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Picture of Build a flightcase pedal board
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I'm going to teach you how to make a flight case for a Boss GT-10 guitar pedal, but you could use these instructions to make a flightcase for any purpose you want, and you'll find it's a lot easier than you thought.

Before I tried to build this case I had absolutely no experience doing anything like this, so if you have no experience than you're perfectly qualified. I have no fancy equipment - the only powered tools I used were a jigsaw and a drill - so you really have nothing holding you back. Before making this project I thought that a flightcase would be very difficult and precise work, but it turns out you can be a lot sloppier than most projects. The pre-made aluminium extrusions cover up all manner of mistakes, so relax, it's going to end up looking amazing.

My case has a patch panel on the back of the inside shelf [pic 3], and a built in cable storage compartment in the lid [pic 4]. It also integrates my wireless receiver so when I set up at a gig I plug the power cable in, plug it into my amp or the house, and I'm done. That's it - my bass case, my pedal case, and two cables - that's all I need.

Materials needed:

- A big sheet of laminated plywood, I used 7mm. You could use non-laminated and paint it, but it is nowhere near as strong.
- Flightcase hardware from Penn Elcom . I'll be detailing what I used as we go through, but there are so many different parts you could use to change the functionality or the aesthetic. I wanted to get the base part of the case (the side with the pedal in) as thin as possible, so that I could still easily hit the buttons with my foot. For that reason I got specific corner pieces and butterfly catches, which I detail in steps 3 and 4.
- Aluminium blind rivets. I used 4.8mm diameter, 9.6mm grip.
- Washers the same size as the rivets.

I haven't given any measurements for the pieces I used because you'll most likely want to customise the box to your specific requirements.

Tools used:

- Jigsaw
- Power drill
- Hacksaw
- Mitre block
- Rivet gun
 
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Step 1: Build a closed box

Picture of Build a closed box
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This is the step that makes all the difference - build a closed box and then cut off the lid. This way you can be sure that the lid and base fit perfectly together, and it also saves you a lot of time. Make sure you glue and clamp it.

When it's fully dried, use masking tape to make a guide for cutting the lid off [pic 3].

You can get all fancy and tape some cardboard on the bottom of your jigsaw so as not to scratch the case, but seriously it's going to last all of one roadtrip before it's scratched to hell so why bother. To start the cut, drill a hole on the tape line that your jigsaw blade can fit through, and start cutting. Don't worry about that original hole, it's going to be covered up by the locking extrusions. And just to prove how easy it is to build a flightcase, it doesn't even matter if your cutting is a bit wobbly - the extrusions in the next step will cover that up!

The last picture is a test fit with my 10B and wireless receiver.

Step 2: Cut the locking and L extrusions

Picture of Cut the locking and L extrusions
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Cut your locking extrusion on a 45 degree angle [pic 2], and fit them on the case. I used a hacksaw for this, but if you had a powered mitre saw that would definitely be the way to go. I can't find the extrusion I used on the site, but it was very similar to E2350 on this page. The important part in my case is that is wasn't very tall, to minimise the height of the base portion of the case.

Once they all match up and look good, you'll need to glue them on. I used something called Liquid Nails, but any sort of construction glue would work fine. Glue them onto both halves of the case, and put the two halves together with some weight on top. That will ensure that the extrusions set without any gaps between the two halves [pic 3].

Next, cut the L extrusions for the edges of the case. I bought mine at the local hardware store, they were very cheap. You don't need to be very accurate about the length, because the ends will be covered up by the corner pieces (did I mention building a flightcase is easy?). If you have a powered mitre saw you'll be golden, but I just used a $2 mitre block and a hacksaw. You'll need some of those cool clamps though [pic 4].

In the last pic you can see how it all looks so far. Note, the L extrusions are just sitting there, no glue for them.

Step 3: Riveting stuff

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Drill some holes and rivet those puppies on. You can see I'm using duct tape to hold the extrusions in place while I drill the holes. You don't need to use washers on the inside for these rivets, they will do a very strong job of gripping just the ply. Yes, I was surprised by this too, but I learnt this from a real flightcase maker. If you want to prove it to yourself, get a scrap bit of ply and rivet a scrap bit of L extrusion on. There is no way in hell you're pulling that L extrusion off.

[pic 2] is the box so far, now for the corner pieces. Elcom part 1064 from this page are the ones I used. I put the "feet" part of them at the rear of the case, so when the handle is at the top, it's sitting on the feet.

Hold a corner onto the case and drill the holes out [pic 3]. I didn't use a pilot hole, the corner piece held the drill bit in place. IMPORTANT: For the holes that are going through the locking extrusion, make sure you only drill through one side of the extrusion and not all the way through! The rivet will grip just fine through one side only.

Rivet on all the corners and step back and admire your work. Looking very sharp indeed!!

Step 4: Installing the butterfly catches and handle

Picture of Installing the butterfly catches and handle
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Now we have to cut some holes for the butterfly catches to go in. I'm using L904 from this page for my catches. Those ones have the smallest small half, which means I can get the base part of my case as thin as possible, so that I can still press the pedal buttons with my foot easily. Measure out the cuts, and just jigsaw through the extrusion and ply [pic 2]. It should look like [pic 3] when you've finished both sides.

Rivet on the butterfly catches. Leave a 1mm gap between the two halves or the catch so that they pull the lid firmly on when you close the case. Rivet the catches on with washers on the inside. For the handle, just put it wherever you want, drill some holes, and rivet again with washers. I put my handle slightly towards the base side, as my pedal is the heaviest thing in the case and I wanted the case to hang vertically from the handle.

That's it for the outside, doesn't it look awesome?

Step 5: Making the interior

Now, onto the inside! This is where we'll probably part ways. My case is specifically for my bass guitar pedal setup, but you can get some ideas from what I've done.

Cable storage compartment

[pic 2] shows the framing for the cable storage. The angle piece is just holding it in place while the glue dries.

Then I just cut a piece of ply for the lid and put some hinges and a catch on. [pic 3] is it completed with some cables inside. The foam you see there is just some temporary I put in for testing, but I ended up never changing it because hey, it worked. :D You might want to do something a little tidier.

Patch panel

And now the really cool part - the patch panel. Since my pedal lives permanently in the case, I need to be able to connect everything up internally, and then connect to my rig or the sound desk via an external patch panel. All the connectors are standard rack components from Proel. They even had a USB connector in that rack format so I used that to give me USB access to the GT-10B.

Cut the back piece and drill some holes [pic 4]. Install parts for the shelf in the base of the case [pic 5]; I just used glue on all this stuff. I put the shelf at the same end as the handle, so that the weight of the GT-10B is at the bottom of the case when you're carrying it. On the left [pic 5] you can see the cutout for the IEC14 power socket (standard computer power socket). This is really really cool because I just plug one cable in (that I keep in the cable storage compartment), and everything on my pedalboard is powered. I suggest you put a power switch on there as well - I didn't, and it gets a bit annoying always plugging and unplugging it.

[pic 6] shows it all wired up. I have two internal power points that I mounted sideways so that big plugpacks will fit properly.

Final touches

All that's left is a bit of finishing off. I used speaker carpet to cover the top of the pedal shelf so that I can stick my stompboxes to it with velcro. I used vinyl from a car upholsterers to go around the outside of the pedal shelf. In [pic 7] you see the back of the case in all its glory, and a closeup of the patch panel in [pic 1]. The connectors are all from Proel. If you look closely, you'll see that the leftmost socket is the USB one. I couldn't believe that they made USB connectors in the patch panel format, but there it is.

I used 10mm closed cell foam around the sides and under the pedal. It's really good stuff - provides a bit of shock absorption and keeps the pedal nice and snug. You can see it in [pic 6], the gray stuff.

Step 6: Finished!

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That's it, you're done!! I've never made anything like this before, but I found it a really fun and surprisingly easy project. I hope this gives you some great ideas on how to build your own pedalboard flightcase. Best of luck!!
Nabil3 years ago
I was shocked when a national company asked 450 US$ for a little case I wanted, because i needed 2 more a lot bigger, so i tried making the little one, and after learning what it takes I also made the 2 big ones :)
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alang (author)  Nabil3 years ago
That's fantastic!!! Love the pics, thanks for posting them. :)
great build! Can't wait to try my own!
sickboy4331 year ago
I was looking into building something like this for a portable booth, you've inspired me to do it like this even more. Just looks more professional ! I'll be sure to post ya some pic's
Thanks a million!!!
cbluze3 years ago
Can you build this using MDF instead of plywood?
alang (author)  cbluze3 years ago
I wouldn't. MDF is nowhere as durable as plywood for the same thickness. It also doesn't handle getting wet very well if you were to spill a beer on your case. With the plastic laminate on it, it might do pretty well, I'm not sure about that. The good thing with the plywood is that if you can find a supplier, you can find it already laminated with the plastic.
sivad23 years ago
Where did you get the laminated plywood for your build? I've been searching the internet and can't find the right stuff. I'm in the process of attempting this but I'd like it to end up as profesional looking as I can make it.
alang (author)  sivad23 years ago
I just went to a company that makes custom flightcases and bought a sheet of plywood from them. Any company that makes the cases or stocks parts for cases will have it.
This is really cool! I really want to get started on it. quick question though: has anyone ever tried to take this through the airport? I Need to know so I can fly out to Canada for a gig and spend an extra $300 on concert goodies.
alang (author)  capt. caveman3 years ago
I've flown internationally with my case several times with no problems. You could install lockable catches if you wanted additional security.
What a great Ible. Just what I needed.

Steve
spawnos37173 years ago
Do I have to design my own case and THEN have the total parts cost or is there an individual price list from Penn Elcom so I know how much I can afford beforehand?
What a great job. I had a question about actually using a rivet tool. Never used one, but I've seen stuff online and it looks as if there are different types, and types of rivets. Could you clarify what you use? Also, does the company, Penn Elcom sell directly to consumers? Their site looks like they are a wholesaler. Another thing, would you have a rough estimate as to what this project cost?

Thanks again. Great stuff. Very inspiring. It's making me want to walk to my garage through the snow and build one now.
Penn Elcom does sell directly to customers.
I am one of the salespeople in the Canadian Division
When it comes to pricing...it all depends on what you are looking for.
There are many options to suit your needs.
Thanks!
alang (author)  dogbitelogos3 years ago
Just a standard hand rivet gun. It cost me $10 I think. Looked like this one: http://www.ldemporium.co.uk/images/68000C.jpg
mgordon123 years ago
Hello. Thank you for posting this how-to!

I am currently gather and pricing materials for my build. I am a little confused about the lid extrusions and the L extrusions. I understand the L extrusion as that is fairly straight forward, but what exactly does the lid extrusion look like? You have a link, but it just goes to the home page.

Much obliged!!

-Matt
alang (author)  mgordon123 years ago
It depends on the size of your ply, but choose any of the "Hybrid Location" extrusions on this page. You put one on the lid and one on the base rotated 180 degrees. Since they are the reverse of each other, they lock into each other. I've updated the instructions with a picture of what the extrusions look like, thanks!

http://www.penn-elcom.com/products/hardware/extrusions/edge-extrusion/58/

Penn Elcom must have deleted the original one I linked to.
abadfart4 years ago
thanks i think build one for my zoom 505 and another for my strat
alang (author)  abadfart3 years ago
Good luck! Send me a pic of it when you're done.
Nabil5 years ago
Thanks for the ible!
Robglacier5 years ago
Hey,  I'm wanting to build something similar as my pedal board and I was wondering about how you dealt with Penn Elcom, did you order through their New Zealand contact in Auckland, or did you do it straight from their website. I live down in Wellington and I can't find any local suppliers either.

Diesel Phoenix?
alang (author)  Robglacier5 years ago
Haha yep :D

I got most of the hardware from http://www.livesound.co.nz/, and a couple of items plus the audio connectors from http://www.jansen.co.nz/.  The L extrusions I just got from Bunnings as it was much cheaper.

John from Livesound was great, really helped me out and gave me a couple of pointers.  They build a lot of roadcases so it was quite cool to have a look around their workshop.
dcribbs1055 years ago
What size are the extruded corner strips?
alang (author)  dcribbs1055 years ago
19mm x 19mm. I got them from Bunnings.
Thanks!
looks like a really, really nice result. if i had money...
alang (author)  sterlingsilver6 years ago
Surprisingly it's not that expensive. A commercially made case in New Zealand would be about $350, and that one cost me $120 for the case materials, and about another $60 for the audio hardware. The plywood was the biggest cost at $80. These are all New Zealand dollars of course.