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Packing Paintings   part 2 the inner pack

Fragile and valuable:

Oil on Canvas

"There are some things you can throw in any old box, and some things you can't." - anon.
bullet inner packing
Packages are best thought of in two components, the inner & outer pack. (the "box")
If you can combine the painting and it's inner package into an immovable bundle, you're half way there.

Most of what follows has to do with preparing the inner pack - the finished dimensions of the picture and it's preliminary protection.
Later, I'll demonstrate how to isolate and suspend the inner package using sandwich construction.

All packing projects differ in some ways, some paintings are thin and flat, others ornate, heavy and deep.

If the painting is set in a deeply inset frame, like the one above, protect the face and reverse of the canvas with stout pieces of new cardboard.

If the picture is large, hot glue one or more sheets to the face sheet to give it rigidity. It shouldn't be able to flex very much at all.
The painting side sheet should be cut slightly larger than the picture so that it rests on the lower inner corners of the frame.

If there are fancy moldings in this area, notch the covering sheets around them. Ideally the covering sheet should sit about halfway between the painting surface and the face of the frame. You may want to cushion the resting place if it looks like the finish could be damaged.
bullet spacers
Building up the cavity to frame face

Often, especially with older works, the frame face doesn't present an even, flat surface, so we use spacers to bring everything up to level and square.

The face and back cover sheets are either inset or stand proud of the frame. Place a sheet on the high point of the frame face and measure the distance to the face piece. This is the height you need for your face side spacers.

Spacers are made from offcuts, cut to height (across the grain).
You can roll the cardboard up in a coil, or score and fold it into a block. I like to fold them into triangular "tubes" held together with a strip of tape.

Tack a few spacers on to the face sheet with a hot glue gun. Use a random pattern over the inner facing, putting most of them near the edges and corners where the support is greatest.
The covering sheet of cardboard is the last piece in the face stack and will sit on top of the spacers when we assemble the inner pack.

The back works the same way, just measure the high and low points and and cut the spacers to height.

The objective is to cover both the front and back of the picture with a sheet of cardboard that would sit flat and level.
These sheets will become the outer walls of the innerpack when we do the final assembly, distributing an even load on the front and back of the picture.
Pressure won't be able to transfer to the painting surface or the back of the canvas.

Line any cavities along the frame edges with bubble wrap or other fill and bind the front and back sheets together.

These outer sheets can be further modified to act as an isolation mechanism, see sandwich construction

bullet laminating
Pictures with a large unsupported area of canvas will sometimes require a more rigid inner package, to protect from possible buckling if a heavy object is placed on top of the box.

Double layers of cardboard are particularly rigid if the corrugations are set at right angles to one another.

Although you could tape two sheets together to make a rigid double sheet, hot glue will do a better job. Just plop a few blobs here and there, then squeeze the sheets together for a few seconds.

bullet shrink wrap binding tape
If you haven't used this stuff, you should go right out and get some. It's the best way to hold things in place. It's non-adhesive, so there's no chance of any adhesive sticking to an exposed area of the frame (or the painting!) and spoiling the finish.

It's available in all sizes, but rolls about 3" wide are the best and easiest to handle.
Shrink tape can be awkward to use without a dispenser, but dispensers are cheap and you should be able to get one wherever you buy the tape.

Shrink-wrap, as it's name suggests, contracts as you wind it around the piece. It does an excellent job making the painting and all the spacers into a tight immovable bundle. A word of warning though; this type of tape builds up a lot of pressure (try wrapping it around your hand a few times to see what I mean) so don't get too enthusiastic or you may crush the very thing you're trying to protect!

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