Best Types Of Wood for Packaging (Shipping Crates)


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What better material to use than wood for shipping fragile, bulky, or even heavy goods needs robust boxes

Southern Yellow Pine (SYP) and Oak are two of the most popular woods used for shipping packaging, crates and wooden pallets. Oak is a hardwood known for its high density and durability. Yellow Pine is readily available and relatively cheap which makes it another common wood used for transporting goods

Whatever you need to ship, heavy, light, fragile or bulky, wood is the most versatile material to make boxes and crates. But some types of wood are better for packaging.

Wood Comparison Chart

Wood Type Rot Resistance Durability Cost Weight (per board foot)
Southern Yellow Pine Moderate Moderate Low 2.5 – 3.5 lbs
Spruce Low Low Low 1.5 – 2.0 lbs
Douglas Fir Moderate Moderate Moderate 2.5 – 3.0 lbs
Oak High High High 3.5 – 4.0 lbs
OSB (Oriented Strand Board) Low Low Low 2.0 – 2.5 lbs
Plywood Moderate Moderate Moderate 2.0 – 2.5 lbs

Note: Weight ranges are approximate and can vary based on specific factors such as moisture content and board thickness.

 

Things to Consider for Wooden Packaging Crates

You cannot select any random variety of wood for use in packaging. The wood needs to meet a specific requirement in line with the nature of the purpose that it has to serve. For instance, you need to consider the temporary nature of the wood to ship and store goods. Hence, you won’t be looking for expensive wood that will last a lifetime.

Cost Factor

The goods within wooden boxes and crates have the most value. The wood that contains them will be broken apart and discarded once the contents reach their final destination. Hence, packaging wood cannot be too expensive. Although strength is an essential factor as well, using the cheapest wood available usually works okay.

Using Softwood

Softwood comes from conifers and is more readily available and easy to work with. It is extremely flexible and although less durable, serves the purpose of packaging materials quite well, due to the short service life.

Southern Yellow Pine is the wood that we use the most in wood packaging. It occupies almost 80% of the timber market and is one of the most inexpensive varieties available. It is strong but light and bears loads well. You will also find southern yellow in the building industry, and for making paper and furniture.

Strength of the Wood

You may feel that crates and boxes need to be strong, at least those that contain heavy contents like machine parts and metallic items. But if you consider that wooden crates and boxes mostly rest on pallets, the wood’s strength is not always a critical factor. If, on the other hand, you are to use wood for making pallets, then it needs to be extremely strong.

Availability

Also linked to cost is the availability of the wood that you may use for packaging. It does not make sense to use imported wood or wood from trees that grow remotely. The cost of transporting the wood to your location will unnecessarily shoot your packaging costs.

Softness is Good

When you are packing finished goods in a box, you want to close the box to make it ready for dispatch at the earliest. It means hammering nails, staples, and driving screws with ease. Boxes made of softwood will help you get your box closed and ready to go in an instant.

Weight of the Wood

Finally, packing wood’s weight also plays a vital role in deciding which type of wood to choose. This is another reason why softwood is a better choice than hardwood. Softwood is lighter; therefore, the total tare weight of each shipment will be reduced drastically.

Although we also use particular varieties of hardwood for packaging, it is mostly restricted to pallets or else, for boxes and crates, and you need to use planks of less thickness.

Best Wood for Packaging

You can find countless cheap but relatively strong types of wood for packaging material. However, here are some of the most popular varieties:

Plywood

Plywood Veneers
Plywood Veneers. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

You can get plywood in various thicknesses to suit the requirements. Boxes and crates made of plywood will usually be strengthened by battens through the structures’ internal parts. Plywood has almost zero chance of splitting.

Plywood also has the advantage of being resistant to termites, mold, heat, and moisture when appropriately treated. One of the most popular types of plywood is Baltic birch plywood, due to it being a highly durable, tough, and reasonably-priced form of material for packaging.

Oriented Strand Board (OSB)

We consider Oriented Strand Board (OSB) as “engineered wood.” This material consists of strands of different types of wood pressed to form boards.

OSB has been around since 1963, and it has similar properties to plywood, but the structure is more homogenous and devoid of a grain pattern. An advantage of this type of wood is it becomes waterproof if treated with wax.

Douglas Fir

Pile of Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii, tree recently sawn t

Douglas fir is one of the stronger softwood types, with a hardness of 620 (Janka scale). It is among the hardest of the softwoods. We use Douglas fir a lot for construction material, and it makes good packing crates, boxes, and even pallets as it bears loads rather well. It has a remarkable strength-to-weight ratio. Hence, it fulfills the conditions for use as packaging material.

Oak

Using oak for the manufacturing of wooden packaging offers both advantages and disadvantages. Because of its price, it is best used for valuable cargo such as luxury items that need to be protected and the price point can justify a more expensive protective packaging.

Oak, known for its strength and durability, provides excellent protection for goods during transportation, making it ideal for crates and pallets. Its high rot resistance ensures longevity, reducing the need for frequent replacements and thus lowering overall costs in the long run. Additionally, oak’s attractive appearance adds aesthetic value to the packaging.

However, oak can be relatively expensive compared to other wood species, potentially increasing initial manufacturing costs. Moreover, its weight can be higher than alternatives, which may impact shipping costs. Despite these drawbacks, oak remains a popular choice for wooden packaging due to its superior strength and durability.

Spruce

Spruce grows all across continental Europe, the US, and Canada. It has great demand because it is a tonewood and is sought after to make musical instruments. It is almost as hard as Douglas fir with a Janka hardness rating of 510, making it tough enough to use as packaging material. The bonus you get with boxes made out of spruce is that the striking, uniformly-spaced grain pattern imparts an attractive appearance.

The good looks of spruce make are also favored wood for making jewelry and trinket boxes.

Southern Yellow Pine

Pine is one of the softest softwoods and much softer than many types of hardwood. You will find this wood abundantly occurring all over the US and throughout the world. Pine is a tough wood despite its softness. It has a Janka hardness rating of 380 to 420, depending on the type of pinewood that you use.

Pinewood has a high resistance to impact and is relatively stiff, which helps to make excellent boxes. It also comes in extremely dry condition, which helps to keep the contents dry and mildew-free. Pinewood is easy to work with, and takes in nails and screws easily, making it easy to seal the boxes and send them on their way with minimal effort whenever required.

Conclusion

There have been some significant technological advances in the packaging industry in recent years. Many new materials have emerged. However, nothing can replace the reliable performance of natural or manufactured wood. Once you know the wood requirements for packaging, you can identify the best wood to make boxes and crates.

Featured Image Credit: Creative Common