Musician Tips: Protecting Your Equipment


If you’re like most musicians, you’ve invested several hundred, if not thousands of dollars in musical equipment. This equipment is also responsible for the well-being of your income in many cases. If the gear doesn’t work, then neither do you, and that makes it hard to pay the bills.

In order to protect your car from being totalled, most people have insurance of some form or another. If you own a home, (most don’t) you may be able to obtain a damage in­surance rider for your gear, but the best way to assure a long life for the equipment is to be sure that it doesn’t break down at all. In order to do this, you need to protect the equipment with a case of some type.

Road cases are handy for this type of work, and in many instances can help speed up the load-in and set-up time for the band. Racking up mixers, amplifiers, digital effects, equalizers, etc, will also help elimi­nate ground loops (see January is­sue) and will allow you to hard-wire all of the gear together. You can purchase racks of various strengths from your local music store.

You say you can’t afford to buy a rack or road case? Build your own! You can build a durable, low-cost case or rack with plywood.

Use half-inch or 5/8 inch ply­wood (ACX). The sides are double thickness and glued together. This helps make the handholds more comfortable for whoever gets the job of moving the rack, as well as strengthening the topside joints. If the equipment isn’t very heavy, simply screw it into the side pieces with long sheet metal screws. Use flat washers under the screw heads to protect the rack ears on the equip­ment from scratches. For heavier gear, cut the inside piece back an inch or two, and use aluminum or steel angle to make a rail. Then sim­ply drill and tap the rail with 10-32 screws.

Power amps are very heavy, and require a slightly different ap­proach. Use 5/8 or 3/4 inch ply­wood, and have a metal shop make a frame out of 3/4 inch angle iron. Weld all of the seams. Bolt the frame into the front of the box, putting washers under the bolt heads prevent the wood from being split under pressure. Also use a lock­ washer under the nut drill and tap the steel frame to match your equip­ment requirements.

If you’re talented, build your own ATA type boxes.The parts you will require are available at most music stores. You’ll need aluminum extrusion, plywood, Kydex or ABS Plastics for the sides, corners, latches, contact glue, dished or spring handles, and rivets. (You may also use Ozite carpet for the sides, front, and back.)

First decide on the size of the case. Lay out all sizes on paper, and transfer the plans onto the plywood. be sure that the size of plywood you choose will fit into the extrusion that you use when coupled with the thickness of the covering chosen. Lami­nate the covering onto the plywood with cement, and cut the wood pieces to size. Use the extrusion to join the sides and back together, rivet at least every six inches. Use screws instead of rivets to hold the ball corners to the case. 

Once the sides and back are completed, make cut-outs for the handles. If the rack is going to be filled with heavy equipment, place two handles on each side for better balance. Create cut-outs for the latches, and rivet them in place, fol­lowed by using either screws or riv­ets to hold the handles in place.

The box should be fairly com­plete at this point. Materials are fairly inexpensive, and by using your own time for building, you can save a great deal of money by making your own cases. Cases are like insurance policies, you never really think you need one until it is too late. Don’t realize that you need a case after your gear is damaged or destroyed by the roadies who didn’t have to buy the gear in the first place.

See you next time when we talk about mic techniques for a good PA sound.


Read below for more from the SLUG Archives:

October Feature Band: Commonplace

Record Reviews: November 1989