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 Packing bakelite radios to survive shipping
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 Return to top of page · Post #: 1 · Written at 12:47:49 PM on 3 June 2017.
Ian Robertson's Gravatar
 Location: Belrose, NSW
 Member since 31 December 2015
 Member #: 1844
 Postcount: 1901

Here is the method I use to ship valuable, fragile articles, based on 40 years experience in the business of making, repairing and shipping electronic equipment such as computers and control systems. I've used it to ship a few valuable bakelite radios to overseas Ebay purchasers (US, Netherlands) and got rave reviews!

Other methods involving "peanuts", foam chips etc. don't work because the article will settle in the bed of chips with vibration until it reaches the inside of the box and becomes vulnerable..

You will need:

A cardboard carton that contains the article with about 30 to 50% extra space all round
Two ordinary plastic garbage bags
A can or two of "space filler" urethane foam.


Fill the bags with foam.
Close the bags and wait until it finishes expanding
Put one of the bags into the box and nestle the radio, etc. into the bag until it's half submerged.
Put the other bag on top of it and press down so that the article is completely surrounded and the bag is flush with the top of the box.
Take the top bag and the article out and wait until the foam becomes semi-rigid. This might take 24 hours. (If you don't do this and the radio is heavy, it will settle in the foam before it sets until it reaches the bottom of the box and all your work will be for nothing!)
Re-assemble and seal the box the around all edges and seams with packing tape.

Using this method, a bakelite radio will survive multiple drops onto concrete with no damage, because the urethane foam deforms and acts to absorb the energy of deceleration when the box is dropped. The whole aim of protecting an object in a collision/drop is to decrease the rate of acceleration/deceleration and hence the shock on the radio. The moulding of the urethane also spreads the load evenly.

 Return to top of page · Post #: 2 · Written at 7:00:59 PM on 3 June 2017.
GTC's avatar
 Location: Sydney, NSW
 Member since 28 January 2011
 Member #: 823
 Postcount: 6005

Other methods involving "peanuts", foam chips etc. don't work

Been working fine for me, as long as the sender puts the item in the middle of it (that is, surrounds it) and double boxes, again with peanuts surrounding.

Expanding foam is great, except try getting 'Bubba' 10,000 miles away to go that route.

A major problem with eBay these days is that sellers often opt for eBay's dreaded "Global shipping" program wherein items can be opened and re-packaged very poorly by the monkeys employed by Pitney-Bowes to reduce the volumetic size in order that P-B makes a bigger profit on their already outrageous charges.

And, if the item is damaged in transit, eBay and their seller pass the buck to Pitney-Bowes, which is a dead end.

I don't buy anything fragile unless, by prior agreement, the seller packs and ships it themselves. For one particularly expensive item, I arranged for DHL to collect it from the American seller and it arrived a little over 24 hours later, with minimum handling.

 Return to top of page · Post #: 3 · Written at 12:18:44 AM on 4 June 2017.
Brad's avatar
 Location: Greenwich, NSW
 Member since 15 November 2005
 Member #: 1
 Postcount: 6345

There's probably a few safe ways to do the job however when I pack a radio I sell I will only use the double box method. The radio gets bubble-wrapped, with material containing nice fat bubbles and this is placed in a box with screwed up or shredded newspaper. The box containing the radio is then placed in another box with the same shredded newspaper. This creates an extra 'crumble zone' that absorbs blunt impacts without the shock reaching the radio at all under most circumstances and such packaging should help the radio survive anything that the Post or a private carrier throws at it.

Naturally, if you happen across the rare situation where items are just thrown over a fence because the driver cannot be bothered waiting to be received by the addressee then there's no real guarantee that any sort of packaging will protect delicate Bakelite.

I've received a few radios over the years where the seller went to no effort at all to protect the item from the rigours of postage or freight. A single box with one layer of bubble wrap doesn't cut it. Neither does wrapping the radio in an old towel, no matter how many times someone has used it to wipe their bumcrack! I've heard a horror story from a well-known Ebay member who deals in radios that a radio he received arrived with empty beer cans as padding. In a technical sense that might work but how many marks does that leave on the cabinet? The other thing is that from an engineering standpoint, the sides of the can would absorb an impact but the ends of the can would transfer the whole load to the radio.

I think the biggest thing that hampers a seller who wants to do the right thing is Australia Post's stupid limits on box size. It can be said that Australia Post's gazetted role is to carry letters. But, since they are also exercising the option to carry parcels they should carry any parcel that one reasonably strong person is able to lift and the number of non-console radios made that would fall outside that category would fit on one hand - and I speak mainly of some of the unusual super-large coffin sets of the 1920s here. It's a strange attitude from a government commission that claims it is losing money despite it and it's subsidiary, Startrack Express having an almost secure monopoly on the carriage of parcels like radios. Let's face it, whilst there's half a dozen other large carriers, they aren't as accessible to Joe Average and cater more to business customers.

A valve a day keeps the transistor away...

 Return to top of page · Post #: 4 · Written at 12:05:53 PM on 4 June 2017.
GTC's avatar
 Location: Sydney, NSW
 Member since 28 January 2011
 Member #: 823
 Postcount: 6005

a radio he received arrived with empty beer cans as padding.

Good grief!

 Return to top of page · Post #: 5 · Written at 12:57:23 PM on 4 June 2017.
Ian Robertson's Gravatar
 Location: Belrose, NSW
 Member since 31 December 2015
 Member #: 1844
 Postcount: 1901

Well my experience derives firstly from Pye Marrickville in the mid-late 70s. Shipping colour TVs by road to Perth.

The engineers got involved in the packing design and developed it to the point where a TV could be dropped in its carton from the mezzanine to the factory floor and survive undamaged. Amazing! Still, sending by road to Perth, anything up to 50% would be DOAs. The styrofoam packing pieces would be eroded away until the timber leg base assembly was resting on the carton - no padding left! After that, they gave up and sent them by sea in containers!

In the early 80s we'd make and ship hundreds of these special purpose clock timers to schools all over NSW and Vic., by post. Initially most of them would arrive broken. We learned a lot about how to design packaging from that experience.

Foam chips on long road hauls were a waste of time, although bagging chips into several sections worked better.

Bubble wrap was better than this but no realistic amount of bubble wrap would perform as well as custom designed styrofoam packing pieces.

For smaller volume items we'd use the urethane foam method I described to make our own custom packing pieces.

The great thing about styrofoam and urethane packing is the way it deforms under heavy shock loads, absorbing the energy as it does so.

More recent experience - in my business we get video servers shipped to us from all over Australia. We see a lot of bad packing ideas and written-off hardware. Expensive.

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