This is probably the most daunting problem to solve as a seller of large items or furniture. When an item you sold will not fit in a standard or even oversized box, what do you do? Well first, DO NOT GIVE UP. The ability to ship is probably the biggest asset to an eBay seller. Shipping your furniture and larger items will literally make the difference in whether your item sells or not. I once had a dining set I purchased on eBay professionally packed. When it arrived, I deconstructed their packaging to see how the professionals did it. Now I do all my packing the exact same way.
Corrugated Sheets I buy bundles of 30 by 40 Corrugated Sheets off ebay for 3 bucks.
Polyproplyn Strapping I buy them from a Strapping seller on ebay as kits for 14.99
Metal Buckles aka Wire Buckles. I get the half inch in bundles of 150.
Strapping Tensioner or Plyers If you do not have a Tensioner, it comes with the kits.
Styrofoam Sheets I get the 16 by 16 by half inch sheets in bundles of 18 for 9.99.
Yard Stick or other long flat edge
Packing Tape. And lots of it!
WHERE TO BEGIN
You will need a large enough area to be able to freely move around the item and flip it over as you pack. Medium sized furniture gets put on top of a table as it is easier to manipulate and avoids stooping.
HOW TO BEGIN
The principle is always the same no matter what shape your item. Your goal is to build a square box around your item even if the item is round. I will address odd shapes later but really it is easy. Think of a shoe box. You will basically have a shoe box with lids on both the top and bottom. Then you are going to use your poly strapping and buckles to secure it.
BUILD A BOX AROUND THE BODY
First decide what you will consider the front, back, top and bottom of your item. I usually consult the shipping websites to see their dimension restrictions. If I have a sideboard with a length longer than allowed but within the allowable height dimensions, then I ship the sideboard on its side. Just make sure ALL your dimensions will fit. The general rule of thumb is packing will add about 3 to 4 inches to L, W and H. If my item is fully within the allowable shipping dimensions AND it has legs then I usually ship the item upside down. This prevents any breaks to furniture legs because frankly the shippers take these boxes and literally THROW THEM onto conveyor belts. If you ship footed furniture right side up but not on a wood palette then it will have no legs when it arrives at its destination. A solid flat surface is preferable as the bottom of your item. So
First position your item so that the side you designated as the bottom is facing up on top. In other words it should be upside down right now.
Next take styrofoam sheets and cut them to fit the belly of your item. Tape together to form a styrofoam box around the belly. Do NOT tape these to your item as the tape will likely hurt the finish. NOTE For large furniture items you will need to piece together multiple sheets of styrofoam to cover each entire side.
Next make sure there are no gaps between your item. You want a flat surface on the bottom. I usually take scraps of styrofoam to fill any voids and give support.
Then take styrofoam sheets and cut them fit over the topside which is what you designated as the bottom. It is fine if your sheeting has gaps. Just make sure you do not have any excess hanging over any edges. This will increase the packed dimensions of you item and cost more money to ship.
Now repeat these steps using corrugated sheets. An important tip is that you should not have a seam at a corner. It makes the box less stable. So do a little planning with your corrugated sheets. If you wind up with a seam at a corner then insert an additional sheet scored in half to support that corner.
BUILD THE BOTTOM LID
Right now your item is upside down so the side that is facing upward will eventually wind up being the bottom of your box. We are now going to fashion a lid for it.
Take a corrugated sheet or sheets pieced together and lay on the topside.
With a pencil trace the outline of where your corrugated sheeting meet the box you built around the belly.
Flip over and with your box cutter, gently score and fold. I am attaching a diagram. The dotted line represents where you should score and fold. The solid line represent where you should cut clean through the sheet.
Fold the flaps over and tape down to the adjacent side. You SHOULD have a lid at this point.
Put the lid on and secure to the belly box with tape.
Gently roll your item over so that the lid is on the bottom. Your item should now be in the exact position that it will ship.
BUILD THE TOP LID
Look down into your box and make sure you don't have any large voids. Round or irregular items usually do have large voids. This is ok so long as the voids do not allow the item to move around freely. Fill the voids with scraps of styrofoam if needed. Then follow the same steps as above. Now you should have a giant brown shoe box with a top and bottom lid. If you do then you can finish off by wrapping the box with strapping and securing with wire buckles. Make sure you pull the strapping nice and tight. For medium sized furniture I use one strap in the middle horizontally and one strap in the middle vertically. For larger items I double up.
Thats it. You are done. Aply your shipping sticker and use magic marker to draw huge arrows on the box indicating which end goes up. Your customers will be impressed with your professional packing and your item will arrive safe and sound. Calculate the cost of your materials and labor as handling costs but make sure you disclose this to your customers. The general rule of thumb for medium sized furniture is 30 dollars handling. Larger items requiring more materials and man hours is around 60 dollars. But that is LESS THAN HALF what a place like PakMail or UPS Store would charge for the exact same packing job. Do not forget to remind your buyers of that should they complain about costs.
Please submit your review of my guide. I'll edit it based on your input. It made complete sense to me but then I wrote it!