Shipping Methods

Furniture-maker gets advice on shipping pieces to distant customers. May 4, 2005

We operate a small outdoor furniture business in which about 40% of our sales comes from tourists. We could increase this percentage greatly if we could ship through commercial freight for customers who cannot carry product with them. My problem is with packaging, as size and shape varies too much to use cardboard cartons. I have considered banding and shrink wrapping. Any thoughts on this method or any other that would be acceptable to freight lines?

Forum Responses
(Business Forum)
From contributor C:
Try pallets. The upfront cost is higher but you save on shipping damage.

From contributor J:
Unless you protect the merchandise in some way, you are practically guaranteed that it will be damaged during shipment. You might try contacting a major LTL carrier to see if the will advise you on this matter.

From contributor M:
Any way you can break it down to let customers assemble it?

From contributor D:
Small qualities of larger boxes are very expensive. If you have a table saw, you can make your own. Buy 4'x 8' dbl. wall cardboard sheets from somebody like If you look at a box to see how it's made, it's really simple. Just draw out on a piece of paper where the cuts need to be, based on your inside dimensions. First, figure out what the overall dimensions of the box are and cut the 4'x8' to size. Then lower your saw blade up just enough to score the sheet so you can fold it. Use some good quality cartoon tape like 3M 375 and you're in business.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for your input - you all have given me some things to think about. This board is priceless because of folks like you.

From contributor B:
We ship our curved mouldings around the country and have similar issues as you would have. We use double wall corrugated as suggested above. We purchase 5 x 10 sheets and score our bends on the table saw.

Several years ago I shipped a table saw from CT to Washington state. I strapped it to a pallet and then made a 5 sided box which I slipped over the top of the saw and then attached to the pallet. It made a super durable shipping container. The pallet made it rugged and easy to move and the box gave the forklift drivers a clear visual boundary as well as protecting the saw from bumps and bruises along the way.

From contributor P:
The labor to package your product can be considerable. You can have the boxes made for less than it will cost you to make your own. You can have boxes made in small quantities for a reasonable price.

I have found what works best is to use double corrugated cardboard with 1" rigid foam around the product. Shrink wrap your product or the cardboard and/or foam will damage the finish. Remember the product is going to be vibrating against the cardboard (abrasive) for maybe thousands of miles.

If you can, palletizing is a good idea. It means your boxes are less likely to be thrown around.

From contributor O:
Definitely go the pallet route. Don't worry about the expense - in the long run, it's cheaper. They build your crate or box from it. Have a rep from a trucking line advise you. That service is free, as they are looking for new business. While he is there, squeeze him for a rate discount. I get 65% from almost every trucking vendor who stumbles in my door. More from some.