Making a Road Case for the Ophicleide: Sizing

Case Shell
Bow Pad
Bell Pad
Middle Pad
Top Pad
Bocal Case
Complete Case

The first step after purchasing the outer shell (SKB Golf case) is to figure the best way to position the ophicleide inside the available space. Some primary considerations:

1) The bell should be centered within the tubular cross section of the case and prevented from touching any part of the case's shell.

2) The bottom bow should be centered in the front-to-rear dimension, but if the bocal case is to be included the bow must be held lower in the case (when laid horizontal) to leave room in the upper half of the case; this also will simplify the fabrication of the padding that holds the bow since it will be confined to only half the case.

3) To preserve integrity of the case shell, the aluminum 'valance' of the case should support any internal mounting requirements (brackets, bolts, etc.)

In this photo, the ophicleide is positioned to be centered roughly between the ends of the case. Notice that the stock SKB case includes some foam rubber near the top end. This foam is not useful for padding the instrument but improves the appearance of the case's inside. Some of the foam will need to be cut out in order to fit new padding.
In this photo, it is apparent that the ophicleide's bocal (crook) will not fit inside the case while it is attached to the instrument. This is why the 'bocal case' is required.

To simplify case modification, the bocal case may be eliminated if the bocal is to be carried separately.

On some smaller ophicleides, the bocal might just fit, but be attached bocal can transmit damaging forces to the instrument if it contacts the case shell during transit. It is safer to transport the ophicleide with the bocal removed, regardless of where it is carried.

A good resilient yet firm padding material is needed to support the ophicleide inside the case shell, but the padding must be light weight since a heavy case is no fun to transport, and will also be more likely to suffer more severe blows during handling. The ideal padding material is yet another wonder of modern plastics technology; it is called '2-pound closed-cell crosslinked polyethylene foam', and it comes in 2" and 3" thicknesses, in sheets up to 4 x 5 feet. The usual color is a charcoal-gray as shown in the photo. This material is feather light, will not crumble or compress with age, and is soft against the instrument's surface. It can also be cut and drilled easily with common household tools. While polyethylene cannot be glued (it is actually an advanced form of paraffin wax), the foam versions like this can be attached using either silicon-RTV adhesives or common 'liquid nails' adhesive, or even 'shoe goo' repair cement.

The foam in this photo was purchased from a Milwaukee area company that specialized in cutting and shaping foam rubber. Milcut is located in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, but they will ship this foam almost anywhere (   However, there are suppliers in any industrialized area that sell this product as well.

All photos made using a Kodak DC240 digital camera.

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Copyright Paul Schmidt 2000
added September 2000