- Large Styrofoam blocks (enough to fill the suitcase)
- Permanent marker
- Spray adhesive
- Velour fabric
- Tools for cutting and carving Styrofoam, such as a handsaw and serrated knives of various sizes
Many musical instruments are as valuable as they are fragile. This means that for any musician who wants to travel with his instrument, a sturdy, protective case is a must. Although a professionally-made case is always the best option, musicians on a budget, or those who possess an unusual instrument, may need to build their own. Luckily, this can be done with little more than a suitcase and some Styrofoam.
Select a suitcase to serve as the case's outer shell. For the sturdiest possible case, a hard-shell suitcase with latch fasteners is best. Make sure the suitcase is big enough to hold your instrument, or the pieces of your instrument when disassembled.
Strip the inside of the suitcase. This involves removing any straps, pockets, or dividers, leaving just the bare shell.
Fill the suitcase with Styrofoam blocks. Using the handsaw, cut the foam into the right sizes and shapes to fill the suitcase completely, leaving a level edge on the top.
Glue the Styrofoam into the suitcase using spray adhesive. Let dry (this is extremely important to avoid any damage to your instrument).
Lay your instrument (or its disassembled pieces) flat on the top of the Styrofoam. Be sure to lay disassembled pieces as far from one another as possible in order to maximize foam protection.
Use the permanent marker to trace an outline of each instrument piece on the Styrofoam. Draw your line as close to the instrument's edges as possible to ensure a snug fit. Remove the instruments.
Carve spaces in the Styrofoam for your instrument using the outlines as a guide. Shape the bottom of each cavity to conform with the contours of the instrument. Do this by carving a little at a time, placing the instrument in the carved space periodically and checking how it fits with the shape. Use sandpaper for curves and detail work.
Place your instrument in the carved hole and judge how securely it's sitting in place. If it seems to loose in areas, correct the problem by inserting small squares of Styrofoam between the instrument and the edge of the cavity to act as bumpers. Remove the instrument and glue these pieces in place. Let dry.
Carve extra cavities into the Styrofoam for the sake of holding instrument accessories, if desired.
Sweep all scraps and dust from the case.
Cover the Styrofoam with velour and attach using spray adhesive. Press it into all cavities so that it covers all surface area of the carved shape. Let dry and trim the excess fabric from the edges of the case.
If your suitcase lid isn't flat and has space in it, you will need to fill this with Styrofoam as well.