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Mailing or shipping a S.I.B.


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I am sure one day the phone will ring and someone will say "mail me a ship in a bottle, I need one right away". I have often wondered how this could go right. I have no trouble at all thinking of ways this could go wrong.

Aside from the obvious "use lots of padding to keep the glass from breaking", what about if its in transit in the back of a hot truck going down a bumpy road, upside down inside the shipping container?

At the very least I assume I would not be able to ship with safety any SIB using plasticean clay as the water, since it never hardens and in fact softens when warmed. On very hot summer days I look into my bottled ships to see if they are sagging to leeward.

So maybe I should ask under a new topic " what do you use for water when you cant use clay"? but the real question is, or the response I am hopping to get from you craftspeople, is "have you ever mailed a S.I.B., what lessons did you learn, did it arrive safely, were you able to sleep at night, what tips can you offer?

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I have sent dozens and dozens of models overseas from UK to US, Hong Kong, Australia, Europe & Ireland.    In the early days, we had some occasions of minor damage where the couriers returned the model for repair and paid for the damage.   Never very much, round about £30 or so.    Then most of them suddenly changed their Terms & Conditions, and would only pay for the cost of material damaged, and not the many hours of work it took to build them!   The attached images are the two worst examples.    The more modern model is the RMS St. Helena.   I did not build it, but it was damaged when being transported for the ship's managers.      The insurance would not pay up at all.    I got the job of repairing it, as I had worked for the shipping company for a number of years, and the St. Helena was my last ship.    The other one, Hawarden Castle was severely damaged on its way to Ireland by a very well-known courier.     They paid out in full, and I had to build another, but they would not carry anything for me again!

Since then, I have tried a number of different couriers, and found UPS to be the best.    They have transported over 30 models for me, and never damaged any of them.     They are one of the few couriers that do insure goods in their care.      Fedex will not insure ship models.      All my seas until recently were plasticine, and none of them ever melted!      I have noticed that packing in airbags is not very good.   The bags pop in unpressurised aircraft cargo holds!    I now put the models in a light plywood carrying case in a manner that they have a one-inch air space next to the sides and top, and are secured so they can't move even if upside down.     The case has a hinged front and handle on top, rather like a small suitcase.    This goes in a large case made from stout cardboard, re-enforced on the inside with wood, and surrounded on all six sides with crumpled newspaper.     I photogographed every stage of the packing in case evidence is needed, but, as I say, UPS have never damaged anything.

Bob

 

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I did mail one SIB that I sold to some pirate rein-actors.  It ended up going from Colorado to Michigan to Florida and back to Utah.  First by mail and then hand carried or in luggage.  As far as sea I used the same Plasticine I usually use.  It stay's soft and melts at 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  To get it to stick to the glass I held the bottle over a hot burner for three to five seconds.  Just long enough to melt the Plasticine touching the glass.  I was advised by members of the Facebook group to use epoxy to glue the ship in.  Epoxy doesn't fume like some glues and it holds tight.  I found some mariners epoxy that dries white so it works as the spray around the ship as well.  Once complete I went to UPS and had the ship wrapped in bubble wrap and put in a box with packing peanuts.  Then that box was put in another box with packing peanuts.

 

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A quick word about Fedex since I used to work there several years ago.  There was a common saying among Fedex workers.  If you can stand on it, drop kick it or throw it against a wall it's ok to ship Fedex.  Not that it happens to every package but I did see each of those things happening fairly often.  If you ship FedEx pack accordingly.         

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It is good news  to hear that plasticine has a probable good chance of survival if I ever ship a SIB. Thanks, builders, for sharing.

I had a model I gave as a gift break, but not during shipping.  It was one I had given to my sister and Brother In Law. She and her husband heard glass break in their bedroom and on investigating found the bottle of the SIB broken at the neck. No obvious cause could be found. It was on its shelf, nothing had fallen on it.

I have a theory of how this came to be. The bottle was a thin cheap bottle. I had epoxied two brackets onto it, which were in turn screwed to a wooden base. My theory is that the wooden base expanded or contracted due to atmospheric conditions, and the rigidity of the epoxy caused this slight pressure to break the bottle at a weak point. Now I try to always use plywood for a base and am reluctant to use epoxy on BOTH brackets.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi Jersey City Frankie,

I saw your post on Model Ship World about the Wavertree.     Glad to hear she is being restored properly.     I agree that it is very sad that hardly anyone builds models of this type of ship.    I have built Wavertree from the plans you posted, but can't lay my hands on a photograph of it at the moment.   But here is the sister ship Fulwood that I built some years ago.  

Bob

 

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  • 1 year later...

Well, to date I've never had a problem mailing a ship in a bottle to my customers who buy them from my online shop or to my friends whom I've sent them as special presents, all of them have arrived intact and unbroken so far (knock wood, knock wood). I've always used the plain old U.S. Mail, the flat-rate Priority boxes for all the domestic shipments, and 1st class parcel service for the international ones. I always pack them with plenty of padding, usually bubble wrap, crinkled up newspaper, packing peanuts, even popcorn, and sometimes a combination of media. Whatever i use, I always make sure that the bottle is fully encased in a thick layer of cushioning, and the bottle can't wiggle around inside the box after its closed.

As for the sea melting, well for the most part I just paint the sea in using an enamel model paint, which is durable and doesn't run with extremes of temperature,though I am going to try experimenting with air-dry clay (actual clay, not Plasticine) to see about having a seascape with waves in it. Likewise, I try to build the actual ships pretty stout to begin with to keep bits from coming off during shipping, and each one I like to give a bit of "Blizzard Test", to simulate it going through being shipped. I give it a good shaking, turn it upside-down (like a DQ Blizzard), and so on, and if nothing gets messed up, then the model passes the test.

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