How to Make Acoustic Pannels





Introduction: How to Make Acoustic Pannels

About: Generaly confused. Secretly inspired.

Recently I was comissioned to make a test bunch of acoustic pannels, so I documented the process, for myself to remember how I did it (probably I'm going to make more in future), and, probably, for everyone, who's interested to make some of those themselve.

Acoustic pannels are used to cover walls of home cinemas to improve the qualitie of the sound. They prevent the sound waves from bouncing from the wall surface, thus reducing unwanted sound distortions. The other function of soundpannels (rather really secondary one) is to sound insulate the room, thus making the living for everyone outside the home cinema much more calm and.... calm.

Step 1: Designing the Frame

The frame for the pannels is basycally a box. Owerall size (including the thickness of fabric) is 300x300mm, and there's a few variationd of depth: 50, 65, 80,95 mm. 10mm MDF was used to make these boxes, although plywood can be used as well. Ewen thinner material will do, but it requires coresponding changes to the dimmentions of parts.

Step 2:

So, the first thing to do is to cut the details, and since I do not have apropriate tools for doing this, that job was comissioned to the third party workshop. The sheet of paper they produced shows the diagram of cutting the details for 8 pannels out of single sheet of MDF. I'm including it since it may be somewhat usefull for somebody.

The sizes of deatails are shown on pictures represent the base piece and wall pieces of different hight.

Step 3:

For the next step you'll need a router table, I made mine out of scraps of laminated particle board. If you already have a router, look up for how to make a router table on the internet, there's a lot of great tutorials and designs out there.

With the router table you'll have to process the wall pieces, creating open grooves (English is not my first language and I'm not a professional carpenter, so if you can suggest appropriate term for this, just let me know in the comment section). You can see the dimmentions on the 3D diagram picture.

Process all the details, and make sure, you're making grooves on in the same configuration (on the same sides) on each detail.

Step 4:

When you have all wall pieces prepared, it's time to glue the details into boxes.

There's, probably, a bunch of ways you can perform the task according to the variety of tools you're possess. You can apply glue to the details and use pneumatic nail gun to secure the details, for example. But this is what I've came up with.

In the bicycle service workshop I bought a couple of used tires (one was punctured and the other one was torn in large area) It costed me almost nothing. I cut them into ~90cm long strips (one tire gives 4 of them, and it's ok if they're somewhat shorter). Then I glued them into rings using natural rubber based glue (follow the instructions on the package).

Also I cut a bunch of wooden blocks (I have rounded the corners so that they don't puncture the rubber), and made a simple jig out of scrap piece of particle board (drill 4 holes in the corners of ~32cm rectangle, and use nails as pins (or something suitable)).

Step 5:

Here's my set up for the gluing process. And here's the sequence of opperations:

- Insert pins into jig;

- pull the rubber ring onto pins;

- place the bottom piece of the pannel box inside the ring;

- take the wall piece and apply glue onto grooves (mne glue is latex based, but PVA based glue will also do the job (or do your own research));

- assamble the details around the bottom piece (on the last picture two neigbouring walls are shown from underneath; the recess for the bottom is creayed);

- insert wooden blocks between the rubber band and the walls of the pannel;

- remove pins (nails) one by one;

- adjust all the details to put them into place and close the gap;

- put the pannel onto plane surface for the glue to dry.

Here I want to say a few words about the design. There's a lot of ways to make a box like this, but I choose this one because it works perfectly with the way I'm gluing the details. Since the grooves provide self regestering structure I can use only a rubber band to clamp all pieces, because I know thet everything will be square anyway. and won't slide away under preassure. The wooden blocks serve to transfer the dirrection of the force applyed to the sides of the construction instead of it's corners. You can leave the pannels clamped with bands for a couple of hours untill the glue sets up, and then use the bands to clamp the next bunch.

The other advantage of this design is that every detail has the same dimmentions (for each dimmention-type pannel) and can be processed in the same way, which reduces the ammount of opperations. But again, this is my reasoning, and if you feel that something different will work better for you - go your own way.

Glue all the pannels.

Step 6:

After gluing I've been left with these recesses on the corners of the pannel boxes. I used a flush bit trimm those.

Step 7:

In the order for the pannels to work, the boxes has have to be filled with sound insulating material. I'm using 20mm thich acoustic mineral wool (it's denser than regular wool, and, probably, comes in thicker sheets; IDK if you can substitute it with regular mineral wool, make your own research).

To cut the sheets into desired pieces I'm using regular electric kitchen knife that has been installed underneath the table with blade sticking out abowe the table top surface. I made this contraption following Gregarious's instructable: THE BLADE RUNNER MULTI-MATERIAL ELECTRIC KNIFE. I've already had those two board screwed together at a right angle, so I just used them as a fence.

The rectancles I was cutting were a bit larger than the inner dimmentions of the box. I wanted them to fit inside snoggly, without being loose and rattling within.

Step 8:

Insert the wool rectangles to fill the box as close to the rim as posible. Use cut off pieces to fill between layers.

Step 9:

Out of Tyvek fabric cut a bunch (one for each pannel) of rectangular pieces, roughly 36x36cm in size.

Step 10:

Cut the corners off having in mind the rectangle of 30x30cm that fits inside.

Step 11:

Insert Tyvec rectangles into pannels the way shown in the video. Right moves come with practice, so expect it'll be only easyer with time.

The pourpouse of this detail is to create a membrain that prevents the particles of mineral wool escaping the pannel through the cover fabric (it may not be be very tight woven for this), thus creating airborn dust.

Step 12:

I'm not an expert on fabrics, and I was provided with the fabric for work by the person, who comissioned the job, so I'm not giving any recommendations on how to choose it. I believe, you'll be able to easily find this information on the internet or by consulting the right person.

Each pannel has 30x30cm (298x298mm to be precise) in base and the hight of the walls. Add a couple of centimetres to each wall, double that and add the basis to get the lenght of the side of the rectangle of fabric, you need to cut to cover the panel. So, if your pannel is 5cm high, take 7cm (5+2), double it (14cm) and add 30cm. You'll get 44x44cm rectangle of fabric to cut.

Step 13:

To properly stretch the fabric onto the case, put it underneeth the box and align the edges evenly (I mean even distance from the box). Fold then the middle of one side to the back of the box (as shown on the photo) and secure with a stepler, Pull then the opposite side (also on the middle) to create tension and secure the edge of the fabric on the back of the box. Do the same with two othwr sides. Add then two more staples beside the first on on one side. Pull the fabric on opposite side and secure it with staples in corresponding points. The same goes for two othe sides. Leave some clearence at the corners.

Pull the fabric at the corner and create a fold the way shown on the photo. Secure the fold with a staple on the side. Concidere, that at some height the pannel will be visible, so make sure that the staple is positioned pretty low (closer to the bottom). Do all the angles the same way, but take care to position folds on the case in simmetrical order. You can lightly tap the fold at the corner with hammer to flatten the fabric for mor accurate result.

There's a few ways, you can accomplish the fold of fabric on the corners, so I advice to experiment and find out, what looks best for you.

Step 14:

Now, on the photos, I'm showing, that Im cutting the excess fabric on the back of the pannel off. It's definitelly an option, but when I was making the next batch of pannels (the remaining four) I decided not to do so and work with what I had. It resulted in more accurate product eventually, so, once again, it's something for you to decide.

Pull the fabric and secure the edges at the cornes at the back of the pannel with stepler.

At first, whole your upholstering may look a bit sloppy. May this not dicourage you, since if you'll continue, you'll improve really quickly on the qualitie of your job.

Step 15:

One thing, I'm leaving a bit vague at the moment, is the way the pannels are supposed to be afixed onto the wall. At this poin't, I'm awaiting for the approval of the test batch, so that after I'll be able to continue the work ont the design. Newertheless I'm pretty sure, that the French Cleat system is optimal, and this is what will be used eventually (with two lines of connection for each pannel).

In any case, I'm going to update the instructable a bit later with photos, or atleat 3D plans on this part.

Step 16:

So, this is basically it. Obviously, you'll have to make a lot of pannels like this to properly upgrade your home cinema room (they have to cover two side wall completelly (or almost so)). In the future, I'll probably will have to make a lot of them, so I'll probably have some thoughts on making the process more efficient. Also there's some plans on implementing LED lights on the sides of the pannels, so it'll be another instructable.

This is it for now, though. Thanks for your attention, and have a nice cinema.

At the moment I don't have a propper job, and the projects like this is the main souce of income for me... which is not really much. So if you like, the content I'm sharing, please, concidere to support me on Patreon. Alse there's always something I'm creating besides the instructables site, so maybe, you'll find some stuff good for you on my Waldemar Sha Facebook page.

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    I like finding building tips in projects that apply to other projects- great idea, bicycle inner tubes as clamps! I already use them as pads on vices & pliers, thanks for the suggestion.

    1 reply

    You can also wrap details with rope and drive wooden vedges to tighten it.

    Did you compare different materials to see which works the best e.g. mineral wool, yellow or pink building fiberglass, blue foam board from the construction trades?

    1 reply

    What do you mean? Did I install panels in a room, listened ti the music and then change the panels with a different material? No. The mineral wool that was used is meand for this porpouses... Although it makes the panels a bit owerweight, so we'll be trying for different stuff. I, maybe, let you know.


    Unfortunately there is more to this than filling up the walls..

    You are actually fabricating absorbers: the thicker they are, the lower frequencies it will absorb. That means if you fill a wall with this, all this frequency will be absorbed and this creates a frequency uneven sound image.

    If you make absorbers in all thicknesses, it could be ok, except that for the lower frequencies you would end up with meters thick panels.

    Getting rid of the reflections (reflections muddy the sound) could I think be done with hanging a thick curtain on rails against the walls. The advantage of that is that you can open it so not all reflections are killed. If you kill all the reflections, you will get a very unnatural sound.

    So: thin panels = absorption of high frequencies

    thick panels = absorption of lower frequencies.

    You will have to think about the length of the frequencies to estimate what frequencies you are addressing.

    With an audio listening room, it is good to start with treating the first reflection area's. These are the areas on the side walls, ceiling and floor, that reflect the soundwaves from the speakers in a way that they will arrive at your ears after the direct sound. You can use a mirror against the side walls. If you can see the speakerdriver from your listening position, that is the area of the first reflection and you dó want to put some absorbing panels there. A rug on the floor and some panels on the ceiling will make that complete.

    Again, you do not want to make your room sound dead..

    Addressing isolation to the neighbors, and controlling too many low frequencies, that are completely different issues. The first would require low frequency resonating walls, floor and ceiling and is extremely costly (but can be done). 10 % gap in this construction cancels it's effect. Controlling low frequencies is even more difficult. You would need meters deep 'bass traps' to achieve that, or very expensive professional things. If you want to do that your self, it can also be done, but that will use great area from your listening room. Digital filtering will probably be very (cost) effective instead.

    I am not sure if all I wrote is exactly right, but I have been busy with this myself and it is very complex matter, that involve a lot of variables and probably needs measuring your room to do it right. That said: if you love your music, 50% of your sound quality is your listening room.

    Now the instructable was if I read it right meant for a movie room, which may be not as demanding. But before you put in a lot of effort in trying to positively influencing the sound in your room.. start reading.. a lot!

    I did like your very good instructable though and I may very well in time use it for my room..!

    1 reply

    The deeper you dig into the problem, the more of a problem you get. The main porpouce of these pannels is to remove the sound bouncing from hard walls. You can allways take it to the next level if you wish.

    This is a great concept, but it won't do much for soundproofing your space to outside ears. For that, you need a layer of extremely dense, preferably thick material. I've had good results with concrete paneling. Yes, the fiberglass will absorb some of the high frequencies, but the bass will go through the wall as if it were tissue paper. If you add a layer of concrete paneling on the back, then you'd have true soundproofing. Unless you have a very sophisticated amount of engineering skills, it doesn't make a huge difference to use "jagged" shaped surfaces. yes, there are some very expensive foam panels that do that, but they were developed by people with Engineering PhDs over MANY years of trial and error. Basically, all you need to do is have one dense layer to cut the bass, and one padded layer to control the mids and highs. Of course, you also want to make it look good, so the fabric is great for that. There's also something called "sound board" that's kind of like pressed felt but almost an inch thick. It comes in sheets similar to plywood or drywall. It's not terribly expensive.

    1 reply

    Here in Ukraine we usually buil walls otut of bricks with a layer of cement plaster on it (or covered with a drywall afterwards). I guess it goes as dence material.In general, I'd say that it benefits to have soundpannels to soundproff the room, but it's not their primary mission anyway. What about "jagged" surface... I'm not an expert and I won't be deffending this position very much. Maybe it's a purely aestetic thing afterall.

    Interesting project, but I don't understand the whole bicycle tire thing. Is it really necessary? The rock wool does all the work of insulation.

    1 reply

    Well, you have to hold pieces together untill glue sets. You can use nails or a bunch of clamps, but bicycle tires were the cheepest efffective solution for me. Or what did you mean?

    making the pannels bigger will make any difference? they would cover more space without more work to make them.

    4 replies

    30 by 30cm is standart architectural module. A lot of things come in 30x30 dimmentions or in it's increments, like flooring tiles, for example. It's kind of universal thing and it makes sense to follow it in general. You can make pannels 60 by 60cm or 30 by 60, or you can take 15x15cm as module size and play with it. As far as I know, more "jagged" surfaces give some effect, but I'm not an expert. John Heisz makes the pannel pretty big though:, and I believe, Matias Wandel makes them even bigger. But also, purely aestetically it depends of the size of the room and the visual effect you want to achieve.

    Cheers. I suppose the best way is just trying or hiring a sound engineer :)

    When serious about ding your room to improve sound: yes! It is costly, but in time it may be giving you an insight that you can use well to improve and enjoy your music much more.

    It's up to you. I believe, simple research on the internet would be enough to make up your ming, if, ofcours, it's not a HI-END home cinema... then it's better to hire the engineer)

    Really nice looking! I was thinking, as a work-saver, those blocks you put closer to the roof you could simplify them by skipping the frame, and maybe just have four sticks in the corners to stretch the fabric with? And a cross connecting them... Uh, maybe not easier after all. :)

    1 reply

    I didn't get a thing of what you've just suggested. Can you give some pictures, maybe?

    I’m interested in plans for you bench

    1 reply

    Do you mean the table? It really meant to be a table and it's not wery good as a workbench. It's foldable. I've built it out of leftover pieces of laminated particle board from different construction. I had a general idea but I was mostly improvising on a go so I don't have plans for it. I can make a bunch of photos though. Will it do for you?