How to pack and ship odd-shaped items

How often have you been wrapping holiday presents and been perplexed by an odd-shaped or cumbersome gift? Perhaps you hand it off to a more experienced wrapper, or maybe just stick it in a bag? Imagine that on a larger scale, then imagine that item having to be shipped, perhaps overseas.

Odd-shaped items come in all shapes and sizes and are more common than you think. Typical examples are factory equipment, artwork, statues, and product displays. However, unlike items of a standard shape or size, these pieces can’t simply be placed in a cardboard box and sent on their way.

The key problem with odd-shaped items is that they don’t fit in standard packaging. The spaces between the object and the package leave it vulnerable to damage. With that in mind, odd-shaped items require special attention. The traditional packing method, using cardboard boxes and the like, is insufficient. Instead, it’s best to ship odd-shaped items using wooden crates and other packaging materials to cushion them. Let’s look at what these wooden crates are and how they work.

What are wooden crates?

If you’ve ever tried to pack an odd-shaped item into a cardboard box, you’ll know that sometimes it’s impossible. Item edges and points can puncture a hole, leaving a rip in the box that exposes your item to the elements.

High-value, fragile goods need an extra layer of protection during shipment that you can’t get from standard shipping materials. Instead, odd-shaped or breakable goods should be packaged in crates made from high-quality wood that is sturdy and keeps the internal temperature stable.

Wooden crates protect odd-shaped items during shipping

Wooden crates are suitable for air, ocean, and ground transportation. Expert crating companies create custom crates explicitly tailored to your needs. Custom crates cradle cumbersome or odd-shaped objects that can’t be catered to with traditional packaging

Because of the thick, sturdy material, sharp angles of your object won’t break through the sides as they would with cardboard or paper. If you opt for a custom crate, you can even have a crate built perfectly for your item, so there will be enough room for every angle.

Heavy-duty wooden crates can withstand huge weight, so they’re beneficial when transporting heavy items such as furniture, lab equipment, and heavy machinery. Plus, they’re reusable and recyclable, so you can rest assured that your parcel isn’t harming the planet.

packaged cargo for transportation
A crate fit for shipping odd-shaped machinery.

One of the benefits of wooden crates is the protective materials you can add to the crate to prevent your precious items from being damaged in transit. Here are some of the packing materials that can best keep your goods safe from damage.

Packaging materials to protect odd-shaped items during shipping

In supply chains, as much as 11% of goods arrive damaged. Suppose you’re shipping eCommerce equipment or moving lab equipment, for example. In that case, that percentage of product damage can cause severe problems for your business.

With that in mind, your wooden crates should be packed with high-quality, sturdy packaging materials. Sufficient packaging materials will mitigate water damage and act as a shock absorber for any jostling during transit. Here are some of the packaging materials that any good crating company should offer.

Foam packaging materials

The foam provides additional protection to high-value and delicate items, such as paintings, sculptures, fragile antiques, and high-end equipment and machinery. Crating companies use foam in various thicknesses and densities to suit a specific product. Many craters can also design floater decks, shock mount skids, and zero tolerance internal foam lining—all of which cushion your items so they arrive at their destination perfectly intact. 

The foam takes up the extra space in the crate that odd-shaped items don’t fill. As a result, the foam lining works by providing cushioning and serving as a shock absorber to avoid your goods being jostled around on their journey. This space consumption is critical for odd-shaped items when the item doesn’t fill the space in a square or rectangular crate.

Foil bag and vapor barrier

Odd-shaped items are typically machinery, electronic items, and auction pieces, which are all vulnerable to moisture damage in transit. Instead of leaving your package open to the elements and risking corrosion due to excess moisture, opt for foil bag and vapor barrier products. These products are used on cargo shipped via air or ocean transportation to offer protection from any moisture or water damage. 

Things to consider when shipping odd-shaped items


Many odd-shaped items are machinery, electronic equipment, or containers used to hold substances. Some of these substances may be considered hazmat. Plenty of commonplace items, such as hand sanitizer and nail polish remover, are hazmat (hazardous materials).

The easiest way to check if what you’re transporting counts as a hazardous material is to look at the rules and regulations online. Some everyday electrical items, such as lithium batteries, must be packed in a certain way. In particular, lithium batteries require extra paperwork because of the danger they can pose in certain situations.

If you’re working with a crating company and suspect the items you’re shipping are hazmat, discuss it with them. Once they know your requirements, they can pack your goods in a way that won’t damage property or people during the shipment.

Pallets and skids

When shipping particularly cumbersome items, they may be tricky to maneuver by hand. That’s where pallets and skids come in. Many crating companies create custom pallets and skids tailored precisely to your needs. Whether you’re shipping lab equipment, vehicles, raw materials, or hospital equipment, a custom pallet or skid allows those involved in the shipment process to maneuver your goods efficiently. If you’re shipping heavy products, opt for high-quality lumber that can stay sturdy even when carrying heavy-duty goods.

Auction items and estate sales

SOLD! Any regular auction attendee knows there’s no better feeling than when the hammer falls, and you’re ready to take home your winnings. 

The problem? Your new item often doesn’t come with any special packing for your valuable shipment.

The solution? A reliable crating company that specializes in manufacturing custom crates and pallets for auction winnings.

Crating companies can coordinate the pickup, crate, packing, and prep for shipment of your auction items. Handing the responsibility to a crating company allows you to sit back and relax in anticipation of a safe delivery. Our South Shore Crate & Pack team is on hand to build a pallet or crate tailored perfectly to your item. We’ve previously worked with fine art, pianos, furniture, antiques, and fragile decorative pieces. When packing your goods for safe travel, no shapes are off-limits.

The same services are also perfect for estate sales. When houses are cleared out of a whole range of items, many of them can be troublesome to move on your own. Choosing a crating company with experience handling items of every shape and size will make the process more straightforward.   

Trade shows

You’re on your way to a trade show hoping to attract buyers and partners to your products with eye-catching displays. It should be simple, right? Not quite. Many of the product displays used in trade shows are bulky and odd-shaped, preventing them from being packed with traditional methods. To ensure your items arrive intact and don’t compromise your display (and a chance of sales!), invest in wooden crates with adequate foam packaging materials for minimal disruption. That way, you can focus on the other important aspects of organizing a trade show.

Shipping odd-shaped items

So, you’ve packed all your goods and included all the materials needed to keep them safe—now what? The final step in the process is organizing the shipment of your goods. 

If you’re shipping them to another state, the process is straightforward. Depending on how far the items are traveling, you can even send them using a trucking company instead of by air or sea, saving money and, crucially, time. When you’re shipping overseas, things can get a little more complicated. For starters, you have to consider whether the items you’re sending are legal to be shipped abroad. 

Different countries have different rules and regulations about acceptable imports. Even if the item you’re sending can be imported abroad, it may require some extra paperwork. If in doubt, consult with your shipping company for further details, and they’ll be able to advise how to make your package compliant. 

Not sure which shipping company to use? Suppose you’re already using a company to pack your items into wooden crates. In that case, they’ll likely be able to suggest a company to ship odd-shaped items or even be able to organize the shipment themselves.

FAQs about packaging materials

Are there different types of foam packaging?

There are different types of foam packaging. Selection depends on the item you’re protecting. For example, at South Shore Crate & Pack, we use several varieties of foam in varying thicknesses.

We use egg crate foam for very delicate items, anti-static bubble wrap, and rigid or soft foam. Our crate builders have the know-how to use each type to ensure your valuables are protected in the best way possible.

What types of items require foam packaging materials?

In general, foam lining is best suited to fragile and breakable items or items shaped differently from the wooden crate in which they’re being shipped. Odd-shaped items are vulnerable to jostling (and, therefore, damage) during transit because of gaps between the object and the sides of the crate.

The foam also acts as a cushion. Lab equipment or machinery benefit from the foam’s cushioning and shock absorption qualities, which will preserve your items in tip-top condition for their arrival.

What types of items require foil bags or vapor barrier packaging?

These services are best suited to metals, electronics, and valuable works of art—especially when being shipped by sea or on a journey where exposure to high humidity is possible. However, it’s also worth considering the use of these materials if the recipient of your product won’t be uncrating it upon delivery, leaving the item sitting in the crate for an extended period.

How do vapor barrier and foil bag products prevent corrosion?

Anything shipped internationally over the ocean is susceptible to water vapor, moisture, and salt water, which can be highly damaging to your product and lead to corrosion. Vapor barrier/foil bags prevent corrosion by serving as a layer of protection against those elements that can be so damaging to your products. In addition, the air is vacuumed out of these bags and sealed shut to reduce air and humidity levels.

What are desiccant bags, and do I need one?

Desiccant bags are absorbent pouches that can be shipped with your items to help soak up excess moisture. They’re ideal for use with electronic equipment, machinery, and metals.

What’s the difference between a pallet and a skid?

Skids were the original pallet. While a pallet has both top and bottom decks, a skid just has a top deck.

 The bottom deck on a pallet makes it more stable to forces experienced during loading, unloading and moving around a warehouse. An odd-shaped, large item may be impossible to transport without a pallet.

Their durability makes skids an excellent option for items that need a semi-permanent platform. If you’re unsure whether your bulky, odd-shaped item needs a pallet or a skid, ask the crating team for advice.

A crating company tailored to your needs

Do you have an odd-shaped, large, or fragile item that needs packing and shipping nationally or overseas? We’ve got you covered. 

Here at South Shore Crate and Pack, we have tons of experience getting uniquely-shaped items from auction pieces to artwork to your desired destination. We’re experts in packing your pieces with packaging materials to ensure their safe arrival. In addition, we can pick up and crate items from various industries through our partnerships with large corporations, auction buyers and sellers, manufacturers, universities, and fragile commodity suppliers.

Every one of our export crates receives the ISPM 15 stamp for international compliance, so you’ll always know that your package complies with international regulations. We also offer custom markings, packing materials, shock absorption accessories, specialty hardware, and custom skids and pallets. Plus, we have connections with shipping and moving companies that allow us to get your parcel from A to B without you having to lift a finger. Interested? Contact us today to find out how we can support your packing needs. 

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