Transporting built models

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Jkirkon

Sr Member
The time is getting close for us to move across country, and the question is, what’s the best way to move built models?

I have 6 built studio scale X-wings, and a built Y-wing (plus a bunch of other stuff) to safely get from New Jersey to Texas. Hopefully without destroying anything.

I have built transport cradles for the x-wings out of foam. They are locked into the cradles, and don’t move around. They are wrapped in bubble wrap and foam paper, which is (mostly) omitted from the pics.
The plan is to stack them inside a wardrobe box that’s padded with open cell foam to cushion them. I should be able to get 3 x-wings per wardrobe box.

Should I have the moving company move the box, or should I ship it via UPS/FedEx to my new house?

Here’s what I’ve built, let’s see what you guys think, and I welcome your thoughts, ideas, and experience!!!
 

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ID10T

Sr Member
If the movers are going door to door, I'd send it with them.

Shipping companies go out of their way to destroy stuff.

I shipped a brick once, and received a box of red dust...
 

star-art

Sr Member
I'll tell you what I do, but I must warn you it can be a lot of work. Over the years, I've shipped some delicate (and VERY expensive) projects so I went to great effort to keep them intact. Despite my best efforts, the freight companies still managed to cause some damage. So, I went even further to prevent this. Using my latest techniques, my models have survived undamaged.

I start by making a wood frame box that's at least 2-4 inches bigger than the model all around. I then pack the model in CONVOLUTED polyurethane foam, making sure the model touches ONLY the foam and no part of the inside of the box. Convoluted is the stuff that's cut to resemble an egg crate. It reduces the amount of physical contact with the delicate model.

The box frame is made from 3/4 square strip (more expensive) or cheap 1 X 2 furring strips such that the total thickness of each side is just 3/4 inch. To this I attach 5mm plywood underlayment. This is the cheapest plywood you can get at a home center. I use wood glue and screws to attach it to the frame. Then, I drill holes in one face and inject GreatStuff Gaps and Cracks foam in a can. This stuff is pricey, and until now was available only in a disposable can -- i.e. one single use per can. (Now I hear they make a "reusable smart dispenser.")

Why the foam, you ask? I remember an article on customizing cars where someone injected this kind of foam into the hollow door of a Volkswagen Beetle. Without the foam, the door could easily be crushed. Filled with foam, however, you could stand on it and it wouldn't even bend. The foam dramatically increases the strength of the box, making it much more crush resistant. Best of all, it adds almost zero weight.

All this effort (and expense) results in a crate that's not only tough as nails but also very lightweight. I usually place the finished crate in a cardboard box. This way, I can ship with UPS or FedEx and it looks just like any other package.

Hope that helps!
 

Jkirkon

Sr Member
The expanding foam in a can is a great idea. I think I’ll line the shipper box with it, inside a plastic bag so it doesn’t stick to my cradles.

thanks for that
 

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StevenBills

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I'll tell you what I do, but I must warn you it can be a lot of work. Over the years, I've shipped some delicate (and VERY expensive) projects so I went to great effort to keep them intact. Despite my best efforts, the freight companies still managed to cause some damage. So, I went even further to prevent this. Using my latest techniques, my models have survived undamaged.

I start by making a wood frame box that's at least 2-4 inches bigger than the model all around. I then pack the model in CONVOLUTED polyurethane foam, making sure the model touches ONLY the foam and no part of the inside of the box. Convoluted is the stuff that's cut to resemble an egg crate. It reduces the amount of physical contact with the delicate model.

The box frame is made from 3/4 square strip (more expensive) or cheap 1 X 2 furring strips such that the total thickness of each side is just 3/4 inch. To this I attach 5mm plywood underlayment. This is the cheapest plywood you can get at a home center. I use wood glue and screws to attach it to the frame. Then, I drill holes in one face and inject GreatStuff Gaps and Cracks foam in a can. This stuff is pricey, and until now was available only in a disposable can -- i.e. one single use per can. (Now I hear they make a "reusable smart dispenser.")

Why the foam, you ask? I remember an article on customizing cars where someone injected this kind of foam into the hollow door of a Volkswagen Beetle. Without the foam, the door could easily be crushed. Filled with foam, however, you could stand on it and it wouldn't even bend. The foam dramatically increases the strength of the box, making it much more crush resistant. Best of all, it adds almost zero weight.

All this effort (and expense) results in a crate that's not only tough as nails but also very lightweight. I usually place the finished crate in a cardboard box. This way, I can ship with UPS or FedEx and it looks just like any other package.

Hope that helps!
I'm a visual learner. Do you have any pics of these boxes you could post?

SB
 

TazMan2000

Master Member
I've read in Fine Scale Modeler many years ago about a guy who used rubber bands tightened around a model and secured with popsicle sticks on the outside, so the model is floating. However, if the box is crushed, it wouldn't help much. The only way to ensure that it makes it to the destination is to transport it yourself in a box filled with popcorn.

TazMan2000
 

star-art

Sr Member
I'm a visual learner. Do you have any pics of these boxes you could post?

SB

This one doesn't have the foam inside the panels, but the construction is the same. 1X2 frame and 5mm plywood underlayment "skins" inside and out. Everywhere you see a screw there's a wood frame member underneath.

Each side is a separate panel. They all get screwed together so it could be broken down and reused. Note the overlap on the sides to encapsulate the top. This is just the outer skin being cut long. That's not really necessary.

BTW, I learned the hard way that Styrofoam is WORTHLESS for protecting a delicate model. It doesn't absorb shock like you think it will and it can transmit vibration to the model. It's used here only as a filler to take up space. The model touched only soft polyurethane foam. This is also before I made the switch to using only convoluted foam. That provides maximum cushioning while also minimizing contact with the model.

1625436071602.png

1625436552070.png
 

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gboy1801

New Member
I used a pre-cut Pelican suitcase foam kit.
This reference, 1615AirFS 7 pc. Replacement Foam Set.

pelican-1615airfs-foam-set-1615-case.jpg


IMG_2219.JPG
Then, I built the box for my Y-wing around this foam.
 

vectorzero

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I've got transport solutions for my TIE, X-1, X-Wing, Y-Wing, and Escape Pod. The prerequisite is that the model has an aluminium or steel armature with multiple mounting points. Each model has a custom wooden box built from plywood and wood strip. This is very strong, and has plenty of clearance to ensure no part of the model is touching the structure. The box contains a steel frame. Steel rods are screwed into two of the armature sockets on the model. These rods are then inserted into frame, and lock screws are used to ensure there is no play. The model is effectively floating, with nothing touching any of the delicate details or paint.

x1 box parts.jpg

x1 in box 2.jpg
x1 in box 7.jpg

In the original design, there was a handle which screwed into the upright part of the metal frame. This meant you could lift the whole box via the frame. However, it made It hard to lift and manoeuvre, so each box now has sprung handles in the box sides which retract flush. This means I can stack them all for fitting into the car as necessary.
 

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akumazeto

Sr Member
All of this is great and as someone who does this monthly, I can say I have never found a solid solution when using common shipping lanes. IE UPS FEDEX etc. WE could build the best thing ever but every time I send something to say Cali its f ucked on arrival. Trust me I have tried so many things and nothing has ever been bulletproof or even what I would call above 50% shot of perfect arrival. I shipped a deagostini falcon once in a wooden crate via semi. I put door handles all around the box so nothing could be stacked on it around it etc. It is the only thing I have ever had a perfect ship with and I suspect most of that was because it was on the same rig from pickup to drop off. I ship pinball machines as well. Now when it comes to people moving their own stuff this stuff is great.
 

star-art

Sr Member
I've got transport solutions for my TIE, X-1, X-Wing, Y-Wing, and Escape Pod. The prerequisite is that the model has an aluminium or steel armature with multiple mounting points. Each model has a custom wooden box built from plywood and wood strip. This is very strong, and has plenty of clearance to ensure no part of the model is touching the structure. The box contains a steel frame. Steel rods are screwed into two of the armature sockets on the model. These rods are then inserted into frame, and lock screws are used to ensure there is no play. The model is effectively floating, with nothing touching any of the delicate details or paint.

Unless I'm missing something here, if the armature is bolted to the frame, and the frame is bolted to the crate/box, then any shock, vibration, or impact to the crate/box would be directly transferred to the model via its armature.

I've seen this even in professionally crated models. IIRC, the original 11-foot Star Trek Enterprise model was mounted on it's stand which was then secured to a pallet and a crate built around it. This offered precious little protection during its long journey by truck to the Smithsonian.
 

vectorzero

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Unless I'm missing something here, if the armature is bolted to the frame, and the frame is bolted to the crate/box, then any shock, vibration, or impact to the crate/box would be directly transferred to the model via its armature.

I've seen this even in professionally crated models. IIRC, the original 11-foot Star Trek Enterprise model was mounted on it's stand which was then secured to a pallet and a crate built around it. This offered precious little protection during its long journey by truck to the Smithsonian.
I'm only sharing my solution as an example not as a definitive solution. Fundamentally, these things are pretty delicate. It amazes me that the Star Wars exhibitions carry on. How on earth you package the ESB Star Destroyer is beyond me.

In my case all the models are based on resin kits which have been (retro) engineered with very strong (i.e. heavy) armatures, to which the large (lighter) resin sections are bonded. In cases where there are large components some distance from the centre of mass (Y Wing engines, TIE Wings) these have laser cut steel cores and bond back to the armature core. The overall aim was to start with very strong structural integrity at the core, and then 'clad' the model around this.

The design criteria for the transport boxes is movement between exhibitions/home in an SUV with air suspension. Expected external shock is that of bumping the boxes together as they get loaded/unloaded, and moderate vibration from travel on the road. If I dropped one from say waist height getting it into the car, then I think I'll be in tears. By suspending the models so that no sticky out bits are in contact with any hard surface it protects the detail, whilst making packing and unpacking practical. Vibration is to some extent catered for by the large mass of the models' cores. To date the models have survived a few hundred miles of careful driving. (My first X Wing sat in the back of the car on an old duvet - I think I drove the 100 miles home at about 25mph the whole way! After that experience we ended up designing something more practical.)

If I were to transport them via a carrier or much longer distances, then an ancillary set of support using a foamed material to fill the void within the box might be a next step.
 
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vectorzero

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Here's the original boxes (TIE and TIE X-1) with the 'handle' solution, fitted into the Land Rover. As you can see stacking is not an option, and although the stomach muscle workout was a good one, carrying them more than about 20 feet was super awkward unless your were Dwayne Johnson.
IMG_1508.jpeg

The modified cases with flush sprung handles. They stack! Some day, I'll have the actual display cabinets completed...
IMG_0872.jpeg
 

star-art

Sr Member
Those are beautifully built! If you can just find a way to isolate the internal stand to which the models attach from the surrounding case, they should do a fine job of protecting them.

I've had success with some very big models (the size of a large dining room table) traveling by SUV, freight truck, train, and even by air. My latest big project was loaded into the back of a SUV and driven 1 hour to the airport where it was offloaded at a FedEx facility, then taken by truck to be loaded onto a cargo plane. After the flight, it was trucked to a shop in the LA area for finishing work. Then, from there, it traveled by truck again to LAX and was flown all the way to Florida where it was taken by truck yet again to its final destination.

What I did was make sure I had at least 3-4 inches of clearance all around the model. I also designed the armature mounts so they would A) not allow the model to shift or move and B) be isolated from the surrounding crate by several inches of soft polyurethane foam. In other words, the model and its attaching points were only allowed to be in direct contact with the foam and nothing else.
 

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