One of my kids has just bought a new keyboard so Dad has been asked to
make a flightcase. Are there any experts out there who can give some advise?
It looks like most commercial flightcases are made by rivetting panels
into Aluminium extrusions, but is there any reason not to simply
fingerjoint the panels and add an external protective trim?
I'm thinking about using 12mm ply for top/bottom and 9mm for the ends
and sides, does this seem reasonable?
Some websites talk about Astroboard and various laminates as an
alternative to ply, are they worth bothering with?
I've found Adam Hall as a supplier of bits but is there anywhere else
that's cheaper? (Either for bits or old flightcases that I can salvage
I used to make dozens of those damned things. Thes exactly how they ARE
Out top quality ones were ply and some sort of fibre board pressed
together with PVA. IN damn great presses. Then that was cut up and glued
The trim was simply applied round the edges and pop riveted on. How the
rivets held in ply I am not sure, but they did,
Then we covered the corners with screwed on corners. ISTR that different
extrusions were used to mate lids to boxes, and expensive clips held the
Best to use te same all round. Then standard extrusins will fit. I think
we used 12 or 15mm.
No idea. We made our own laminates.
Thats who we used. Isd he still around?
Flightcases are NOT cheap,. They run into the hundreds, but if the kit
is being tossed in and out of a transit nightly, they damn well need to
be tough, and that costs money.
If you want something that will take a fork lift at full tilt 15mm or
18mm is neater the mark.
You can do a cheap job with 12mm chip, rounded off, glued and tacked,
covered with leathercloth and with plastic corners. Thats cheap, and
will take light use.
Commercial flighcase manufacturers use the "system" components for
speed. There's no reason not to make a flight case any way you want, if
you have the time.
They weigh less, so are cheaper to transport (for the touring company,
in terms of flights and fuel for trucks), and are splashproof. Again,
do what ever you want.
Adam Hall and Penn Fabrications are the main UK manufacturers.
Penn don't sell direct.
You can buy some flightcase bits from CPC:
Search for "Flight Case Hardware & Fixings" then
click the "show all results" button.
You can buy used flightcases from ebay, but transport costs are usually
I made one for my son 20 years ago out of 9mm ply, and that was to house
a big bugger with lead weighted keys. It was heavy enough to need a sack
trolley to take it any distance. The key is the rivets. Because they go
through the ply rather than fixing to it, you can use thinner materials.
With any luck your son will eventually be able to turn down gigs where
there isn't a piano!
This one also has weighted keys, it weighs 25kg!
I'm still tempted to use finger/comb joints rather than extrusions but
it's going to be a lot of work so I'm beginning to waiver. I presume
these rivets are not the usual pop-rivets but have some sort of head
formed on the back side - is there any more info around about them?
Coincidentally I restored a rather dead split Hammond M101 a few years
ago. Before I started I didn't know what a "tonewheel" was, by the end I
was initimately acquainted :-( Fortunately the plans of gig'ing it were
binned once the brains trust considered the transportation issues!
Its doale, but I am too old now.
Nothing wails quite like a hammond and leslie speaker..especially if you
cut the power to the time wheel ;-)
Fond memories of Keith Emerson jamming down chords with knives in the
keys, flicking the tone wheel switch and dropping the thing a few inches
to make the reverb springs crash..
Blind rivets, and you need the right size for the thickness of material
(plus the extrusion). With ply you also need a pair of steel washers for
each rivet. Screwfix do them, but not sure about the gun. I used a basic
Spiralux something or another which I think I got in one of the sheds.
I'm pretty sure it accepts any length of rivet, but maybe someone has
used one more recently and can confirm that. If you use enough of them I
think you'll get all the strength you need, and the gun is very quick
and easy to use. Joints in 9mm ply aren't really an option.
Teenagers humping keyboards about the country in beat up Lada Estates
with the old man picking up the pieces is now a distant memory for me.
Sufficient to say that all got pinched in the end (including the bloody
Lada would you believe?). Tell him to take up the sax or guitar instead :-)
from The Natural Philosopher contains these words:
Depends what use you're going to put it to. There's a balance between
what will stand a 37 ton truck driving over it on the one hand and what
can actually be carried on the other.
Nine kids, all musicians. Many expensive instruments. Many flights
overseas. Damage only once and that was in a professionally-made cello
case. Instrument survived. Case replaced under instrument insurance
but original repairable.
I've successfully made finger-jointed ply boxes before but it takes
concentration and time to get the accuracy. Extrusions and pop rivets
are getting more tempting by the minute.
It's too late for the advice about sax/guitar, the next job is a case
for the acoustic guitar, then the electric (the sax and violin already
have cases :-) !
BTW, when I was teenager we didn't hump *keyboards* in the country :D
I use a narrow frame of 9mm birch ply around the sides, with big
panels of 6mm birch ply. Using _birch_ ply is important - it's better
quality, stronger and lighter than other plywoods. MDF et al are too
heavy. Chipboard is a joke. If you can't afford it, go with cheap
spruce shuttering plywood and cut round any large voids. Don't use
rainforest ply, it's heavy and weaker. Shop around for plywood - good
suppliers (bigger and more specialist, probably sheetgoods only) sell
you better material for less than other timberyards.
6mm won't let you sit on it. If you intend to hurt it, use 9mm all
round. A keyboard case is tricky anyway, as there's a big gap to span.
Unlike a guitar case, you can't design it with "emergency buffers"
either side of the base of the neck that give you additional support
if someone does decide to use it for step aerobics.
You only need to design for human attack, not forklifts. Forklifts
will spear 25mm ply just as easily as 6mm. If you're designing for
"dropping off the truck", then you need to worry about internal
packing, more than case strength. It's arguable that a frangible case
is a better choice in this case anyway. If you really do need this
level of strength, buy mil-surplus cases from someone like Anchor or
Other laminates are heavier and less strong than birch ply, unless
you're talking about esoterics. Airliner floor panels (glued aluminium
honeycomb) are brilliant, but too thick. Brazed stainless honeycomb is
really nice, but hard to find.
Most cases made with aluminium extrusions are _really_ flimsy, because
their sides are only shallow, sitting in a shallow groove in a shallow
extrusion. The good stuff made from aluminium (decent sized
extrusions) gets very expensive.
For joinery, go with dumb and simple. Screws into corner glue blocks
work fine. They're also less likely to split right apart if dropped on
a corner, even if the joint opens up a bit. IMHO, it's too thin for
biscuits. I make my glue blocks triangular, and about half the
thickness of the inner foam padding. Really high density foam is hard
to find. IMHO neoprene is the best by far, but closed cell
polyethylene (the stuff that feels "soapy") is OK too. Polyurethane
foams (typical soft foams) are of little use. Foam also needs to be
covered with fabric, to avoid wear and shedding crumbs. Shag pile fur
avoids polishing the corners on instruments (only guitarists really
care), but a good corduroy can work too. Radius edges and corners to
avoid sharp edges that wear too easily.
Most DJ shops will sell you fittings over the counter (if you need
one, by yesterday). Maplin used to, but no longer hold stocks in the
Thanks for the detail Andy.
I was thinking of making the internal dimensions 15mm larger than the
keyboard and using blocks and foam to position the keyboard securely. A
detachable top section with blocks that bear down on the end cheeks of
the keyboard; the top section held on to the base with 4 butterfly
catches. Roller blade wheels let-in to one end of the top and a handle
recessed into each end. The idea being that the top comes off the base
so that the keyboard can stay on the base and doesn't need to be lifted
out to be played.
All sensible --- or not?
Is this a Hammond? Wheels sound like more trouble for making it fall
over when stacking kit and of negligible use when carrying it.
Are you going to wheel this thing the length of Heathrow?
Or are you going to hump it out the back of an estate car, up a fire
escape, and through the narrow doors of the pub bog you're playing
in? You _carry_ kit, you don't wheel it. Bands who play places big
enough to let you wheel things have roadies to do it for them.
Firstly, _why_? What's so hard about taking it out? You normally
play a keyboard on a stand, screwed into the base. How's that going to
work with the case in place?
Secondly, if you do this, make the top shallow and the front edge of
it deeper, so that there's no lip on the bottom case anywhere near the
keyboard itself. I can only imagine the annoyance a flat seam line
would cause to a keyboard player. For strength, I'd probably make the
front seam line angled down from each corner, so as to allow full-
height corner blocks.