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Guidelines to building a crate for a painting

Shipping a large painting in a crate

It is advisable to ship larger (short edge exceeding 100cm) and more expensive paintings in a purpose-built wooden crate.


Wrap the painting in acid-free, archival tissue paper or glassine.

To protect against moisture, wrap the artwork with plastic sheeting or poly wrap.

Guidelines to building a crate for a painting.

What you’ll need: Four (4) strips of softwood (at least ½ inch thick) for the frame Two (2) plywood sheets for the front and back panels Drill Saw (preferable to get wood cut to size at the merchants) ½ to 1 inch wood screws Wood glue Foam board or polystyrene, at least 1” thick Cardboard

Step 1 – Measure your pre-wrapped artwork, taking down the height, width, and depth of the wrapped piece. Use these measurements to calculate the dimensions of your softwood pieces for the frame of your crate. Keep in mind that you will add a 1” lining to your crate, top and bottom, so accommodate for this. You will also add a 1½ – 2 inch strip around the side of the painting.

Step 2 – Cut four pieces of softwood according to the dimensions you took in step 1 in order to build a frame that can snugly fit your wrapped work. Remember to account for the thickness of the softwood when measuring the lengths and cut accordingly. Cut the two sheets of plywood to the same dimensions as the assembled frame.

Step 3 – Begin building the frame by assembling the softwood strips together with a base sheet of plywood, with screws and wood glue.

Step 4 – Glue a piece of foamboard/polystyrene (the same size as the frame) inside the open crate. Sandwich your pre-wrapped artwork between two sheets of cardboard the same size as the crate with the strips of polystyrene/foam board around the edges. Place in the crate. There should be no room for movement inside. Cover your artwork with another layer of foam board.

Step 5 – Place the other sheet of plywood on top of the frame, securing well with screws. Do your best to ensure that the crate is air and moisture tight. Remember to have included a Certificate of Authenticity and a packing slip/purchase order.

Step 6 – Clearly indicate which panel is the removable lid by writing “UNSCREW THIS SIDE ONLY” so the purchaser knows which panel to remove.

Step 7 – Affix the shipping label to the outside and put clear tape over the label so it doesn’t get removed during shipment. Clearly mark the crate or box as “FRAGILE”.

TIP: For ease of transport, you can screw a strap handle to either side of the crate. The screws should be long enough so that the handle doesn’t come loose while someone is carrying the crate, but not so long that they protrude into the interior of the crate.

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