Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Kit Obsession Continues: My Gutted Guitar Case

I admit it. I have a problem.  I love garage sales and thrift stores, and I love re-vamping my face painting kit. The two together can be a deadly combination as I keep finding the PERFECT case for CHEAP! However, I have decided to embrace my obsesssion with re-designing and improving my kit and stop fighting it or feeling bad about it.  With my passion for and education/work background in product design, I am just never going to stop trying to improve my tools and work station! So, the next best thing I can do is share my projects with my fellow kit addicts! ;-)

But before I share, I just can't stress enough that when it comes to kits, one size most certainly does NOT fit all.  My setup may not work for you, and vice versa. The important thing when looking at others' kits is to simply find ideas for storage, and then filter those ideas through your own work style.  When deciding what to put where, think about things like:
  • Where will I be standing and facing while working out of this kit?
  • Where will my customer be standing/sitting or facing while being painted?
  • What items do I use the most, and want closest to me?
  • What items do I want with me, but can be hidden away when not in use?
  • What items am I worried about kids getting their fingers into, and how can I avoid this with their position in my kit?
  • Do I sit or stand when I paint?
  • Where am I most messy when I paint, and will my kit be clean-able?
  • How will everything shift when this is packed up and turned on it's side? Will anything get damaged? If so, how can I protect it?
  • What sort of venues to I work in and what is my transportation to these venues? Is the size and weight practical in these situations?
  • Where is the best place to put personal valuables?
  • What areas of my kit do I want customers to interact with (ie buisness cards, mirror, design menu, etc) and what areas do I want them to stay away from (paints, brushes)? How can I make the boundaries clear to my customers?
  • How permanent do I want everything? Will I move anything from one kit to another, or re-arrange things depending on the type of event?
  • Will my kit need to be able to endure weather such as wind or rain?
  • etc, etc...

If you'd like to look back at some of my other kits, you can see my wood "suitcase" style box kit here, or  my smaller aluminum case kit here!


Last year I found a guitar case for about $20 bucks at Goodwill.  After seeing so many cool guitar case kits on Facebook, I couldn't turn it down.  In the same shopping trip I found a perfect mirror for it, a practice head, AND an ice tube mold (aka brush holder)! Score!

The first thing that had to be done was gutting the case...taking out all the white fur, foam, etc.
Peeling out the fur and foam padding






Fur removed...as much as I could do with my hands 

Removing all of the fur was probably the most time consuming part of this.  Sometimes liners pull right out, and sometimes they are more stubborn.  This step took several days. I had a lot of staples to pull out, and there was a lot of chunky, crusty glue left all over the box. 

Using my dremmel to remove old glue, fur, etc
My dremmel tool (which I purchased just for this project...shhhh, don't tell...I needed one anyway, right?) worked great for quickly removing old glue with the sanding wheel.


The next issue to fix on this beaten up guitar case was the corners.  The corners of your kit will take a lot of abuse, so it is important to make sure they are reinforced.  On my kit, some of the corner molding was missing or cracked.  So, I actually broke off any remaining pieces and realized the corner molding was the only thing really holding this kit together:

Corner molding removed
After taking off the broken molding, however, I still had metal nail heads/rivets all around.  These had to come off to prepare the surface for new molding.






Pulling out old hardware bits

I started with my needlenose pliers, just pulling out whatever I could. Some of these popped out...others needed more help...



Cutting off nail heads with a Dremmel

 The Dremmel tool again? Twice in one project? Yeah, I'd consider it paid for itself now! ;-)  I used the cutting wheel to cut off the rivets that wouldn't pull out. Watch out for sparks!

But beware of cutting metal with your Dremmel as it gets hot....

Accidental carpet "bling!"

Don't do this with little kids in the room ...above is a hot nail head that flew off and melted it's way down into my FLOR carpet square! I now have a few of these little buggers in my studio carpet! ;-)

Now I had to basically re-assemble the thing with new corner guards.  Naturally, my retail fixture design background told me to my faithful friend and supplier of all things hardware: McMaster-Carr.  I ordered some black plastic corner guards with peel-n-stick adhesive backing that matched the remaining corner guards on the case.  This was thin enough that I was able to cut it to length with a pair of scissors, and was able to slip the ends right back under the existing metal corner guards.



New molding!
Okay, now that I have it all gutted and structurally sound, it's time for the best part: making the inside look cool!

I decided to line the inside with adhesive backed black vinyl.  Black because it hides dirt/paint, and vinyl because it is easy to wipe off and can be purchased in huge rolls.  (less seams in your surface means less places for dirt and glitter to collect)

Starting with the corners
I started with the vertical corners. That way I could be sure they were covered, and then when applying the larger sheets I didn't have to worry about there being any gaps in the corners.


cutting around the strap
Then I did the sides of the case, leaving enough to cover the bottom corners too.  Here I am cutting it to fit around the nylon strap before peeling off the backing.

Inside of the lid all covered
Above you can see the completed lid.  Now, this case is already a year old, and I now have my paints transferred to trays and magnets on the back of all my split cakes.  If I were making this kit again, I would put a thin sheet of steel in first (I prefer to peel the face off of a thrift store whiteboard), and then apply my vinyl. This would give me a magnet surface to attach things to.

I don't have a photo of this, but I took out some of those wood dividers. I left the two closest to you in the photo, and took out everything to the left.  That left me with a section just the right size to snugly hold my laptop case, and the narrow section is where I put my stack of screw-together paint jars.  If it doesn't work for your kit, take it out! But if it fits your supplies perfectly, why not use it, right?


Left side: underneath is my TAG laptop case. On top I have more paints, spray bottles and supplies. CENTER: My stack of screw-together paint jars and re-potted Starblends, wrapped in a padded fabric piece I made to cushion them.  RIGHT: Larger, open area to hold supplies and function as my work surface for water, glitter, etc to sit on. 


Vinyl logo
 I utilized the lid of my case to create a huge sign.  All of the letters and paint blobs were hand cut out of colored adhesive-backed vinyl sheets.


Inside my lid I mounted that mirror you saw in the first photo from the thrift store. I decorated the edges with my graffiti patterned duct tape.

Inside the case when packed up

At the time of making this kit, I worked sitting down. So, I needed something that would hold up my kit but at a height that worked for my chairs. I found these great little folding camping stools, which held a lot of weight and were very sturdy. One under each end worked great and they fit inside the kit when not in use (see the greenish-gray pouches on the right side of the case in the above pic)

Stools in use
Of course, the funny thing is, I've only used this kit at one gig and I put it on my folding table. But, these are good stools if I ever don't want to haul my table, or for their original purpose, camping! ;-) I later found a great keyboard stand for $2 at a garage sale that holds the whole kit up higher, which works great for my new director's chair setup.

In the center of the lid I attached a piece of steel from a thrift store, covering the sharp edges with red duct tape, to create a magnetic design menu board...









Magnetic design menu board
 I have a lot of my designs mounted to magnets, so I can attach them here for a menu.  I then attached a piece of clear vinyl with duct tape along the top, and put a magnetic strip along the bottom. This works as a lens to protect my design menu from splashing water, and help hold them in place.


 To the right of my menu I made a custom panel that attaches to the kit with velcro.  It's basically a cardboard rectangle covered in fabric, and then I sewed on elastic strips and velcro strips right through the cardboard.  This is the same thing I did in my smaller aluminum kit, so now I can swap containers and paints from one kit to another using the same velcro.  Check out my aluminum kit post to see more details on how I sewed these custom panels.
I know this box was a lot larger than my previous kits, but I still wanted to keep my ongoing requirement of being able to carry everything I need in one trip from the car.  At this point I already have my tools, table, design board and stands all in one case.  The last piece is my chairs.

Like I said, at this time I was working sitting down. (I now use a director's chair and I stand)  My own chair that I sit in is in a bag with a strap so I throw that over my shoulder. But, the chair I put the kids in is a folding chair from Ikea. Since it has a bent metal bar rather than 4 separate legs, I had a nice bar to connect to. I decided to get a couple little wall hooks at the hardware store and mounted them to one side of the lid, as shown:




Now, I can simply set my chair in those hooks, and use one bungee cord to hold it around the top:

....but then I still needed a way to transport the whole works.  On the other end of the lid I attached a long, metal cabinet handle:


...and on the bottom I attached two (NON swiveling) casters:

 Now I can simply pick it up with one hand and wheel it behind me wherever I go, with my other chair over my shoulder, all in one trip.  Quite a nice setup!

I don't use this kit for birthday parties because I feel like it takes up a lot of real estate for someone's potentially tight living room.  However, I think it's great for larger or longer gigs, and bigger events like festivals where guests are paying per face and you want to wow them with your full smorgasbord of colors. I have taken this to a couple of community baby showers to paint bellies and it was great.  I liked having a surface to work from and a LOT of supplies, all in one handy place.

My belly setup, with the kit sitting on a cloth-covered keyboard stand.
Of course my "regular" kit has already evolved quite a bit since I built this guitar case kit.  I currently still use my smaller aluminum kit to hold all my extras, and a separate box with all my paints in jewelry trays.  It all fits inside a little folding cart. I'm experimenting with some roll-top aluminum camping tables and have switched to a director's chair.  One of these days I'll post my current setup...although, it may be different tomorrow! ;-)

Working on your own custom kit? Be sure to check out our custom kit design section in our shop! We have all sorts of great stuff, including unbreakable plastic mirror sheets, funky duct tape, magnetic tape, Gorilla glue and Velcro!








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