) I hope that some of these tips will help ensure that your holiday treasures will arrive safely and unbroken.