Introduction: Steampunk Bluetooth Speakers
My wife wanted a Bluetooth speaker for Christmas and I wanted to get her a good sounding unit, but those cost around $200.00 or more. Our personal Christmas budget for each other does not cover that, so what did I do? I built one for around $35.00. I started by looking at other instructables then decided to modify and use a cheepy set and settled on an Emerson™ Bluetooth® Wireless Bar Speaker ($20.00) from BigLots and while it sounded good for $20.00 it did have a rather anemic sound compared to a $200.00 unit and not the best looking design. As an artist and Steampunk enthusiast I knew that I could build something better. Here is my build log and hope that you can learn something or at least take something away from it. This is my first Instructable if you have constructive comments please add them.
The Steampunk genre for me includes an element of reuse and recycling of lost and forgotten elements. Not only can you save money but I really enjoy hunting out odd elements for my works. For this project, I reused the Emerson speaker I bought, I also found elements at the local thrift store (speakers), the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore (wood, and misc. hardware), and my local Ace Hardware, a great location for those hard to find hardware bits, (brass sheet, copper brads, brass rivets, etc.) You can also find all these items online or at your local hobby/hardware shops. Please give your local shops a chance *BUY LOCAL* whenever possible.
There are a lot of great Instructables out there for Bluetooth speakers; I have included some links below of some of the builds that influenced my design. For some of the finishing touches I followed some of the great Instructables on this site, I have included links for you below, these particular Instructables will be linked to in the log at the appropriate steps as well.
https://www.instructables.com/id/Small-Portable-Speaker-Covered-With-Wool/ (A FANTASTIC! Build)
Step 1: What You'll Need
As I stated before I tried to find items for this build used or at my local shops, but all of these items can be found online If needed. I did not get a chance to take a picture of all the materials, tools, and electronics before the build but have included a picture of all the individual parts included in the build.
Here is a list of parts I used:
- Bluetooth module - Taken from the Emerson with (3.5mm Auxiliary Ready & Mini USB Charge Plug) This unit also includes and LED that *BLINKS* while waiting for a pairing and *GlOWS* blue while playing and red while charging.
- LG Li-Ion 3.7V 900mAh Cell phone battery (taken from an old Trackphone)
-2 - 2" Logitech speakers from the X-530 5.1 system (Thrift Store) 7.4W @ 4Ω - Frequency response: 40Hz - 20kHz
-Passive Radiator speaker from Emerson speaker unit, (the one located in the Polaroid® Bluetooth Wireless Speaker) Is a better constructed speaker.
- Wood Sheet - 1/4 MDF maple veneer sheet (ReStore)
- Brass Sheet - .010 X 6INW X 12INL (Ace Hardware)
- Copper Cut Tacks (Ace)
- Double Cap Rivets (Ace)
- Watco Danish Oil (Ace)
- %100 Pure Silicon Caulking
- AMAZING GOOP® ADHESIVE
- Oil Paint
- Spray Satin Clear Coat
- Spray Paint
- Modge Podge
- Misc. Wire
- Sander / Sand Paper
- Misc. small tools (scissors, screw drivers, hobby knife, etc.)
- Glue gun
- I used a metal punch for some of the holes in the brass sheet.
- Soldering Iron
- Laser Printer
- Router (Optional)
Step 2: The Build
The Emerson Bluetooth unit that I bought was a pain to take apart I ended up cutting a chunk of the case away ( I figured the halves had been glued together) I was wrong and found the screws located under the grill. If you get this unit, or one like it just pop off the grill and remove the screws the unit then just comes apart.
As you can see in the picture this unit came with two 1", 3w 4Ω speakers and a small passive bass radiator speaker. (If you know of a source for this style passive bass speakers PLEASE let me know).The main components I wanted from this unit were the bass speaker and the Bluetooth unit, I already knew that the battery and the two speakers were not going to be used.
The blutetooth unit had the speakers, a small unmarked rechargeable battery, and a small speaker phone mic attached to it. Cut the wires loose from all but the mic (if you want to keep it), the speakers and battery will be replaced by your choice later. I used the Logitech ones in the picture, I liked the cones and the heavy double magnets of these units. I was glad to find them, I received six for $7.50 at the thrift store, I found the manual for these speakers online and was able to get the specks for them.
My next step was to make sure that the unit could power my new speakers, as the wattage was a bit higher 7.4W vs the 3W (glad the ohms were the same), I twisted the wires together, it all worked. Let your unit run for a bit so you can test for overheating of the unit. Mine did not seem to get very warm, so I felt good about inclosing it into an air tight box.
Now that we know the unit works you should decide on the box design. I would have loved to have used a speaker box volume calculator to make sure that I designed the right size box for these for ultimate performance. I did find some great websites for this, but I must admit, I did not really understand them. So I decided on a case that would fit my needs and that would hold all the components. If you can figure out how to calculate a box size for your speakers I believe you could even get better sound from your unit.
I decided to leave about 3/8" between the speakers and the sides and bottom of the box and 1/2" from the top. These measurements would allow for the ¼” MDF sheeting, overlapping would be on the inside of the front and rear panels all the way around. The ½” depth from the top would allow for the MDF width and bluetooth unit. (WARNING: I made my box a little small and was just able to get my battery in. *Triple* check all measurements.) Don’t forget about the extra depth needed for the passive bass speaker. Once sizes were decided, measured, and marked I cut out the pieces on my table saw.
I cut three pieces all the same size , one for the removable face plate, and the two more of the exact size for the front panel (twos speakers), and for the rear panel (bass speaker). I cut two matching pieces for the top and bottom and two matching side pieces.
Once everything was cut I laid out my speaker locations and the holes for the LED, phone mic, and bluetooth buttons holes. I used a router to cut out the speaker holes for the passive bass and the 2” drivers. I wish I could have used a good 2" wood bit for the holes or a template but I free handed it instead. I then used a Dremel with a sanding disc to round out the holes better and to create the bevel as I could not find my roundover bit for my router. I did the same for the passive radiator hole.
I created a speaker grill for this unit as I knew my wife would want to transport it around, you could skip this step if you like the look of exposed speakers. . I designed the pattern in Photoshop and printed it out, I then used a spray adhesive on one of the three larger cut pieces and adhered the template to it. I used a cordless drill and my Dremel with differing sized bits to drill out where the template indicated. I chipped out some of the wood when the drill bit went all the way through, so I ended up dishing the back side of the grill with the sander to remove the chipped wood. It worked out pretty well.
Step 3: The Build - Putting the Box Together
Once the holes were cut and sanded for the speakers I went ahead and mounted them. I used small wood screws (making sure that they did not go all the way through the wood) to mount them and followed it up with a bead of hot glue to seal off around the speakers. You need to seal all air holes as we need the box to be completely sealed off for good bass sound. NO air leaks or the passive radiator will not work. You can use anything you want for this, caulk, foam, glue, etc. I like hot glue as it is quick drying and easy to apply. Do this for the passive radiator and the two 2" speakers making sure to completely seal them off.
The bluetooth unit with its built in momentary switches, for the forward and back buttons, power/pairing, and volume buttons, and the auxiliary in and min USB charging jack was one of the most difficult aspects of this build. I had to figure out how to trip the switches through the 1/4 wood top, I finally decided on using brass double cap rivets, these rivets would allow the buttons to be switched without the buttons falling out. I had to cut, file, and counter sink the rivets to get them to fit between the bluetooth unit and the 1/4" wood top, I left about 1/16th between the button and the top of the wood just enough room for proper button depression. I mounded the Bluetooth unit as close to the wood as possible holding the bottom of the rivets tight against the wood, so there would be no slop for button movement. before lying out the button locations and LED decide on where you want the auxiliary jack and mini USB to be located as this will determine the location of your holes. I chose to have them come out the back.
Once you have everything laid out for the buttons drill the holes and install the rivets. At this time you need to solder the new wires onto your bluetooth unit, I soldered on all new wires leaving them EXTRA long for attaching them to my components later. After my wires were soldered I used 1/4" scrap wood chunks (speaker hole cut offs) to mount the bluetooth unit to the top piece, below the rivet buttons. The 1/4" piece was the perfect width for this bluetooth unit you could also add thin cardboard strips to get the right depth. I discovered later by doing the buttons this way the rivets could spin in their sockets, this made it difficult to add symbols to the buttons during a later step, if doing this again I would add some double sided tape between the bluetooth unit and the brass rivets stopping them from spinning. If you are going to be using the speaker phone mic now is the time to drill holes for that as well mounting it where ever it seems like it will work the best, drill out a small pocket hole almost all the way through the wood then add a small holethe rest of the way, push the mic into the pocket hole and hot glue over the top sealing it off. Once you have used adhesive to glue the bluetooth unit to the wood "shims" and the shims to the top panel use your hot glue gun to completely seal around the bluetooth unit (hot glue will not hurt your electronics), fill in any holes on the unit, remember air leaks equals poor sound. I then mounted the top to the panel with the passive radiator (back).
At this time I used adhesive to glue the bottom and one side to the front driver panel, I used hot glue to temporarily hold the pieces together as the adhesive dried. Once these pieces were completely dried I mounted the battery to the inside of the bottom panel, there was enough room here and I could run the wires along the edge of the passive radiator speaker to the Bluetooth unit. Use hot glue to hold the wires down as you don't want them to rattle around later.
Now is a great time to hook everything together to make sure it is still working. Working? Good let’s keep going.
Take the other side panel and repeat the above steps to mount it to the back panel and top bluetooth panel. Once it is all dry solder everything together, wires to speakers and wires to the battery. Make sure all these wires are all glued to the case and glue the box shut making sure to add enough glue to completely fill in any small gaps. I also add hot glue to my wired solder points just in case the vibrations broke my solder joints later the unit may still function.
Step 4: The Build - Box Decoration.
Well I must greatly apologize for this section as I took very few photos at this point. However now is the time for your own touches of creativity to shine through. Here is what I did; I will break it down in sections of the box.
The problem I found here was how to cover the passive radiator speaker, the speaker takes up a good portion of the back of the unit. I could have gotten metal speaker grill material to cover this but I wanted something a little different for my unit. I used the thin brass sheeting and a metal hole punch to punch holes around where the radiator is locate, I took some of the silver speaker cloth from my thrift store speakers and used spray adhesive to attach it to the back of the brass. I used spray adhesive to attached the brass and speaker cloth to the back wood panel covering the passive bass.
I used Danish Oil wood stain on the sides and strips of the left over brass sheeting to adorn the sides. I used adhesive to mount the brass sheeting then used copper tacks for decoration and better holding of the brass strips. Once the stain had sufficient time to thoroughly dry I used the method found here to add images to the wood surface. I formatted the images in Photoshop and printed them off on my works laser printer. I used a clear coat spray to protect the images once the process was completed.
The buttons were approximately 1/4" wide which happened to be about the same size as the hole left by a standard hole punch. I created images in Photoshop and punched them out. I used clear finger nail polish to cover and bind the images to the top of the rivet buttons (lightly sanding helps with holding power). You could use an acrylic paint to paint symbols on the buttons. Do you remember my mess up from before? Here is where it bit me in the butt, I had to figure out what symbols to use for the back and forward buttons as the standard double triangles would not work as the buttons rotated causing confusion. I instead used a B an F for them I sprayed some clear coat on the top so that the wood would match the sides and attached some more of the brass sheeting.
The Front and Grill:
The front did not take much adornment as it is mostly taken up by speakers, I lightly sanded, stained, and applied clear coat. I added the silver screws for the magnets in the speaker grill.
The speaker grill was sanded on the front and dished out on the back using a Dremel tool and a vibrating orbital sander. I also counter sunk and mounted neodymium magnets into the grill so that it would attach to the speaker box.
The rubbery base was created using this great tutorial on Oogoo, I used the 1:1 ration for the base. I made a small cup full and rolled it out between to sheets of plastic bag and used popsicle sticks for a depth gauge. Wait a moment then remove the top sheet of plastic, press your box lightly into the rubber sheet and let it completely dry before trimming the excess. I was going to use Suguru but decided that the cost would be prohibitive. I must say that Oogoo worked great and I would definitely use it again.
I hope you like this build log/tutorial. If you get a chance you should build one yourself and post a picture, they sound great and really load for the money. I believe I spent around $35.00 for the project; it may cost more depending on what speakers you use and what you already have on hand.
Please vote for me. The LED on the unit lights up, Blinks, changes color, and the whole thing buzzes with fantastic clarity.