Introduction: DIY Wooden Earbuds
Hey everybody! In this Instructable I'm going to show you how to make your own pair of wooden earbuds. They look great and are really cheap! I got my inspiration to make some DIY earbuds from treyes4 and inspiretomake. However, instead of spent bullet casings, I'm going to be using a block of wood! These can be made cheaply with some basic tools such as sandpaper, a drill, and some good old elbow grease. I cheated a bit and used a couple power tools to assist me along the way tho ;). This project for me was completely free for me, since I just used leftover wood from another project and already had all the other materials and tools on hand. However, you could easily do this project for under $20 if you have most of the basic tools lying around, since you really only need to buy wood and the donor earbuds. Now enough talking, lets get down to business!
Step 1: Materials
For this project, you're gonna need some materials and tools. I put together a list here:
- Wood of choice - I used a Redheart pen blank
- Sacrificial earbuds - mine came with my Samsung Galaxy S5
- Sandpaper for shaping the earbuds - I used 120 grit but you could use a higher or lower if you desire
- Steel wool/finishing pad for after finishing the earbuds
- Finish of your choice - I have a Danish oil finish and a spray lacquer, but there are many other choices for finishes, some which might be better than the ones I used, such as a spray-on polyurethane and CA glue.
- Thin-guage solid core wire for use as a stand while applying the finish :)
- Drill bits - 5/64", 1/4", 25/64" (5/64" bit is to drill a hole for the wire, the 1/4" is for hollowing out the earbud housing, and the 25/64" bit is for the hole for the earbud speaker)
- You can also use a 1/8" bit if you don't have a 5/64" bit, but the wire will be a bit loose going into the earbud. Also, a 3/8" bit will work with a bit of extra sanding for the hole for the speaker.
- Piece of flat aluminum bar to use as a make-shift sanding block
- Crazy glue - for gluing the earbuds back up
- X-Acto knife for disassembling earbuds
- Chop saw - any saw will work really
- Soldering iron
- Belt Sander - this was a huge help with getting the earbuds to the general shape I wanted
- Camera - to take pictures of the polarity of the earbuds before de-soldering
- Music! - all the sanding can be very tedious, don't get bored!
Note:Make sure you work in a well-ventilated area or use a dust mask, the dust from redheart and many other hardwoods can be toxic and also just doesn't smell very good. You're going to be sanding a lot for this project!
Step 2: Disassemble Earbuds
Time to open up those buds! Grab your X-Acto knife and pry along the seams of the earbud housing where the white part meets the silver. These guys really don't want to come apart, so don't be afraid to use some force. I found that it was easiest to open them but cutting in between the speaker and housing and working my way around the entire earbud.
Once you have the speakers separated from the housings, take a picture of the wiring before de-soldering the wires to note the polarity. This will ensure everything works perfectly once you put it all back together!
After de-soldering the speakers, undo the knots in the wires and remove the old plastic housings! Next time we assemble this we're gonna have some beautiful wood housings instead :)
Now we need to find the right size bit to use for drilling the hole for the new housings. To do this, see which size bit fits perfectly snug into the old housing. For these earbuds, a 25/64" bit was the perfect size. For those who don't have this exact size, use a 3/8" bit and just sand the hole until the speaker fits snug inside it. Make sure you don't go too big, you can always sand the hole to make it bigger but you can't add back material!
Step 3: Cutting Wood to Size
This step is pretty self-explanatory, we need to cut the wood to size. This doesn't need to be exact at all. Since I'm making my earbuds the same size as the original housings, I eyeballed the length and cut it on the chop saw. Any saw will work for this, I just used the chop saw because it's the quickest way to cut the pieces to size. You should cut two pieces of the same length, one for each housing. Err on the side of making the pieces a tad longer than the original housing, just to give yourself some room to work.
Step 4: What to Watch For...
Before you start drilling and sanding, I want to give you a couple pointers for this project. I made a couple of these mistakes, so hopefully by being more careful than me you can avoid them!
Mistake #1:Drilling too close to the edge of the block
Since the top of the block is the end grain, it can come apart very easy if you drill too close to the top (See pic #1). You can avoid this by drilling slowly so that the bit doesn't catch or by simply drilling a hole lower on the block. I made this mistake, and there's no real fix for it, you'll need to cut a new piece.
Mistake #2:Drilling too far for the wire
To make a hole for the wire to go through, you have to drill a hole through the bottom of the block. This can be hard to measure, and when using a tiny bit you can make a deep hole quickly without realizing it (Pic #2). I made this mistake too, and the worst thing is you may not realize it until you're already part of the way done with sanding. Unless you're ok with having a hole in the top of your earbud, you'll have to either patch the hole, which probably won't look great, or start over with that housing. To prevent this, drill slowly and check the depth of the hole often. To check the depth, insert a bit smaller than the one you used to make the hole and put your finger where it stops in the hole, then take it out and measure it against the outside of the wood (See pics #3 and #4 if that wasn't clear enough).
Mistake #3: Drilling too close to the side of the block
This one's pretty simple, don't drill too close to the side of the block (Pic #4). If you're not lazy like me, find the center line of the block and drill on that line. Otherwise, just eyeball where the center is and make sure the drill doesn't wander off-center.
Mistake #4: Sanding too much
When sanding the earbud into shape, it can be very easy to sand too much and make the part surrounding the speaker too thin. Since this wall is so thin in the first place, go slowly and check the wall thickness often by inserting the speaker into the housing. I made a pencil mark outlining the speaker so that I knew where to roughly sand the earbud down to (Pic #5). It isn't the end of the world if you sand the housing down too far, but the outside won't be flush with the speaker, which can cause some discomfort and won't look as good.
There are a lot of variables with this project, especially since it is all done by hand. Going carefully and triple-checking your cuts and sanding will eliminate most sources of error. There is a huge sense of accomplishment once you finish a handmade product, it's what I love about this kind of project! Working through your mistakes is what really makes you better and the reward is definitely worth it, so push through it!
Step 5: Drilling Holes
Now that we have the blanks cut, we focus on drilling the holes for the speaker and wire. Use the biggest bit (25/64") to drill a hole at the top of the wood blank. Make sure that you drill the hole perpendicular to the wood so that the hole is straight. Drill about halfway into the blank, then switch to the mid-sized bit (1/4"). Drill halfway through the remaining part of the blank, or a quarter of the way through the entire blank. This is so that the housing can be rounded at the back without sanding through the wood.
Next we need to make a hole for the wire to go through. I used a 5/64" bit because this was exactly the diameter of the wire on my earbuds. You can also use something slightly larger, such as a 3/32" or 1/8" bit, if you don't have that exact size.
Step 6: Rough Shaping
Now that you have the holes drilled, its time to start making this hunk of wood into an earbud!
Start by sanding the face of the block until it is the right depth. To find this depth, use the old plastic housing and sand until the front of the block and the hole for the wire both line up with the old housing.
Next, outline the outside of the speaker on the wood. Then, using the belt sander, sand the sides of the block down to the mark on each side. Also sand the back of the block down so it is close to the hole you made for the wire to go through. Round over the top by rotating the block on the sander to achieve the rough shape that you want.
Once you have the top and sides sanded, use the tip of the belt sander to roughly shape the bottom of the housing. Make sure you leave plenty of wood around the hole for the wire on the bottom so that you don't accidentally sand through the hole. Use the tip of the sander to get the basic shape of the front of the speaker cup as well.
To get the sharp cutoff on the bottom part of the earbud cup, I used the edge of the belt sander. This was much easier than trying to get that sharp corner by hand, which would've taken a lot longer. I got the initial shape by using the tip of the sander and then used the edge to make a sharper cutoff.
Now that we have the rough shape, time to move on to the finer details!
Step 7: Final Shaping
We've just begun with the sanding! If you haven't realized, this project requires a lot of elbow grease!
Take a smallish piece of sandpaper and the piece of flat aluminum bar. By folding the sandpaper around the aluminum, you can make a great tiny sanding block! It's perfect for this project since the earbuds are so small and require a lot of fine sanding. Sand the earbud down into the shape that you desire, in my case I tried to make the new earbud look as much like the old one as possible.
Remember to constantly check to make sure you aren't sanding too much! Place the speaker in its hole often and see what else needs to be sanded.
To make the part below the cup circular, I just folded a piece of sandpaper in half and spun the earbud while holding it in the crease of the sandpaper.
Keep sanding with the sanding block and/or however else you think would work best! Round over the back of the housing and make sure it all looks smooth and has a constant curve.
Step 8: Choosing a Finish
I had two choices for a finish for this project: Danish Oil and a spray lacquer.
To choose which one I wanted to use, I tested each on a couple pieces of scrap Redheart that I had lying around.
I have used the Danish Oil for several other projects and it's a great finish to bring out the natural color in any wood that you finish with it. It also is great if you want to touch the actual wood and brings out that natural feeling. The spray lacquer has a very shiny and hard finish, much like plastic. This hard finish will protect the wood from any drops and dings that it might experience, and so is good for projects that are going to be moved around a lot and subject to some abuse.
I chose the spray lacquer for this project since I wanted to protect the earbuds from any scrapes or rough handling, since they will probably be thrown around from time to time. I also felt that the lacquer showed off the wood the best, since it was very clear and shiny, exhibiting the best qualities of the Redheart. The only trade-off is that you can't feel the natural grain of the wood, but for me that wasn't a priority.
Feel free to use whichever finish you like! I just used what I had available, I'm sure there are many other finishes that would be great for this project as well, so experiment all you like!
Step 9: Final Prep and Applying Finish
Now that you've completely shaped the earbuds, now it's time to polish them and apply the finish!
Start by using the #0000 steel wool to "sand" out any imperfections in the earbud: sanding lines, high spots, etc. You will need to polish the earbud a lot to get it to a nice sheen. Also use the finishing sponge to clear away any dust or debris that may have settled onto the earbud. Once you have made the earbud smooth and reached a nice sheen with just the natural wood, its time to move on to the finish!
Using the piece of solid core wire, insert the wire into the hole for the wire on the earbud. Then coil the bottom in a circle and center the earbud above the circle. By doing this, the earbud should stand on its own. This makes for a great stand to leave the earbud on when the finish is drying.
To start applying the finish, simply pick up the earbud by its base and spray away! It is best to start with light coats, so that the finish doesn't run. Simply lay down as many coats as you would like, I used around 4 or 5 coats but you may want to do more. Remember to apply the finish outside if you are using an aerosol can, since you don't want to breath what's in there!
After each coat, take notice of what the finish says to do. For mine, I waited 30 minutes between coats. After you're done applying the finish, its time to put these puppies back together!
Step 10: Final Assembly!
Now that the earbud housings are finished, it is time to put everything back together!
First, thread the speaker wire through the earbud and pull it out of the speaker hole. Here is where you will choose which housing goes on which side, so take care to make sure each housing is on the side that you want it to be on!
Next, secure the speaker so that we can solder the wires back on. I just used a small vice grip to hold the speaker.
Now, check back at the pictures you took when you disassembled the earbuds to check the polarity of the speakers. If you didn't its not that big of a deal, but its just better to have things put back the same way that they were.
Once you've determined the correct polarity, its time to solder on the wires! Since the speaker contacts and the speaker wire were already tinned from when I removed the wires, there is no need for any solder at all! Just heat up the wire and contact and they should solder together beautifully.
Now that everything is soldered together, make sure to test the earbuds to make sure they work! Plug them in to your phone or laptop and check to make sure sound is coming out of both earbuds. If not, check your soldering and try again! Once you get both speakers working, you can continue.
Tie a knot at the top of the wire next to the speaker now. This is to provide stress relief on the soldered wire when it is yanked on or gets caught on something. It would be a shame if the wire simply pulled out of the earbud after you've glued it all up!
Once you've tied the knot, pull the wire back through the earbud so that you can test fit everything before gluing. If everything fits together well, then you can glue it all up!
Step 11: Success!
Congratulations, you now have the coolest DIY earbuds ever! I think these earbuds look great, and I've already received tons of compliments on them! I have yet to find out how well they hold up to lots of wear and tear, but they seem to be very sturdy and should hold up for a long time. Have fun showing them off to your friends and watch them gaze at your amazing craftsmanship as you look on with satisfaction (just kidding you don't have to boast). Most of all, have fun listening to your favorite tunes through the earbuds that you just built yourself!
If you have any questions about anything, feel free to leave a comment down below or send me a message. I check Instructables all the time looking for new and exciting ideas to try for myself! If you end up making these, please post some images down below, I want to see what everyone else does with this project!
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