Introduction: Road Case

About: Part man, part machine -- all awesome!

Purpose: Construct sturdy, durable cases at custom dimensions to protect your gear and equipment while on the road.

All materials were purchased at and assembled at TechShop.

Step 1: Getting Set Up

There are two options when purchasing plywood to make your case.  You may either buy a roll of ABS and spray adhesive from the website listed prior and plywood from your local hardware store, or buy pre-laminated sheets from the website.  If you laminate the sheets yourself, use the correct adhesive or else you run the risk of bubbling, warping, and eventual detachment.  Purchasing the pre-lam costs a bit more for freight shipping.  The choice is yours.

A panel saw is incredibly helpful at this point for dealing with large material, and make sure you have a cut list mapped out so that you don't waste material.  For the smaller pieces a table saw becomes the better tool for the job.  Piece sizes were based off of an interior dimension of the item to be protected plus foam thickness.  Round up a hair to ensure that not only does your item fit in the box, but that you can also get it out again.

Step 2: Cutting Extruded Aluminum

When cutting, a cold saw is going to get the best results.  A horizontal band saw can drift and it is harder to hold the smaller parts with accuracy.  A hot saw will just make a mess of your aluminum. 

Place an uncut piece of U-channel on one of the side pieces, and measure the remainder.  Cut four pieces of the double angle corner extrusion at this length and assemble (but do not connect).  Now measure the full length of each side and cut the U-channel.  While the U-channel will be done with 45º miters, the long dimension (tip to tip) will match the overall length of the case.  The next batch will be corner extrusion to connect the sides to the top (or bottom) of the case.  Measure from the inside edge of your existing set up to determine these dimensions.

Step 3: Cut Notches and Pockets

Before putting this all together, make sure to cut the wood while it's still flat.  A jig saw works well enough, and there are precise measurements on the road case website if you want to make an accurate template.  It can be tricky to see marks on the black ABS, so drawing on the unfinished side might be helpful.

With the notches cut, go back and trim down the aluminum U-channel to match.

The handles for this project were surface mounted, but if you want to do pocket handles mark the location for holes and drill out each corner with a bit large enough to fit a jig saw blade inside.

Step 4: Attaching Corners (part 1)

Corner brackets will not only help to keep your case square, but more importantly physically hold everything together.  There is no glue, brad nails, or screws holding this in place – only rivets.

While a hand rivet gun will technically get the job done, a better quality tool can be worth its weight in gold here.  If you can get a pneumatic riveter, now is the time to splurge.  Otherwise, if you are doing more than one case be prepared for your arms and shoulders to hate you.

TIP: Test drill holes in scrap material to find the absolute smallest drill bit that will still allow a rivet through.  The snugger the fit, the less likely a rivet will blow out (those are a pain).

Step 5: Attaching Corners (part 2)

Ball corners are intended to absorb and deflect impact force.  They also look cool and hide any imperfections on your corners.  Hold the corner snug, drill the first hole, slot a rivet to hold the corner in place, and then drill the rest one at a time.  I prefer to rotate one hole per face, then come around for the second.  On the inside, pull away any wood debris that would impede the washer from easily resting flush against face of the wood.

Step 6: Other Hardware

Attach rubber feet, wheels, or other accessories you need for the bottom.

When attaching the hinges, assemble the case in the closed position and align the hinges along the seam between the two parts.  Optional: you may secure the two parts with straps to ensure they don't shift.  Slot a rivet in each corner of the hinge and carefully test to ensure the lid moves as intended.  Drill out the remaining holes and secure the rivets on the bottom half.  While closed, carefully rotate the case so that it stands up like a book, and attach the other side of the hinges.

Like the hinges, have the case in the closed position when you add the clasps.  If you mess up the pockets for the clasps, don't worry.  A small piece of sheet metal patches everything up nicely.

Slap on some handles.

Step 7: Foam Interior

Using 1/2” foam, line the interior of the case, starting with the bottom.  When measuring the side pieces, make sure the foam is a little shorter than the wall of the case so that it closes fully.

Use 2” foam for filler material where you need to support irregular shaped objects.

Step 8: Label

Bonus: cut out a stencil and label your cases with spray paint.  A laser cutter makes the job quick and easy.

Material Shopping List:
- ABS laminated plywood
- Extruded aluminum for corners
- Extruded aluminum for mated faces
- Edge reinforcement (flat corners)
- Corner protection (ball corners)
- Feet
- Clasps
- Hinges
- Handles
- Rivets and washers
- Foam padding and adhesive