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Custom Case

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Several people have asked for a tutorial.

The reason I made a fitted case is that they take up a lot less room than a rectangular one and are very strong but light because of the curved surfaces. I also want to make a case for my son who is going to university, for his cheap acoustic and I figured this would be a good practice run. As I had just finished my ES335 Gibson copy I needed a case to store it in anyway. I also lug my guitars and Vox AD50VT amp back and forward to my church when I play with our worship team so a compact case will make it easier getting it in and out of my car boot.

I started by laying the guitar on my sheet of 1200mm x 2400 x 7mm untreated interior plywood. I drew around the outside of it.

(Don’t forget to allow for the end strap button and the tuners if not fitted as I did)

Then I drew in a centerline and added another 15mm all round to allow for a lining (black fake fur) always working my measurements from the center line. I wasn’t going to use foam as I wanted to keep weight down to a minimum as the guitar is heavy anyway. Once I had the outline drawn with nice even radiuses and curves drawn I cut out it out roughly away from my lines. Then I cut a second piece the same size making sure the two best face surfaces went to the outside of the case and nailed the pieces together with panel pins. (1.5mm). The next job was to cut it out with my jig saw which I prefer over a band saw as there is more control.

While the pieces were still joined I edge sanded them in my drill press bobbin sander and smoothed them out nicely.

The height of the sides are determined by laying your guitar on a flat surface propping up the neck with a block so it sits about level and measuring the highest point, more than likely the bridge area, then adding an extra 20mm. If you are using foam you will need to add this as well. In my case the guitar height plus 20mm plus two thicknesses of front / back came to 120mm. (remember you will lose 3-4mm when cutting the case in half)

For the sides I am using 4mm "bendy ply" which is ply which is designed to be bent in one particular direction and the plys are laid in the right direction to achieve this. I cut two strips 120mm wide the full length 2400mm length of the sheet.

I laid down sheets of plastic cling wrap to my workbench then screwed the back down firmly so it wouldn’t move.

I made 15 cam lock clamps with a 40mm hole saw in the drill press then drilled a hole off center so when turned they will lock up. I screwed down about 15 of them around the outside of the back evenly spaced making sure I fitted one for the internal waist and neck curve areas. Make sure your cordless screwdriver is charged and all blocks, screws, panel pins, hammer etc are to hand

You need to make sure any joins finish on the straight sections of the neck area otherwise they will be difficult to join.

I ran a bead of glue right around the edge and starting from the tail end I glued and clamped as I went always pulling away from the tail area and clamped the sides with my cam camps which I turned with multi-grip pliers. Any extra gaps need small blocks pushed in and nailed down to keep joints tight. Once I completed one side I repeated the process for the other. I measured the gap and joined in a piece fully gluing and clamping in place. Stage one is complete.

Once the glue had dried overnight I released all clamps. The next task is to fit the front panel.





The front can be then glued in. I ran a good bead of glue both around side and top. I put about 6 screws sticking out along the top so I could get grip to pull up to get the top flush as I went. (Blocks of wood screwed on may be better to get a decent grip with)

The trick is to angle the top sideways and push it down inside then pull up on the low side until flush. Starting from the tail end I used the small panel pin nails and drove them in as I went to clamp the sides to shape.

Once the glue is dry, its time to put on the second skin which will stiffen the case up no end. This is an easier job and using clamps and panel pins you should get a nice snug fit. Remember to make your join on the opposite side of the case for the second skin as this makes the joint really strong.

Once it has dried overnight you can mark a line to cut to. I used a block of wood 80mm long and by laying the case on the bench correct way up I marked around the outside with a pencil. This meant I would end up with a lid with about a 40mm rim on it.

That 1/3rd - 2/3rd size ratio gives the case a good look.

Use a panel saw and cut it carefully working around the side making sure your final cut through matches perfectly and voilà a top and bottom for your case.

I found the odd place where there was a gap in the two skins so I mixed some sanding dust with glue and filled those, as well as filling all screw holes and nail holes. All panel pins need to be driven below the surface with a nail punch first.

Once the filler has dried the case can be sanded thoroughly remembering the outside needs an almost guitar finish if it is going to look a million dollars. I used my belt sander and ended up with humps and hollows. I finished my case in hammered black paint so thought this would hide any flaws but it didn’t. Even with a Vinyl covering it will need a near perfect surface so hollows don’t stand out but carpet type covering is more forgiving.

The fake fur lining was cut to shape and glued in with contact adhesive. It needs to be well vacummed after cutting as it sheds fur. You need to do this before you apply the adhesive.

The case hardware I got from Stew Macs and seems fine. I used one handle, three hinges and three snap catches but I would recommend using four.

Once you make a case you will realize how easy it is and the next will be done in half the time I reckon. The case ended up nice and light but is fairly strong for normal use.

Edited by Acousticraft
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You didn't use any foam in there?? Does the guitar move in the case?

No as the tuners are a really snug fit at the headstock end due to not allowing for them when I drew the case out. The strap pin also sits snug against the end of the case so no it wont move around. The lid also just touches the strings when closed.

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