Invention of the Sewing Machine ~ Canadian Sewing Machine Manufacturers
Sewing Machine Values ~ Singer Dates ~ Willcox & Gibbs Dates ~ Needle Threading
Shuttle Identification ~ Common Problems ~ Why Make Quilts? ~ Sewing With Children
Packing a Sewing Machine ~ Paint a Featherweight ~ Favorites and Links


How I pack a Portable Bentwood Cased Sewing Machine

Following is an example of a European sewing machine in Bentwood case which I packed for shipment through the post office for a 3000 mile journey. I pack my portables a little different from the conventional wisdom shared by my fellow collectors. It is thought that shipping a Bentwood machine in two separate cartons is advisable. One carton would contain the head and base and the other the lid. I can't disagree with this method, I've witnessed far too many Bentwood cased machines destroyed when they are simply shipped in case in one carton. However you will by following this suggested set of directions see that it is in fact possible to ship these type portables with a little thought and thorough packing procedures.


Here is the very beginning of the entire process. This particular sewing machine is a handcrank version very similar in size and weight to the more common Singer Bentwood cased machines we so often find. The machine is serviced, sew-tested, polished and ready to go. Like the other shipping documents in this series, I will in consideration of download times, keep images to a minimum and provide links to each image and leave the decision to you whether you choose to access.


This next step shows how I cover and prevent the handcrank mechanism from moving around and also you want to prevent the handwheel from turning while in transit. This is accomplished by wrapping in thin plastic wrap. I use the small rolls purchased at an office supply store.

Here is where you have to use your best judgment. If you look at the head and its relationship with the wood bottom of case, you will see that it is almost suspended in mid- air. What holds the head? Usually a couple of in hinges and the head rests on the four corners of wood base. If the four corners of base the head rests on are hollow underneath or the four corners are just small pieces of wood glued in vertically you have to prepare to support the head in the event the corners break or are shoved out through the bottom through constant jarring and tumbling.

How I do this is simply measure the space between bottom of case and underside of head, in this case we had a little over 1 inch. Measure a piece of stiff styrofoam, wrap in saran and lay in bottom of case. CAUTION! Never but never allow any of the sewing machines mechanical components to come into contact with this styrofoam support, your objective here is to have only the CAST body of the sewing machine head come into contact with this styrofoam. You will have to insert this shim of styrofoam and close head. Re-check and then double check again to ensure there is no contact with any mechanical component.

This accomplished, we move on to securing the head to base and making sure the slideplates are secure as well as the attachment lid directly under the handwheel. Never allow any adhesive to come into contact with painted/plated finish of sewing machine head. I always protect this with saran and wrap fiberglass tape around head and bottom of case. Now I'm sure the head will not separate from the base.

Now go ahead and protect the entire head by wrapping in saran wrap.

This is a picture of the carton I will be using, it is single wall and I feel that as long as I'm lining the inside of carton with stiff styrofoam there is no need to go to the extra expense of double wall.

Here I begin the process of cutting the styrfoam to line box. Simply set box on styrofoam, mark and cut. You can repeat this process with sides of carton by laying box over. CAUTION! Be careful when using an exacto knife when cutting this material, for that matter any material. Always stand a wee bit to the side as you will be pulling the knife towards you and if it slips, you could be injured seriously. When cutting this styrofoam it only needs to have you cut to a depth of approx. 1/4" along the entire cut and then it will break off cleanly.

The carton is now lined at least on the bottom in one and a half inch stiff white styrofoam. If we were to put the head and base into box we would now have to protect it from moving around. Cut a piece of 2" styrofoam (cut 3 in total, I'll explain later) the size of the bottom on carton. Now set machine in the center of this styrofoam, trace around base and cut center out. With the center out, now set machine in carton and set this ring of 2" styrofoam around it.

The second piece of 2" white styrofoam you cut will require you cut the shape of head from center and install it over head. Its better if you look at this picture which will give you a better idea of what I'm trying to accomplish. It's like layering a cake. Now we can begin to see the protection building around this sewing machine and how it is impossible the head will move. This is the most important aspect of packing a sewing machine. NO MOVEMENT!

This next picture is the 3rd piece of styrofoam I had cut, the machine is now protected more then half its height. Pack some styro chips in the center cavity and you have a virtual block forming.

Moving on to the top portion of case. Remove the handle, this takes only minutes and can make the difference between a good or bad shipping experience. Nothing more horrifying then opening a carton only to discover the handle has been shoved down through the top.

As I've protected the head from foreign material coming into contact with finish, I also protect the wood of the case top from chafing, etc. Wrap the lid in saran wrap and while it doesn't show in the next image it is a good idea to place some SOFT foam between the head and underside of case top. Now I'm ready to secure top. This is a good time to provide shipping and return address instructions inside. Notice on the ends I've cut some thick inserts of styrofoam to fit the curvature of the Bentwood top; these inserts act as a means of holding the top down hard against the flat 2" styrofoam we laid down horizontally around machine. What I'm trying to accomplish is despite the position of carton in transit the contents will not SHIFT or MOVE!

This machine was sold with attachments and we still have to pack the handle we removed. With most sewing machines shipped there is always some loose bits, odds and ends. I find the best way to contain and ship all this is inside a padded mail envelope. It provides a wee bit of extra protection and seals tight so nothing gets lost. Cover the Bentwood top is styrofoam chips, insert all these loose accessories in a padded envelope and insert.

With the height of this portable and packing necessary to insure its safe arrival, I was unable to fold over the top of carton which required me to fabricate a cardboard top. Use the same grade or thickness of cardboard your carton is made out of and the rest is simple. Cut to fit.

These things are heavy, use clear packing tape as well LOTS of fiberglass tape. For this job, I couldn't purchase 2" fiberglass tape and had to settle for 3/4" tape, if you can find the larger tape it is much better. Don't skimp and make sure the carton is wrapped tightly. You'll also notice I've affixed another shipping label on the side of carton, main destination and return address on top. Almost ready to go!

The very last thing I did before this machine was shipped is wrap the entire carton especially over the fiberglass tape with very strong caution tape.

I share this information with you from my own personal experience. I've shipped hundreds of Bentwood portable sewing machines with minimal damage. Good luck, and remember "no sale is complete until your customer receives merchandise in good condition and they are 100% satisfied.

Please feel free to direct any parties involved in packing a sewing machine to any of these documents in this series.

Thank you
Bob Bannen, former owner of sew2go

Back To "Packing Series Home"



Invention of the Sewing Machine ~ Canadian Sewing Machine Manufacturers
Sewing Machine Values ~ Singer Dates ~ Willcox & Gibbs Dates ~ Needle Threading
Shuttle Identification ~ Common Problems ~ Why Make Quilts? ~ Sewing With Children
Packing a Sewing Machine ~ Paint a Featherweight ~ Favorites and Links


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