When I first started making leather harmonica accessories, I knew my first big challenge was making a line of cases meant to hold 6 or 7 diatonics. That turned out to be a greater challenge than I initially imagined. My hat is off to Jeffrey Spoor of the now defunct Cumberland Leather Company for his skills and ingenuity as demonstrated by the legion of happy customers out there who still sport a Spoor-made case.
On initial inspection it seems a simple task to design a leather case that will hold multiple diatonic harmonicas. The decisions that must be made abound. As usual in developing a new product, there is a collision between business (market) and technical parameters. The bottom line goal: make a case that fits the intended purpose that is simple enough to be made inexpensively in terms of my time and the raw materials involved.
Early in my thinking I consulted Master of All Things Harmonica, Richard Sleigh, for his experience with diatonic cases. He quickly mentioned one made of a combination of leather and canvas that all the “old-timers” had but that is no longer in production. He further lamented the fact that this case relied on a patch of Velcro to close its top flap. Richard generously loaned me his dilapidated but beloved canvas/leather case.
When I asked him to detail what he would like to see in a leather case, he went down a line of features. Size was paramount so the harps should stand on their ends. No Velcro. He was concerned that an all-leather case might suffer from a lack of ventilation, noting that he was concerned due to the many kinds of crud and growth he has seen in his harmonica customization business.
I responded by developing what I think are very nice leather multi-harp cases that I feel fulfilled Richard’s criteria.
But, Richard knows what he wants and these high-end suede-lined cases weren’t it. His response, “There’s too much there.” In a way I knew he was right even though these new cases are actually smaller than his canvas example. There’s lots of leather there and even without the harps the case is heavy.
Undaunted, I went back to the drawing board, realizing I was going to have to think “outside the box” if I was going to meet the gauntlet that Richard had thrown down. After some head-scratching I asked him what I would think of a hybrid plastic leather case, one with a plastic divider insert surrounded by a leather case. He had no knee-jerk negative reaction so I began experimenting with my idea of using Kydex, a “thermoplastic” that retains its shape when cooled after heating it.
Here is what I came up with. I believe it is the smallest. lightest multiple diatonic harmonica case extant.
Shown for comparison with Richard’s canvas case (R) and one of my multi-diatonic cases (L). Unfortunately the wide-angle lens distorts its relative size because the new case is closer. Here’s couple more views.
And a top view shows the thinness of the new case.
The secret is the “corrugated” strip of Kydex thermoplastic that makes the dividers between the harmonicas.
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