Portable record players, in their cute little cases, aren’t known for having the best sound. The style is adorable, and if you can find a vintage one, be sure to snap it up. But you can get the same look by making your own DIY suitcase record player. It may not be quite as travel-friendly as a real portable record player, but it’ll sound better, and really, I doubt that most people actually take their record player anywhere, it’s all about the looks.
I’ve admired the looks of Crosley portable record players for a long time. They come in great colors and patterns, and the little cases are so cute. But people say that the sound quality isn’t great, so we decided against getting one of those. We found this one on major sale before the holidays, and bought it kind of on impulse. After we got it home, we discovered that we already had a table that would be perfect for it (a free sidewalk find from years ago), and we were happy with the sound, but there was one slight problem. There’s no cover, so between the cat fur and dust, we were a bit worried about how dirty it might get. Plus, this happens:
I didn’t stage this picture or expect it, I was just taking “before” photos of the record player, and Adventurous jumped right up to check it out.
My original idea was to make a case/cover out of wood and acrylic, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. In the meantime, I got a better idea after I kept walking by a vintage suitcase in our basement. It was left over from our wedding, where we used it to hold cards, and I was storing it until I figured out something to do with it. At some point I wondered whether it would fit on the table, and if the record player would fit inside. “Probably not, that would be too easy,” I thought to myself. But then I measured, and it seemed like everything would fit perfectly. So I dusted off the suitcase, and brought it upstairs to test.
Yep, perfect! But the cords over the side looked messy, and kept the lid from closing completely. So I decided to modify it, and now it looks like this:
For a while Steven and I had been thinking of getting a record player. My parents had one that they’d use occasionally when I was growing up, and I have happy childhood memories of dancing to the soundtracks of old musicals (Mary Poppins was a favorite–I need to find a copy). While I’ve never had a record player of my own, it seemed like it would be fun to listen to and collect old records, especially in this town. Since getting a record player, we’ve discovered that there are at least four dedicated record shops within walking distance of our house, and a couple more places that sell records on the side. Portland hipsters do love their vinyl!
I love how it looks, plus we can close it up whenever we want to protect it from dust. I even made a wiggly little animated gif to demonstrate, ha!
This was a really easy project, but I love the payoff, so here are my instructions and tips for how to do your own DIY suitcase record player conversion.
DIY Suitcase Record Player
Hand vacuum (optional)
1. The first things you need to do are find a vintage suitcase and record player. Decide which one is more important to you, and buy that first. Obviously the suitcase needs to be at least larger than a record. If you’re really hardcore, you could construct your own DIY turntable to fit a suitcase, but that’s too advanced even for me.
I’d probably buy the record player first, and then try to find a vintage suitcase to fit. Choose a record player without a lid, with a detachable power cord with a small end that plugs into the player, and separate speakers. Measure the record player dimensions, write down your measurements, then put your measuring tape in your pocket, and go on the hunt. (Actually, I keep measurements for things I want to search for in Google Keep, so I can just look up the measurements on my phone if I see a likely candidate.) Places to look: Relatives’ attics, thrift stores, garage sales, flea markets, antique and vintage shops, craigslist, Etsy, and eBay.
2. Once you have your suitcase and your record player, you’ll want to make at least one hole. Where you’ll want to put this will depend on your suitcase, and the turntable wiring. My suitcase had a vintage label tag right near where the cords plugged in, so I decided to use that to try to hide my cord hole. My record player has a power supply cord, and four tiny little speaker cords (not shown), and I decided to put them all through one hole. But depending on your cord situation, it may make more sense for you to make multiple holes.
3. After you’ve decided on the hole situation, get ready to drill. Since I was hiding my hole behind a tag, first I took the tag off. The old glue had dried up, so it peeled right up. Pick a drill bit large enough for your cord end. The limiting factor here isn’t the cord itself, but the plug on the end. Since I was covering the hole and it’s a bit tricky to slightly enlarge a hole if necessary, I erred on the larger size. But if I were doing this all over again and I wanted to minimize the hole size, I’d drill a test hole with the smallest feasible drill bit on a thin piece of scrap wood, and test whether the cord would fit before drilling the actual suitcase.
4. First I drilled a hole with a standard 1/8″ bit, and then I drilled the larger hole. I had a set of Forstner bits, so I used one of those for the bigger hole, but a standard bit should also work. Before you do that, though, you should trim the lining fabric so that it isn’t within the drilling radius. I didn’t, and it started to pull and shred the fabric, which didn’t seem good.
5. Check whether your cords fit, then clean up the inside of your case. Vacuum out the wood shavings, and wipe it down.
6. Cover up the hole(s). I removed the cord, then glued the label over the hole with just dabs of glue on each short end, so it’s unattached in the middle. If you don’t have a label to cover your cord holes, you could use a bit of ribbon, make a little pocket (or hide your holes in pockets that are already there), or just leave the holes visible. If you go that route, you might want to paint the hole’s interior to match the lining of the suitcase, so that it’s less noticeable.