Getting quality sound from a home audio setup is easy to achieve with well-built, heavy-duty speaker cabinets, but what about when you want to take that quality sound with you? A portable speaker can allow you to do just that and making your own is a lot less complicated than you might think. This is a guide that is designed to show you how to build a portable speaker box step by step.
What You Need
Before you get started, you will need to gather the materials on the following list:
- 1 speaker driver
- Medium density fiberboard (MDF)
- Wood Glue
- 50+ wood screws
- Black speaker cloth
- Bracing wood. You can get this wood from pallets or other lightweight wood.
- Sandpaper (medium and fine grit)
- Some type of finish (paint, stain, lacquer, etc.)
- A flexible luggage handle
- Insulation. Common fiberglass batt or polyfill.
- Measuring tape
- A square
- A circular saw
- A jigsaw
- A drill
- A screwdriver
How to Do It
There are two schools of thought when it comes to speaker boxes. There are those who favor a sealed box for a more precise and cleaner sound and there are those who want a ported box to get a lot more volume out of their speakers. We will show you how to make a sealed speaker box, and then show you how to modify it to make it a ported box.
1. Sizing Your Box
Before you can build your speaker box, you will need to do some research concerning the resonance of your speaker driver and the volume requirements needed for that particular speaker. Keep in mind that if your box is going to be portable, the size of your speaker will probably need to be less than 6” in diameter. You will find the enclosure volume requirements in the speaker driver’s specifications. A good resource to help you with that can be located here.
2. Measure and Cut the Boards
Once you have a volume calculation to fit your particular speaker, measure the boards and cut them. Typically, you will have a face and back which will be larger to accommodate the diameter of the speaker and the sides, top and bottom will be narrower. In addition, the face and back should fit the exterior dimensions of the speaker box. Be sure to follow the old adage of “measuring twice and cutting once” to be certain that your cuts are accurate. Use the measuring tape and pencil to set the proper length, and then use the square to be certain that the cutting line is exactly straight. Cut these pieces using a circular saw. You will want to use the medium grit sandpaper to clean up the edges after you have made your cuts so that they will fit together better.
3. Position and Cut Speaker Mounting Hole
Determine which board will be the face of the speaker box where you want to mount the speaker. Place that board on a flat surface and determine the location of the speaker on the board. In most cases, it can be centered on the face of the board, which can be determined by drawing a vertical line half the distance from each side edge and a horizontal line half the distance from the top and bottom edge.
Ported Box Alteration
A ported box will need to have the speaker placed in one location and the port in another. You will need to measure and position these two elements with the proper distance between them in order for you ported speaker to work properly.
Cut Holes for Components
Trace around the round portion of each of the components. In most cases, your speakers will come with a cutting template, if they don’t, then be sure to trace inside the mounting tabs of the speaker. If you are installing a port, be sure to trace around the smaller end of the port. Once you have traced the speaker, drill a ½” to ¾” hole, inside the traced line at some point on the circle. Insert the jigsaw blade into this hole, turn it on and follow the line you traced to cut out the hole for your speaker or port. Be sure to clean up your cut with the sandpaper, but do not install the speaker driver at this point.
4. Assemble the Sides of the Box
To assemble the sides of the box, you will drill pilot holes with a countersink bit so that the screws will sink past the surface of the board, but still be solidly attached. The size of the bit and countersink depth will depend upon the size of the screws you use and the depth of their heads. It is best to run a bead of wood glue along the edge of the board you are fastening to in order to have a cleaner fit.
Next, attach the face of the speaker to the box and fasten it in the same way you fastened the sides of the box. Do not attach the back of the box at this time, but do drill a ½” hole about 1 ½ inches in from one of the bottom corners. This will be where your speaker driver wires will leave the speaker.
5. Install the Wood Braces
Cut the pallet boards or pine blocks into pieces about 6” long and ¾” wide. You will need 12 of them. Attach two of them in the bottom right and bottom left corners created by the face and the sides of the box. Screw them into both the face board and the bottom board. Repeat this at the top left and right corners. Use two more braces on the left and two on the right side, evenly spaced to secure the face board to the side boards. Use the remaining 4 braces on each of the side corners to brace the sides of the box more firmly.
6. Apply Your Finish
Apply whatever finish you intend to use on the outside surfaces of the assembled speaker box as well as the back. Make sure that all pieces are completely dry before proceeding to the next step.
7. Attach the Speaker
Drill the necessary pilot holes in the face of the speaker box. Insert the speaker into the hole and firmly attach it in place with the screws. You can go ahead and attach the speaker wires at this point. It is also a pretty good idea to hook your speaker up to your audio system and make certain that everything is working properly up to this point.
Attach the Speaker Port
If you are making a ported speaker, this is the time to slide the port into place and fasten it.
8. Apply Calking
To get an airtight seal, you will want to apply calking along all of the interior edges of the box as well as around where the speaker and port are attached to the face of the box. Make sure the calking is completely dry before moving to the next step.
9. Apply Insulation
Depending upon whether you are making a sealed or ported speaker, you will want to stuff your insulation into the box. Be sure that the speaker wires are in the lower corner adjacent to where you drilled the holes for them in the backboard.
10. Attach the Back of the Speaker
Make sure that you pull the speaker wires through the hole you drilled in the backboard before attaching the backboard to the speaker box. Fasten the backboard into place, but do not use wood glue on the edges. You may need to open the box later and do not need the extra struggle. It is also a good idea to only use about 6 to 8 screws to attach the back to the box for this same reason.
11. Secure the Speaker Cloth in Place
Glue the speaker cloth over the face of the speaker. This is optional, but it is a good idea in order to finish the look and to provide a dust cover over the speaker. A rolled or folded edge will be more attractive.
12. Attach the Carrying Handle
Choose which surface you would prefer to have facing up when you carry the speaker. For a taller speaker, it might be better to attach the handle centered on one side or the other, but you can center it on the top if you like. Once you have chosen the location, drill your pilot holes and fasten the handle to the surface of the box. You now have a truly portable speaker box.
When it comes to wanting to take that premium audio with you to share with your friends, a portable speaker box is a way to go. With the step by step instructions we have just provided, you can build your own sealed or ported speaker box and pump out your premium sound wherever you go. Build your own speaker box, and then share this step by step guide with your friends so they can build one too.
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