Building a custom guitar case?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by doc, Oct 17, 2008.

  1. doc

    doc Member

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    Anybody out there build their own guitar case? I have a few guitars in unusual sizes, and of course it would be nice to have the right size case, light and strong, for not much money. I'm thinking about building a case out of thin plywood, lining it with EPP type foam material, and covering it with fiberglass. Anybody else done something similar and have any hints? I have only modest woodworking skills and have never tried anything with fiberglass before.
     
  2. doc

    doc Member

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    Wow, I can't believe no one here has ever tried something like this. Maybe I'll check out some woodworking forums or something.
     
  3. pinefd

    pinefd Member

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    doc, a couple of years back I tried to find info on building my own case, but there wasn't much out there. There is a bit more info available now, including these Youtube videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LemJQDkALcI and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMImunqSJqI

    I wanted to make a custom Lifton style case for one of my small scale guitars, and I used a combination of wood and fiberglass. I'll try to explain in greater detail later on. Meanwhile, here is the end result:

    [​IMG]


    Frank
     
  4. FPicker

    FPicker Member

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    Wow. that's really nice. good job !!
     
  5. antiquodian

    antiquodian Member

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    I made a case for my huge Warmoth V out of 1/2 by 3 pine sides, and 1/4 inch plywood top and bottom. Got hinges and latches from PartsExpress. Covered it in the tough grey carpet you use to cover speakers. I used that pink house rigid insulation and just cut it to fit, then covered it with some plush purple fabric. It worked great. It helped that the case was basically a trapezoid.
     
  6. doc

    doc Member

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    Thanks for the replies. Very cool case, Frank, and even cooler guitars on your site. I'm looking forward eagerly to your explanation "in detail later on"!
     
  7. skydog

    skydog Supporting Member

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    Keeping the weight down is the major obstacle using commonly available materials. What I've done in the past is find one and gut it. Then using foam and fabric construct your own custom fit lining.
     
  8. pinefd

    pinefd Member

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    Thanks doc! Although, as I thought about it after posting that, I realized that there's probably very little of what I did that will be of use to you. I think the method shown in those Youtube videos that I posted above is the best way to go for what you're trying to accomplish. I was going more for vintage accuracy (at least in looks), rather than practicality.

    Anyway, in case you didn't see it on my website, here is the description of how I made the case, word-for-word:

    "...I decided to make a Lifton style case, and to make it look as close to a vintage '59 case as I couldÂ…especially without having a real '59 case to use as a reference. I did, however, have plenty of reissue cases, and was able to find plenty of photos of vintage cases to use as a guide. What I couldn't find much of, was information on how best to construct a guitar case. It seems there is quite a bit of information out there on building guitars, but very little on building cases for them. So I decided to build a prototype, using two different methods.

    I made the bottom of the case out of wood and plywood. I'm guessing that this is the more traditional way to make a guitar case. I used a wood bending iron to form the sides of the case bottom, similar to how one would make a hollow body guitar.

    Because of the contours required, I decided to make the top of the guitar case out of fiberglass. I had had previous experience working with fiberglass from my days repairing and restoring old Corvettes. I first made a mockup of the case top out of wood and plaster and then made a silicone mold of this mockup. I was then able to lay up the fiberglass (and resin) into the mold to form the rough case top. The only disadvantage of using different methods for the construction of the case top and bottom is that the fiberglass top ended up being heavier than the wooden bottom. So when the empty case is opened, the case wants to fall over on its top. Oh well, that's why it's a prototype. In subsequent cases, I'll likely use fiberglass for both the top and bottom to avoid this problem.

    For the case cover, I found book binding material that closely resembled the color of an original Lifton case. I had read that book binding material was often used for older guitar cases, and quite frankly, I wasn't finding any other material that was a good fit for what I needed. For the darker brown design on the exterior of the case, I first photographed one of my reissue cases and began playing around with the photos on Photoshop. I was able to pick out a repeating pattern, and was able to isolate and print this pattern. With an Xacto knife I cut out as much of the detail of the pattern as I could to form a stencil. I was then able to use this stencil, along with a sponge, to sponge paint the repeating pattern on the case exterior.

    The case hardware, as with the guitar hardware, presented some additional challenges. There are no latches commercially available that are half-size equivalents of those used on full-sized Lifton style cases. I was, however, able to find some small latches whose latching mechanisms were close to what I needed. Having these, I was able to make new back plates for them, so the resulting latches looked very close to mini originals. I was able to construct the case handle out of leather, while the rest of the case hardware I crafted out of brass.

    For the case interior, I had to search far and wide for a material that was a close match to that of an original Lifton style case. After an exhaustive on-line search that yielded very little, I finally found a good match at a small fabric store in the Chinatown section of Boston. As with many phases of this Less Tall project, finding the right material was 95% of the battle, and the actual construction of the interior made up the other 5%."

    -------------------------------------

    And now that I've posted some totally useless information, I'd just like to echo what skydog said above...that keeping the weight down is key. Don't use plywood that's too thick and heavy. And if you go with fiberglass, that can be quite heavy as well.

    If you have any specific questions I can answer, please let me know, or feel free to email me at: pinefd@comcast.net

    Frank
     

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