Cases: can storage compartment offer additional protection?

April 30, 2022, 11:19 AM · I've been looking for a better case for my viola and narrowed it down to a Bobelock oblong or half-moon case, or maybe the Fiddlerman oblong case.

The half-moon case has a large storage compartment at the bottom under the lower bout. It looks to me like that could give the lower bout some additional protection compared to the oblong case where the lower bout is right up against the outside of the case. Is there any merit to my theory?

Also with the half-moon I'm wondering if the featherlite plywood composite gives the same amount of protection as the 100% plywood.


Replies (14)

Edited: April 30, 2022, 11:28 AM · I'd say every time you have an additional layer of "wall" you get some protection from that. At least from impact from that particular direction. How much protection would depend on the details of the construction and can only be answered by somebody who knows all the details.

As to your second question: it is quite possible that a "super light composite" offers the same stability as good old plywood; possibly even more. But again, you'll have to ask a well informed dealer or the manufacturer to get precise answers.

April 30, 2022, 12:25 PM · I like the storage compartment to the right because it eliminates the risk of damage to the violin by the frog in case I forget to lock the bow spinner.
May 1, 2022, 8:50 PM · Thank you guys for the input. After looking at about 10 gazillion cases I kept coming back to the Bobelock 2048 half-moon in wood. So I ordered it. Very excited!
May 2, 2022, 7:35 AM · Depends which end it gets dropped on. For added protection you can store cookies in the compartment - they'll absorb shock. Since the neck is weaker, a compartment at the neck end is probably best.
May 8, 2022, 2:14 PM · I have had at least two of the oblong bobelocks for viola. The adjustable part holds really well. The case I have now, the adjustable part doesn't stay in place as well which gives me some concern. My viola is larger than 16.5 in which limits the available cases.
May 8, 2022, 8:32 PM · So I went and ordered a wooden Bobelock half-moon viola case from Fisher Violins. Got a great price and a nice personal note from the owner. The case arrived on Friday. I was expecting something nice but didn't expect it to be this nice!

The latch and zippers are so much better quality than the ones on my old case, as is the suspension. It has plenty of storage. Doesn't feel heavy at all. It's so trim and well-balanced that I actually find it easier to carry than my old foam oblong case which weighs less. The bow holders are just close enough together that my short baroque bow fits without falling out. It even came with a string tube which I wasn't expecting.

Very happy with it.

May 10, 2022, 7:31 AM · A compartment on the right leaves each end of the instrument equally protected. Obviously, nothing will help with a car crashing into the case, but for general shocks and dings, lower bout and scroll will each be a few inches away from the outer surface of the case.
May 10, 2022, 6:50 PM · Stephen, the Bobelock rep at Howard Core said much the same thing as you and Albrecht- that the storage compartment below the lower bout gives an extra buffer of protection.

I even like the color. Fisher Violins was out of blue so they substituted wine. It's so pretty. Every time I open my case I just stand there with a silly grin on my face.


Back in the esarly 1970s I participated in a violin master class led by Heifetz's (then) assistant, Claire Hodgkins, a marvelous violinist in her own right (you can see her in the Heifetz 1972 Master Class videos.) On the first day some of us started to put our cases on the floor and she said "no," they had to go on the tables, not even on chairs or other seats, a rule I have rarely broken since.

Iris, a violinist friend of mine (who died in her 90s about 15 years ago) once forgot she had rested her violin case on top of her car's trunk when she went back into her house for something and when she returned to her car to drive off it slid off as she backed down her driveway and it was crushed into "kindling" under a tire. The $25,000 she received from her insurance company was sufficient to look at nice "replacements" at Ifshin Violins, to which I drove her with another violinist friend (the 3 of us used to play string trios together twice annually for the retired nuns who lived in special housing for them at Dominican College (now "University") - but that's another story. So we went together to try out Iris's next violin. She chose a very "well-worn" Vincenzo Panormo, so worn that it was available for the money her insurance had paid, much less than typical prices, even then.** The other violinist and I preferred an early 20th century French violinist that had better high-frequency overtones, but Iris was hard of hearing at her greater age, an affliction I now fully understand, so those overtones were something she no longer heard or cared about.

What was shocking to me was that she had been carrying that rather valuable instrument around in a beginning-student-level "cardboard case" (you must all know what I mean) so that when the car ran over it it had no protection at all. Since then I have been very aware of not only the structural material of cases but the LATCHES - and that is why I am so pleased with the latches on the MUSAFIA cases. I have not done a structural analysis of the Musafia latch and case structure, but instinct tells me that it is designed to reduce shear failure of the lid and might have been able to better protect her original violin because certainly the original case was able to provide no protection at all. Iris did get a much better case for her Panormo!

**Top auction price paid for a V. Panormo is almost $140,000, top auction price when Iris bought hers was about $65,000.

May 11, 2022, 12:42 AM · I think that one of the most important features a latch should have is that it be very obvious if it engaged or not. Some popular latches (Sudhaus for example) may appear latched when they are not; if that occurs and you pick up the case, the violin could tumble out.
Edited: May 11, 2022, 3:30 AM · We were debating keys and combination locks at orchestra. One of Hidersine's viola cases has a combination lock, whereas the violin equivalent doesn't. Some feel that locks are bad because you can lose the key at a crucial moment - I don't know if there's a downside to combination locks. I'd like combination locks to protect the instrument from my Aspergic brother.
May 11, 2022, 2:42 AM · Combination locks would be a good solution if it weren't for the fact that if they break (it's usually the spring that makes the "tongue" flip up) they cannot be user-replaced. I've got a vintage Jaeger Gold Serie in my collection and both locks are broken.
Edited: May 12, 2022, 3:35 PM · Dimitri, my own personal rule is that I don't pick up my case unless it's zipped. My own feeling is that a zipper all the way around the case cover obviates latches and snaps altogether. I totally agree that with many latches, you can't tell whether they're closed or not just by looking at them.

When I was trying violins to buy, many years ago now, one violin that I was considering (a nice French antique with a $15000 asking price) was loaned to me in a battered wreck of a case with a latch that had entirely failed. I mentioned the latch to the owner and he said, oh, it's fine as long as the cover is zipped. He was not the slightest bit concerned.

May 13, 2022, 9:31 PM · Best thing with combination locks is when you are super stressed with a performance/competition and can't remember the darn combination ;)

As for zips, they are a nice extra feeling of security, but I would never fully rely on them, especially really cheap ones, as they can split wide open, I've even had the zipper head just pop clean off, followed by the zipper instantly unzipping.

This is where a belt or strap is nice to have on a case you don't trust.

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