Making sausage (and boxes)...

So you want to own a custom/restoration shop? The following is a quick story of one of the dirty, little secrets that don't get discussed much, if at all: you WILL do many things for little, or more likely zero, compensation. In other words: you'll do a lot of work for free. Follow along as we demonstrate how this '63 Corvette side-pipe coating job is a prime example of this phenomenon.
We had previously sent these pipes out for coating a few weeks ago. Despite our over-zealous boxing of them at that time, FedEx managed to drop and damage the box and the pipes inside not once, but TWICE between Houston and Oklahoma. They were damaged in a way that not only effected the newly coated surfaces but also bent the polished stainless steel tips of each pipe. The tips we were able to straighten and repolish, however the pipes had to be sent back and re-coated again because of scratching that had happened during the tragic turn of events.
Follow along as we build a custom set of boxes to house the side pipes as they travel BACK to Oklahoma for their second coating in less than a month - for FREE!!!

We began by taking measurements and deciding how large the boxes needed to be to securely hold the pipes and allow for AMPLE padding and protection.
Here are a few of the tools needed to figure out all the math and cutting..
The basic box is taking shape. I added thick styrofoam ends to help protect the previously damaged tips.
The sidepipe is in place - now to add copious amounts of padding.


Let the padding begin. This is the first of many layers to come.
Bubble wrap is your friend.


Finally the fit is getting snug in there.


I also lined the box with several layers of additional cardboard, providing at least 3 layers of protection on all sides. This included the inside the styrofoam ends as well.


With the initial shape taped shut, I add more cardboard to the outside of the Styrofoam.


These will become the end caps of the box, covering each end in another protective layer.


There you have it - the two main side pipe boxes ready to measure and weigh.


We also had to package up the two flex joints for recoating, requiring another box to be created.


Once the flex joints were boxed, we taped it shut so it can be placed inside another box.


This is the larger box that the flex joint box will travel in on its way to/from Oklahoma.


The ''box in a box'' trick hopefully will allow the flex joints to arrive unscathed. I put several layers of bubble wrap at this end before closing the box for good.


There they are, ready to ship. Where is that UPS guy?

If I had a wood shop, I probably would have built them out of wood for additional protection. However, they would have weighed more as well. I am sure the increase in security would have been well worth the extra shipping cost involved in using wood.

As you can see, this was not a quick 30 minute operation. Start to finish, it took about 4 hours. Now, multiply that by our labor rate of $75/hour and you can see that these are very expensive boxes. Not only could I not bill the customer for this (it wasn't his fault), I also lost $300 of potential income to the shop. I am not sure folks (customers and employees alike) realize what we as shop owners all too frequently have to 'donate' to the projects we so love to create.

Over the course of a typical build (1-2 years), this can happen multiple times. Not to mention the time that is spent online researching parts, making phone calls, meeting with the customer(s), dealing with surprises and fixing the problems that all of these custom builds tend to bring to the table over the span of their tenure at a builder's shop.

I hope you don't take this as complaining or whining. It was intended solely to give a glimpse in to "how our sausage is made". In the end, it is all worth it. It is the "cost of doin' bidness, Baby ". If it was easy, anyone could do it. We love what we do, otherwise we would not be doing it. Despite what you may think, we are NOT getting rich doing this. We make a nice living and get to feed our souls at the same time. I think the people that can say that in life are few and far between. For that, I count myself blessed.

Enough for now. UPS - don't screw this one up!

Until next time,



Monday, August 11, 2014


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