Anybody Building their Own Bass Cases?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Gilmourisgod, Jul 16, 2021.

  1. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    Seems like a logical extension of a custom build, but I havent seen much of it in LC. I've built a couple speaker cabinets, so the carpentry looks pretty straightforward, but Im not well versed on the best materials and techniques. I'd like to try my hand at a sort of "flight-case light" without breaking the bank, and the few suppliers Ive stumbled onto look pretty expensive. I realize this might be one of those items where the economy of scale makes it build a one-off, but hey, this is Luthiers Corner! Here's one supplier of parts and materials, must be more? If anybody has a build thread on case building, please post!

    Reliable Hardware Company E-Commerce Web Site
  2. turindev

    turindev Commercial User

    Jul 1, 2005
    Chattanooga, Tennessee USA
    I have thought about it as well, but haven’t ventured down that path. I’m more of a gig bag guy myself, but some folks have a strong preference for a hard case.

    I will say that I have found a foam vendor I really like that will do 2D and 3D cutouts for you if you provide a drawing, which would be handy in a hard case. I use them now for packaging material. In case any of you are interested it is, and I’m using the firm charcoal foam.
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  3. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    I nearly always cheat and build basses to specs that will fit in an existing case. Most of what I build fits in P-bass dimensions. But I'm not a fender fanboi...I swear. :smug:

    I'll follow this as I do need to build a case for my WBO airspace build because that one's 16" wide on the lower bout and has a slotted headstock, so it doesn't fit any of my cases, including my large hollowbody case - the head's too thick.
    Gilmourisgod likes this.
  4. GMC


    Jan 1, 2006
    Wiltshire, UK
    Providing a fancy hard case takes a bass build to a whole new level. The difference between a £1K build and a £3K build is perception...the case is 50% of that experience.
  5. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    I'm sure its cheaper to retrofit an off the shelf case, as the Highline guitars does here. I bought inexpensive Roadrunner cases for both of my Ric clone builds, but its a sloppy fit at best, and seems unworthy of the time I spent on the builds. Both have an odd grey/green faux fur liner i havent been able to find a match for. So far I havent worked up the nerve to start tearing them apart to retrofit.
    The most common technique for case building seems to be to build a box and then cut the top off it. Where it gets tricky is the foam insert, tolex wrap, and hardware. Ive seen some flight cases that look like melamine laminate, which would seem to avoid the whole tolex mess, since all the corners and edges get wrapped in aluminum angle anyway.
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  6. A9X

    A9X Inactive

    Dec 27, 2003
    I've built hundreds of speaker enclosures (sealed, ported, PPSL, LLT, Tapped horn, front loaded horn, co-entrant horn etc), and I'm not really seeing the crossover, at least to well braced enclosures not just an unsupported 6 sided box.

    If I wanted a case to actually protect the instrument, moulded ABS is what I'd use as in my experience they are strong and well damped and take a lot of abuse with minimal weight. I'm usually a good padded gigbag user in preference of a HSC, especially if I'm using the 'Bergers as I can get 2 in a strong, padded dual shotgun bag for about $US35.

    That said, one of the instruments I'd like to build in a year or so when I get some more hands on skill, is a guitar for a friend who did me a great kindness (and she has no idea she did) so I have planned a display case in Victorian Ash for it. So far I have nothing but notebook sketches which I'll clean up and post if interested.
  7. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    SW VT
    I've seen a few go by here, usually as part of a build thread, not standalone. I built one for the upright, but it was somewhat built to a specific task - surviving bus travel, and was a beast as configured for that job - there's a tolerably lightweight 2x2 frame with 1/8" luan over and various foam padding/spacers inside, with the bass in its soft bag. 7/16ths OSB was attached to the outside of the frame to make it beastly (there were folks who could move it.) A big, heavy box. Without the overlay it's a big box, but not one I'd want unsupervised in rough conditions.

    "Flight-case-light without breaking the bank" sounds to me like a hard foam + fiberglass shell (giant plastics-molding equipment tending to break the bank) and the interior sculpted out for soft foam and liner fabric. Should be plenty of local foam/fiberglass knowledge in a place as boat-y as Cape Cod, I'd expect.
    Gilmourisgod likes this.
  8. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    My reference to cab building is limited to the basic joinery skills.required, but they do have strong similarities (both fundamentally....a box) in the need for a high strength/weight ratio. Cab builders seem to have some very particular opinions when it comes to the right materials, if there are any experienced guitar case builders out there, I'd be interested to know what you used for the frame and panels. I was thinking 3/8" luan plywood as a bare minimum for the panels, and either 1x pine or 5/8" plywood for for the sides. The melamine laminate looks interesting, but like all lumber right now, stupid expensive.
  9. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    My brother gave me some good advice on Fiberglass work: "Dont tell anybody you know how to do it!" The risk being that somebody will ask you to help fix their boat. He used to repair boats for a living, and taught me the basics. I've done a bit of it, horrible stuff from start to finish. Everything associated with it is either highly toxic, shreds your fingers, or both. A fiberglass box would indeed have a high strength/weight result, but it would be far easier to retrofit a cheap ABS/foam case by just ripping out the innards and using the shell, which I may still do if I cant figure out a way to do this without spending more than $200 or so.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2021
  10. Wannabass

    Wannabass Supporting Member

    Subbed, thought about doing this for my acoustic EB. It came with a gig bag but the foam broke down, turned to dust and stuck to the bass.
    A light hard case would be nice.
  11. MVE


    Aug 8, 2010
    My Calzone flight case for my Alembic is 30 yrs old and the foam has turned to a messy dusty…mess. Also the latches have always bothered me as they are just folding kind (not twisty) and they even stick out past the edge, so the case can never lay flat on that side.
    Ive had it on my to do list to get new foam and cut in recessed twisty latches for some time.
    Its basic construction appears to be aluminum corner stock held together with rivets.
  12. RichterScale


    Feb 21, 2021
    Thanks a lot. Because my brain wasn't scattered in enough directions already. Now I'm mentally trying to build a homemade case too.
    Fwiw, I've built about 3 in my head so far this morning and they were all miserable failures.
    I started a 4th that involved expanding foam, but it made a huge mess and I didn't finish it.
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  13. CryingBass

    CryingBass Sowing the Seeds of Uncertainty Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 8, 2016
    I am sure you guys know this but be careful with certain types of foam in regards to finish damage over time. I have some K&M stands with some type of near-clear soft flexible plastic and if that could be used to create bass-specific inner case molds it might be the ultimate solution.
  14. fretno

    fretno Supporting Member

    May 10, 2009
    Linc Luthier built his own and those weigh 300 lbs +/-
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  15. wmhill

    wmhill Inactive

    Aug 20, 2012
    upstate NY
    MTD basses endorsed artist Bartolini pickups emerging artist TECAMP bass players gear endorsed
    This thread brings back memories of a fellow who bought a knock-off longhorn years back and hire a mechanic to built him a case. He used 5/8' plywood and painted it 7-up green. With all the hardware, the empty case was well over 20 pounds... but on the bright side, it would have been stampede proof.
  16. MattZilla


    Jun 26, 2013
    Hmm, the recyclist in me is thinking that brazing together an old set of de-chromed Reynolds or TruTemper golf club shafts into a triangulated exocage from which to suspend a semi-tightly fitted leather skinsuit would be both pleasantly bizarre looking and effective.
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  17. H. Bob

    H. Bob

    Dec 22, 2007
    New York
    All my cases are in the attic and now I use only gig bags. My favorite is Reunion Blues because of its protective inner structure, plentiful storage, and backpack straps. I can literally go to the gig in one trip from the car with my bass, TE Elf, iPad, strap, tuner, cables, roadie tool, and extra battery in one bag.
  18. TFM94


    Aug 24, 2020
    I have. My first case build was for a box-shaped guitar and therefore probably one of the simplest designs out there. Birch plywood and a styrofoam layer on the inside make it a very utilitarian case, no tolex or anything. It gets the job done, but of course it doesn't stand up to a proper flight case.

    I have found that it is a lot of work and I don't enjoy it as much as building instruments. If I can find a suitable off-the-shelf case, I'd always prefer that. There's plenty of aftermarket cases for the standard shapes (Fenders, Gibsons, etc.), and many can be fitted with some extra foam on the inside to get a good fit. The only instruments I would ever consider to build a custom case for are my Billy-Bo guitar and bass, because their bodies are longer than than any standard-shaped box, and the Gretsch cases are very rare.
  19. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    A couple of quick notes:

    If you are looking at building a flight case style case, pro-level quality, check out Reliable Hardware Company. They are near me here in North Hollywood, CA, but do mail order. They carry everything you need to make a flight case; hardware, foam, fiberglass-coated wood panels, super light plastic panels, etc. A great company to deal with.

    Reliable Hardware Company E-Commerce Web Site

    If you are looking to build classic hard shell guitar cases, there are two main styles of construction. I call them Fender style and Gibson style. Either style is easy enough to build the wooden boxes. The hardware is easy to find. The more difficult parts are: covering the outside of the shell with some kind reasonably tough fabric and trim, and fitting the plush fabric interior. Both usually involve some sewing machine work. That's where the labor is. There are cheaper alternative methods, but most of the cost of a nice hard shell case is for the sewn & glued plush interior.

    My own Scroll Basses have always been a real problem to find cases for. At times over the years, I've thought about getting into building my own cases. I've researched the methods and materials, and it doesn't look to be very difficult. But I haven't gotten around to it.

    I've got a friend of a friend here in the Secret Underground Lab who's been looking to start up a small woodworking type business. I've talked him through the idea of becoming a custom instrument case builder. He's thinking about it.
  20. Yellow Bang66

    Yellow Bang66

    Jun 5, 2019
    Just MHO & FYI I have a very good friend that makes road cases For a living! I asked him to build me a case for newly acquired Bass find,He suggested SKB case, custom road cases are only necessary if your going on the road! Its overkill for gig travel! He made a case for his brother & it was like 10X heavier than a SKB!! I asked him if there was a lighter option, he seemed annoyed, like he gets that alot and that I was being a PIA. Soon after that I discovered "MF" had a deal on HSC molded cases I got 1 cheap! Nice case but stil a lil' heavy.
    I didnt hold it against my friend, as for myself, Im n my profession I get A LOT of propositions for work, but get asked "is there are cheaper options?" Ugh! Thats the price, Bub! so I understand his pat answer of get a MF's case! I only asked him cause I knew at a different shop they made Soft/fiber type cases, but he did not at His new Shop! it seems in his Business he get hit up for making othertypes of cases! but his bread & butter is Pro Road cases!