Building a $45 Eurorack

I’ve now taken the first Eurorack step by building a rack case. Cost, about $45.

I don’t have a long term plan, because I don’t know how my interests and enthusiasms are going to evolve, and I won’t know until I do some hands on exploration.

So I’m planning for the short term instead. For instance, the rack itself. If you’re designing a system you need to know how big to make it. You need to know if you want a flat shallow skiff or an upright cabinet, something portable or something massive, and so on. But for the long term, I don’t know those things. So, designing for the short term, it makes sense to me to put something together that’s enough to get me started without putting lots of money or time or effort into something I might not decide is what I want.

Something small and inexpensive, then. And in my head, inexpensive means don’t buy it, build it. In particular, build using surplus or reclaimed materials where possible.

All right then. I was somewhat inspired by Molten Music Technology’s video in which he made a “case” out of two rails and two pieces of corrugated cardboard cut from a carton. That’s a bit too primitive, though, so I did not use corrugated cardboard. I used corrugated plastic. It’s good stuff to work with: it’s lightweight, it’s durable, it cuts easily, and best of all, it’s absolutely free especially on the first Wednesday in November (and by reclaiming a sign, you keep it out of the waste stream, so it’s ecologically good). It doesn’t take most adhesives really well, but for a low stress application like this CA or epoxy work well enough, and Gorilla tape is good too.

I’d been thinking of starting off with just the ADSR and power supply module, then saving up and adding another module in a few months, maybe another one or two later in the year. At that rate, with the Mother-32 taking up 60 out of 84 HP on the rails, I’d start hurting for space in about a year. But then I got an unexpected gift in the form of a check (thanks sister!) and couldn’t resist spending it on an oscillator module. And then I realized it’d make sense for the next modules to be some inexpensive utilities, which I won’t have to save up very long to get. So that time scale gets several months shorter, and maybe, I decided, it’d make more sense to leave the Mother-32 in its case and save the whole 84 HP for added modules. I designed a case that would allow that with a small footprint, having a space for the Moog (and ribbon controller interface) down below and the Eurorack rails above.

Oh, the rails. There’s a story. TipTop Audio sells one form of 84 HP rails for $40. Synthrotek sells another for $18. Different but both quite usable. No brainer, right? Well, here’s a complication. Synthrotek is run by an idiot who thinks an image of a serial rapist is good to use for a promotion and isn’t interested in doing business with people who are offended by that. And I’m not interested in doing business with them. So then I spent a couple hours chasing down other sources of 84 HP rails and slide nuts or threaded inserts and screws before finally deciding, you know what? Once you pay for these and shipping charges for each, you’re probably not saving all that much money over buying the TipTop rails, especially if you order them along with a module that puts you over the threshold for free shipping. Not enough to be worth the hassle, anyway.

So I spent $40 on the rails, and used about maybe $5 worth of screws, Gorilla tape, epoxy, and the self adhesive black vinyl that covers over the yard sale etc. messages on the Coroplast to make my Eurorack case.

It won’t win any beauty contests, and who knows how long it’ll hold up, but I think it’ll be good enough to keep me going long enough to figure out what I want for the longer term.

Now I just have to work on those modules.

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