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*Freelance Traveller

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Bankers’ Boxes: Cheap and Cheerful Storage for Digest-sized Traveller Books

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2021 issue.

My little black books and other digest-sized old Traveller publications sit happily on the shelves for the most part and don’t trouble anyone, although there are enough of them that laying my hands on any one of them can be tricky, especially if I’ve not dutifully shelved a few accurately in my haste to tidy up on a previous occasion.

My BITS ‘little white books’, however, are a different matter. If you’ve seen them you know that they come with transparent plastic covers that are anything but a bibliophile’s first love. They slip and slide and end up disappearing to the back of the shelves or sliding down if not well supported.

Bankers’ boxes, I thought. I have several that hold US Letter or A4 Traveller items that need a bit more protection – either because they’re very thin, or have paper covers (e.g. the Judges’ Guild material), or because they’re a bit floppy loose on shelves in any quantity (e.g. Challenge). Freelance Traveller has just moved into the fourth of the rather nice Ikea bankers’ boxes I was bought as gifts to ‘tidy things up’.

However, in the middle of lockdown a run to the stationery shop wasn’t feasible and I wasn’t even in the University Library building where I work(ed) to see if there some old ones which were surplus to requirements. I suppose I could have gone internet shopping but eating breakfast one day I realized I had the answer in my hands: cereal boxes!

OK, so it would be a bit lightweight and fragile but just one would make not one but two bankers’ boxes and contain all my BITS adventures and rule/background books.

A little bit of planning on what ‘angle’ seemed most pleasing and once I’d finished my bowl for the morning I set to with ruler, pen and scissors to measure 11cm along from the corner of the box for the size of packet I was using.

Once I had diagonal line on each side and two horizontal lines across each side panel, it was then just a question of inserting a sharp pair of scissors and cutting around the line. Best to start in the middle of the large front/back panel as this won’t be visible on the bookshelf. Those with decent craft knives can probably do a much more professional job than the slightly ragged hole made by getting the scissors started.

(Actually, with a good sharp pair of scissors, you might do well to start at one of the corners of the box.—ed.)

You can see in the third photo the box now split into two parts. You can obviously adjust the diagonal angle to suit whatever aesthetics you feel work best.

The next step is to take the opened end of the box and tape it down. Two short lengths across the depth of the box and one long length along the width of the box does the trick although you could use multiple layers for strength. Or stronger tape. For those with money to burn you can purchase archival quality tape which doesn’t yellow but to be honest these are so cheap and easy to make it’s easier to replace them if they reach the end of their working lives rather than make them too high quality. You might want to plan ahead with this stage and open the new box carefully so that it doesn’t look too much of a mess.

To the right you can see the two finished products ready to go. All ready to be filled with BITS books which fit neatly into two bankers boxes made from a cereal packet one size down from that shown in the photographs. Of course, by now I was onto a new packet of cereal and thought why not make the little black books a little easier to shelve and locate. A few mornings later and repeating the process described above and I had two more, slightly wider, bankers’ boxes ready to fill. Or overfill, as is easy to do.

A few weeks after that first idea and several bowls of cereal later, you can see the finished results on the shelves. Note the fractionally smaller boxes towards the right which house the BITS books. Obviously, you can choose your cereal box size to suit your needs. I’ve not tried it yet but I would guess a ‘family sized’ cereal packet might well be capable of storing the larger (US Letter and A4) material but my suspicion is that the weight of the books would be too much for the rather lightweight nature of these homemade creations and besides, those books tend to sit more easily on the shelves by themselves in any case. In addition, I’m not certain I could eat a family sized box of cereal before it went stale. Despite, now I look at the photos, appearing to eat nothing but Shreddies!

Now all that remains is to print out some 11cm × 7.5cm (or 10cm × 5cm) labels to put on the front facing side of the boxes and you’re good to go. Of course, those who are really crafty, hmmm – you know what I mean, might cover the entire outside of the box in some kind of sticky backed plastic in true Blue Peter style. This would look much smarter and strengthen the boxes as well. Not to mention avoiding any accusations of product placement. If Jeff publishes this I’ll be hoping Nestlé are willing to slip me a tenner. I’d produce a photo of the boxes neatly labelled but of course I’m stuck in that eternal librarian quandary of exactly what to put on the label. BITS 1 and BITS 2 for example? BITS Adventures and BITS 101? Not to mention the assorted Gamelords/Paranoia Press, etc., boxes. ‘Miscellaneous’ always seems such a cop out. I’m also deliberating printing red on black in true Traveller style but couldn’t begin to afford the ink and can’t easily get to the stationery shop for black paper. Which is where I began…

One word of warning. I could previously get all my digest sized books onto one shelf – mainly because they squeeze together and tuck behind, etc. Great for space efficiency; not so great for findability. Although these homemade bankers boxes make the books easier to access (and to move, as I subsequently found), it does take up a little more room so I now have a couple of boxes not pictured that I’m going to have to find new space for. On the other hand, I can now pick up my set of, say, JTAS issues and take them over to my desk without risking dropping half of them on the floor quite so easily.