Creating a Custom Case
- This topic has 16 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 6 years, 8 months ago by Daren.
July 6, 2016 at 10:57 pm #7347
Hello, this is my first post here but I have been enjoying lurking for a bit.
I currently have two melodicas, which I am learning to play by building upon my basic piano background. One is a Hohner Piano 26 and the other is a Suzuki Study 32.
By trade I am a software developer, but I learned carpentry and lapidary work from my grandfather. I also have access to an elaborate fabrication lab through my company.
I want to create a custom wooden casing for my Study 32, with a silver trumpet mouthpiece and maybe some lapidary inlays. I was thinking of doing this with a long cigar box that could have the internals swapped out when the cheaper Study 32 reeds eventually give out.
My question for you, the experts, is on how I should begin to go about this process. Are there any particular considerations I should have in mind when re-casing the Study 32 model?
Also, are there guides to this sort of thing available?
Thanks for your help!
-Gh0stJuly 7, 2016 at 1:49 pm #7351
Welcome, Gh0stC0de. Have you seen this one?
There are a few other cigar box melodicas out there. I searched for a book on making wooden musical instruments and found Making Wood Folk Instruments by Dennis Waring and Handmade Music Factory: The Ultimate Guide to Making Foot-Stompin’ Good Instruments by Mike Orr. I have the latter. Both look pretty good but don’t seem to contain much that would apply specifically to the melodica.
Among cheap melodicas, I like the Study 32. But the idea of building your box around one and swapping it out later sounds inadvisable. It would probably be better to start out with a Suzuki M-32C (or a Yamaha P-32D, which is what Daren used for the Banarsë — to some people’s ears, the Yamaha has somewhat more of an acoustic sound).July 7, 2016 at 4:23 pm #7366
Thanks for the reply, Alan! That Cigar box model is pretty interesting, I hadn’t seen it!
You’re likely correct on swapping the casing to another model being ill advised. I am just loath to take apart a nicer model and possibly harm it with my first attempts.
Instead, I have decided to make a prototype out of pine or basswood with a 3D printed trumpet mouthpiece, of which I have several lying around. I can measure out, laser cut and engrave the case without much work, and then fit the Study 32 internals and plastic mouthpiece into it. I’ll likely leave some extra room for resonance. Then I’ll have a prototype made of cheap materials, and the patterns already made. If it works, I can purchase a nicer model and edit the case parameters accordingly to fit the internals, before repeating the process with more luxurious materials. I’ll likely go with zebra wood.July 7, 2016 at 8:43 pm #7369
As a followup question, can anyone point me toward a model melodica that is easy to re-case? That is to say, I take out the outer housing and still play the melodica, thus guaranteeing it’s ability to play will not be impaired by the operation?
I have all the parts for my planned construction headed to me via amazon, and will post pictures here when I have finished my prototype.July 7, 2016 at 9:17 pm #7370
This is the rule rather than exception among good quality current melodica models. Yamaha Pianicas and metal tray Suzuki Melodions (e.g., the M-32C) are especially well suited for your project, in my view, because of their solid construction inside and out. Another consideration, though, is the spit valve mechanism, which definitely has to be adapted to the wooden casing. This may be easier to do with one melodica than another, depending on your design. A notorious defect of the most well known wood-cased melodica, the Mylodica, is that it (either the alto or soprano model) has no moisture vent, which creates a problem for the wood and more generally. I have the soprano Mylodica, which contains the works of a Suzuki S-32C, but the vent exit is simply sealed off.
The Mylodica is also bulky and angular, as wooden “cigar box” melodicas typically are. It is highly desirable to make the wooden case as trim and comfortable to be held in the left hand as is feasible within the limits allowed by other design imperatives. The Banarsë and Bruno’s wooden P-37D incorporate wood into their design without bulk and (it appears) undue weight. I can’t tell for sure, but the tray of Bruno’s model looks like the original plastic rather than wood.July 8, 2016 at 4:02 pm #7371
Thanks for all of this information! I decided to look into the Yamaha models on your advice. Lo, and behold, I found an amazingly detailed and incredibly helpful amazon review written by… Alan Brinton! The pictures of the disassembled instrument were exceedingly helpful. I see where I can affix this to a wooden casing with a slightly oversized resonating chamber, and where I can machine a spit valve to operate properly without interfering with my planned placement of the piezoelectric pickups. I’m excited to start getting machine to wood on this later this month!July 8, 2016 at 4:29 pm #7372
This is an exciting project for which you are obviously well equipped, Gh0stC0de! I’ll be enthusiastic about hearing how it goes. I probably should go update that review.July 10, 2016 at 11:30 am #7380DarenKeymaster
This sounds great Gh0stC0de.
Good advice from Alan already. When I made a plywood casing for my P32D, I just wanted to see what it sounded like, so I followed the design of the plastic case to a certain extent, replacing it with wood.
The spit valve mechanism, or ‘moisture release valve’ as we say in England, would be complicated to replicate, and inadvisable anyway, because it simply releases moisture into the inside of the casing, where it has to drain away. This is a bit messy, but would also be damaging to a wooden case.
You can just cut off that section, and route it out to the end of the instrument, like some of the Hohners.
Feel free to ask for advice and feedback along the way via the forum – this is something we’re all very interested in!July 10, 2016 at 1:52 pm #7383
I hadn’t thought about that issue with the moisture release mechanism. It’s worth also considering the Suzuki M-32C, which has a superior mechanism, the rocker arm that Suzuki has been using for many years. For it to work smoothly, though, the end piece in which it sits should be slightly rounded.
I’d like to see someone try encasing (in wood) a 25 key melodica. The best options would be the Yamaha P-25F Pianica or the Suzuki A-25C Melodion — same as Kawai 25-A but not in production since 1991, but I have an extra Kawai 25-A willing to donate itself to scientific research if someone is interested. The A-25-C/25-A is very similar to the current M-32C and is durable enough that it remains comparably functional.July 11, 2016 at 7:40 pm #7389
Thanks for the feedback, Daren! Your #D printed Melodica is an amazing piece of work, I’m a fan! Do you recall the name of the Hohner models that have the moisture release running to the end of the instrument like you mentioned? I’ll look one over and take cues from it.
Alan, what are the measurements on the Kawai 25-A? I have some very nice quality cigar boxes that may fit them, with the addition of a piezoelectric pickup and some guitar strap mushroom pegs it could be a fun project to tackle before the longer process of fabricating a housing from stock wood, seeing as the cigar boxes are already made and just need cutting and drilling.July 11, 2016 at 8:24 pm #7392July 12, 2016 at 3:16 am #7403DarenKeymaster
It’s a very simple cap, just like a toothpaste cap. Any that have a cap at the end, like this, use this mechanism. It’s the simplest way of opening and closing the tube if you’re going down the DIY route…July 12, 2016 at 4:22 am #7404
The Suzuki Pro-37v2 has the same kind of arrangement. You just remove the cap, blow out excess moisture, and replace it.July 12, 2016 at 7:31 pm #7412
Gh0stC0de — If you’d like to try encasing my extra Kawai 25-A, my email address is available in my Melodica World profile. It’s tuned to A=441.July 13, 2016 at 8:12 pm #7416
My Yamaha just came in the mail yesterday evening, along with the trombone mouthpiece, guitar strap pegs, and piezoelectric pickups I had ordered for the project. All that’s left is sourcing the wood and measuring out a design. I’ll post progress here once I start actually routing wood pieces out.
Alan, I’ll see how much justice I can do my new Yamaha before I inquire further about the Kawai-25.
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