Insulators on a Plane!

Well, at least it’s not snakes. Then we’d need Samuel L. Jackson. Fortunately, for carrying insulators, all we need is a quality case and some foam.

Getting back into insulator collecting in 2016, I quickly started traveling to shows all over the US. Since I still have a day job (have to pay for all the glass somehow, you know), frequently the only way to get to shows on the east and west coasts in a timely manner is to fly. Unfortunately fragile century-old glass artifacts and airline baggage systems aren’t exactly a good match. So, before flying to my first Springfield, Ohio, show, I designed a carrying case to safely transport ~18 insulators as airline baggage and still stay under the 50 pound weight limit.

The case itself is a Pelican Air 1615. Fantastic case – fairly light and extremely tough, and right up to the limits on checked luggage dimensions. Not cheap, but you get what you pay for, and Pelican cases are serious industrial grade hardware.

On the inside is a sandwich of high density polyurethane furniture foam sheets. From bottom to top:

  • On the bottom is a 2″ sheet.
  • On top of that are two 3″ sheets glued together with 3M 74 Foam Adhesive. Once the two sheets were glued together, I marked out 18 circles using a Sharpie and the top of a mailing tube I’d cut off. The holes are 3″ in diameter. Around the outside, there’s a minimum of 3.5″ between the center of hole and the case wall. On the interior, the holes are based on 4.5″ center to center. Once they’re all marked, I cut them out with an electric carving knife. Save the plugs you cut out – they’ll come in useful.
  • On top of all of that is another 2″ sheet that fits over it all and fills the rest of the space to the lid.

Now, those plugs you cut out? Separate them again (the 74 adhesive isn’t that strong until it really sets). Put one half in the bottom of each hole. When you put in insulators, then put the second half of the plug on top of the insulator, providing yet more cushioning and preventing the insulators from moving around in the holes.

I also put a 6″x7″ foam pouch in each slot (Uline part# S-8353), and carry a couple extras. Each insulator then goes in a pouch before it goes in the hole, just for even more protection. It’s probably overkill, but when carting around insulators that can be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars each, overkill is good. It also affords me a few options to pack 2-3 small things in a single cell if needed. Put each in a pouch and put a few between them for safety.

To top it all off, I typically carry a small hand-held luggage scale just to weigh the thing. I’ve never exceeded 50 pounds, however. Normally it comes in somewhere in the upper 40-pound range, even fully loaded. I also put in one of my business cards, a copy of my boarding passes, and a full page, large font note to the TSA telling them what insulators are and to be please be careful.