How To Package & Send Large Parcels - UK & International

In this video I'm going to talk about how I package and send large items within the UK and internationally too.  I know that sounds really boring, but I do this quite often so I've got some good tips which I think are worth sharing, and I've seen a few people asking about this in woodworking groups and forums.
I've just finished making this large oak dog bed, I've already posted a video about how I made it which I'll include a link to in the description box below.  It's pretty big, 1m by 60cm and 50cm high and it's pretty heavy at around 19kg.  I need to package it up and send it to the client who is based in Brighton in the UK which is about 200 miles away from me.
I always keep several large cardboard boxes, I flat pack them and store them wherever I can dotted around the house behind the wardrobe in our spare bedroom for example.  I also keep packaging materials like bubble wrap.  I never pay for packaging materials and I probably send between 2 and 10 packages out every week for my business. As people who've been watching my channel for a while will know I hate wastefulness, I like to find uses for everything and I like to save money where possible.  Most of the cardboard and packaging materials here have come from packages I've received from Amazon, because I order a lot of stuff from there, and I always keep hold of those boxes and packaging materials too.  But when I need more, a lot of shops have an abundance of cardboard boxes and packaging materials, and if you ask they're normally happy to give you something that they would otherwise end up paying to dispose of.  As an example, there's a music shop that is local to me that has a lot of large boxes that were used for shipping guitars and amplifiers and things like that, and I've got boxes from there in the past. The bigger the boxes, the more useful they are to me.
Back to the dog bed now, and it was made to hold one of these large cushions which I bought on Amazon.  The client wanted two of the cushions so I need to send those as well as the bed itself.  One of the cushions came in this really nice strong double ply cardboard box and I’m going to use that as a place to start because it's a good size.
I always approach packaging things by thinking about what parts of the item are potential weak points where damage might occur if the package is dropped or thrown around by delivery people, and I pay special attention to those areas. In this particular example, the legs of this dog bed are probably the most vulnerable so I wrap them in cardboard that is longer than the legs themselves - that way if there is any impact to the bottom of the box, the cardboard should help protect the legs. 
Because I’m sending two dog cushions with the bed, I can conveniently use them as extra padding to protect the wooden bed, so I sandwiched it in between the cushions.
I then add some of this paper packaging around the sides of the bed - this stuff usually comes in boxes from Amazon too.
For the kind of packing that I do, decent quality packaging tape is essential. The cheap stuff just will not cut it. And don’t make the same mistake as I did by buying this stuff just because it has a well known brand name on it - it sticks to everything you don’t want it to, but it will not stick to cardboard properly. And it’s thin and flimsy and it’ll fold back and stick to itself you end up throwing away more of it than you actually manage to get in to the package. 
The best stuff that I've found is acrylic polypropylene packing tape. Search for it on eBay. You can pick it up for a similar price to what you’ll pay for the Scotch stuff that Amazon sells - a pack of 6 rolls of about £7
Here's a quick comparison - on the left the 3m Scotch tape, and on the right the acrylic polypropylene.  You'll see that the Scotch peels off easily and the tape is clean, while the acrylic tape really sticks well.
Another must have, for me, is a good quality tape dispenser gun thing.  This one is by Rapesco and now I have one, I wouldn't be without it, it's just much quicker to work with.
I fold up the top panels of the box and I tape them at the corners to give the box some extra height. I do this on the inside aswell as the outside
I always include some of my stickers, a with compliments slip and a business card with everything I send out.  I'm sure most of this stuff probably ends up in a bin, but who knows, maybe it might lead to some more work in future if the recipient chooses to keep hold of my contact details.  
I want to protect the top of the bed too, so for that I simply fold some cardboard over - this provides some extra padding to the top edges and the sides too and it's packed in there pretty tight so it shouldn't move around while the parcel is being moved around. 
Next I can make a top for the box, so I found a piece of cardboard large enough and folded one of the long edges before securing it with some tape.
To cut the cardboard, I use a serrated kitchen knife.  Much easier then messing about with scissors in my opinion.
I also use it for scoring across the grain of the cardboard, and I realise I'm using a woodwork term there, when I need to make a fold where there isn't one currently.
All the corners get secured with some.
Now at this point most of the tape I used is just holding things in place, and none of the joints - to use another woodworking term - are particularly strong.
So the next stage is to wrap the box all the way around with a few strips of tape, and this gives the box the strength and makes it become one object rather than several bits of cardboard stuck together.  This takes some time and energy particularly with larger boxes like this one.  In total this package took the best part of an hour to make.
Next I measure the dimensions of the box.  And I need to check the weight too.  I tend to either use my kitchen scales for small items and my bathroom scales for larger ones.  These really aren't ideal because they're not big enough, but I usually just balance it on there as best I can with a big item like this.  Something else I've used in the past is luggage scales, but for that you need something strong to hook the parcel on to 
Now it's boxed up I can look around for the best deal and there are three places I usually look - I start with this is a courier comparison website.  Scroll down and click "Is Your Parcel Longer Than 1m".  If you don't click this first, you won't be able to insert the dimensions of your package, and therefore you won't get price results that are appropriate for the bigger packages that you want to send.  I really don't know why it's set up like that - I think it'd be much better to have the dimensions as a compulsory entry.  
Then I can fill in the details.  And with the weight, because my scales are not quite big enough for the package so I'm not sure if the weight was measured accurately, I add a kg or 2 just to be on the safe side.  Couriers only care about when your parcel is heavier than you've stated, not when it's less heavy.
Here are the search results, and the best deal in my opinion here is the ParcelForce one, because they are more reputable courier than MyHermes, plus it's faster service too - 2 days instead of 3+ days.  Now to be fair I've had issues with both these couriers in the past - I don't think there is such a thing as the perfect courier but if you want a recommendation, the best services I've used in the past have been via DPD, UPS, or Collect+, my second choice would be ParcelForce or DHL, and last would be MyHermes or Yodel, although I do use even those services occasionally particularly with low value items.  I realise there are probaby some couriers that I forgot to mention but those are the ones that spring to mind.
Both these are Collection sevices which means the courier will come to my house to collect it, and that means I need to be at home all day.  Sometimes you will also get options for Drop Off services where you can drop off the item to a local shop, sorting office or post office, and for me that's the best option because I don't like waiting around for people to arrive.  
I've also used Parcel2Go for international packages before, like when I've sold stuff on Etsy, I've probably done that 5 or 6 times and usually there is some extra documentation to complete for customs - but it's pretty self explanatory, and you just need to follow the instructions carefully.  It's a good idea to write to the buyer to explain that they will responsible for paying any customs or import fees or charges that may apply once it reaches their country.  To date, I haven't had any issues shipping things internationally, but like I say I've only done it a handful of times.
So now I have a price for a service from Parcel2Go, next thing I want to check is the price on the chosen couriers website.  And that's because occasionally, it will work out less expensive there than it is on Parcel2Go.  Most of the time though Parcel2Go is cheaper, and as you can see, it is in this situation too. It's £43.98 including VAT compared with £35.70 including VAT on the Parcel2Go service.  
The third place I look is on a service called - this is a website where you post a request for a courier service for larger items and shipping companies compete with eachother on price so over the course of a few days you'll receive quotes from various companies.  What tends to happen is you'll get a quote and some details about what the company offers, and then you'll get a cheaper quote, and then another cheaper one, and then the ones who've quoted you already sometimes lower their price to compete with the others.  The problem is, it can take several days to get a best price which is ok if you're not in a hurry, but usually I don't want to wait around for that kind of thing and that's why I'm yet to use it although I do have an account with Shiply and I've had quotes in the past but in my experience it's been a bit more expensive than the best big courier deals that I've found, but if you want more of a bespoke service then it's worth considering - some of the companies offer things like wrapping and packing services and that kind of thing which can take a lot of the hassle away for you.
So now I've selected the service I want to use which is the Parcel2Go ParcelForce deal, I can complete all of the details on the form and there's always an option to add some additional insurance to cover the value of the item you're sending.  I tend not to do that because I try to package things so that they can't be damaged in transit, but if you're sending something valuable then it's worth considering but it can be quite expensive.  
Once you've paid for the service you want, you'll get an email with the shipping label and customs documentation if it's an international service.
You can print that out and attach it to your package and it's ready to go.
If you don't have a printer though you can get some services that don't require one - these are clearly shown on Parcel2Go - with those services usually the courier will bring a label with them to stick to the parcel, or if it's a drop off service sometimes you can print a label in store before you hand your parcel over. 
I hope this video was useful to you, and I hope it wasn't too dull.  If you have any tips of your own please leave them in the comments section, I'd love to read them and I'm sure others would too.
Thanks for watching.