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The hero of the shipping department on
Boxing Day
© Frank Ford, 2/25/00; Photos by FF, 2/15/00

A few years ago, UPS invented a system of measurement they call "dimensional weight." They multiply the length, width and height of a package in inches, and divide by 194 to arrive at the "weight" they will charge for air shipment. Because a guitar in its box actually weighs only around 21 pounds, they figure that it takes up too much space in their aircraft. By using dimensional weight,t hough, they can charge us for 54 pounds in shipment. So, all at once, we saw the cost of air shipment soar as high as those airplanes!

At our shop, we sell far more new guitars than other instruments, so we always seem to have a surplus of regular guitar boxes in which we receive new instruments. We used to ship smaller instruments in these big boxes, just filling them up with plastic peanuts or other lightweight packing material. Well, now it really pays us to make sure we don't go too oversize with the box when shipping mandolins!

This is a little routine I worked out for cutting down regular guitar boxes to fit those smaller instruments. The idea was to come up with a nice strong box, with little or no effort.

Here they are, my standard shipping boxes. On the right, we have the standard guitar box, roughly 48 x 20 x 9 inches. On the left is the mandolin box. The one in the middle is for intermediate size instruments such as tenor banjos.

My weapon of choice is my regular whittler style pocket knife. I'd use a cardboard carton cutting knife, but I never can find the dang thing. I always know where my pocket knife is.

As you can see, the banjo doesn't need all that height to allow for good resilient packing. Don't forget that the banjo looks kinda short when it's photographed at this angle. It really is less than a foot shorter than a guitar.

OK, let's go. I simply fold down the flaps.

Score through just the outside layer of the cardboard face. I only want to make it easy to bend, so I'm careful not to cut deeply.

Same all around, just scoring the outside.

Now, I cut off the flaps.

All around again, it only takes a couple of seconds to zip the flaps off.

Cutting the corners down to the score marks, I'm almost there.

Fold my new flaps down, and I'm done. The whole process takes less than a minute, and I have a nice square top on an intermediate size box, about 9 inches shorter than it started out. When I tape the top down for shipment, I make sure to cover all the edges I've scored, so they don't have a tendency to tear in shipment.

Making the mandolin box is almost as quick and easy. It's one of my all time favorite tricky techniques, because it's so easy and predictable, once you figure it out.

Same as before, I fold the flaps down. But this time, I'm cutting clean through the full thickness of the cardboard.

All around, just holding the flaps down, I can easily my cut a straight path as I guide the knife along the heavy cardboard flap.

Now, I can simply lift the top right off.

Here's the tricky bit. I hold the cutoff portion of the box flat on top of the remaining box, and fold the flap down. Now I can score the box, using the folded flap just as I had done in making the banjo box above.

I simply maneuver the cutoff section and its folded flaps around the top of the box, scoring all four sides.

And, as before, I cut the corners down to the score line.

And, folding the flaps down, I have the perfect mandolin shipping box.

Here you can see that the instrument will fit nicely inside, with just enough room on top and bottom for a nice layer of squishy packing material

The top is flat and square, and as strong as if the box were originally made in this length. This cut down guitar box is fatter than a "regular" mandolin shipping box. I like 'em that way, because they provide more protection for the top and back of the instrument.

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