Making speaker boxes isn't anything new, many woodworkers have been doing this for years but in most cases they have been making BIG speaker boxes for LARGE stereo systems. In out case we are going to make small speaker boxes for ... oh, a computer, MP3 Player, an iPod or iPad, a Tablet or even an iPhone if you have the correct adapter. The ones that we made sound at least as good as the the ones that we used as donator speaker boxes, and they look good enough that you can put them out in public and now have to apologize for plastic speakers.
So! the first thing we had to do was to find a suitable set or donator speaker boxes. We wanted something small and of course they needed to "powered speaker", that is, they either needed batteries or a small transformer wall plug to power the speakers.
Of course your BIG speakers for you larger stereo systems do not need to be powered, there is more than enough juice in a full blow stereo system to power the big speakers. We found our donator speakers at a yard sale for, I think about $3.00 There are TONS of these little speakers around some with and some without the transformer plugs, but even if you get one without, you can still get a transformer plug to drive the speakers rather than using batteries all the time. The advantage with the ones that take either batteries OR use the transformer is that you can use these, with batteries, at the beach, at the cabin, hiking, canoeing or whatever.
To start with ... WE CHECKED TO MAKE SURE OUR SPEAKERS WORKED ... and having proven that they did work, we went about uninstalling the speakers and the electronics. Rather than cut wires and re-splice them back together again, we decided to de-solder them (if de-solder is the correct term) but you can do what works best for you.
You need to take the mini speaker boxes apart to get the little printed circuit board out because this is going to help determine the size of you speaker boxes and how you will be holding down the that little circuit board.
Once we had determined the size, we looked for some wood that would stand out. We knew we wanted a contrasting wood for the front and finally settled on some figured maple for the fronts and what looks like American walnut for speaker box carcasses.
Cutting the carcass size is easy, it's just a square box, but early on we had decided we wanted to make what is often called a "floating" front. This is where it appears that the front is not connected to that carcass as their is a small space all around the front part. To make this feature we would need to cut dados in all the carcass parts and on each speaker box, 2 of those dado cuts would need to be stop dados so that the don't show through on the outside of the box.
We tried a few different combinations of slot width and depth, and so variables in the corresponding floating piece that would make the front. We ended up using 2 - 71/4 Freud circular saw blades to cut the dados. We used this because we wanted a narrow dado, but also we wanted a blade that had a small diameter so we could get closer to the ends without cutting through.
After cutting all the dados, we did need to clean out the ends of the stop dados slightly. This was not too difficult with the use of a sharp knife. We then cut our floating piece, the figured maple to what we determined was the correct length and width, then, using a router with a rabbeting bit installed, we cut the rabbets around the edge of this piece. If you are the least bit concerned about this step we suggest you make test piece or two before cutting up your finished, floating pieces because it's hard to make these dimensions without making some test cuts. Once we cut our floating pieces we also had to cut holes in them for the controls, on/off, left/right and the power LED, and of course the hole for the speaker. we made a wooden template for the controls so we could try it to make sure it worked before cutting our floating pieces. Always good to make sure of things.
After making a few minor sanding adjustments, we tried a dry fit of our fronts and boxes and found they fit perfectly, and they looked great too. The next step is to finish the floating piece because once it is glued in place it would be very difficult to finish the floating slot.
When the floating piece was dry, time to glue the boxes together. For this we decided on a 2 part, 5 minute epoxy glue. The reason for this is that we are gluing end grain to long grain and using ordinary carpenters yellow or white glue for this is not recommended. We could also have used something like Gorilla Glue, but with it's gap-filling capabilities, we felt there would be too much clean up after.
Once the glue had set, which was dry and set, which was only about 10 minutes, we could carry on with our build. Next we needed to install the speakers and the little printed circuit board with the controls on it. In our case fit like a glove (a bit of luck involved on our part) and the circuit board fit inside the box and rested nicely on the lower back braces that would hold the wooden back on the speaker boxes.
After testing to make sure everything fit, we sanded the outside of the speaker boxes and finished them with Osmo. This took 3 days because we applied 3 coats which we always allow overnight for each coat to dry and harden before applying the subsequent coats.
Now it's time to install all the components and re-solder the wires back the way they were in the donor boxes. Again, with our build we had some luck on our side and the new speaker boxes worked first time. Unfortunately due to copyright issues, we couldn't play the music we wanted to on the YouTube video and instead opted to use the speakers as our closing clip.
The little speaker boxes look awesome and work great, but not only that, they are unique. There is not another pair like them anywhere ... at least not yet, maybe you will be the one to make pair even better than the ones we made ... and post some pics so we can see them :)
Copyright - Colin Knecht