How do I get my blade home?
October 8, 2008 5:06 PM   Subscribe

Long time listener, first time caller: Any globetrotting rowers or shipping pros out there? I need to transport a rowing oar overseas, and I don't want it damaged. I'm planning to check it on my flight as 'sports equipment', but any advice or alternate suggestions are welcome. More details inside.

I have a trophy oar (a 'blade') in England, and I want to bring it home to Canada with me when I fly back in a few weeks' time (on Air Canada, if it matters). It's a wooden macon, ~3.5m long, and comes apart into two roughly equally-sized pieces. The oar was well-used before becoming a blade, so it's already a bit roughed up and I don't mind a few more dings on the main body of the oar. However, the blade face has been custom painted and varnished, and I definitely do not want anything to happen to it - scratching of paint or varnish, snapping of blade face, etc all would be very bad.
My tentative plan is to wrap up the two pieces separately, with bubble wrap and a cardboard shield around the blade face, and check them as baggage on my flight. I'm worried if I try to wrap the two pieces together they'll jostle and bang into each other and cause damage. I'm very keen not to incur any damage to my blade, but I can't spend a fortune on this (otherwise I'd build some fancy custom wooden crate) - so any advice would be greatly appreciated!
posted by iona to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
Buy a hardshell golf club case and transport the blade in it?
posted by COD at 5:37 PM on October 8, 2008

Guitar case?
posted by deezil at 5:51 PM on October 8, 2008

Best answer: I would wrap the blade in small bubble bubble wrap with two or three layers at least. Then encase as much of it as possible with stout cardboard (again, two layers will be worth it). I'd wrap a layer or two of small bubble around the two shafts and tape them very firmly together (If they don't move relative to each other they can't cause damage.

Then, wrap the whole thing in large bubble bubble wrap. It seems, with teh stuff I have shipped, to be more resistant to bubble deflation. Being as you don't have a size issue (that I am aware of) I'd make sure there was as much (cushioned) cardboard near the bits you don't want damaged, then bulk it up with strong bubble wrap and you should be good. Use lots of tape. Cheap quality bubble wrap is just as crap as any cheap packaging, but you probably don't need to spend more money than some scrap cardboard and a long roll of bubbles would entail. Should be easily doable for under 20 quid, even if you go crazy.
posted by Brockles at 5:59 PM on October 8, 2008

Doesn't really answer your question, but might be worth double checking that Air Canada check sports equipment in for free. In the UK, some budget airlines charge extra, and British Airways have been making noises recently about doing the same...

How big is the blade face? (rowing novice here...) Could it fit in your hand luggage? If it does, it gives you more piece of mind and a bit more control - even if it means some of your regular hand luggage has to go in your main baggage.
posted by finding.perdita at 6:41 PM on October 8, 2008

Response by poster: Brockles That's pretty much what I planning to do for just the blade face, but I'll take your advice and go whole-hog on the entire oar with the bubble wrap.

finding.perdita The blade face itself is not very large, maybe 0,5x1,5 feet, but it's attached to a 1,5m long stick of wood. I'd love to just be able to take the blade face off and put it in my hand luggage, but the would require sawing it off (permanently), which I'd kind of like to avoid. Definitely will ring Air Canada though - I seem to remember golf clubs being ok on a previous trip, but better safe than sorry.
posted by iona at 3:59 AM on October 9, 2008

In my experience, it's all about the packing. I have shipped many oversized, delicate items over the years, including a West African xylophone, a canoe paddle, a painting, etc. There's no such thing as too much bubble wrap or cardboard. Keep the weight to a minimum, but other than that, just wrap that sucker up, cut a cardboard protection box, custom made for that blade, and assume that no one will be careful with it. With all of these precautions, I have yet to receive damaged goods, and I have shipped bulky and fragile things from Ghana, Indonesia, Spain, and Peru.
posted by cachondeo45 at 5:01 AM on October 9, 2008

When we used to ship hideously expensive antiques overseas, or package irreplaceable pricey things for customers to take as carry-on, we'd use a local company that would create a custom foam "case" within a sturdy outer packaging. Here's a UK company that does this, I think. I only had a minute for a quick look around. Depending on the quality of what you surround the item with, you can not only increase your item's chances of travelling intact - but also minimize the bulk and excess packaging of what you're carrying. If it's a truly important item, you'd also have safe and proper storage for it in perpetuity, and a way of transporting it in the future. It may be worthwhile to investigate this option. Also, if you have this item insured in any way, there may be requirements that need to be met when it's in transit. While a trophy oar is irreplaceable sentimentally, it does also have monetary/collectible value, right?
posted by peagood at 7:23 AM on October 9, 2008

Response by poster: peagood It probably does has some kind of resale value, but I have no idea what that might be, since I don't know anyone who's ever sold theirs (I paid about £120 for mine, FWIW) If money and time were no object, I would definitely go the custom box route like you suggest - I guess I need to decide how much (monetarily) safe transport of the blade is worth to me.
posted by iona at 4:24 PM on October 9, 2008

A DIY custom wood case wouldn't be all that expensive. A couple of 2X4s and a couple 1X10s (or whatever the local equivelent) is all you would need. Wrap your blade in bubble wrap as suggested. Cut the 2x4s about 8" longer than the blade. Then cut the offcuts to the width of your 1X10 minus the thickness of the 2X4s. Fasten the 2X4 pieces to the edges of one 1X10; insert the blade in the box created; then fasten the second 1X10 on top. Screws would be best for fastening everything together but nails will also work. IE: BladePacking.png. Supplies for this would only run one about $15 around here and the hardware store would even cut the material for you though you'd need to find a hammer (or a rock or something) to drive the nails.

A box like this will protect the blade from even severe mis adventure like being run over by a baggage cart. My fear with just a cardboard box is someone's 100lb suitcase landing on the middle of the unsupported shaft shattering it.
posted by Mitheral at 8:07 AM on October 10, 2008

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