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Custom Cases

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by skguitarsbasses, Nov 18, 2004.

  1. I was wondering if anyone has attempted constructing hardshell cases for their instruments(?). I am about a month out from finishing an order, and was thinking about trying to make a case for the behemoth. I know of several places to get suitable hardware, but I am mostly interested in any sources for the internal padding/foam. Any suggestions?

  2. Tim Barber

    Tim Barber Commercial User

    Apr 28, 2003
    Serenity Valley
    Owner: Barber Music
    I did it once and decided it wasn't worth my time.

    Bass Kahuna may chime in here; he knows some folks that build custom cases.
  3. What was it about the process that didn't appeal to you, Tim?
  4. Tim Barber

    Tim Barber Commercial User

    Apr 28, 2003
    Serenity Valley
    Owner: Barber Music
    Well, it's basically furniture making. It just didn't seem worth it to put in many tedious hours making something that in the end still wasn't as good as the commercially available stuff. I'd rather spend the time creating something unique. YMMV
  5. I have studied this for years - without making any sweat in the workshop - and have come up with a coupla ways to make neat cases with little or no real work involved in the case construction itself. The real time consuming stuff will be the interior upholstery and hardware. Most of my designs are from aluminum with some wood mixed in for ease of construction.

    I'd be happy to share some of the techniques if anyone is interested.
  6. I'd greatly appreciate it if you would share your ideas and insight, Hambone. Thanks!
  7. OK, here's some fodder for the thinking machine...

    I've always worked with available materials in my low dollar approaches to this stuff. For now it's aluminum in .100" sheet that is most plentiful. For me it's free, but for purchase, it isn't too expensive - probably in the $85 a sheet range in mill finish. Depending on the type of case you build, you can get at least 2 cases from a 4 x 8.

    So, you've never worked with aluminum like this before? Don't have the breaks, shears, rollers, and welders that the pros have to fab this stuff? That's OK cuz the Bone has got the inside skinny on some tricks to let you build like a pro and it should look like a pro did it. The first tip is "V-grooving". If you want to build a rectangular case, you will have to bend the sheet. That is usually done on a sheet metal break but v-grooving can let you make sharp 90º+ angles without one. In our shop we use a special blade in our table saw that has large triangular carbide teeth with the tips slightly flattened. That will cut a perfect flat bottomed "V" in the aluminum for bending. The blade is around $300. But at home, you can use a thick kerf carbide blade in your table saw, and cock it over at a 45º angle and accomplish much the same thing. A few tests to set the proper depth and you can make clean V-grooves to allow perfect straight corners when bent up. If you don't have a table saw, you can purchase V-grooving router bit that will work fine. Use a lubricant when routing aluminum to keep the heat down. We use paste lubes that come in tubes. With the router, you'll just have to set up some guides to keep the lines straight rather than having the fence guide like the table saw method. Using the V-groove method, you should be able to make complete 5 sided boxes easily. That should give you an idea where I'm going with this. I'll post a simple design a little later on when I get it rendered for TB so you can see the simplicity of the process. BTW, this method also works on thicker flexible plastics like Sintra (expanded PVC) and ABS. If you have the right adhesives, you can fold up a box and glue the corners into a tight form.

    Using the V-groove technique, you can also make curves in much the same way a woodworker does with kerf cuts. A series of closely spaced, parallel grooves allow that section of panel to be bent easily without losing strength. I call this a "facet bend" because in aluminum, the outer surface shows the narrow flat facets between the grooves. This isn't bad looking at all and can be rather a nice contrast next to a large smooth area. When polished, it can even look like sectioned mirror.

    I have another design that I will post that is one piece of aluminum with a U bend and no other metal work. It's unusual but oddly appealing and certainly functional. After all having the same thing as the other guy isn't much fun at all.

    Sorry for keeping you in the dark but I have a busy day today. I'll get back here sometime this weekend with the rest of the details and I'll check in periodically for questions and such.
  8. Here's a couple of designs that incorporate the bending techniques I mentioned above. The first one is a clam shell style that has only 4 straight v-grooves per side. The ends are simply a nice wood. You can attach them with glued cleats from the inside or with screws and cup washers from outside. This design can also be made a little differently by only making one of the halves you see here but with taller sides. Then the hinged top would be a single sheet of .100" with the padding on the inside. It would be plenty stiff enough.

    The second is the unusual "drop-in" style case. I like this one a lot. It stands up but the instrument just drops in through the top. The sides, bottom and ends are padded and the rounded ends have squared corners to keep it stable. It's very secure for your instrument. If you make sure to attach the handles to the sides, this case will never have the possibility of accidently opening. You can make this design with a U-bend or with the v-grooves and the faceted bend.
  9. Wow, you're a madman, Hambone.
    Thanks for posting all of that information!

    And here I was thinking that I would just make a case out of plywood like a coffin case for turntables. Haha.

  10. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Cool thinking, Ham!
  11. tbonesux

    tbonesux Guest

    Apr 7, 2002
    I have made the coffin-style case.
    I cut out plywood peices, glued the ectire box together and nailed it down, then cut the top quarter off for a lid.
    Then I added some reinforcement at the corners, and where the hardware would be attached.
    Then I covered the outside with a tolex-like vinyl covering using wood glue. Next I attached the hardware and some corner protectors where two of the vinyl edges met.
    For the handle, I sewed some nylon webbing into a loop that cradle the case and screwed it to the body. I feel that this method is more stable than attaching a handle to the top piece.
    For the inside, I used styrofoam to support the neck and to section off an area for storage. I cut a thin piece of plywood as the cover for this.
    For padding, I cut foam pieces to fit the spaces I needed and made "pillows" by covering the separate pieces with fabric. To fasten the fabric , I cut posterboard to the shape of each pillow, and covered about a 3 inch border on the back with wood glue and let it dry. Then I layed the fabric face down, then foam, then posterboard (dried glue side up), then folded the excess fabric around the edge, onto the glue. Then I ironed the fabric over the glue, using the steam setting which softens the glue enogh for the fabric to stick, and then hardens. For the sections that were too small to do this to, I sewed the fabric around the foam.
    Then I covered the compartment door (vinyl on back), and used a cloth hinge to attach to one of the styrafoam pieces, which were also covered in fabric.
    Final step: Hot glue in the Pillows and supports and add some rubber feet.

    Its a bit labor intensive, but I enjoy woodworking, and crafts, so it wasn't too painful. And sometimes you really need a case, but no one will give you a clear answer about if the oversized body on the bass you just made will fit into their cases.
  12. tbonesux

    tbonesux Guest

    Apr 7, 2002
    Hambone: I really like your designs, especially the second one, simple and effective. I wish I had seen this thread earlier.
  13. Thanx,

    I wish the first person to build one of these would post a pic. I've got the materials and the tools but the actual doin' is pretty far down my list of priorities right now. :(
  14. tbonesux

    tbonesux Guest

    Apr 7, 2002
    I plan to build one as soon as I get another bass. I know you don't know me but can I , uhh..., borrow some cash to get me started? :p
  15. I used the remants from the blank I used to cut the body from as a direct template to cut the interior foam out of.

    I halved the profile, and super 77-ed each piece to a piece of 3" thick styrofoam... I use an electric-bow cutter to cut the foam perfectly (an electric bow cutter is just wire tensionned on a frame with voltage running thru it to create heat to "melt-cut" the foam)

    Since I use a 1/2" cutter on the CNC, the profile is 1/2" larger than the actual body, so I cut the styro, then add some more complaint rubber-foam strip on the holding the body edges, then super 77 the cloth over it, and install in the rectangle.

    For the neck rest, the smae thing...just I lay the bass flat on a table, measure a good cradle point's distance from the table to the neck, and fashion my neck cradle piece...then install.

    The top lid gets egg-crate foam. perfect.

    Quick and cheesy, and still better than off the shelf 80 dollar cases.