How to package and ship delicate woodcarvings

We ship our work all over the world. We couldn’t do that without global shipping services, but it’s not always a perfect solution. Our carving is very delicate, and even the most white-gloved delivery can cause breakages. When that happens we can easily make repairs, but thankfully it’s not a common occurrence. Over the years we’ve developed packaging methods that keep our carvings safe.

We attached this delicate appliqué woodcarving to a backerboard before shipping it.

We attached this delicate appliqué woodcarving to a backerboard before shipping it.

For example, many of our commissions require us to hand-carve delicate appliqués, which, as the name suggests, are applied to millwork to give the illusion of a relief carving. Furniture makers have been adding decoration to their pieces in this way for centuries. However, these scroll-sawn carvings are very fragile. In some areas the carving can be as thin as 1/4 inch. More troubling is that you’ll often have short grain running perpendicular across, say, a stalk or leaf, unavoidably creating a weak spot. Even the most careful carvers can break an appliqué just by picking it up. Imagine what a trip across America in a semi can do.

To ship these fragile woodcarvings, we’ve tried gluing them directly to a plywood backerboard before boxing them up. However, we learned that a dropped package could send shock through the board and transfer it directly to the carving. Because there was no give at the board-carving interface, the carving would break. Or, if the climate changed, the board and carving would move independently of one another, also causing a break. We also tried sandwiching the carvings between 1-inch thick sheets of styrofoam, but that didn’t provide enough protection against flexing.

Our current solution has solved the problem. Touch wood.

We lay the carving onto an appropriately sized sheet of 1/4-inch plywood, hardboard or similar. We then drill pairs of holes that allow us to pass twine through the board and around the carving at various points. We tie the twine off tightly but carefully, which holds the carving firmly in place while also allowing it to shift slightly if needed. Finally, we wrap the carving in bubble wrap and place it in a box surrounded by plenty of packaging peanuts. So far so good (touch wood again, because why not?).