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If you are buying (or selling) a vintage sewing machine online, it really does matter how the machine is packaged for shipping. A flimsy cardboard box and wadded up newspaper simply does not cut it.
For starters, vintage sewing machines are often very heavy. Shipping weight for a well-packaged Singer 301A runs about 23 pounds, while the Singer 401A is closer to 30 pounds, and a Singer 15-91 can weigh upwards of 38 pounds. That's a lot of heavy metal that needs protection in transit.
After all, packages aren't handled by people these days. They are bar-coded and fed through automated routing facilities with conveyor belts and bins. Transitions between one conveyor and another can mean a sudden drop of several feet. It doesn't matter whether you've marked the box "Fragile" or "Handle with Care" or "This Side Up." The machines can't read and besides that, they just don't care.
Back when we started selling machines we were advised to package each machine to withstand a kick down a flight of stairs. So that's what we do. And we haven't had a shipping loss yet.
So how should a machine be packaged? Here are some photos of a Singer 15-91 ready to ship:
We start with appliance grade cardboard. As shown in the photos, this cardboard is double the thickness of ordinary cardboard, which makes it more rigid and durable. Next we custom cut and fabricate each box to fit the machine in question.
The box is then lined with a minimum of 2" of foam board to hug the machine snugly on all sides. The goal is to maximize shock absorption by completely immobilizing the machine within the box.
Foot controls and accessories are bubble-wrapped to fit inside the machine. If the accessories do not fit inside the machine we ship them in a separate box.
Machine is wrapped in plastic to prevent foam particles from getting inside the machine.
All cavities are filled with bubblewrap or foam peanuts.
Finally, a foam block is placed across the top of the machine. The block is shaped to fit the machine and protect exposed spindles.
Reinforced tape is used for box seams and all flaps are sealed with heavy-duty packaging tape.
Of course there are other ways to package machines and there are many reputable sellers who take equal pride in their packaging. Some use shrink wrap or box-within-box packaging, which also work very well. This is just an overview of the process that has served us well for the last 6 years. We've yet to have a machine damaged during shipping. But we always include shipping insurance "just in case."
So if you're looking to buy or sell a vintage machine, take the time to ensure that your investment is well-packaged. There is nothing more disappointing or frustrating than opening the box and finding a broken machine.
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OldSewinGear is the collaborative effort of retired repairman Gary and daughter Barbara. We love old sewing gear and enjoy sharing what we've learned in our vintage sewing machine adventures. We are located in Roseburg, Oregon.