Relining a Guitar Case
Relining a guitar case can be a lot of work, but don’t let that scare you off. The results can be worth it as you are about to see.
I recently bought an old 1986 Ibanez RG530 Roadstar II. It came in a generic TKL chip board case. These cases aren’t that great but it served the purpose well enough. The problem I ran into was that the case and the guitar had been in storage for so long that the case lining had soaked up a musty nasty smell that no amount of cleaning or deodorizing could seem to remove. So my only option was to remove all the lining, seal up the chip board and reline the case with new materials. The following steps are the process I followed. I’ve never done this before so this was another learning experience, but it turned out fairly well.
This is what I had to start with.
The first thing I had to do was remove all the lining materials. This was nothing but a faux fur glued in place. It came out pretty easily with pliers and a stiff putty knife.
I used a couple of scrappers to shave the remainder of the glue off the chipboard.
I was honestly a bit surprised by just how cheaply made this whole thing is. These cases run around $120.00 new these days. This one is constructed of a bent wood frame with steel plates to join the halves. The top and bottom panels are nothing but particle board as are the cross members that form the box.
Before proceeding any further with relining the case I wanted to seal up the wood in case there was any residual odor in it. As fire restoration experts will tell you, there is only one thing that will seal just about anything. Shellac.
Shellac is a natural plastic resin made from the droppings of the lac beetle. This liquid version is made by dissolving shellac flake in denatured alcohol. I applied a good heavy coat of shellac using a throw away china bristle chip brush.
Next, I started fitting the padding into the case. I opted to use a 1/4″ thick dense white packing foam. This provided good padding with minimal weight.
I cut the neck rest from a thick block of similar foam. Don’t ask where to get this stuff. I have no idea. My father has been bringing it home from work for years. He services medical equipment and I can only assume the stuff he deals is comes packed in this stuff.
Next I used Loctite spray adhesive, which is a contact cement, to adhere the lining to the foam in the lid. I sprayed a liberal coat on the foam without saturating it. The solvents in aerosol can break down these kinds of foam if you over do it. I also lightly misted the back of the lining. I’m using real velvet here and over applying the adhesive will cause it to wick through the front, ruining the fabric. I carefully laid the fabric in place and pressed it down tight.
Notice how I masked off the edges of the case. If you skip this step you’ll have the lid stuck to the bottom of the case pretty tight the first time you close it.
Next, I placed a drop cloth over the velvet to protect it while I sprayed the bottom half of the case.
Lining the bottom was just like lining the top.
Once the material was in place I trimmed it in around the edges.
Next, I got to work constructing the side panels. I didn’t have foam or velvet long enough to make one band all the way around the case so I made four separate sections. They join at each end of the case and at the cross bar in the center.
I made these by wrapping pieces of foam with velvet.
I then applied beads of Loctite Power Grab construction adhesive to the panels and pressed them into place.
The last photo shows where I joined them. The seam is hardly noticeable.
The previous photo shows the panel before trimming.
This next photo shows the process of spraying the neck support to adhere velvet to it.
I couldn’t get the velvet to stretch into the steep arch in the center and stay in place. It kept popping loose. I ended up having to cut it and place a velvet pad in this area to cover the seams.
The next part of the project involved constructing the box. Unfortunately someone decided to take the camera to a family reunion so I was unable to take photos of the work. It went very much as the rest of the lining process. I did use a piece of black felt on the bottom of the lid instead of more velvet. It gave a better finished appearance. I also had to use nylon webbing to make straps that I riveted into place on the lid and one leg to act as hinges. You can see the results in the following photos.
The straps also act as pulls to open the box.
The next step was to finish lining the lid. To do this I folded a piece of velvet over on it self and sewed a double row of stitches down the middle to create a band.
I pre-joined enough pieces to make one long strip with only one seam at the head of the case. I applied this just like the side panels in the bottom of the case. First though I took the time to staple the strap back in place that keeps the lid from falling open. Make sure to do this before running the lining over the area where it has to staple.
And that completed the project.
Well at least I thought it did. It turns out I have some fixing to do.
I checked the fit of the guitar in the case several times during construction, but in the very end I still ended up with too much padding. The case will close, but puts too much pressure on the neck of the guitar. The neck support is very flexible so I think it’s the structure of the box that is pushing it up too far. Tomorrow I’ll have to cut the lining inside the box, remove some padding and re-glue the lining in place. It won’t be quite as pretty, but it shouldn’t be too noticeable. I guess the lesson is that a shallower box is better than warping the neck of your guitar so when in doubt, make it smaller.
Overall, it turned out pretty well. I learned a lot during this project. The prominent things were that velvet is a real pain to work with, spray adhesive is a mess, and you can do the neatest job in the world and still have to screw it up when the guitar doesn’t quite fit satisfactorily. So watch how much padding you use and do a better job than I did.
Thanks for reading.