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Desktop speaker stands for Audioengine A2 speakers - made at Techshop

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Picture of Desktop speaker stands for Audioengine A2 speakers - made at Techshop
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My audiophile friend is giving someone a pair of speakers for a holiday gift. To go with those speakers he came to me to commission a simple pair of speaker stands. The design was pretty open ended, he just wanted them to be heavy, "shiny", match the footprint of the speakers, and look good with the white version of these speakers. This is how I built the speaker stands - and yes, I made it at Techshop.

The first picture is the finished speaker stands on my home computer table, the second picture is a model of the stands with the speakers in Sketchup.

UPDATE 12-18-2012: My friend just sent me a picture of one of the speakers on its stand, pictured last.

This project was a great learning experience for me. I've got a lot of experience working with wood this past year, but really haven't tried many finishing options - this was my first time trying a laquer finish. My results were not perfect, but I think they were pretty good - especially for my first attempt at using laquer. Also, my friend wanted the stands to be "as heavy as possible."  I didn't have a plan for this when I started the project, I just had to improvise a way. I was happy with the results - each stand weighs just over 4 lbs, with the weight evenly distributed so it feels like the wood is just really heavy.

In all, the materials cost ~$35. They took me perhaps 2-3 hours actual labor time to build, spread out over several days to allow time for glue and laquer to fully cure. I also spent a lot more time experimenting with techniques that were new to me.

As always, I'm still a novice woodworker, not a professional, if you have any comments or suggestions to help improve this instructable, please share it in the comments! I love hearing feedback, and want to improve my own work and my instructables.
 
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Step 1: Materials and tools

Materials used

  • Peruvian walnut 26" x 6" x 1"
    • Any wood will work for this project, I just chose peruvian walnut because the dark chocolatey color caught my eye when walking through the lumber yard. I thought it would look good with white speakers.
  • Wood glue (titebond II)
  • Quick set epoxy (ace hardware brand)
  • Lead fishing weights (6oz) x 16
    • I originally planned to use lead or steel buckshot - but there are not many gun shops in San Francisco, so I changed my mind. Lead is the densest, still affordable heavy metal. Iron or steel will also work, they are just a bit lighter than lead. Larger stands can be filled with sand, stone, or any other stable ballast.

Tools used

  • Chop saw
  • Drill press
  • Forstner bit (1.75")
  • 10" screw clamps X 4
  • Random orbital sander

Laquer finishing tools / materials

  • Deft spray laquer (semi-gloss)
  • SC Johnson paste wax
  • Dry sandpaper - 80 grit, 120 grit, 220 grit
  • Wet/dry sandpaper - 400 grit, 600 grit, 800 grit, 1200 grit (use higher grits if available)
  • #0000 steel wool
  • Cotton rags

Step 2: Mill the lumber

Picture of Mill the lumber
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I always buy my lumber rough, because it saves a lot of money and offers a much wider variety than pre-milled lumber. Joint and plane the pieces well, most importantly the faces - later we'll be laminating (gluing) the faces together.

Run one face through the jointer until it is level, then run one edge through the jointer until it is level. Then run the piece through the planer, with the jointed face down on the bed. The thickness doesn't matter, I just wanted to preserve as much material as possible.

Step 3: Cut the wood to size

Picture of Cut the wood to size
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Cutting to size

My friend wanted the speaker stand to closely match the footprint of the speakers he bought. That footprint is 4" X 5.25". I also added an extra 1/4" in both dimensions to allow for rounding over the edges. He also wanted the height of the stands to be about 4" tall - they will be set on the dresser in the recipient's bedroom, and this will place them about ear-height for listeners who are sitting down.

So I cut four ~1" thick pieces to 4.25" X 5.5" for each stand (8 pieces total.) I cut these pieces from two 26" long pieces of lumber. Usually it would be easier and more accurate to rip the long pieces on the table saw before crosscutting, but the table saw was very busy that day - so I made do with the chop/compound miter saw.

Big surprise

When I cut into the wood, I saw white, milky splotches on the end grain. I had no idea what to think about this - I had chosen the wood because it had a nice, dark chocolate color, and couldn't see the white marks in the rough lumber. After looking online, I found out this is common with peruvian walnut  - 30-40% of any given board can have these streaks running through it. At first I was worried, because by themselves, the splotches didn't look so good, but I continued and I'm glad I did.

When I cut the pieces a second time - cutting off the un-jointed edge of the wood, I found that on the edge and face grain, these splotches turn into nice swirly streaks. In the end, I really liked the streaks, especially after I played around with the grain patterns. I'll definitely be using Peruvian walnut in the future to see what else I can do with the streaks.

Step 4: Preparing the top and bottom

Picture of Preparing the top and bottom
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Serendipitous design

At first I was going to make the inside of the block completely hollow, filling it with lead or steel buckshot. I was going to cut out the center of the two middle blocks and give the top and bottom blocks rabbeted "lips" to fit exactly into the center cavity. But then I figured out that it was going to be much harder to fit the pieces together than I originally thought, and I found fishing weights to use instead of buckshot, so I abandoned that design.

However, I was still left with the rabbeted lips on the top and bottom. I thought about just shaving them off and making the whole stand one solid block again - but I kind of liked the look of the twin grooves on the stand (last picture) - so I kept them as decorative features. I cut a 1/8" deep X 3/8" wide rabbet around the whole edge of the bottom and top pieces.

Cutting the rabbets

To make the rabbets, I used a bearing guided rabbeting bit mounted in the router table. The guide bearing makes using this bit really easy - just run the edges of the workpiece against the bearing, and move the bottom of the piece over the bit, and it makes a perfect 3/8" groove along all the sides. When working on the edges, move the workpiece straight over the bit, pressing the edge against the bearing. Be slow and careful when you get to the corners to avoid chipping off pieces.

Step 5: Drill the holes

Keeping things in order

I played with the streak pattern, rearranging the different pieces of the stand until I got a pattern that I liked. Then I made sure to label all the parts to keep track of them. In this step I will be drilling holes to put lead weights into the middle two sections of the stands. I didn't want to accidentally drill into the wrong piece, or drill into the wrong side of a piece, so I labeled them "L" for left and "R" for right, along with "1-2-3-4" for top to bottom pieces, and wrote "drill" on the faces I wanted to drill.

Drilling the holes

To drill the holes I used a forstner bit, which is a special drill bit for making clean, flat bottomed holes.  I wanted the weights to be distributed evenly across the stand, so that no one side would feel lopsided. I used some scrap pieces of MDF cut to the same size as the speaker stand to test the layout of my drill holes.

First I measured the lead weights - each one was just over 1.5" wide, and 5/8" thick. I set the stop on the drill press height gauge for 5/8" and used some pieces of scrap wood as stop blocks. I made test cuts until I could make 4 evenly spaced holes in each piece, then I clamped the stop blocks to make easy, repeatable cuts.

Then I just took each of the four middle blocks, pressed them firmly against the scrap-wood stop blocks, and drilled the holes.

Double checking

After drilling, I test fit weights in the holes. Several holes were JUST a bit to shallow - when I put the pieces together there was a gap between them - so I had to re-drill a few of the holes. If I did this again, I would go ahead drill a little deeper than necessary - there's no harm in drilling just a little more.

Step 6: Prepare the lead weights

Picture of Prepare the lead weights
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Since these lead weights were once fishing lures, they each had brass rings molded into them. These had to come off to fit in the drilled holes. I used a pair of vise grips to grab and rip each ring out of the weight, and then used a hammer to flatten any pieces of metal left over from the ring. Lead is a soft metal, so these were easy to hammer flat.

Step 7: Installing the lead weights

Picture of Installing the lead weights
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Once I made sure all the weights fit, and checked that the blocks fit together nicely with the weights inside, it was time to epoxy them in place. Make sure each weight has a good, strong bond with the wood- because once the stands are put together it would be super annoying to have a weight come loose and rattle around to the music from the speakers.
  1. Squirt a little resin and hardener into each hole
  2. Mix it around, covering the bottom of the hole
  3. Press the weights into the holes
  4. Spread extra epoxy around the sides of the weights, for extra security
  5. Wait until epoxy is set (10 minutes for mine) and the weights feel secure

Step 8: Assemble and glue the stands

Picture of Assemble and glue the stands
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It would be nice to glue all 4 pieces together at once - but even 2 pieces of wood are slippery when glued together, so i figured 4 pieces at once would be asking for trouble. To make sure all the pieces fit together without too much slippage, I glued them up in three stages.
  • First I glued the two weighted mid sections of each stand together, carefully taking my time to align them. Then I clamped them and let the glue set for ~45 minutes
  • Then I glued the tops of the speaker stands on, then re-clamped them and let the glue set again
  • Finally, I glued the bottoms onto the stands, clamped them, and left all the pieces to thoroughly dry.
After the top and bottom pieces had a little time to dry, I ran a putty knife inside the decorative groove to clean up any squeezed-out glue. It's a lot easier to clean out this groove while the glue is still soft and not fully dried.

An hour after the final glue up, I unclamped the whole piece and examined it. I needed to do a little cleanup of course, but all the edges were nicely aligned.

Step 9: Shaping the edges

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Make the pieces flush

I started by sanding the sides with 80 grit sandpaper on the orbital sander to even out small ridges at the glue joints. Be careful when close to the corners, you don't want to round them off with the sander. When the edges are all flush and the faces are flat, take a break from sanding and move onto the router. We'll finish finer sanding later.

Rounding the edges

I decided to round off all the edges using a 3/8" round-over bearing-guided bit. Rounding the top and bottom edges was easy - even the prone-to-splitting end grain cut easily.  The weight of the stand made it very easy to control the cuts. Ease the first corner into the bit until it reaches the guide bearing, then firmly rotate the stand around the guide bearing to cut all edges.

Routing the sides of the stand proved a little more difficult - the groove that I chose to put around the middle of the stands required extra care when moving over the router bit. I started the same way, gently easing the first corner into the bit, against the bearing. But when I came close to the groove, I slowed down and gently pulled the stand away from the router, then lowered it again on the other side of the groove. I did make a mistake with one of the corners - I didn't pull the stand away in time and a piece was chipped off the edge. Luckily it wasn't too big, so I just accepted it, but it's something to be aware of.

If I did this project again, I would skip making the groove earlier, leaving the stands as solid blocks. It's probably easier to add decorative details like the groove after rounding off all the edges.

Step 10: Finishing 1 - sanding

Picture of Finishing 1 - sanding
This is the final step before applying the finish. With the clear laquer finish I am applying, it is very important to prepare the surface well. Imperfections and scratches from sanding instantly become more visible the moment laquer is sprayed on the surface, so it pays to take your time and sand well.

I hand sanded with 80 grit paper, then 120 grit and 220 grit. Sand the whole piece evenly - don't focus too much on one area or sand one face too aggressively, which can harm the nicely rounded corners. I went ahead and sanded both pieces by hand instead of using a power sander.

This step can be tedious, and to be honest I don't think I followed my own advice so well. About most of the surface looked good, but there were a few spots that just didn't get enough attention. The biggest problem was the tell-tale swirls left from my earlier power sanding. I should have taken more time at the beginning with lower grit paper to make sure I erased these swirls.

As you sand, look at and feel the surface carefully to look for scratches from the sandpaper. Each time you move up a grit, you should be erasing the scratches from the previous grit of paper. If you see any persistant scratches, you may need to drop back down to a lower grit to smooth everything out.

Step 11: Finishing 2 - apply the laquer

Picture of Finishing 2 - apply the laquer
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This step is pretty simple - first find a clean location that you don't mind getting a little messy. Make sure that the area you are working in is dust free - even small particles of dust can get stuck in the finish, and are difficult to get out once they land.

Also, make sure the area is well ventilated. Techshop has a spray booth with built in fans for this type of work, but it was occupied at the time - so I just took it to the wide open assembly room. Don't do this in a closed room - the fumes from the laquer disappear quickly, but they are potent. 

I used a spray version of Deft laquer - I chose it because this is a small workpiece, and this is my first time applying a laquer finish, so I wanted the smallest, cheapest container. The laquer can also be brushed on - choose whatever method you are most comfortable with.

Evenly coat all sides of the stand with the laquer. Then wait. The Deft instructions said let it dry for 30 minutes, which was about right. In my case, I sprayed a bit too aggressively - some of the sides had laquer running down them, with drip trails left behind.

At first I was really worried, but then looked online and found an easy solution. These drips are called runs and sags - to avoid them, don't apply the laquer too heavily, and don't move the workpiece while wet. They can be fixed by gently slicing or scraping off the extra dried laquer with a razor blade, as described in the link.

I applied 4 coats of laquer total. I later read articles online that suggest sanding the laquer down with 220 - 320 grit sandpaper, then applying another 4 or more coats. I think it depends on the project - 4 coats worked well for my purposes - if I was making a larger, finer piece of furniture I would probably add more coats.

Step 12: Finishing 3 - polish, polish, polish!

To help me put a shine on my stands, I referred to a great article on Fine Woodworking Magazine (registration required) "High Gloss Finish Made Simple". The author, Sean Clarke, gives step-by-step instructions for bringing a base layer of laquer to a high gloss or semi-gloss finish. In my case, I chose semi-gloss laquer because I'm not a fan of the super glassy look. The process involves wet sanding and then either waxing or polishing the laquer.

Materials

  • Wet/dry sandpaper: 600 grit, 1000 grit, 1500 grit, 2000 grit (I only had access to 400 - 1200 grit sandpaper. This worked well, but finer grits should produce even better results.)
  • Cushioned sanding block (I used an old 'bench cookie' with foam pads)
  • Bowl of water with 1-2 drops of dish soap (to lubricate the sandpaper)
  • Clean, lint-free rags
  • Option 1 - semi-gloss: 0000 steel wool
  • Option 1 - semi-gloss: Paste wax (I used SC Johnson brand)
  • Option 2 - high gloss: Turtle wax automotive polishing compound, available at any auto store.
    • (Alternatively use powdered pumice or rottenstone, available at fine woodworking stores like Woodcraft.)

The basics

  1. Get all materials ready
  2. Put some water on the surface of the workpiece, then start sanding with 600 grit sandpaper
  3. When sanding, use long, firm and straight strokes. Move on when you have dulled the entire surface.
  4. Use progressively finer sandpaper, alternating the direction of the sandpaper with each change of grit. If you started going with the grain, go against the grain with the next grit, then switch back again with the next higher grit.
  5. If the surface starts to dry out, use more water, then continue sanding. Take breaks from sanding to wipe the surface with a rag and look for scratches. Each higher grit of sandpaper should be erasing scratches left by lower grits, leaving ever-finer scratches behind. If you see any persistant scratches, you may need to start over again with a lower grit.
  6. After sanding, the entire surface should be dull, with few shiny spots.
Now it's time to make a choice - do you want a semi-gloss finish, or a high gloss finish? High gloss finishes, when done right, can look like a mirror, with reflections showing on the surface. Semi-gloss finishes are clear and slightly shiny, but still look like natural wood. I chose a semi-gloss finish for my stands.

For a semi-gloss finish

  1. Rub the entire surface with #0000 steel wool, follow the grain using long, firm strokes. The dull, cloudy surface should now start to clear up and show the natural color of the wood beneath. Continue rubbing with the steel wool until the scratches from the sandpaper are gone.
  2. Use a clean, lint free rag to rub paste wax over the entire surface. Again, use long, straight strokes following the grain of the wood.
  3. Allow the wax to dry on the surface until it has a hazy look.
  4. Buff the surface of the stands with a clean rag. You're done!

For a high-gloss finish

  1. Put some water on the surface of the wood
  2. Put some polishing compound on a clean rag, then rub the entire surface of the stands evenly with small, circular strokes. The surface should start to change with just a little polishing, but keep working at it. Add a little more polishing compound and a few drops more water as the old compound starts to dry out. Switch to clean sections of the rag  frequently.
  3. If the rest of the steps were followed correctly, the surface should now start to show a high gloss finish. When the whole surface is shiny, with no lines or scratches, take a clean part of the rag and do one final wipe down of the surface to remove all the polishing compound. You're done!
WhySoSirius2 years ago
This is so cool! Congrats
workislove (author)  WhySoSirius2 years ago
I appreciate it, thank you!
workislove (author) 2 years ago
Thanks a lot, I try to include as much helpful information that I can think of.
This is a really nice post, you did a good job with your photos and your directions were thorough. Thanks for the share, and the tips.