hard case

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by bickele, Jul 24, 2009.

  1. bickele


    Dec 29, 2003
    Bergen, Norway

    I need a hard-shell case for my 3/4 flatback.

    As strong as possible but as lightweight as possible. I remember reading about something highly recommended here a year or so back, but can't find info anymore.


    Big tour coming up in October.


  2. Pentabass


    Dec 11, 2007
    This is a little bit of a long story... but it coul be just what you need.

    The case of the unique Cello Case.

    Relocating from South Africa to Canada will take me a lifetime. It takes the form of various expeditions, done in stages. Back in 1992, the very first expedition was only for one year. The destination: Flin Flon, in Manitoba!

    I had to make decisions what to bring with me: Harmonica -- yes. Cello -- no, too big. And too fragile. "Do they even know about cultured cello music there?" Unlikely, I thought. The same decision making process also might explain why fiddles, banjos and guitars are more the kind of pioneer instruments, taken along on primary expeditions. Heck, these weeds of the instrument world can even survive a trip on horseback.

    Subsequent trips to Canada were for longer time periods, and a different destination: Winnipeg, where they did know about, and appreciate cellos. I found this out during a brief stint, where the good Mr. Taubner let me use his spare cello, until his son needed it. So when I packed once more, I chose one of my instruments, a 7/8 German built instrument, that had survived being a school instrument in Usakos, Namibia, and was sold to me by Herr von Seggern, in Windhoek. He had repaired the cracks that this cello had acquired in the Namib dessert, and I knew that since this instrument had seen low humidity before, it was the ideal instrument for Winnipeg's winters!

    So I started to look at cases. What a surprise. The cello cases available, cost more than my air ticket from Cape Town to Winnipeg!

    I had an uncle that had build a number of fiberglass cases, but time was short, and I did not like a few things about the cases I had seen. So I set out to list my design criteria:
    1. Case must be light. Minimum material.
    2. Case must protect cello, from ANY external forces. (An air traffic baggage handling person should be able to stand on it.)
    3. Case must transmit external impacts EVENLY to the instrument. (No neck and endpin suspension - too great forces on the neck).
    4. Case must be cheap.
    5. Case must be unique.

    After some brainstorming, thinking about the weakness of walnut shells attached with hinges, versus the strength of triangles and full circles, I finally came up with the following design: Imagine an ice cream cone. Instead of ice cream, there is a cello inside. And instead of a crunchy edible cone, it is made out of fiber re-inforced resins. You slide the cello in from the open side of the cone, and then you lock it in place with a flat lid that sort of pushes against the endpin.

    How did I make it fit? The manufacturing concept is to mold each ConicCelloCase (C3, for short) on each cello individually. That's why this will never be sold in stores.

    Step one: Protect your instrument with a number of layers of Glad Wrap, or Saraan Wrap. This thin plastic wrap seals the instrument against possible resin leaks.
    Then cut cardboard strips, and make the cello a cone. Straighten out the c-bouts, shape some space around the neck, and build a base out of thin plywood, so that if you let it stand upright, the instrument should start to look like a pyramid shaped mummy. Now comes a layer of 3/4 inch foam, which is held in place by another few layers of plastic wrap. Remember that the tension of the layers of plastic is cumulative. If you apply too many plastic layers too tight, you can squeeze the foam or the instrument too much. Apply common sense liberally.
    Now comes the exciting part. Layer with glass cloth or carbon fiber, if you can afford it. I layered with a sandwich of glass cloth, nylon cloth, then glass again on the outside. And on the very outside some lost sheets of music, or any other decorations, while you are at it. If you don't know how to layer with fibers and resin, read a book from the library. Anyway, do this in a well ventilated area, and give it a day or so to cure. Now I cut the base out with a jigsaw, to make the 'door' for the instrument to take it out. Finish the cut floor hole off with more fiberglass. Then make the door cover. Use hinges, if you wish. I used a system of ropes, tied around the case like a djembe drum, to keep the flap door in place.

    Again, use your common sense. Make sure you don't cut into your cello while cutting the door. Come up with an alternatives. Come to think of it, I would not recommend this technique of building a cello case to anybody, except that I have never regretted having build a case for the tenth of the store price. A case that met all my design criteria. The instrument travels safely. And on top of all, it is a unique case.

    The cello case was built in 1994, and the story written in 2009. All patentable ideas from this article remain the property of Stefan Harms.

  3. Neat.

    Pentabass, could you post some photos of your special case?
  4. Bijoux


    Aug 13, 2001
  5. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    I owned the first of the two Laabs cases for a while. The stitching was so bad that it became a large, worthless object.
  6. Pentabass


    Dec 11, 2007
  7. bickele


    Dec 29, 2003
    Bergen, Norway
    Thanks Pentabass for the great and educational story!

    My head is full of projects at the moments, too many. I guess I can't complain really, but I don't have the energy to throw myself into a DIY venture.

    The second link from Bijoux looks OK, has anybody tried it? Can it take a couple of airline luggage men jumping on it with their steel-toe boots?

    I was also looking at the Gage Case http://www.davidgage.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=23&products_id=35
    VERY expensive and heavy: $ 2900 and 58 lbs for the Gage Case against $ 769 and 44 lbs for the Enthral Acrylic Bass Case at jimlaabsmusic.com.

    I don't need the case to be cheap: quality, ruggedness and lightweight being my main concern, but $ 2900 seems like a lot of money for a case...


  8. Pentabass


    Dec 11, 2007
    You don't need to build this yourself. Just go to any shop that does boat building or fiberglass work, and tell them what you want. Wrap your instrument up, and they will need it probably no longer than 2 or 3 days to make an external cast. The overall size of the case will be quite a bit smaller than any commercial case out there. To me, however, the biggest advantage is that it will keep the instrument safer than many other cases, because you can not shake the instrument around inside the case: it is a snug fit. And the conical shape is extremely strong -- think of the combination of a triangle and a circle.

    good luck
  9. bickele


    Dec 29, 2003
    Bergen, Norway

  10. maveriten


    Nov 17, 2008
    If your tour does not include flights, then a inexpensive hard foam case (like the Enthral Ultralight case) is sufficient. I own a case identical to this one and can tell you that it will protect your bass very well. However I must also tell you that these cases are built like a cheap piece of luggage. Two plastic bumpers broke off of mine within a week of owning the case and the zipper was the next thing that broke. For the $350 I paid, it served a very brief purpose.
  11. bickele


    Dec 29, 2003
    Bergen, Norway
  12. Nathan Parker

    Nathan Parker

    Oct 10, 2008
    Seattle, WA
    I don't tour, nor do I own a hard-case, but I did do some amount of flying with my double bass in college. In my experience, the Gage case is the best. You might see if you can rent one, as that's what I used to do. It was a much more economical alternative. But, if you are serious about protecting your bass from damage, I really don't know of a viable alternative.
  13. G00D+~VIBES


    Nov 21, 2008
    Kansas City
    I don't remember where on here I read it, but I've read several recommendations about painting the case for a DB WHITE so as to help with those times where it gets left in the sun at the air port etc. Helps reduce some of the temp. extremes FWIW and as long as you don't mind it showing dirt immediately. Maybe just paint the top half white/light color?
  14. bickele


    Dec 29, 2003
    Bergen, Norway
    Yes, the plan is to buy white/yellow, I've been thinking about the hours it will spend lying around in airports...

    I've been looking at the Gage Trunk, it looks good but quite heavy. I'm now trying to find carbon fiber cases that will weigh about 19-20 Kg.

    When touring internationally I've been getting basses from the local back-line companies so far, I carry my spare Realist pickup in case what they supply isn't good enough.
    I always bring my fretless Tacoma ABG in case the bass they supply is unplayable.

    I always have to get to the venue one hour before the rest of the band to check the bass and play on it to get used to it. I'd love to bring my own when possible.

    I'm planning on being on stage until age 99 (37 now), so I think it's time to go ahead and shell out for a good case.

  15. Stevenson cases are best.
  16. katibass


    Aug 17, 2009
    Jacksonville FL
    that's totally sweet! and definitely unique! i like it! :D
  17. Schoolhouse

    Schoolhouse Thomas Andres- Bass Makers

    Dec 7, 2006
    Northern Virginia
    Does anyone have any recent experience with the Anthral Acrylic bass case?
    Thanks, Tom
  18. Jason Sypher

    Jason Sypher Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2001
    Brooklyn, NY
    Just make sure that the entire bass + case = less than 100 lbs. Delta wouldn't even let my bass on the plane last trip to Holland. There are lightweight interior cases to also reduce weight (like a light weight Mooradian). I'm not sure who is making them but I was told they exist.
  19. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    I would call up gage and see if he has any used ones, some of the big names used to rotate through trunks for tax reasons.
  20. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    IMG_0177.jpg [/QUOTE]

    Didn't I see see this in To Kill A Mockingbird?