Tweed Case Wrap Up

In keeping with my intention to construct individually singular builds for my Signature Series guitars, I’ve made certain that the cases are unique to each guitar as well. The Crow, inspired in part by travelling musicians and the escapades depicted in Kerouac’s On the Road, will receive a lacquered, woven-cloth covered hard case. The covering, which is often erroneously refered to as tweed, is actually a twill material familiar to guitarists as the finish used by Fender on their 1950s amplifiers and guitar cases. My reference was a 1940s suitcase that I found in a junk shop in New Hampshire.

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The modern material supplied by the manufacturer was not an acceptable reproduction, so I went about lacquering it myself. I wanted the patina of age and experience that would be a fitting companion to the guitar itself.

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The final touch was to add a hygrometer to monitor the humidity within the case. The gauge was inserted into the case pocket from the outside, which required a pair of pass-throughs to allow the interior air to reach the sampling point on the back of the hygrometer. I used brass grommets to match the rest of the case hardware.

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Here a setting tool is used to crimp the grommet onto the pocket lid. This connects the main chamber of the case to the pocket.

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I combed through my leather selection to find a remnant to use for the case pocket’s pull tab. I’d entertained making the pull something crow or bird-themed, but rejected the idea as too cute and just went with a utilitarian pull tab of brown leather to match the case trim.

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Once trimmed to size and burnished to match, I punched a hole and fastened the pull to the pocket door flap with a brass rivet.

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After the gauge was sealed to the outside with silicone I could insert the pocket into the case. The orientation is such that it can be read easily when the case stands on its end or side.

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Now it was just a matter of fitting everything and screwing the mounting blocks into the case. The inside is finished with red velvet plush and the back of the gauge is covered except for another brass grommet.

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The entire idea is to allow the interior humidity and temperature to be read from the outside. This is particularly useful when the instrument is in a rack with other guitars.

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For an all analog solution, I think it turned out quite well. After living with the results for a few days, it has become so normal to check the readings that I can’t imagine not having it there. The Crow’s nest is ready.

Tweedy Guitar Case for The Crow

For readers of this blog, the idea that The Crow would travel in a tweed suitcase inspired case will come as no surprise. Although tweed-covered cases are a vintage stalwart, the connection here is double deep. I first made the association while reading Kerouac’s On The Road. Carla and I were on a road trip of our own when she photographed me holding my 1940s vintage suitcase. I’d found this beautiful relic in a shop in New Hampshire and just had to have it. It wasn’t until I saw the photo below that I fully connected the dots.

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Crows are scavengers, messengers and harbingers. Like Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty, crows traverse the landscape living on their instincts. The hoboes take to the rails as the crows take to the sky—searching for tomorrow’s answer and a meal. When I saw the photo of the suitcase, I knew that my guitar had to have a case that incorporated this spirit.

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My search for the correct vintage tweed covering came up short. After being assured by phone that the material was an exact duplicate of the lacquered tweed that was used on both vintage luggage and guitar cases (not to mention amplifiers) my material arrived looking pale, sallow and somewhat less than authentic. The only thing to do was to lacquer and age it myself. I cut a few pieces into sample swatches and started mixing up some amber and brown tinted nitro lacquer.

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I started the process slowly, wanting to use as little tint as I could. It took about a half day to get it exactly the way I wanted it—the balance between the number of coats and the yellow to brown ratio. I was almost there, using the actual suitcase as my guide. Finally, a little bit of indigo tint got it just right. That’s the final swatch on the bottom left. Now it’s a matter of spraying out all the material after it is cut to fit the case. The lacquer color and sheen will make it look like it’s already lived a lifetime of adventure on the road. When it’s done maybe I’ll drag it up to the old farm for a portrait.