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Tray with Polyethylene Foam Grid Separators


The purpose of this separator/support system is to protect fragile specimens and isolate them from each other (Fig. 1). It also provides easy access to specimens stored inside drawers.

Figure 1. Specimen tray with polyethylene foam grid separator.


David Grattan
Department of
Canadian Conservation Institute
1030 Innes Road
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada K1A 0C8
Tel (613) 998-3721
Fax (613) 998-4721

Margaret Morris
2287 Old Orchard Road
Montreal, Quebec H4A3A7

Photograph: Carl Bigras

Publication: 1992



A square grid cut from 1/2in polyethylene foam is adhered to a paper board tray. The tray has a cushioning layer of 1/16in polyethylene foam and is covered with alkaline tissue to protect the specimen from abrasion. Cotton twill tape handles are attached to the tray for easy removal or retrieval from the drawer.

Materials Tools Supplies

  • 100% cotton twill tape
  • Alkaline paper board, 4ply, double wall
  • Glue gun and hot melt adhesive
  • Metal straightedge
  • pH neutral tissue paper or alkaline reserve tissue paper
  • Polyester tape, double-coated, pressure-sensitive
  • Polyethylene foam plank, 1/2in
  • Polyethylene foam sheeting, 1/16in
  • Soldering iron
  • Utility knife


  1. Measure and cut the 4-8ply or double wall alkaline board to fit inside the drawer. Large drawers will require the more rigid double-wall board.
  2. Cover the board with a layer of 1/16in polyethylene foam sheeting and a layer of pH neutral or alkaline reserve tissue paper. Use polyethylene double-coated pressure-sensitive tape or spots of hot melt glue to adhere these two layers to the board.
  3. Measure and cut a sheet of 1/2in polyethylene foam plank the same size as the board. Decide, according to size and number of objects that will be placed in the tray, how large the squares on the grid will be.
  4. Using a pencil and a straightedge, draw the grid on the polyethylene foam.
  5. Cut the grid using a soldering iron with a flat tip and a utility knife. The soldering iron will score and partially go through foam. The knife will finish the cut.
  6. Attach the grid to the board using hot melt glue or double-coated tape.
  7. Attach handles of cotton twill tape to the underside of the tray on two edges. This can be done with the hot melt glue gun or by perforating the board and looping and knotting the twill tape on the underside
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