Tag Archives: cardboard

93: Specialized Museum Storage Trays

When working at a local history museum, the collections encompass a very wide variety of materials.  As awesome as we strive to be, no one person can be an expert in all materials.  This is how the Aurora Historical Society’s hairpin graveyard came to be.

Back in 1991, a very professional and well intentioned curator (that I’m still friends with today!) packed up a box of haircombs in a traditional way – wrapping each individual piece safely in acid free tissue, and closing them up in an archival box.  Now imagine my dismay when 20 years later I opened the box to find the tissue is all slick and oily and partially disintegrating, some combs oozing, all the metal corroded beyond recognition and the bottom of the box littered with gummy and shattered combs remnants.  The culprit?  Celluloid Nitrate, aka Celluloid.

Hair comb graveyard
Hair comb graveyard.

A little history on Celluloid – it is considered the very first thermoplastic, and was invented by Alexander Parkes  in 1856.  It was a good and cheap substitution of ivory and horn, and by 1870 was used to make haircombs.  Celluloid was discovered to be highly flammable, and if you even LOOK at it wrong it will start to degrade. Wikipedia has a very good explanation on what happens to the celluloid with age and exposure to environments.  Plastics, in general, are a very unstable lot.

The nice thing about curators is that they are every helpful, and everyone know someone that can help.  Sam Gruber, plastics curator and Peter Verheyen, lead conservator, both at the Syracuse University Libraries, were very knowledgeable about my problem.  Unfortunately, the damage to the combs in our collection is not reversible.  And this “Nitrate poisoning” is contagious – the gasses (acetates – think vinegar) and moisture seepage from one accelerates the instability of combs in close contact.

As the first step to long term care, we documented and removed all infected combs.  The loss of historic objects you could tell were once beautiful is a bit gut wrenching for a curator.  We carefully cleaned and dried the remaining combs, and laid them out with plenty of ventilation.  I periodically checked on them over the past few years to see if there was any further damage – thankfully there was none.  Since they were stable, they needed a permanent, safe home.  I realized it was a perfect 52 Lasers post!

According to our experts, plastic storage should be out of sunlight and heat.  They cannot touch each other.  And the key to proper storage is that plastics need to be well ventilated so that gas and moisture can not build up around them.  Wrapping the pieces is right out.

I still needed to box the combs for their protection – unstable materials aside, they are delicate artifacts with many small teeth and decorations.  Luckily, acetates are heavier then air, and settle in the bottom of boxes – hence why the combs and the bottom were in worse condition than the top.

My storage plan:

  • laser cut several holes along the bottom edge of the sides of the archival storage box, to let air escape
  • Install spacers at the bottom of the box, to hold the tray at least a half inch over the bottom
  • Make trays that have airholes in the bottom to allow heavy gasses to sink
  • Cut appropriately placed holes to tie the unique combs in place with cotton twill tape, keeping them in place without padding or wrapping.
Always make a prototype!
Always make a prototype!

I ran out of time to box our entire haircomb collection (which will likely take at least 8 trays to do), but the two trays I did do show the plan works!  I created a tray design based on the one by Nancy Davis at the website “Storage Techniques for Art, Science and History” or more cleverly STASH.  I liked their tray design as it incorporated lip at the top so you could safely stack trays and have a good space for marking tray contents and location.

Laser bed
Laser bed
Chip clips (clean) worked well holding it while the linen tape was drying.
Chip clips (clean) worked well holding it while the linen tape was drying.

It was easy to vectorize and customize the basic tray design for my size needs.  We did a few kiss cuts to make the fold lines. The holes are all 1/8 inch, including the ones on the sides to loop in handles.  The cardboard is archival e-flute and the corners are connected with pre-gummed acid free linen tape.

Tools of the trade.
Tools of the trade.

I customized the tray layouts by adding appropriate holes to tie the combs in place.  They are designed to work with the the specific comb shape, therefore they are not interchangeable.  This makes a permanent home for the comb, a statement that warms this curator’s heart.  I marked the tray underneath each comb in pencil with their unique object ID number, and on the lip of the tray as well so they are easily identifiable without removing them.

Comb placement
Comb placement
It holds right side up!
It holds right side up!
It holds upside down!
It holds upside down!

 

The cotton ties are placed in such a way the comb sits snugly and can not move or hit the sides when the box is jostled, or in worst case scenarios, dropped.  I’m confident they are going to be safer than they have been in years.  This was a very satisfying project – I love when things are properly numbered, cataloged and stored!

Snug as a bug in a rug.
Snug as a bug in a rug.  These combs are huge, and aren’t celluloid, but the storage solution works well for them as well.
Tray in the bigger storage box. Happy ending!
Tray in the bigger storage box. Happy ending!

65: Stud Earring Storage

The box, sans shipping information.
The box, sans shipping information.

In preparation for an upcoming show, Jennifer asked me to prepare for her another storage box for her carded laser-cut stud earrings. We tend to recycle packaging when we can, so our previous storage for carded studs was made out of a repurposed business card shipping box.  It was a great size, but the dividers we used were just thin cardstock packaging from some forgotten product.  The spacing between dividers was guesstimated, and over time, the flimsy dividers have bent, resulting in a less-than-stellar stud box that still gets the job done.

This old example is falling apart.  Time for some sturdier material!
This old example is falling apart. Time for some sturdier material!

I used some cardboard packaging from acrylic blank deliveries to cut out some dividers. They were spaced evenly and set in place using an 8″ notched cardboard spacer in the back, meant to fit tightly to the box’s inner width. A second spacer in the front was used to keep loose product from getting in the way of the lid flap. In the half-width business card box (compared to the size of the previous example shown) there was only room for four compartments for studs, so the extra space is used to hold some of the more one-of-a-kind studs.

Cutting in progress!
Cutting in progress!
This might look great, but it's slightly too tall.
This might look great, but it’s slightly too tall.

The first attempt fit perfectly in length and width, and fit snugly inside the box, meaning that no adhesive was required. Unfortunately, I measured the height wrong, so the lid wouldn’t close! A second cut remedied this issue, and we now have a nice half-length stud jewelry storage box to keep some of Jennifer’s more curious offerings, particularly her brushed silver designs like the cupcake stud earrings and the silver lining stud earrings.

The final design fits snugly inside.
The final design fits snugly inside.
A little extra space is left on the end for miscellaneous OOAK studs.
A little extra space is left on the end for miscellaneous OOAK studs.

33: Google Cardboard

Google recently unveiled their own humorous take on the recent virtual reality push by folks like Oculus Rift and Sony with their Morpheus project: Cardboard. It’s a simple housing, built from cardboard or similar cheap material, which uses a pair of small lenses coupled with an Android smartphone to display a rudimentary virtual reality view. While they offered a compact and easy to build version at the I/O event, the Cardboard team also offered free vector format data for cutting your own Cardboard device. While most of their instructions involve hand-cutting the cardboard using templates printed on paper (which sounds completely insane to me) they did mention that it works great in laser cutters. Ding!

The chipboard template. It was too thin!
The chipboard template. It was too thin!

Jennifer and I worked together with Rebecca and Josh of hugsarefun.com to put together our own version of Google Cardboard. They sourced the extra bits, like the lenses and super magnets, and we were to make the actual unit body using the template provided by Google.

Before I bothered doing much research, I cut one out of chipboard. The material was way too thin, and while all of the tabs fit nicely the material was too flexible to remain solid. That’s when I saw that Google recommended a minimum thickness of 1.5mm—that chipboard was less than one millimeter, so that wouldn’t do!

The cardboard version was cut from 4mm cardboard. Too thick!
The cardboard version was cut from 4mm cardboard. Too thick!

I tried out some cardboard proper, but while Google recommends E-flute, I only had a much thicker flute available and the resulting piece was so thick that I could barely fit tabs into slots. That wouldn’t work!

A quick trip to a local craft store landed me with some nice black presentation paper that was exactly the right thickness, so that’s what I cut the final body out of. One thing I realized fairly quickly after cutting the presentation board body was that the material much preferred to fold toward the laser-cut score lines. This is the opposite of how Google recommends building it, but I thought that would be fine because it gave me the opportunity to etch some art on the outside of the body.

A nickname for the cardboard, "Virtual Boy Advance."
A nickname for the cardboard, “Virtual Boy Advance.”

Unfortunately, what I didn’t know at the time was that the Cardboard application only allows one horizontal orientation when running, so the phone camera gap in the body was incorrectly positioned thanks to my folding it backwards. We couldn’t find any application use for it, so the problem was moot. A worse problem is that the small magnet on the side, which uses a phone’s magnetometer to recognize “clicks” in the interface, didn’t operate at all when on the wrong side. Because of this, I had to fold the second presentation board body the opposite way, which would definitely have benefited from a few moments taken to score the back surface. Oh well, it worked, and we all tried it out.

We didn't tell her that it needed a phone. She didn't seem to mind!
We didn’t tell her that it needed a phone. She didn’t seem to mind!
We didn't tell him that it needed a phone. He didn't seem to mind!
We didn’t tell him that it needed a phone. He didn’t seem to mind!
I'm fairly sure Jen was smart enough to use it with a cell phone.
I’m fairly sure Jen was smart enough to use it with a cell phone.

There’s no real way for me to convey just how fascinating our first visit to Google’s take on virtual reality was, but once the piece was complete, there were many “oh wow” moments between the five of us who were old enough to try them on.

The entire time, though, my head was filled with ideas. Ideas about 1/16″ bamboo, box joints, and living hinges. I think I’ll have to revisit Google Cardboard some time soon!

Both are cut from presentation board.
Both are cut from presentation board.
One built and one still flat.
One built and one still flat.
The chalkboard is more interesting, evidently!
The chalkboard is more interesting, evidently!