A Simple DIY Solution for Transporting Large Prints

For my fellow photographers and artists of 2D media (prints, paper, canvas), here’s a solution I worked out for transporting large prints to my framer.  The problem is that if you have anything larger than about 11×17 – or maybe 13×19, protecting them and making the process of transportation un-cumbersome is a bit of a challenge.  The “regulation-size” paper can be put in the box it arrived in, of course.  But throw in some precipitation and the possibility of having to make a panic-stop in traffic and you need a better solution than a cardboard box.

With the acquisition of my Epson 9900 large-format printer, I realized I had now created a real problem for myself in getting these very large prints ( a 44″ x 71″ image is drying on my coffee table at the moment…) to my framer.  What I needed was a protective, water-tight tube to transport my prints.

If you’re a do-it-yourself-er and don’t mind a little DIY project, read on.

For smaller stock, you can buy architect’s tubes if you can find a supply store, but I’ve never seen one four feet long.  And I’ll bet it would be expensive as hell if I could find one.  So wracking my aching brain, I came up with a plan.  Needing to stop at Home Depot anyway, I decided to detour down the Plumbing aisle and scare up the biggest PVC pipe I could find.  Unfortunately, the largest size pipe they have is 4″.  Not ideal, but “close enough for government work”.  The ideal product is their 4″ sewer pipe.  This is a much thinner construction – and therefore lighter – than standard schedule 40 PVC.  But they don’t make end caps for this thin stock.  Drat.

So I bought 10 feet of the standard PVC and a couple of end caps.  This set me back about $29.00.  The nice people at Home Depot will be happy to cut the sucker in half so you can fit it in your car, if like me, you don’t drive a gas-guzzling beast.  When you get it home, you need to cleanly cut the pipe down to about 4″ longer than the widest stock you will ever use.  In my case, this is 48″.  I use a chop saw.  A radial arm saw works better, I suppose.  If you’re really careful (and accurate) a hacksaw or crosscut saw will do the job just fine.

Next, I recommend sanding off the exterior of  each end to make it just enough smaller that the end caps fit smoothly – and snugly (remember, you want a water-tight seal) but not so tight you can’t easily remove them.  You could lubricate the ends with silicone, but then you’d risk getting it on your print, so I do NOT recommend this approach.

Then you need to smooth the opening with sandpaper so you don’t cut yourself, snag your clothes, or more importantly, scratch the print sliding it in (photographic prints will go in finished surface out…).  Wipe it down really well after this.

After the cleanup is done, you need to give the interior a bath to get anything out of the tube that might be abrasive or soil your print, so a washcloth or loofah-type product on the end of a rod can be run through it several times with hot soapy water.  Like cleaning a gun (cannon) barrel.

Next, it’s a good idea to pack the end caps with silica gel packets.  A small mesh bag to put them in is a good idea, then double-stick tape it to the center of each cap.  This keeps the contents dry.  I also suggest a dry washcloth stuffed in each end to keep your print from sliding and give you something to wipe down the exterior with.  If you’re out in the rain, this will be important.  You can wipe down the open end after removing the end cap – and before taking out your print.

The finishing touch (not shown here) can be a shoulder strap to make lugging the beast easier.  I’m a fan of guitar straps.  You can get them in any color / pattern / design you can imagine and they’re very comfortable.  Designed to suspend a heavy guitar or bass for hours at a time on a musician’s shoulder, this aspect has been well thought-out for decades.  I also use these for camera straps.  Fasten the guitar strap in place with large wire ties.  The kind used for A/C ducts are perfect, if a bit of overkill (Home Depot has these).  After you cut the excess off the wire tie, I recommend filing the end smooth with a file.  Otherwise they are incredibly sharp!  Until you’ve been sliced by the end of a cut-off wire tie you can’t appreciate this.  Profit from my experience.

You could also wire-tie  simple handle to the center of the tube if you prefer this approach.  You could even make one out of duct tape and it would probably work great.  I would use Gorilla Tape if I were to go this route.

Note:  This photo was taken under low light with an iPhone, so yes.  It’s noisy.  I will update this with a studio shot of the completed tube in a few days.

Warren's Amazing Print Transporter Tube

Warren's Amazing Print Transporter Tube


1 Comment

  1. Print on Canvas

    That is a very good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere.
    Simple but very accurate info… Appreciate your sharing this one.
    A must read article!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.