Packing and Shipping Scale Models

packing scale models

Model making companies need to put a good deal of thought into the process of packing and shipping scale models. Custom models come in all shapes and sizes and degrees of inherent durability, based on the materials and methods of construction that are used. No one packing practice will work with all models. Each pack up job becomes a custom design and build in its own right.

Models travel great distances within the USA and internationally, to get to their clients upon completion. Some are shipped through dedicated carriers while others are sent via the major 3 shipping companies. In addition, many models need to be transported to a variety of trade shows throughout their life expectancy. Thus the shipping container must be reusable and extremely durable.

Packing and shipping scale models is a consideration that often comes into play early on in the fabrication stages of a project.  A stationary display model may be engineered in a significantly different way than a model that must travel from trade show to trade show, and be packed and unpacked numerous times. Thus the shipping needs of the model sometimes drive the design, rather than the reverse.

Here at KiwiMill, we utilize a variety of packing cases to ship models. If the model is for trade show use, or needs to travel repeatedly for sales meetings,  generally a hard shell container is used. Brands like Pelican, Gator or SKB offer a hard plastic case with handles and hinges, with wheels in some cases, and may even be water proof. They come in a variety of sizes, from brief case size, to one large enough to house a 7′ tall model we recently shipped.

The interiors of the hard shell cases come with foam lining, or will accommodate foam inserts that are purchased separately. In either case, our model makers then custom sculpt the foam “beds” for the model or model parts to rest in.

packing scale models

Large, intricate models that do not need a hard shell case, or do not fit in one, require a custom crate build. These wooden crates are built here in the shop and each one is as unique as the custom model going into it. Some crates have shelving to slide a model into. This works well for models with flat bases, such as a traditional site model.

packing scale models

Curvier models, or those with no base, need to be suspended by way of built-in scaffolding in the crate.

packing scale models

All of the crates require custom foam inserts or foam covered blocks to act as buffer points wherever the model comes into contact with a surface, as well as to prevent shifting in transit. Foam is also used for slotting in smaller model parts that need to be assembled upon arrival. Straps may also be required to secure a model in place inside the crate.

packing scale models

Directions are often written into the crate design. Where ever possible, our model makers try to make the packing procedure very clear, indicating what direction to place a model part and in what location. This assures that a variety of handlers can pack and un-pack the model correctly as it travels from venue to venue.

packing scale models

Smaller models that need to make it to a single location may be packed with the use of foam, bubble wrap and double boxing with peanuts. These can be carefully placed in a cardboard box and sent via UPS.

packing scale models

When it comes to choosing a shipping method, some models are given a dedicated driving service. They arrive at our loading dock, are packed by us, and driven to the client with no transfers in between. This method is costly, but offers the security of knowing the model will be handled minimally and arrive at its destination intact.  This is an important consideration for some of our clients and may be recommended by our model makers for an extremely delicate and intricate project.

packing scale models

Regardless of which packing and shipping method chosen, it is important that model makers strive to develop the best method for getting each model to the client without damage. Much thought and engineering goes into the design of our shipping containers and the methods used to secure the models  inside. There is no point in fabricating high quality products without the packing process to go with it.

Interesting URLS for packing methods used with airplane and ship model builders:  (packing an airplane model)  (packing a larger plane model)  (packing a ship model)  (packing a ship model)  (illustration of double box packing method)

Model Maker How To: Martini Glass Display Model

Making a Martini Glass

display model

Everyone needs to know how to create their own display model of a martini glass, don’t you think?

What you need for this project:

  •  clear & fluorescent acrylic
  •  ren board
  •  plywood & bolts
  •  wood dowels
  •  laser cutter
  •  lathe
  •  band saw
  •  disc sander
  •  drill press
  •  oven
  •  paint
  •  solvent

Model Maker, Scott, started with a piece of plywood, cutting an 8 inch diameter circle in it to form a frame for the lip of the martini glass. He then clamped a piece of clear acrylic into the frame using bolts.

The frame was given legs to lift it off the surface. This gave room for the slumping action to take place underneath. The frame was placed in the oven to be heated.

It came out of the oven with a typical parabola shape to it. Immediately a wooden dowel was pushed down into the center of it while still hot to form the more conical shape of a martini glass. The dowel was held in place until the shape cooled.

While the glass shape was still in its frame it was brought to the laser cutter. The laser was used to cut the martini glass out, following the inside edge of the 8 inch diameter frame.

The base of the martini glass was slumped in a similar manner. Less heat was applied because the slump was much shallower on the base.

Clear acrylic tubing was then put in the lathe and tapered to match the curve of both the top and base of the martini glass. Solvent bonded the three pieces together.

The olive was made from ren board and shaped on the lathe. A hole was drilled through the center of the olive for the “tooth pick” using the drill press.

The pimento was a strip of fluorescent acrylic heated flat in the oven. It was folded over and stuffed into the core of the olive. Then the olive was primed and painted.

Finally, a wooden dowel was tapered with the disc sander and thread through the hole in the olive and placed into the glass.


At this point our model maker went home and fixed himself a real martini.

Click HERE for a picture of the martini glass on display at CES2011, Las Vegas.