It’s What’s on the Inside That Counts

chestinboxI learned a valuable lesson today through shipping a Dutch tool chest to its new owner: Pack things in the smallest-possible-but-still-safe configuration. And build a crate – that would have been easier, and likely less expensive. And it sure would have looked better.

But no. Instead, I stopped at the local shipping place, where the owner had assured me he could box and send it for X amount. Turns out, he could not; the largest box he had was 1″ too small in one direction, and 3″ too small in another. Add in sufficient cushioning, and well – it wasn’t even close. Typical box sizes that are readily available at UPS, FedEx and U-Haul are not available in DTC size.

But instead of driving 27 miles to the LTL place that I knew could box and ship it, and at a cost approved by the the chest’s buyer, I thought, “No, I’ll find a box, pack it, ship it here and save the buyer some money.” And wow, was that stupid!

Down the road a mile is a place that sells big boxes. Really big boxes. But no smallish ones. So I bought a large one, somehow got it folded down enough to fit into my Outback (it was massive, I tell you!), drove back to the shipping place and proceeded to amuse the owner for a half-hour by cutting it down and refolding it, and using enormous amounts of tape in the process. I didn’t think – and he didn’t tell me – to make it as small as possible. My never-before-boxed-then-shipped-furniture brain thought the rates were based on weight rather than size. So I left room for plenty of cushioning materials. (Sorry about the peanuts, new owner; I know they get everywhere.)

I’ve shipped a lot of furniture…but always back to its owner in the box in which it came to me (usually for photography for the magazine) – so I always knew exactly how much it would cost (we always covered shipping to and from). And that’s what I had in my head. Of course, it was almost always smaller stuff, and, now that I consider it, always in tightly sized and packed boxes. Head slap.

Of course it cost significantly more to ship than the LTL place had quoted – but boxed, it was too big to fit in my car to then drive the 27 miles I should have driven in the first place. But I wasn’t about to unpack it and start over. (I’m covering the cost difference – the fair price one pays for boneheadedness.)

That box is an embarrassment – but as long as what’s inside stays safe, I guess it’s good enough. And I am embarrassed by my stupidity – but I’ve learned a lesson; I guess that’s good, too.


About fitz

Woodworker, writer, editor, teacher, ailurophile, Shakespearean. Will write for air-dried walnut.
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17 Responses to It’s What’s on the Inside That Counts

  1. For what it’s worth, it looks perfect. I hope it makes it there in one piece,

    Quick question: does the design between the big version and the small version just add another piece to the bottom?

    Said another way, If I take a DTC class with you but want the larger version, can I just add on another compartment when I get home?

    Thanks Megan.


  2. johncashman73 says:

    I worked over 20 years at UPS. Writing “FRAGILE. PLEASE THROW UNDERHAND” in large letters will have a very soothing effect.

    • fitz says:

      Wait – that doesn’t just make the workers treat it poorly?! (I kid, I kid!) I plastered it with “fragile” stickers…even though it isn’t, really.

  3. Jillian says:

    I’ve loaded shows in and out of theaters for 60 years, on production (shows going out for try outs before coming into New York) as well as on tour with shows travelling around the country. I feel deeply for you and your learning experience, but imagine, if you built a Newport Highboy and hadn’t learned your lesson yet… Anyway, ya loined an’ ya done good. 🙂

  4. tombuhl says:

    I’ve always avoided projects that required shipping. Now I feel that was the smart thing to do (not do). However, perhaps I could learn from your experiences and avoid at least some missteps should I enter that world.

  5. coldpie1 says:

    Shipping stuff is a long learning experience. Once I paid more for international shipping than what I quoted to the buyer for the product and shipping together. That one stung.

  6. Patrick davies says:

    Making crates for shipping is the only reason I have OSB anywhere in my shop. Cheap like borscht and utterly disposable.

  7. Chris Becksvoort says:


    We’ve got a place here in Portland, Maine Shipping Supply, that will make custom boxes. Any size, double thickness corrugated, they run $12-$20. For bigger items I use Handcrafted Delivery out of Lewiston, ME. The come to the shop and blanket wrap, and deliver all over the country. Surely Cincinnati must have similar services. Make it easy on yourself.

    Just got back from NH from an all day filming of an episode of “Rough Cut” for WGBH in Boston. Not sure when it will air. It was pretty stressful, but lots of fun.


    C. H. Becksvoort PO Box 12 New Gloucester, Maine 04260

  8. Rob says:

    One of my favorite sayings…
    Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.

  9. Bah, it’s just the first coat. It’ll look better with the second layer of tape.

  10. claydeforge says:

    Lessons that one learns, are always a good thing 🙂

  11. Crates don’t always solve the [cost] problem either, depending upon who you ship them with. I shipped two bible boxes about a year or so ago. I built tight crates with just enough room to fit in about 2″ of rigid foam sheeting on all six sides of the box. The boxes were not that big. I could have easily fit one in a standard size cardboard box. But I wanted the additional protection of the crate. I think it cost the buyer (and me as I had to make up the difference in what I under-quoted for shipping) about $65-70 per box to ship. Apparently, some shipping services have a significant additional surcharge if what you are sending is not in a cardboard box. I could have saved a lot of money by putting the crates into cardboard boxes. Of course the shipping clerk didn’t tell me that. They were happy to just take the extra surcharge. Another lesson learned.

  12. lcm7293 says:

    Let us know if it gets to its destination in one piece.

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