Introduction: Build a Sound Baffle Out of Your Favorite Band's T-shirt for Cheap or Free
This is how to make a sound baffle for your studio, man-cave, practice room, or living room with a t-shirt from your favorite band (or any t-shirt really). I wanted to deaden the sound in my practice room a bit from the bare drywall walls, but I wanted it to be decorative as well. I used stuff I had laying around so there was no cost. All in all it took about 2.5 or 3 hours of work, and some dry time. Here is what I used:
- T-Shirt you don't want to wear anymore or never did because it doesn't fit you to begin with
- Scrap wood, light is good so pine is a great choice
- finish nails (a nail gun of you have access to one)
- wood glue
- foam (from packaging or whatever), cotton stuffing or polyfill might do in a pinch, NOT Styrofoam, soft is good.
- heavy duty staple gun and staples (heavy enough to sink into wood)
- Picture hangers (little metal clips you tack into the back of the frame to hang to the nail)
- foam ribbon (or whatever it is called) OPTIONAL
I just happened to have ALL of this stiff just laying around! Read on!
Step 1: The Idea
A good friend of mine gave me a Jimmy Eat World record and the deal came with a free T-Shirt. The problem? I'm not exactly an XL size.
Here's a selfie for proof.
Step 2: Step One - Scrap Wood
Gather some scrap wood. We will use this to build a frame for the shirt. As you can see, some of this has old paint on it, some cracks and knots. Who cares what it looks like! This will all be hidden under the shirt, so use your ugliest scraps.
I decided that the dimensions of the frame would be 23" tall, 21" wide, and 1.5" thick. In the end I could have probably made it a tiny bit bigger, but it fit comfortably.
I used a table saw to rip the boards lengthwise, and a saber saw to cut them to length. It is a good idea to sand them a little bit to prevent the t-shirt from snagging on any splinters. When you're done, wipe the boards down with a damp rag.
Step 3: Step Two - Bracing
Next, you need corners to brace the frame. I had some little chunks for 2x4 that were perfect. Saw them into corners and make sure they are at perfect right angles. Place them and make sure they fit. Remenber, it doesn't have to be pretty.
Then I put in two cross braces. This will give you something to staple to in the middle.
Step 4: Step Three - Put Together the Frame
ALWAYS use wood glue in this type of scenario. It will strengthen the joints and give you something else holding things together besides tiny finish nails.
Now look at me with my fancy nail gun. Actually it was $20 at Harbor Freight and it sucks. I had to reseat the nails in the magazine nearly every time I shot one. Still, having a nail gun... DIY me 10 years ago would have made fun of DIY me now for it.
Shoot a few nails in each corner with some glue. You're done with the frame!
Now... STOP AND LET IT DRY!. You don't want to get glue all over that t-shirt.
Step 5: Step Four - Add the Cardboard
Next we will attach the cardboard backing. Dampening sound is all about building layers of different densities together. As sound passes through the layers it vibrates each. The layer pressed against it dampens it and prevents it from vibrating, thus killing the sound. High frequencies are killed off easily, whereas low frequencies require layers that are very stiff. I didn't need this one to stop bass, but some low mids would be nice. Cardboard is stiff, and it will be surrounded by foam and cloth to keep it from vibrating.
I used two strips of cardboard and used the stapler to staple it to the frame. Again, not pretty but who cares!
Step 6: Step 5 - Add the Foam Dampening
Next to the foam! First, I was a little worried about wood with just a t-shirt over it. That's a reflection waiting to happen!
I found some foam strip that I used a long time ago for.. uhh.. oh, who remembers what. I slit it down the middle to the right width and stapled it to the sides of the frame. This will also pad the frame edge. Stretch it tight so you don't get wrinkles.
Now, once that's on we can pick foam. I have two types of foam here. Remember, we are trying to make the surface as un-uniform as possible. Ever seen real studio foam? It looks like the dark grey egg crate foam below. That's so the sound reflects in several different directions, scattering the energy into managable, small amounts. So what we don't want to make this whole thing completely even behind the shirt. The frame corners and wood braces will help a bit, but we need to do that with the foam too.
So I fitted together a few different types of foam in different arrangements until I found something that was a bit haphazard looking (doesn't matter!) and then totally forgot to take a picture of it.
Aaand behind these pictures is the reason I need this thing (drum kit). Also some sound dampening blankets I got from Audimute.
Step 7: Final Step - Add the T-shirt
Finally, we add the t-shirt. I so I kinda wished I had made the frame just a quarter inch thicker or wider on each side. The t-shirt was a little loose, but still tight enough. T-shirts are pretty stretchy so there is a good bit of leeway here.
Slide the t-shirt over the frame. Make sure you leave enough room to keep the neck hole from dipping down and being visible. Also leave enough room to do the proper folds at the bottom.
Fold the arms behind and staple to the wood. At the bottom fold the back forward first, then fold the front behind and staple behind. Also, don't catch the front on the left side like I did. Doh!
Finally, add the picture hangers. Tack these into the wood at the top. These are popular on canvas paintings, which this is pretty close to really.
Step 8: You're Done!
Hang it up and enjoy. This was my first one, and I ad-libbed most of the process. No pressure! Hope you enjoyed this tutorial. I plan on testing this one out to see how it performs and modify the process for my next one. Still, this was a great decorative project for being absolutely free!
In hindsight I may have done a few things differently. First, the frame could be a bit bigger. A quarter inch thicker or a little wider. I think I would go for a half inch wider. I also think I would glue the foam to the cardboard to make sure the surfaces held tightly to each other and provided the most dampening. I'd owrried that I might get a little "rattle" betweel layers. Well, I have a few t-shirts laying around. Next time!
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