Once I finished building the Little Holey Vengeance pedal board I decided I needed a case for it to protect all the pedals that will be on it. A guy can tie up a ton of cash on these things and it doesn’t make sense to trust their safety to a soft shell case to me. So I decided to build a hard shell case for the thing. I’ve never built a case like this before and I didn’t really know exactly how to go about it.
I watched some videos and read some tutorials and finally designed the case based on the methods used to make guitar cases. I had to modify a few things though. The board with all it’s pedals is both large and heavy. So I needed to construct the case out of thicker materials than I would have preferred. The frame is made of 3/4″ scraps of plywood and pine that I had lying around. The top and bottom are 3/16″ birch subfloor to keep the weight down. I covered the entire thing in an olive drab vinyl. It’s almost a perfect match to the board. Sometimes I think I could fall in love with Denise just because she has everything I need every time I go into the store. She’s cute and a great girl too! I also lined the case with rubber carpet pad, used for commercial double glue installations, and covered it with a soft velor material. It turned out well overall, but I did discover quite a few drawbacks to doing this. I’ll go ahead and list them ahead of time so you’ll be aware of what you are getting into before starting a similar project yourself.
- 3/4″ plywood is heavy.
- Rubber pad is heavy.
- Vinyl is heavy.
- This damn thing turned out really heavy.
- You have to select your materials more carefully than I did. Some vinyls aren’t meant to be glued.
- You may need another person to help carry this thing because it’s really heavy.
- Did I mention this thing turned out to be really heavy?
As you can see, the main problem is that this thing is heavy. It’s also very bulky, being akin to a very large suitcase. I haven’t weighed it yet, but I’m guessing it comes in at around 50lbs. That is before the board and pedals go in. It would be nice if you could find or commission a plastic case for this thing at a decent price, but that isn’t going to happen. I view this thing as a travel case, sort of like an ammunition crate. I doubt I’ll be keeping the board in it that much when it’s at home.
Now that you know what you are getting into, I’ll go ahead and show you how to build this monstrosity.
Building the Case
First of all I cut out my frame for the bottom part of the case. I used some scrap 3/4″ plywood leftover from the speaker cabinet build and the pedal board itself as well as some pine I had left over from some shelving I made. I cut a couple of 32″ x 8-1/2″ pieces and a couple of 24-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ pieces to start. I drilled and countersunk the ends and assembled them as shown, using wood glue at the joint to strengthen the bond.
I could have dovetailed or finger jointed the corners on this, but I was feeling lazy and opted for a straight butt joint. With the adhesive in place it should be plenty strong once the bottom goes on to give it dimensional stability. Note that the long sides of the frame go inside the short sides. This means that the screws go through the short side and into the long sides. This gives the best support when you consider how the case will be lifted.
I cut the bottom out of 3/16″ subfloor that we use at the store for installing sheet vinyl floors. It’s basically a higher quality void free luan plywood. I cut it slightly larger than the frame and attached it with another bead of glue all the way around the edge and ring shank nails. The ring shank prevents the nail from backing out and showing through the vinyl in the future.
Once the glue was dried I used my router and a trimmer bit with a collar on the tip to shave the edges of the bottom down even with the sides. Then I filled all nail and screw holes and sanded it all smooth once they dried.
I used the same jig I used on the speaker cabinet I built to drill holes for the handle and inserts. I neglected to take photos of this unfortunately but it’s pretty straight forward. I just attached and amp style handle to one of the long sides of the case. I centered it based on the total height of the case with the lid added.
Now I was ready for vinyl. This is where things started turning sour. The vinyl I selected was one I had not worked with before. The Tolex I normally use on amp cabinets has a pretty smooth threadlike texture on the back of it and takes glue fairly well. The olive drab vinyl I got for the project was meant as more of an upholstery fabric. That means it was meant to be sewn over a padded surface, not glued to a hard surface. As a result I had all sorts of issues getting my glue to work.
First off all I started out with the waterborne 3M contact adhesive I used on the speaker cabinet.
I applied it to both surfaces to be bonded with a small roller.
It worked fine on the wood since it was a pretty smooth surface. It even dried quickly this time. The vinyl was another matter. The back was so fleecy that it soaked up all the adhesive. I tried gluing it three times and it still would not leave enough adhesive on the surface to allow it to tack sufficiently to form a good bond. It also took ages to dry.
After fighting with that for a while, I abandoned the contact adhesive and opted to try a carpet adhesive. I applied that with a trowel.
I stretched the vinyl across the back and then spent about a half an hour working the adhesive ridges out of it. This probably would have worked better if the contact adhesive was not already on the fabric. As it was, the multiple layers of contact adhesive had sealed the fleece up, preventing it from absorbing the excess carpet adhesive. I had to work the ridges out from the center using a rolling pin. I left it to dry overnight and it actually turned out fairly well. The bond was good, but I felt it could be better so I brought home a can of rubber tile adhesive to use in place of the carpet adhesive. I figured that if it would hold rubber tile, then vinyl should be no issue. So I moved on to the the long sides next.
I ran a bead of Locktite Power Grab along the edge for extra and more immediate hold.
I then stretched the vinyl over the side as tight as I could and stapled it to the inside to keep a nice surface. Again, I had to work it out with a rolling pin, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the bottom since the fleece was open to absorb the adhesive. You can see where I also trimmed the corners in.
I also wrapped the side part way around the end of the case.
I glued this in place with Locktite. I did this because I wanted the seam to be on the end of the case instead of right on the corner. The corners are not the best place for seams. There is more stress and wear on the corners and it causes the seams to peel apart.I did the other long side the exact same way.
Here I pulled the end flap up and clamped it temporarily.
I then measured in 1-1/2″ from the edge and marked the vinyl. I also measured up 1/2″ and marked a diagonal line from the corner to the other line. Then I double cut the vinyl, meaning I cut through both layers are once. This gives a pretty good fit between the two pieces.
I dropped the flap down and peeled off the excess that I had cut away from the other pieces.
I glued the end the same was as the long sides and stretched it into place. I did have some issues with this method though. The adhesive I was using is not a fast grabbing adhesive like contact cement. It stays wet and moves around a bit for several hours. That resulted in the vinyl wanting to creep a little and the seams started to gap. I peeled them back slightly and re-adhered then with Locktite. That still didn’t quite cut it though so I ended up running a bead of super glue in the seams to keep them from coming back apart.
Once the vinyl was done I moved on to lining the case after attaching the handle. I cut another piece of 3/16″ plywood to fit inside the case with about 1/8″ of play. Then I sprayed it with Locktite spray on contact adhesive. I also cut a piece of 1/4″ thick 80 ounce rubber carpet pad and sprayed one side of it with contact adhesive. Once they tacked I pressed them together.
I then cut an over-sized piece of the lining material and sprayed both the backside of it and the other side of the rubber pad with contact adhesive. Once tacked, I stretched it into place over the pad and flipped it over to glue the edges on the back as well. These photos are from the sides I did this way, but the bottom was constructed the same.
This contact adhesive dries very quickly since it’s solvent based. It’ll make a real mess though with the over spray. I’d suggest using some throw away drop cloths. Paper or plastic doesn’t work well though as they stick to everything. Canvas is better but more expensive. I managed the entire project just flipping one 12′ x 15′ drop cloth to a clean spot repeatedly.
Once the panels were ready I installed them using the Locktite Power Grab adhesive. I did the bottom first, then the long sides, and finally the short sides, fitting them inside the longer sides.
The adhesive grabs fast, but it still needs some pressure on it for a while to get the best bond. The last couple of photos show how I used some flat wood and a set of spreader clamps to tension the inside panels until they cured.
Note that I made these inside panels 1/2″ taller than the case. They protrude above the case to give it a lip for the top to drop over.
Next I flipped the whole thing over and put some plastic feet on it so it glides. These things came with an adhesive disk as well as a screw to attach them. I can’t recommend strongly enough that you remove the adhesive disk and clean it up with some Goo Gone. I installed these with the disk the first time and the glue liquified and oozed everywhere.
Once that was done I moved on to constructing the top. It was just like the bottom except I only made the frame 1″ tall.
Orion sanded the hell out of it for me to make it nice and smooth. We used the spray on contact adhesive to attach the vinyl this time. It seemed to work well. The seams definitely came out better. However, it seems that the lighter coat of spray adhesive did not saturate the fleecy backing enough to solidify it. That means that when you press or set something heavy on the top it leaves a mark pretty easily and doesn’t seem to come out. So the contact adhesive was better for the seams but worse for the open areas.
We used a thicker memory foam carpet pad in the top of the case since it may be resting against the actual pedals on the board. The process was the same for this as it was for the other panels. We did not make any side panels for the top. The lip from the bottom fits firmly against the top panel when closed. The top panel fills the majority of the lid.
I had intended to attach the lid with a piano hinge on one side and latches on the other. However, the lid fit so tightly that I wasn’t sure it would close properly if it were hinged. So I opted to put a set of latches all the way around the case instead. This way the lid just pushes down on and completely detaches when unlatched.
Here is the finished case.
Well, it certainly will protect those pedals. It turned out pretty well for something I’ve never done before. If I had it to do over again, I probably wouldn’t do it at all. This thing is just too damn heavy. I intend to put a set of casters on the side opposite the handle so it sits level and is easier to tote around. I doubt it’ll see much use around the house but it’ll served as good protection during transport. I couldn’t have built a better crate if I’d tried to built a crate.
All in all, I wish I had stuck with my original idea of making a plexiglass shell that would just drop over the board and thumb screw onto it. It would have offered plenty of protection and been one hell of a lot lighter. This case does provide an extreme amount of protection and will do a better job keeping water out though. We live and learn!
I hope everyone found this interesting. I sure did. Now I can move on to easier projects for a while. I think I’ll re-cover my weight bench while I have all this vinyl knowledge fresh in mind. I guess I get to go see Denise again soon!
Thanks for reading.