Agave, pitera, magüey - however you call it, its uses can be limitless. At the end of the plant´s life it produces a flower about five meters tall. As the flower slowly dies the stalk becomes a hard, bamboo like exterior and the interior forms into a fibrous cork (like polystyrene foam). The flower can be cut and dried and worked like wood, thus, it is known as the wood of the desert. I live where agave grows seemingly everywhere and I chose a nice hunk of the wood for this contest.
The Agave Wood Personal Theater, or Succulent Sounds (SS) as I call it, balances technology with nature being 100% NATURAL AND VEGAN! It is a modular tablet stand and wireless speaker amplifier, which combined form a personal theater. The speaker amplifier works wirelessly or in charge mode. The tablet stand can be used on the desktop or sits comfortably on the user´s lap, ergonomically raising the pad while straightening the user´s posture with hand rests to the sides of the screen. It truly enhances the user experience.
Agave wood is very strong and lightweight. The SS weighs 1.70kg (3lb 12oz) and stores in a space of 30cm x 15cm x 30cm or 0.0135m^3. If cared for it will last for years and is easy enough to repair with scrap materials from the build. Keep it dry and do not over expose it to direct sunlight. A resourceful craftsman can reproduce this for less than the price of a coffee.
The SS was made from an arms length of agave wood, a small section of dried cactus, nine agave thorns from ends of the leaves, and a homemade wax of carnauba resin, coconut oil and beeswax. That´s it. I used mostly hand tools because this was a first time project (and first Instructable).
I constructed this in three afternoons or about 10 hours. The materials I collected at an earlier time. My tablet is a cheap Leotec and the bluetooth speaker is the NGS Roller Trick - which is actually quite good for $20.
*A word of caution* Always use safety precautions when working with any wood. Wear a mask so you do not inhale sawdust. Wear eye protection so nothing gets in your eyes. Wear gloves for an extra layer of skin when the chisel cuts too fast. I recomend long sleeves and full pants to keep scratchy fibers away. Lastly, take your time and retire when you get tired or frustrated. Agave is not known to be toxic but please protect your health.
Step 1: Materials
*All measurements are in metric.
1. 50cm of dried agave wood 12-15cm in diameter
2. Palm sized piece of dried nopal cactus
3. 9 thorns from the ends of a green agave plant 2.5cm in length
4. Finishing wax: 3 parts coconut oil, 2 parts beeswax and 1 part carnauba resin - heat them in a tin in a warm water bath, mix thoroghly and pour into a plastic container to cool.
5. Computer tablet - I have a Leotec L-Pad Satelilite 16GB
6. NGS Roller Trick wireless bluetooth speaker
Step 2: Tools
1. Wood saw - I used a Japanese Nakaya Kataba
2. Chisels: a variety of large and small chisels
3. Knife or razor blade
6. Bar clamps
7. Sand paper: coarse to fine grit
8. Ruler and square
10. Something long and round for wrapping sandpaper around - I used the handle of a hammer that was round
2. 121mm hole saw
3. 65mm hole saw
4. Dremel - cutoff saw attachment, sand paper shaper attachment, and drill bit
Step 3: Wood Selection
Prior to beginning this project find a dried agave flower. There are many varieties of agave and I used Agave Americana. The flower stalk should be straight and tapering in diameter because with this modular design one section will have to be larger than the other to fit properly. There should be no gaping cracks in the wood, although splitting bark is permitted because underneath all that ugly sunburned wrapping is beautiful hardwood. Also the interior cork should be intact without water damage or rot. I selected the piece considering the largest hole saw I had that measured 121mm. The piece I chose tapered in diameter from 20cm to 10cm.
Step 4: First Cuts
Find the point on the wood where the diameter is roughly 12cm and mark it with a pencil. Clamp the wood in place. Cut on the mark at 90* relative to the length of the wood using a wood saw. I used a Japanese pull saw because the cut is very precise and smooth. Save the scrap piece. Check your cut to make sure the diameter is about 12cm. This is going to be the section for the speaker amplifier.
Next, from the cut measure 20cm with a squared ruler and mark it. Cut it at 90* again. Now you have the speaker section.
Next, find a point on the wood that measures 15cm in diameter and mark it. Cut it at 90* again. I used the scrap piece from the previous cut to visualize how the pieces would fit. From the cut measure 30cm with a squared ruler and mark it. Cut it at 90* again. This is the section for the tablet stand.
Step 5: Peel Off Skin
Use a chisel to remove the flaky bark from both pieces of agave wood. Remove only enough so loose fiber will not cause splinters. A lot of beauty comes from these fibers so work cautiously.
Next, sand the bark with a coarse grit paper. This will make it easier to handle when working with later.
Step 6: Find the Balance of the Stand
This is very important and not complicated. Using the larger piece for the stand, I simply rolled the log on a flat table and waited for it to settle. I checked to make sure it looked right. The log will likely not be perfectly cylindrical and it will have imperfections that will lend themselves to the balance in the end. So do not worry if you are not completely sure, trust yourself.
Next, determine the center of the log along the face (15cm), and measure up from there the length of the radius (about 7.5cm) and mark it. This mark will be used as a reference for drilling the hole for the smaller section to fit into. It does not have to be exact.
Step 7: Drilling the Hole in the Stand
This was the most difficult part for me. Take your time. Using the 12cm scrap piece visualize how the speaker will connect to the stand. I liked it lower from center so the two would sit flat when connected.
Clamp the section for the stand and using the drill and 121mm hole saw cut the hole to the depth of the saw. Try to keep the drill perpendicular to the cut, if it is angled it will cut out an oval shape and the speaker section wont fit correctly. I aimed low.
* The second hole in the picture was for fun. I thought it would make it easier to remove the hole but it was unnecessary.
You may have to cut around the hole if the saw did not cut through the bark entirely, I used a small angled chisel. Using a large chisel work the top and bottom of the hole open, little by little and alternating sides until the cork pops out. One or two taps with a hammer might help. Break it free by pressing the chisel down and away from the center.
Next, use the chisel to clean and flatten the inside. Do not overdo it because the cork is easy to sand down.
Next, sand the interior of the hole with a coarse paper to make smooth.
Step 8: Fitting the Pieces Together
Try fitting the two sections together, keep rotating the speaker until it looks closest to fitting. Mark with a pencil the areas to remove from the edges of the hole. Use a Dremel with a sand paper shaper attachment to remove the markings little by little. The speaker should insert easily and sit level without rocking.
Step 9: Making the Speaker Amplifier
Cutting cylindrical hole for the wireless speaker
Using the smaller agave wood section find the center of the end that will insert into the stand and mark it. Use the 65mm hole saw on its own to mark where to drill and make sure the cut will be centered, this will be the hole where the bluetooth speaker will fit. Using the drill and the 65mm hole saw cut the hole in parallel with the walls of the log. The hole saw I used was 50mm in depth, the same depth as the bluetooth speaker.
Next, use a chisel to remove the cork from the hole working your way down slowly. Sand the hole smooth with a coarse paper.
Cutting a conical hole for acoustic amplification
This part I did by hand with one half of a pair of steel scissors, and yes I used the Dremel to file it into a prison shiv - a good knife would work. Cut into the fibers at an angle from the outer edge reaching the center when the knife is at its deepest point. Cut this way around the entire log, little by little, allowing the fibers to break free as the knife enters deeper towards the center. Once cone is completely cut, pop out the cork.
Connecting the speaker hole to the cone
Use a chisel to poke through the cone to the other side and twist out the cork.
Next, wrap coarse sand paper around the long and round tool, I used the hammer handle and start sanding. Sand the pass through to about 4cm in diameter because the speaker has a diameter of 5cm. The extra lip will hold the speaker in place.
Shaping the conical acoustic amplifier
Using the coarse sand paper and round tool sand some more. The larger the cone the louder the speaker will be like a life guard´s megaphone. Maintaining the angle of the cone sand from the outer edge towards the pass through hole. Make the cone deep enough to nearly reach to the other side. Round the edge of the cork for the sound waves to smoothly exit.
Test the sound with the speaker and become a believer.
Step 10: Cutting the Slot for the Tablet in the Stand
First, measure the tablet for the dimensions of the width for how wide to make the slot and the length for how long to make the slot. My tablet is 1cm in width and 24cm long.
Next, place the stand section against a wall. Using a square, adjust the angle of the stand´s position against the wall until the end of the stand is square to the wall. Do this with the SS as a personal theater. The speaker should also sit square to the wall. The speaker will be square with the slot, so the sound is aimed in the same direction as the screen.
Next, find the high point of the stand while it is sitting square to the wall and mark it. Measure the distance of the mark on the high point from the wall. My mark was 8cm from the wall. Mark the measured distance along the high point while keeping the SS still. I marked the SS at 8cm from the wall and made my mark 24cm long leaving 3cm on ech side. Finally, mark a second line 1cm from the previous and in parallel. This is going to be the piece to cut out for the slot.
Next, using the Dremel with a cut off disc attachment cut into the bark along both lines. Make the cut deep enough to completely cut through the bark. A chisel can be used to make the cut deeper to completely cut through the bark.
Next, with the Dremel using a drill bit attachment make several small holes along the ends of the slot lines. Use a chisel to connect the dots to the previous lines and cut through the bark completely. When the slot is completely cut use a chisel to pop out the section working all sides of the cut free.
Next, measure the tablet for the depth of the slot. My tablet screen has a 2cm border around the edge which is black where the screen ends, therefore, I made the depth of the slot 2cm using a small chisel to remove the cork. Make the slot walls perpendicular to the flat surface the SS is sitting using the chisel and sand away the cork to make it smooth. More cork can be removed from the front of the slot, in order, for the tablet to have an adjustable tilt while sitting in the stand. Sand the slot smooth and test it to make sure the tablet fits and sits correctly.
Step 11: Adapting the Speaker Amplifier for Charge Mode
Carve out a small notch on the bottom of the speaker amplifier (SA) for the usb cord to connect to the wireless speaker for charge mode.
First, find the area on the bottom of the SA where the notch can be hidden when the SA is inserted into the stand. I chose the "3 O´clock" position so the notch hides nicely in the fattest part of the hole cut out in the stand.
Next, with the usb cord attached to the speaker insert the speaker into the SA speaker hole so the usb cord is on the 3 O´clock mark. Trace the outside of the usb cord on the bottom of the SA with a pencil.
Next, using a small chisel slowly remove area marked. Test the usb cord to make sure it fits properly and that the SA sits flat with the speaker inside for charge mode. Sand the notch smooth.
Step 12: Finish Sanding the SS and Wax It
Using medium grit sand paper, sand all the areas of the cork previously worked respecting the dimensions of the hole. Do not take more away than necessary, otherwise, the pieces may not fit properly. Sand down all areas of the bark on both pieces. Repeat this process using a medium and fine grit paper. Make sure to sand smooth the ends of the stand as well, rapid circular motion work best.
Using the homemade wax liberally rub the wax on all exposed areas of the SS (cork and bark).
Next, warm the waxed SS over a flame for the wax to penetrated the surface using quick back and forth passes. Do not let the SS burn by holding it too long in one place. Rub off excess wax with a rag. I did this process three times until the cloth was clean after the final rubbing.
*This method for waxing can be accomplished using the sun instead of fire. Just set it in direct sunlight for an hour while rotating it every 15 minutes and continue the process as described above.
Step 13: Making a Speaker Diffuser Using Nopal Cactus
Separate one layer of the nopal cactus skeleton using a razor blade or knife. This section of cactus should be large enough to fit over the exit of the SA.
Next, using a chisel remove excess fibers on both sides of the cactus. Make the cactus flat on the side that will face inside the SA. Sand both sides of the cactus to remove excess fiber.
Next, using an small angled chisel remove excess fiber from the holes in the cactus to allow for more sound to escape. Enlarge the holes to desired size. Removing excess fiber from the underside of the cactus will make it easier to enlarge the holes because the cactus can be tough when it is thick.
Next, place the diffuser on the SA and mark the circle on the underside. Using scissors cut inside the mark so the diffuser is slightly smaller than the SA. This will help it sit flatter as a personal theater and it will not snag on bed sheets.
Step 14: Attaching the Speaker Diffuser With Agave Thorn Nails
Using a razor or knife make nails from the thorns. Cut away the excess green parts opposite the point. Notch the thorn on two sides with a knife near the flat ends, this is where the diffuser will sit securely.
Next, with the SS pieces fitted together for personal theater mark the SA along the outer edge at 12, 3, 6, and 9 O´clock. Use the square to find 12 and 6. Measure the distance between both markings and divide in two to get the height for 3 and 9 and mark it. Using a ruler, measure the distance between 12 and 3, divide that number in two and extend that point from the ruler to the edge of the SA and mark it. Repeat this for the for the next three markings.
Next, start at 12 O´clock and push the nail into the mark in the area of the SA where there is cork not into the bark. A couple taps with a hammer will help setting the right depth. Be careful to not strike the nail on an angle because it may snap, straight on and light taps are the best. Repeat for the next seven nails in a star pattern, ie 12, 6, 3, 9, and so on. This will properly stretch and space the diffuser.
Finally, pull up on the diffuser until it sits in the notches on the nails. Use a chisel to slowly pry the diffuser up and into place. Adjust all the nails so the diffuser sits an equal distance above the SA.
* The ninth nail I placed in the center to the hole in the stand where the hole saw left a mark. This acts as a guide to place the speaker and will assist in holding it in place when connecting the SA to the stand.
Step 15: Play and Enjoy the Succulent Sounds
You did it!
Viva la revolucion de agave!
*All pictures were edited in iPhoto with the "Enhance" button.