Thursday, January 30, 2014

Re-carpeting Your Old Flight Cases

Buenos dias, amigos!

Flight cases are a staple of the professional music world, and they are used to transport and protect countless items that are needed for performances everywhere you look. They are custom made by companies such as Anvil, Calzone and Jan-Al, and they are ungodly expensive to buy new. But they are worth every penny.

I have quite a few that I use for shows that I put on, transporting cables, mixers, wireless systems, computer monitors, microphones and amplifiers. I picked up most of mine from Craigslist, often paying 10 to 25% of what they cost new. But, many times the foam inside has gone bad (crumbly or sticky), or is not configured how I want it to be, which can be a drag.

But I hardly ever fly with them or transport really fragile things, so I usually tear the foam out and line them with carpet. This makes for a neat appearance and actually frees up a lot more room inside the cases. As a public service, I thought it would be nice to share my technique for fixing up my old flight cases.

1. Tear the old foam out and clean up the insides. This is the worst part. It is best to go slowly and tear out the foam in big chunks. Remaining bits can be removed with a razor blade scraper and possibly some rough sandpaper. It does not have to look perfect, but get the surfaces as flat as you can. When you are done, give the insides a once-over with a shop vac to get all the little bits out.

2. Spray paint all of the corners and edges. This is a nice-to-do item, as it is nearly impossible to get the carpet cut close enough to the edges so that the light-colored plywood does not show through. I use black semi-gloss spray paint in all of the corners and on the edges that the carpet butts up against. If you don’t have spray paint you can use a Sharpie around the edges after you are all done, but it will be a hassle and will not look as good.

3. Cut the carpet to fit. I use rolls of gray indoor/outdoor carpet that I get from Lowe’s or Home Depot. They come in rolls of 6 feet by 8 feet, and cost about 20 bucks. This carpet is durable and looks classy, and each roll will do quite a few cases (I think I got 5 cases out of my last roll). Get a flat surface, such as a folding table) to work on, so you do not have to spread the carpet out on the floor while you work. I use a contractor’s straight-edge to get even edges, and trim the carpet with a box cutter or a pair of industrial scissors. Fit all of your pieces up in the case before your start gluing, because if something does not fit it is really messy to undo your mistakes once it is all stuck together. I usually trim the carpet so it extends up to the extruded aluminum around the opening edges.

4. Glue the carpet in. I use 3M Super 77 Spray Adhesive which has been an automotive upholsterer standby for ages. It runs about ten bucks per can also from Lowe’s or Home Depot. Make sure you are in a well-ventilated area with no open flames when you use this stuff, and wear a mask, disposable gloves and eye protection. The glue will go everywhere, so wear old clothes and put down some newspapers while keeping this process away from any items you do not want glue on. DO NOT SPRAY THE GLUE OUTSIDE ON A WINDY DAY. I only apply the glue to the back of the carpet, not the inside of the flight case, and I make sure that I get the glue all the way to the edges of the fabric. After waiting a minute or two it is ok to lay the carpet in the box, lining up the edges carefully and trying not to get any wrinkles in the fabric. It is a good idea to wear disposable gloves during this phase of construction too.

That is about it. It is a good idea to leave the case open for a day or two so it can air out because it will smell like spray paint and glue for a while. By the way, leaving it out in the sun speeds this process up a bit. I hope this helps, and drop me a line if you have any questions.


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