Intro: Build a Flightcase Pedal Board
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.
- 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.
- Power drill
- Mitre block
- Rivet gun
Step 1: Build a Closed Box
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
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
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
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.
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.
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!
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!!