latest updates and corrections  2-1-2012

     Small heavy objects such as a 1541 disk drive require special treatment 
when it comes to packing them up for shipping. Here are a few tips to prevent 
damage to your equipment when you decide to ship something for repairs or if 
you're moving. I'll use the 1541 as an example, but the same ideas work for 
most equipment. Foam chips or plastic "popcorn" can be used for cushioning 
-only- if you put those chips in sealed bags to keep them from migrating 
around in the package. A heavy object packed in nothing but foam chips will 
sink to the bottom of the box and suffer case damage if the container is 
dropped. Crushed newspaper is almost useless for protecting heavy objects. 
If unprotected, your drive will almost certainly arrive with a broken case. 
One special precaution when you ship a 1571 drive is to insert a transit 
card or a scrap disk in the drive. That protects the delicate upper head 
mount from damage due to physical shock. The 1541 is not as sensitive since 
it doesn't have two heads, so a transit protection card or disk is not 
really necessary but is still a good idea. 
     I always tell people to pack equipment well enough to survive a six 
foot drop onto concrete. Foam padding (the kind that deforms and springs back 
when you release it) is a good lightweight cushion for all types of equipment. 
Don't be tempted to reuse old Styrofoam blocks that were originally used as 
packing material for a TV set, VCR or other equipment. Those blocks are 
usually form fitted to the device they protected and are worse than useless 
for your gear. 
     Plastic "bubble wrap" is a good protective packing material, but don't 
depend on it alone for heavy objects. It works best as the first line of 
protection for such light things as keyboards and circuit boards. However, 
one precaution if you're packing any circuit or mother board: use a few 
thicknesses of newspaper to cover the board before you use the plastic bubble 
wrap. The reason is that most plastics generate static electrical charges 
strong enough to damage ICs and other board components. The slight bit of 
moisture in newspaper is enough to dampen any static charge buildup and 
protect the board from damage. So, wrap the board in newspaper first, then 
in a few layers of bubble wrap and finally in a good strong box. 
     Shipping companies charge for the weight and the size of a container. 
Lots of cardboard inside the box will add quite a bit of unnecessary weight 
and may not protect equipment the way you expect. I use cardboard sheets to 
separate one heavy device from another if shipping more than one unit, for 
reinforcing the container itself, and for covering a small heavy object such 
as a disk drive to protect the fragile case. Whatever you use, make sure the 
contents do not "rattle" when the final package is shaken. Looseness means 
the device inside can move around in the packing material and could suffer 
damage in transit from vibration or sudden drops. 
     I prefer to pack computer monitors face down on a two inch thick foam 
pad over a reinforced bottom in the container. The CRT neck board can break 
the tube if the monitor is shipped upright and it is set down hard. Since 
most of the weight of a monitor is in the glass picture tube, it makes sense 
to ship it face down. Don't be tempted to use Styrofoam chunks or chips on 
the box bottom... they will not protect the monitor. Chips tend to migrate 
around in a box and a heavy device will sink to the bottom and therefore be 
subject to shock and vibration in transit. FYI: the control door on the 
bottom front of the cabinet is the first thing to get damaged by rough
handling. You'll often find that door missing on a used monitor. The monitor 
packing box should allow a space of at least two inches on all sides, and 
that space packed tight with whatever protective material you use. 
     Surround the monitor in the box with foam or foam chips secured in bags 
so the chips can't migrate. You want the final package to be tight and not 
allow the contents to rattle around inside the box. Lastly, the case rear 
should be packed -around- the block of plastic that sticks out. The tube 
neck is just inside that block. If anything hits the cabinet there, it could 
break the tube. After tight packing, put another stiff chunk of cardboard 
over the top to strengthen the box top, then seal it up. 
     Visualize what would happen inside if you were to sit on a box after 
packing it or if you were to drop it. It may end up as the bottom box in a 
stack on the truck, so it must be able to withstand that kind of force. The 
sides must be stiff enough to withstand extra weight on it, so a beefy box is 
required... or a box within a box. Put "this side up" with arrows all around 
the sides of the container and "fragile" & "glass" in big letters on it in 
several places. Tell the shipper it's a glass tube computer monitor. 
     I have a few words to say about shipping charges. The Post office offers 
the best rate for regular mail. Don't be fooled by their TV commercials about 
their Priority boxes. They charge a flat rate but it's higher than it needs 
to be for most items, and Priority mailing doesn't really get there any 
faster than regular mail in most cases. Also, there is no guarantee against 
loss unless you add insurance. Tracking is available for a minimal charge 
and you'll also pay extra for faster delivery and/or deliver confirmation. 
For expensive items, things that can't be replaced, and some repair jobs, I 
always use UPS. Their base rate (UPS Ground) includes tracking and insurance 
of $100 unless you add more. Expect to pay more for guaranteed faster service. 
Lastly, if shipping out of the country, consider the cheapest Post Office 
rate first. I tried shipping a repaired C64 motherboard from the USA to Japan 
and UPS wanted $125! The PO wanted less than $20. Since that board could be 
replaced easily if lost in transit (which, in truth, is not likely), it didn't 
make sense to spend more than it was worth to ship it. If in doubt, ask!