Introduction: Custom Rifle Case From Violin Case

Picture of Custom Rifle Case From Violin Case

I started with a 4/4 thermoplastic violin case I purchased from

Step 1: Initial Case Interior

Picture of Initial Case Interior

The case comes lined and custom fitted for a violin.  The material is a type of faux fur that is somewhat elastic.  The base is styrofoam.

Step 2: Remove Interior

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The lining material is glued to the styrofoam with spray adhesive and and styrofoam is glued in with hot melt glue.  It takes a bit to get it started, but after you get under it, it pops out rather easy.  A large flat screwdriver or small flat bar would be well suited for this.  Don't worry about busting it up or tearing it.  It'll all be throw out and replaced.   

The only special note is to ensure you get almost all the hot melt glue out.  It is an absolute bear to pull out in some places, but it all has to come out.  I left a small bit in my first case and it came back to haunt me when I went to install the retention straps and the final lining.

Step 3: Prep for New Base

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Once all the old lining is removed ( I know, I know,   I didn't get all the glue in this one.  It was a major pain later)  tape off all the aluminum edges on the interior with painters tape.

The tape will prevent any of the expanding foam from sticking to the aluminum.  If it does get on the aluminum it has to be scratched off, marring the finish.

The blue tape will also give a guide as to where to fill the case with expanding foam.

Step 4: Add Expanding Foam

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Start spraying the expanding foam into the case trying to stay just barely under the tape line.  Once the foam expands and cures it will rise above the tape in places, but it can be trimmed down.  One can of foam got me about 75% the way through.  I had to make a mad dash to the hardware store to get another and the first section had already started to cure.  The remaining  foam didn't quite adhere as I had hoped it would, so, lesson learned.  Have 2 cans ready.

Step 5: Manage the Expansion

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The foam tends to mound up in the middle and stay thin on the outer edge.  To manage this a bit and force the expansion to the edge, I put a sheet of newspaper over the foam after it started to form a "skin".  I then laid a couple weights on it to push in down in the middle.  Nothing super heavy that would form a crater.  Just enough to level it out a bit.

Then it's a matter of time for the foam to cure.  I left mine for 48 hours but I think the can says it's cured after 24.  Read the can.

Step 6: Leveling Out the Foam

Picture of Leveling Out the Foam

After your cure time, you have to level out the foam.  I used a 12" hacksaw blade which really worked out well.  I took off all the really tall bits and then started bringing the top down so the foam is about 1/4"-1/2" below the aluminum edge.  I kept the shop-vac handy to get all the little bits of foam.

As soon as I cut into the tallest part of the foam, I found an area where air pockets had formed.

I simply refilled that are with more foam and allowed it to cure before continuing.

Step 7: Laying Out the Interior

Picture of Laying Out the Interior

Now it's time to fit all your stuff into this box.  

Lay in out and then mark around all your pieces with a marker.  The magazines in these photos will be double stacked.

Try to keep in mind where you are going to be adding the retention straps and where they will be anchored to the case.

Step 8: Get Trimming

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First things first, take the hacksaw blade and cut straight down through the foam all the way to the outer plastic shell.  Don't worry about the pieces coming out.  The foam sticks like the devil to the plastic.  Plus the whole thing will be wrapped and glued to fabric in the end.

Once all the outlines are done, put a slight bend on each end of the hacksaw blade, about 2"-2 1/2" from each end.

Use the bend blade to make scoop cuts inside the outlines to remove small pieces at a time.

Step 9: Finish Foam Trimming

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Periodically place the items you're cutting out for into the foam.  Remember, there will be a fabric liner, so don't make it super tight.

The biggest concern is getting the depth right.  Taking a bit at a time is best because if you go too deep, it'll require trying to glue your cutouts back in.

For the openings that get down to the outer shell or close to it, I took a bit of the original liner and glued it in.  It acts as an additional cushion and prevents any banging sounds while carrying the case.

Step 10: Adding the Retention Straps

Picture of Adding the Retention Straps

The straps I used are 3/8" velcro which has one fuzzy side and one adhesive side.  It comes in rolls and is commonly used by guys setting up comm closets to bundle server and telephone wires.  

I used 1/8" aluminum pop rivets to secure the straps.  Right next to the rivets in the hardware store, there were small 1/8" aluminum washers that give a little more grip to the rivets.

I cut the foam back and removed a small plug where the strap is to be installed.  Drill a hole through the case shell, and the strap.
Push the rivet through from the outside, slide the strap over the rivet and add a washer. 

Run the straps long,  you can always cut them back later.

(Make sure the soft side of the velcro is facing your gear.  Don't want the rough side scratching up your stuff)

Anchor the rivet down and glue the foam plug you removed back in.  (Hot glue, spray adhesive or good ole' Elmer's will do)

Step 11: Pre-fit the Fabric Liner

Picture of Pre-fit the Fabric Liner

At your local fabric store, pick out the pattern and texture that you like.

It helps if the fabric is a little elastic.  It helps when getting it into the tight spaces.

I really liked the black faux fur and got a yard of similar material.  I think it only ran me about $10.

I cut the yard in half, draped it over the case and started tucking it in as best as I could.  I used the rifle and magazines to help hold everything tight as I went.  Be mindful of the edges.  You want to be at least 2" over the edge, all the way around to make sure you have enough to finish the case.

Once I got it where I wanted it, I cut small holes in the fabric to allow the retention straps through.

Step 12: Glue in the Liner

Picture of Glue in the Liner

First Rule 


Once you start fiddling with the spray adhesive and the fabric, you're gonna be 3 different kinds of sticky.

Step 13: Complete Liner

Picture of Complete Liner

Pull up a portion of the fabric to expose the foam. 

I did mine one third at a time.

Spray both the underside of the fabric and the foam with spray contact adhesive.
Allow it to get tacky and then work it into place.  

Once the adhesive touches, it's a pain to remove and re-position.

Once it's in, use your gear to hold it tightly in place.  Strap it down tight and be careful not to get the adhesive on your equipment.

After it's all secured, trim the excess fabric so it extends about 1/2" over the edge.

Then, using a small screwdriver or blunt end, tuck the edge of the fabric down between the foam and the shell.

Step 14: Done

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Once everything is dry, it's just a matter of trimming the retention straps to the correct length.

The AR-15 case was my second case.

My first one was for my MP5.  This one did not have retention straps (big mistake) and two compartments that were supposed to stay closed with magnets embedded in the foam (didn't work and resorted to velcro)

Overall I think they are pretty big successes.

Let me know what you think.  Feel free to ask questions or make suggestions for improvements.


thematthatter (author)2013-12-10

you can put a little cleaning kit in the area between the hand guard and butt stock.

Are you going to teach your girl how to shoot it when she gets older?

TeeDum (author)thematthatter2013-12-11

She already shoots. And my cleaning kit is stashed inside the pistol grip.

Check them out

thematthatter (author)TeeDum2013-12-13

does it have a rod to push patches through?

TeeDum (author)thematthatter2013-12-13

It has a cable to pull them through

Eye Poker (author)2013-12-12

How long did this take? I have to admit my project attention span is not great.

TeeDum (author)Eye Poker2013-12-13

I have small kids and a wife who works and gets home late so.... forever.

I think it took about 2 months working an hour here a half hour there. But looking back, if I could gut out the case Friday night and lay down the foam and let it cure over night, trim it down Saturday evening and start the straps. Then do the lining on Sunday... I could see doing in one weekend if I didn't have any other distractions.

But when does that ever happen.

andrea biffi (author)2013-12-11

it appears very professional, btw I hope it's not related with your profession ;-)

GrfxGawd (author)andrea biffi2013-12-12

I love to see anyone in any profession dedicated enough to their work to build upon their knowledge and further the art. Any industry with specific knowledge can be put to use in unlawful and dangerous, even deadly ways. Even a well educated chef can easily harm or kill with his culinary skills. No joke. There's nothing out there I know of in the world that can't be used to harm another person. And the more knowledge a person has, and the more critical the skills, the greater threat they potentially pose.

jamesbrichmond (author)2017-05-26

I know it's old, but very cool. recommendation for the cutouts (step 8):

Rather than cutting into the foam at an angle and guesstimating depth, you can make a clean cutout of the shape all the way through the foam. Then take the shape that you cut out and cut across it horizontally to get the right depth for sitting under whatever it will sit under. Then glue that shape back in place. You can get a more precise cutout that way with less effort.

Cheers on the very nice instructions!

3366carlos (author)2016-06-22

awesome, beautiful way to store your tools.

Justin Evans made it! (author)2015-09-09

Thanks for the inspiration. I studied your instructable and made a few tweaks of my own.

monkeyracing (author)2015-02-11

This is an interesting project! One suggestion I can make is to form the cavities the same way race car drivers have their seats molded. In the case of racing seats, a large plastic bag is filled with foam beads and and a slow acting expanding foam product. The bag is placed into the seat shell and the driver sits in place as the foam expands and sets. This forms a customized shell around the driver to keep them in place.

If you were to wrap the gun tightly in plastic, or place a plastic layer at the seam in the case and inject the foam under it, placing the pieces as it set, you might be able to save yourself the job of cutting out the shapes from the foam.

Here's a video you can watch to get a better idea of what I've explained badly!

TeeDum (author)monkeyracing2015-02-12

I tried that, but due to the nature of the expanding foam I used it won't expand in the bag. I left it in there for three days and after checking on it, all I had was a big slimy mess.

I would have preferred to done it that way. It would have made adding the fur lining a lot easier.

But I used what I had on hand and easy access to.


krig2011 (author)2014-11-28

YOUR THE REASON I GET CHECKED AT THE AIRPORT XD. besides that cool stuff man

VoltageSparx (author)2014-10-04

Nice job. I'll have to do this for a ppsh in. 22lr I recently picked up for a laugh

wikiquote3 (author)2014-05-16

yeah thats pretty beast ill give you like 5 dollars for that you know

TeeDum (author)wikiquote32014-05-16


bethehammer (author)2014-05-14

Nice job! In many places people are unnecessarily nervous about guns... But no one thinks twice about a musical instrument case. Protects the guns and avoids unnecessary scrutiny.

drtomperez (author)2014-02-03

Your instructions are great just never used rivets need to You Tube and see. Keep up the great AR stuff God Bless You and I was on Dooms Day Preppers second season called The Day of Reckoning and appreciate your AR case Kicks Ass cannot wait to make a few.

CementTruck (author)2014-01-18

For your sanity's sake you need to look into EVA foam (exercise mat). It is easily cut with a box cutter/hot knife/x-acto knife/razor blade and can be layered and glued. A lot less messy and I think you'll really enjoy working with it. No need to wait for the spray foam to cure. Another added bonus is that you would be able to make retention strap systems that go all the way around the item in one piece, thereby reducing tearout. Simply cut slits in every layer of foam, Run the strap through one side, all the way to the back of the last layer and back up through the slits other side.

Cool 'ible.

k2iran (author)2013-12-23

This is far than awesome!!!!!!!!!!!

k2iran (author)2013-12-23

This is far than awesome!!!!!!!!!!!

rugerp512 (author)2013-12-22

Very cool project...nice work

n8dizzle (author)2013-12-18

Any suggestions on how to best remove the glue that held the foam in? I tried a razor blade and a plastic scraper but I can't seem to get all of it off. Heat? Chemicals? Cheers!

Tinker_001 (author)2013-12-16

Cool project. found this alternate idea also, basically it says put your stuff in a drawer, cover with an old t-shirt or other fabric, fill with expanding foam, put newspapers over it and a weighted board. Flip over when dry. check it out.

andywolfs (author)2013-12-15

why would you make this case? I don't see the purpose to hide a gun in a violin case...

MidnighToker (author)andywolfs2013-12-16

The purpose of "hiding it" in a violin case is for close-minded people that immediately get their hackles up with anything that has anything at all to do with guns. My daughter nearly lost her best friend because as she was getting dropped off by the girl's mother I happened to have just returned from the range and still had my 1911 on my hip. Now she will not let her daughter come to my house because I'm a "gun nut". (Hypocritical as that is because her ex-husband has more guns than I do and HE has custody) If I had simply been removing a "violin" from my car, there would have been no issue. Keeping them out of conspicuous sight is sometimes better than having to deal with the false judgment that automatically comes along with it.

Menirz (author)andywolfs2013-12-15

the purpose isnt to hide it, per say, but to carry it for a cheaper price. There are many people who have old violin cases from their elementary school days and should they stop playing the cases fall to waste. This is a way to make, relatively cheaply, a gun case that would otherwise be a very expensive investment. And, outward proportions of the case notwithstanding, his design is entirely legal - at least from my experience with illinois laws. This is assuming, of course, that you transport it with the magazine empty.

So for any gun enthusiast who is looking for a nice custom case to transport their rife to a range, this is an ideal instructable.

TeeDum (author)Menirz2013-12-15

EXACTLY!!! Some people won't get it. But for the guys who are going to the range weekly to shoot, they'll understand. Some will get really excited and want one while others just smirk and move on. Everone who's seen it in person hasn't been able to hold back the smiles. Reminiscent of the ganster Tommy gun cases of years gone by.

Menirz (author)TeeDum2013-12-15

Its unfortunate, but it is a fact that some people simply wont get it. For some reason the debate surrounding guns has become so polarized that people are unable to think critically and see things from other perspectives.

Its sad that these sort of arguments and flaming are a given for anything that attempts to deal with guns. Still, great instructable! Im really tempted to get a violin case from a garage sale or something and do a similar process for a recurve bow I recently bought - since all of the cheap cases are literally cheap, and likely will fall apart before they keep my bow safe.

onemoroni1 (author)2013-12-15

This is really cool. Thanks for posting. I have seen beautiful violin cases at the thrift stores lately and wondered what to do with them. I have an 18" shotgun and will have to check it out for fit when broken down. I want to do this and add a lock for legal transportation. I had a thought of wrapping the firearm parts and pressing into the foam to save custom cutting. Thanks again.

TeeDum (author)onemoroni12013-12-15

I wouldn't reccomend that. I tried it and it failed. Read the other responses

onemoroni1 (author)TeeDum2013-12-15

Thanks again.

rondust (author)2013-12-15

Great job to see, nice 'ible, lots of pics.
My own opinion, nothing wrong but a lot of work for you.

I would use styrene foam and hot wire cut the shapes for the firearm (or use electric carving knife), then bond that to the case with the expansion foam or construction adhesive.
For softer material that would grip the parts, high density sponge foam hot wire cut, and bonded in as the above method.
Use a guitar case for Long arms like a rifle, MUCH cheaper and plenty of storage space for cleaning gear and the like accessories.
Good job sir.

TeeDum (author)rondust2013-12-15

I considered Styrofoam but the price was more than 5 times higher than using expanding foam. Unless I was using re-purposed foam from shipping containers. But the solid block foam I found online and at the local craft stores were pricey. And considering the weight of the two cases I have I doubt I would go wiith a larger case like a guitar or cello.

rondust (author)TeeDum2013-12-15

I know what you mean about cost, I'm lucky enough that there is always styro panels around that come with Refrigerator packaging, or off cut styro wall panels used in Australia.
Guitar cases are a novelty gun case here, solid ones can be heavy if made of plywood, but the plastic ones are okay, but you can even use the soft cases to do this, I have several,
Best thing is you can ride you motorbike to the range with no raised eyebrows, just sling it over the shoulder or tie it down on the rack.
Or jump on a train/tram.
I'm a huge fan of repurposing gear and trash - made some great trolley case archery targets. Just cut old carpet into strips as long as the case is wide and stack into the case when it is standing up with the top open. Then just keep stacking the strips until it is full, compress them down and squeeze as many in as possible, pin the target to the face with some wire, close the lids and away you go.
Wheel it to the zone, open the lid and shoot the arrows.
Got it from another Instructable but he was filling it with rags, they kept falling out unless you shot thru the case cover.
I do see the merrits of your method, its not to hassle you, just an alternative if available.

TeeDum (author)2013-12-15

It's just that you don't get it. That's fine. I grew up poor, on a farm. We hunted, trapped and fished. Not purely for fun, but for food. Many times if we didn't come back with meat, there wasn't meat on the table that night. I started shooting with my father and uncles and granfathers at the age of 5. Rabbits, squirels, dove, quail and pheasants. Hunting is and has always been a way of life for us. When my brothers and I got older and started bringing in food on the regular, my father quit hunting. Our house was and still is to this day filled with guns, bows, traps, ammo. All for one purpose, eating. I fire a gun dozens of times a year. Either to sight in a gun, to hunt, or to teach. I've got two small kids and they need to know not only how to shoot but that the guns in our house are not toys anymore than the knives in the kitchen, or the matches next to the fireplace. The case is just a quirky way to carry the guns from one place to another. And my assortment of guns has grown to include target shooting guns (I'm not hunting with either an MP5 or AR15) but that in no way affects the reason behind me owning guns.

Tv one5 (author)2013-12-15

Call it a "custom Violinece case"

gabryllo (author)2013-12-15

Thats great! I was searching for cases for my bow, but here in Brazil it's quite hard to find, and extremely expansive. I've tough about making it myself, but never guessed how to do the internal! Once I get a nice case, I'll give it a try! Thanks for the instructable!

Darrell_H (author)2013-12-15

I could see where the original hot melt glue would interfere with installing the Velcro & pop rivets since hard bumpy stuff would get in the way, but how would it have affected inserting the lining? If the retention straps were installed and taped over with painter's tape before the foam was installed, would removing the hot melt glue have been necessary? Or deciding where to positioning the straps at the start to hard to determine?

The thing I would suggest doing differently would be to wrap the big parts with plastic (food wrap, grocery bags, etc. and fully tape over, then place them in the foam when it is first sprayed in so the foam makes a "perfect" better form-fit around the parts. The parts will be cut free during the leveling process, and the remaining holes would only need to be enlarged slightly to make room for the liner. Any small retention holes for tiny parts could be cut from scratch later.

Good job!

TeeDum (author)Darrell_H2013-12-15

The glue that was left on the side wall was a pain when it came time to install the liner and trying to tuck in in behind the foam.

And the first time I tried to foam in the gun, I wrapped my MP5 in newspaper and then completely covered it in painters tape. I lined the case with wax paper and I foamed the case and then pressed the gun down into it. The foam wound up enveloping the gun. It was a huge pain to rove and then after I took it out of the case and cit the gun free, the foam's shape changed and it wouldn't fit back into the case later. It was a mess and I started over. The method shown was practically headache free.

wrsexton (author)Darrell_H2013-12-15

I agree with using the stuff to make the forms. I have made several foam race car seats, That process uses a giant plastic bag, foam beads, resin, and the driver. beads and resin get mixed in the bag, the bag is pushed into place in the car, driver gets pushed into place in the bag. Use a laundry/cleaners bag to lay over the foam, push your stuff down in it. No bubbles and it's easy to glue the fabric to the cleaners bag.

TeeDum (author)wrsexton2013-12-15

I tried that on the first round but the great stuff foam I used didn't cure properly. I think it needs air to cure. After leaving it for three days it was still a slimy non-expanded mess.
I've seen the race seat method on How It's Made. I'd definatley consider that a better alternative.

CEVMarauder (author)Darrell_H2013-12-15

Doing it your way would also allow you to embed pieces of hard plastic/wood /metal anchors where appropriate for the velcro anchor strapping, thus eliminating the random looking riveting on the outside of the case.

Overall, a very neat idea. And for apartment dwellers who have don't have the space for a gun cabinet, a good way to hide your rifle from burglars.

stevenrterry (author)2013-12-15

This is a very nicely done instructable and a great idea. I offer you heaps of praise. My one and only problem is that when closed, the gun rubs against other parts of the gun. This increase wear unnecessarily. Perhaps a thin neoprene sheet, cut to the size of the violin case to keep separate all the important stuff?

M40 (author)2013-12-15

That's sweet, but I think I'll skip the spray foam and furry fabric... I'd just make a big mess! I'll probably go with 3" thick black foam and cut from there. It will avoid a lot of the headaches and make it easier to add cutouts later for other bits of gear, or to alter the cut if I add a laser, a light or other shape changing option.

ccolson1 (author)2013-12-14

If the next 'accidental' shooting happens, and the gun was somehow smuggled in a violin case, we know who to blame, jk. Real awesome

GrfxGawd (author)2013-12-12

Thanks so much for sharing your work. There seems to be some freaky taboo about ANYTHING that features a sharp edge, or lord forbid, and evil black gun! I build guns, I fabricate, I design, and I love it. I really wish I felt free to share what I've done and do, but I don't. I don't feel comfortable here, nor most other places. And frankly, the people that fear this sort of stuff, freak me right out. They scare me into silence. Again, thanks for posting. Hope to see more soon!

flbabyk (author)2013-12-11

Genius!! You've just ensured that my man gets the best present ever for Christmas!!! Very detailed tutorial... And a perfect gift for the steely eyed killer in every man. Thanks so much for sharing your work :)

jmwells (author)2013-12-10

I went a little farther with a guitar case. Laid in a sheet of neoprene first. Then lined the interior with waxed paper. Then placed four long guns, four pistols, ammo, and cleaning supplies inside. Laid over a piece of 5mil plastic drop cloth/tarp. Softened it with a heat gun. Form fitted it to my kit. Then, squirted the foam in. After twenty four hours, turned it out, and reversed it back in. Lined the lid with foam and neoprene. My girlfriend accidentally drop tested it from about twenty feet, into a creek. No damage, very little water infiltration. Good to see someone else likes to recreate history.

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