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MMD > Archives > August 1999 > 1999.08.16 > 04Prev  Next

Packing and Shipping Music Boxes
By Nancy Fratti

[ The original article appeared in 960127 MMDigest.  -- Robbie

 [ Editor's Note:
 [ In a private correspondence one of our subscribers recently pointed
 [ out a message which was posted to rec.antiques by a U.S. music box
 [ buyer.  The buyer purchased a music box from a reputable antique
 [ dealer from overseas, sight unseen.  The insured package arrived
 [ in very poor external condition and was left by the air carrier
 [ without a signature.  He's "working that issue" with the carrier
 [ right now.
 [ I corresponded with the buyer on this subject privately and learned
 [ that the music box had been disassembled for shipping, which seemed
 [ strange to me.  However many things in the music box world are not
 [ intuitive so I wrote to Nancy Fratti about the problem.  I also
 [ wrote to the buyer suggesting that he ought to meet Nancy.  Well,
 [ it's a small world.  He knows Nancy because he's a graduate of her
 [ music box class.  Here's what the buyer said about the shipment:
 [ > Hi Jody,
 [ >
 [ > No, It was a 15.5" Polyphon.  Rather than leaving the inside
 [ > alone, he unscrewed the bed plate, left the dual combs on it with
 [ > no protection for the combs, took the motor off the bed plate, and
 [ > wrapped both in a thin wrap of plastic bubble wrap.  He put both
 [ > of these inside the case and just tossed in Styrofoam for fill.
 [ > The motor bounced around like a cannon ball and destroyed the
 [ > case, the combs, and broke the iron casting of the motor!
 [ [snip]
 [ So, here's Nancy's first article to our group.  I hope you find
 [ it as interesting as I did.
 [ -- Jody

Jody,  Your suggestion for an article is a good one!  I will work
on expanding this idea for an article for the MBSI journal.  I have no
idea why _anyone_ would take a box apart to ship it!  It is its own
best protection!

In the cited case, the fault for damage lies (morally) with the
shipper.  It also should not have been left un-signed for at the
recipient's home.  As stated above, there is NO reason to disassemble
any box before shipping.  Had the box been left together, it might have
survived the journey intact.

Most of packing and shipping is common sense!  The fewer parts moving
around in a package, the fewer can be damaged.

When I prepare a box for shipping _anywhere_ (overseas or in the
States) the first thing to be done is to prepare the mechanism.

DISC BOXES:  (table top)

1)  Wind down the spring, either by hand (if possible) or by letting
the box wind down by itself (without a disc on it).

2)  Put a piece of Scotch tape on the comb(s) to prevent vibration in
transport.  Teeth can be broken by the vibration brought on by a sharp

3)  Do not ship with a disc in place on the movement.

4)  Do not put discs _or_ the crank inside the box.  Wrap them
separately and pack outside the box.

5)  Do not disassemble _any_ part of the mechanism.

6)  If there is glass in the door (as on some of the upright machines,
I will usually put an "X" of masking tape on the front side of the
glass, remove the door and pack it separately, OR

Cut a piece of corrugated cardboard to fit the shape of the glass,
then cut a piece of insulation board (3/4" thickness, minimum) and
'sandwich' the glass in-between.  Wrap masking tape around the
'sandwich' being sure NOT to get any on the wood (it can take the
finish off when removed, or might stick to the finish).

Insulation board is available in 1/2" to 2" thickness.  Insulation
board, cut to fit various openings, is the best type of 'medium' for
packing both inside and outside the case.  Some upright disc boxes have
glass covers over the mechanisms.  If you want to leave it in place,
then put an "X" of tape on the glass(es) and wedge the frame in place
by carefully cutting appropriate pieces of board and fitting it tightly
into the case.


1)  Follow steps 1 & 2 for disc boxes above.

2)  NEVER let the box stop in mid-tune!  If necessary, apply pressure
to the spring barrel or the cylinder to 'help' the box to the end of
the tune.  If you leave it in mid-tune, you leave tooth tips hanging in
mid-pluck on some cylinder pins.  Should the box suffer a sharp drop,
those tooth tips would probably break.

3)  Wedge the cylinder into place with a cork or piece of rigid insula-
tion board cut to the appropriate size.  The cylinder on fixed-cylinder
boxes (non-interchangeable cylinder boxes) can usually be wedged on the
left, or spring barrel side.

4)  The glass lid inside the case presents some interesting packing
challenges.  Put an "X" of masking tape on it.  To try to protect both
the mechanism and the glass, you can take a piece of cardboard and cut
it to fit the length of the cylinder.  Take that cardboard and place it
on top of the cylinder/comb.  Then 'stuff' the space between the
cardboard and the glass with crumpled newspaper.


5)  For boxes with interchangeable cylinders, follow all the steps
above, then remove the cylinder from the mechanism and then wrap each
cylinder separately in _many_ layers of bubble wrap.  Do this even if
there is a storage drawer to put them in under the box.  DO NOT leave
them in the drawer!  DO NOT leave a cylinder in the mechanism!  The
cylinders, heavily wrapped, can be placed on top of the box inside the
packing case (not underneath or on sides).


If you are packing in cardboard boxes there are a number of methods
to use, depending upon the size and weight of the music box.

1)  Gather the supplies first.

You can purchase packing boxes from a wide variety of sources.
For our size items, sometimes U-Haul is the best source of assorted
sized boxes.  Near larger cities there are usually places that sell
boxes, bubble wrap, Styrofoam 'peanuts' and tapes.  (See "Boxes" in
the Yellow pages of your phone book.)  Some sell tri-wall boxes (triple
wall corrugated cardboard boxes) that are ideal for our use.  Determine
the size of a box that will be about 1" to 2" larger (on each side)
than the piece you are packing, and then another box about 2" on each
side bigger than the first box.

2)  Wrap the music box in a soft cloth (especially if the box has been
refinished), then make a 'girdle' around the body of the box with 2"
rigid insulation board (available in any lumber yard).  Have the board
extend out farther than any of the molding or lid of the box.  In the
case of a cylinder box, you would be girdling the main box, not the lid
or bottom molding; for a table top disc box, the same.  The objective
is to keep the insulation board dimension larger than the largest dimen-
sion of the case, so that if it takes a hit, the insulation board will
absorb it and take the pressure off the case.  Fit the wrapped case
inside the first box.

3)  Take the second box and put a layer of 2" insulation board, or two
layers off 1" Styrofoam (white beaded) board all around the sides and
bottom.  Insert the first box, then put another 2-inch layer of board
on top of the first box.  Close and tape the box.

With disc boxes, or interchangeable boxes, you need to get a box big
enough to put the discs, crank, or extra cylinders on top of the first
box.  Discs should be wired together with tie-wraps or something
similar so they won't move against each other.  They should then be
wrapped in two layers of cardboard.  With extra cylinders, wrap as
described above and put in another box on top of the first box.

If weight or size of the final carton is a factor, then you might
consider shipping the unit in two separate cartons.

You can also construct a wooden crate for any particular box.  Crates
can be made from 2"x 3" lumber and 3/8" sheet plywood for heavier music
boxes, and from 3/4" shelving material and luan sheets for lighter
boxes.  Follow the steps above for getting the music box into the first
packing box, and then construct the crate.

Some smaller pieces can be brought to a good "Ship-it" or "Mail" store.
The better ones have a foam injection system that can't be beat!  They
put your music box into a box that contains a plastic bag and then
inject foam into the bag.  The foam expands and molds itself to the
outside shape of whatever is on it.  They then put another plastic bag
above the piece and inject the foam into that.  The result is a custom
fit!  This method requires only ONE box -- the foam is such a good
shock insulator that a second box is not required.

Styrofoam 'peanuts' are not good first-box packing material, as they
tend to compress and shift with the weight of the contents and the
shock of drops.  They are definitely not to be used inside any
mechanism, as they tend to shred on cylinder pins and get caught in

Obviously, there are many variations on this packing procedure,
depending upon the individual box.  What I've outlined should be
followed as a basic packing method, with the individual needs of each
box taken into account.

How to deal with shippers?  There is no 'standard' way to deal with

I ship _all_ boxes via _air_, either UPS, Fed-Ex or Air Freight.
_All_ overseas goes via Air Freight.

If you ship overseas, then putting the word "antique" is a good idea
as most countries do not charge duty on antiques.  _However_, some
companies will not take anything with that word on it!  Fed-Ex only
insures up to $500 on an antique, no matter how much insurance you ask
for!   UPS will usually require you to unpack or pack the piece in
front of them so they know it is packed okay.  Air Freight will sell
you as much insurance as you pay for, usually without much questioning.

_All_ packages are going to get bounced around; if they are packed
correctly the will sustain NO or very minimal injury.

Nancy Fratti - Panchronia Antiquities, PO BOX 210
Whitehall, NY 12887-0210 USA  tel: 518-282-9770  fax: 518-282-9800
Disc & Cylinder Musical Boxes - Musical Box Restoration Supplies
Books - Audio/Video Recordings

(Message sent Sun 20 Oct 1996, 23:48:16 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  Boxes, Music, Packing, Shipping

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