Advice on the Packing of Optical
It is generally appreciated that optics are susceptible to mechanical
shock from a fall or a blow. This fact often causes people, who
cannot make a personal visit, to worry about sending their instruments
by post or courier to the workshop for service or repair. However,
the observance of correct packing practice will ensure that problems
are very unlikely to occur and the following advice is given in
Overseas customers should enter clearly on the parcel something like: “This instrument is entering the UK for repair and will then be returned to (country of origin). This should be written on the label side of the parcel.
NOTE: If the declared value of the consignment is £2,000 or more, it will be held up in Customs and involve much paperwork and time to release it.
The first requirement is a strong, rigid cardboard box that will
not easily bend and not one that is ‘floppy’. It should
be of a size that will allow at least 3” (75 mm) between
the instrument and the sides of the box. If the instrument has
a case, this will not afford much cushioning and packing material
must be used all around between it and the box wall. Good packing
material includes bubble wrap and polystyrene chips
and screwed-up newspaper, in that order. Avoid the use
of shredded paper since this usually generates much dust and is
It is essential that the box is well sealed all around to preserve
its strength and reduce the chance of pilfering. Most things are
stolen from boxes that have burst open. Good sealing material
includes wide vinyl tape and Duck tape.
For a long instrument such as a telescope, a suitable box might
be hard to find but one can be cut down from another box with
a Stanley knife and then securely taped together. Alternatively,
a telescope can be rolled up in bubble wrap and corrugated cardboard,
leaving plenty of room at the ends for cushioning material.
Finally, send by the Post Office’s Special Delivery or
similar since this goes overnight and includes insurance and a
signature upon delivery. Print the label very clearly and legibly.
Apart from hand-held instruments such as ophthalmoscopes and retinoscopes
(which can be posted in a padded Jiffy bag or spectacle post box)
ophthalmic instruments are more difficult to pack. Strong, rigid
boxes and a reliable carrier are essential.
Focimeters and refractor heads are not too difficult to pack
and should first be wrapped in plenty of bubble wrap. They should
then be placed (individually) in a box with plenty of extra cushioning
(e.g. foam rubber, polystyrene, cardboard, etc) to ensure that
they cannot be dashed against the box sides. In particular, protruding
parts such as a focimeter lens table and eyepiece, should receive
extra protection attention. The same applies to the delicate auxiliaries
such as cross-cylinders on a refractor head. Prior to wrapping,
a refractor head should be wound in to a small PD and, for a focimeter,
one should ensure that the marking ink cannot be spilled out and
that the plug cannot cause damage.
Regarding parcels from abroad, it is now recommended to use a carrier such as FedEx because the Customs’ paperwork has now become very complex but the carrier takes care of this. Of course, the carrier will make a charge to get a parcel out of Customs.