Introduction: Steampunk Speakers
I wanted a pair of steampunk speakers as part of my ongoing project to steampunk-up my home office. Here are the steampunk speakers I ended up creating, which are mounted on the hutch above my desk.
Do you like them? Well, you can have them! You just need to build them for yourself, and here's how.
Step 1: Stuff You'll Need
Here's a basic list of what you'll need for this project, although not everything is shown in this picture. A lot of the screws, nuts, and brass brackets I used were scrounged from my own supplies, so your mileage may very on those. I will try to detail them, but they are not pictured here.
- Polk Audio DB 401 car speakers
- Two (2) round wooden mounting plaques, 5-inch diameter
- Two (2) Lazy Suzan bearings, 3-inch diameter
- Two (2) 4-inch x 4-inch diameter PVC-to-cast-iron adapter fitting (see notes in Step 3)
- Something with a flexible steel coil arm, like this 24-inch Tekton flexible magnetic pick-up tool
- Two (2) 4 inch round recessed speaker terminals with banana plugs
- Eight (8) 90-degree angle brackets for mounting the speaker terminal plate
- Two (2) metal mending plates, 3 inches long
- Four (4) #12 brass countersunk finishing washer
- Eight (8) #10-24 x 2-inch round-head brass slotted-drive standard (SAE) machine screws for mounting the speakers
- Eight (8) #10-24 nuts for securing the 2-inch bolts
- Eight (8) 90-degree angle brackets with a hole sufficient for the #10-24 bolt used for mounting the speakers
- Eight (8) short brass hex bolts with large bolt head, for holding the decorative coiled copper wire
- Eight (8) nuts for securing the hex bolts
- Various other screws and nuts suitable for mounting the brackets. Shiny brass screws.
- About twenty (20) inches of 12 or 14 gauge copper wire. Maybe thirty (30) to be safe.
- One (1) can of Rust-oleum "hammered black" spray paint
- One (1) can of Rust-oleum "hammered copper" spray paint
- One (1) bottle of Kraken "hammered DIYer" spiced rum, optional
- Some stain, probably dark cherry, but really whatever you like.
- Some speaker wire
- Soldering Iron
- Screwdriver, Philips and Flathead
- Drill for drilling holes in PVC
- Miter saw or table saw
- Needle-nose pliers for bending metal
- Wire stripper and wire cutter
- Bolt cutters or something that can cut the flexible steel arm and copper wire
- Goggles. You can't do steampunk projects without goggles. And there's the safety aspect, too.
* A word on the Polk Audio DB 401 speakers. The speakers themselves are 4 inches in diameter, but the mounting and outer grill cover measure to 5 inches. This is critical, as the housing they fit inside must also be 5 inches, not 4 inches. If you do not like Polk Audio speakers, you can get any kind as long as they are 4-inch speakers with 5-inch mountings. I got these because they were the right size, had good reviews, and I liked the shape of the outer grill cover (which I repainted).
Step 2: All Your Base
Putting the bases together is probably the easiest part. Begin by drilling two holes into each of the 5-inch diameter round wooden mounting plaques for the feet to mount into. The diameter will depend on the diameter of the flexible steel coil you found. The holes I drilled were each 1/4 inch. As the wood was plain, uncolored wood, I also had to stain and lacquer it after drilling the holes. If your base is similar, you should then stain and finish to taste. I used a dark cherry stain, as it fits well with my decor.
Drill Some Holes:
Once the holes are drilled and the wood is stained and finished, you will want to place the #12 brass countersunk finishing washers as depicted. I glued them down, but you could technically just slip them over the flexible steel coil legs and let gravity keep them on the base, although they might be loose this way.
Make the Legs:
To make the legs, I took a 24-inch Tekton flexible magnetic pick-up tool and cut off its steel coil arm. I don't really know what it is properly called, so just look at the picture. The total length was a little over 16 inches, so using the bolt cutters or a similar tool, cut it into 4 pieces of about 4 inches each, leaving a little extra on each end to work with.
Attach Legs and Lazy Susan:
Next, insert these flexible steel legs into the holes drilled into the base and using the needle-nose pliers, pull out a bit of the steel wire to hook out on the bottom side of the base, as depicted. These will be held tightly in place by the Lazy Susan bearings, which should be screwed onto the bottom of each base, making sure to press against the extra bit of wire you pulled out and tightened as much as possible.
Now you should have two nicely stained bases, each with two flexible steel legs and Lazy Susans on the bottom to allow them to rotate 360 degrees. These Susans don't really seem lazy to me.
Step 3: About That Housing
For the housing, I used two 4-inch x 4-inch PVC-to-cast-iron adapter fittings (they are not really 4 x 4 inches, but more on that in a moment). These are probably going to be hard to find. I found them at Lowes hardware store, and assuming the link remains good, you can order them here; but, either the ones I got were mislabeled, or the 4-inch x 4-inch size does not actually refer to its real diameter. The real outer diameter, as I measured it, is 5.25 inches on the big end and 5 inches on the smaller end. As you can see, I cut off the short 5-inch diameter segment, leaving me with a 5.25-inch diameter, 3-inch deep PVC ring.
The outer diameter of the Polk Audio DB 401 speakers' grills are 5.25 inches, so I focused on finding anything that I could use as a housing that was about that size, and it just so happened that these were what I ended up with. Ultimately, if you can find two 5.25-inch diameter plastic rings of whatever kind, with an inside diameter of 4.75 inches that are about 3 inches wide/deep, that is what you need for this project.
If you end up finding a larger plastic ring to mount the speakers, you'll need bigger speakers such as the Polk Audio DB521 or DB651, but you'll also need to re-measure everything for the larger-size speakers.
Assuming you do get the same PVC adapter fittings that I got, cut off the smaller portion with a table saw or miter saw (as always, be careful with power tools and take all proper precautions). You may find that you do not need to cut off the smaller end, however. I only did it because the speaker terminal plates that I found fit better with the small end removed, and it made them easier to work with when attaching the mounting brackets inside. Your mileage may vary. Once you have cut off the smaller ends on both of them, you should be left with two PVC rings about 5.25 inches in diameter and 3 inches wide.
I want to mention this here, even though you should not actually paint the housing rings until after you drill holes (see next step below). I just want to see if you are still paying attention. I would suggest using Rust-oleum "hammered black" spray paint, as it will make the ring look like black wrought-iron metal, a bit reminiscent of a steam locomotive or an old iron boiler. You could choose some other color, of course, but hammered black paint gives a nice contrast to the brass fittings and copper-painted grill. I would not recommend "hammered plaid" unless you're a drunk Scotsman.
Step 4: The Hard Part Is the Hardware
Now comes the hard part. You will need to drill holes appropriate for placing the mounting brackets, as well as two holes on each ring for the flexible metal legs. I cannot give you exact measurements because I did not measure... I eyeballed it, placing brackets where needed and marking with a pen where I would have to drill.
If you would like, you should now pour yourself a few shots from your optional bottle of Kraken "hammered DIYer" spiced rum.
Drill Some More Holes:
Here's a general summary of the holes that should be drilled on each housing ring. But not while drinking.
- Two 1/4-inch holes on the bottom of each housing ring for the flexible metal legs, spaced apart to match the spacing of the two legs.
- One screw hole on either outer side of each leg hole (one on the right side and one on the left side) for securing the mending plate inside the ring to hold the legs securely. The placement of these holes will depend on the holes on the mending plate you are using.
- Eight holes for the mounting brackets—one for each bracket. As you can see in the picture, I have two brackets placed each at 90-degrees from each other along the inside of the ring, one in front of the other. At each of these points there are two brackets.
- Four holes, two on each side of the ring, for the large decorative hex bolts, with an additional notch to allow the coiled copper wire to be poked through.
- Three rings for the elven-kings... Oh, wait. Sorry. That's a different project.
- Be sure to paint the housing rings after you've drilled the holes.
Screw the Brackets:
Once the holes are drilled and you've applied the paint (and let it dry, silly), you can attach the brackets and screw them into place. The 4 brackets closest to the back (the square brass ones) are for mounting the speaker terminal panel. Just in front of those are the 4 rounded silver brackets. These are for holding the large 2-inch screws that hold the speakers and grill cover on. I put them that far back to give me a bit of "wiggle room" as, again, I had to eyeball it.
Jam the Legs On:
Now push the ends of the flexible metal legs through the holes you made on the bottom of the housing rings. Pull out a bit of the wire, as you did for the base, so that the legs cannot be pulled back out again. There may be a better way to secure the legs inside, but what I did was place a mending plate over the top of the legs, on the inside, and screw them on tight with two nuts and bolts. You will need to bend the mending plates so they match the inner contour of the ring, which I managed by hand because I'm awesome (actually, I used a table, vice clamp, and pliers). If you have welding skills, you could probably come up with something better.
Just Stick Some Coils On It:
The only non-functional, purely decorative component is the coiled copper wire, which is meant to make the speakers look more steampunkish. They are, of course, completely optional, but I think they're a rather snazzy addition. Coil 12- or 14-gauge copper wire around some kind of rod that is about 1/2 an inch in diameter, as depicted. I'll admit, I did not measure this until after the wires were coiled, but ultimately you need four coiled wires, which are about 7 to 8 inches long (once coiled) with an inch extra of straight wire for securing with the hex bolts.
It would probably be best to coil these wires before making the holes for the hex bolts that will secure them. Place them where you want on the housing ring and make a mark and then drill the holes. I had to add a notch to hold each end of the wire, as I could not get the bolt to tighten otherwise. I then bent the extra bit of wire around the bolt on the inside, then tightened the nut onto the bolt from the inside.
Step 5: The Speakers
Prep the Speakers:
Before mounting the speakers inside the housing, I first soldered a short piece of speaker wire (about 4 inches) to the +/- terminals, leaving the other ends unconnected for now (they will be connected to the back plate at the end).
I also painted the plastic grill covers that came with the Polk Audio DB 401 speakers. The grill covers came colored an uninspiring silver, and silver is just not steampunk enough. I used Rust-oleum "hammered copper" spray paint, which not only gave it the right color, but also added some texture as well. You might even be able to see the texture in the pictures if you use your imagination, and perhaps have another shot of rum.
Secure the Speakers to the Housing:
I did not get enough photos of this step, so I apologize. The speakers fit almost exactly with the inner diameter of the housing ring, so I had a bit of trouble holding it in place while screwing down the 2-inch brass screws. Instead of doing that, I took all 4 of the screws and used them to attach the speakers to the newly painted grill, screwing them through the screw holes in the grill and then through the screw holes in the speakers, just enough to hold them together.
I then carefully set the now-connected speaker and grill, with all 4 screws ready to tighten, on top of the housing (see picture). I had to make sure the screws were exactly lined up with the inside mounting brackets. I then tightened the screws until they connected with the brackets, wiggled it around a bit until the screws lined up with the holes, and tightened them some more, successfully securing the speaker and grill to the housing.
Attach the Back Plate to the Housing:
Before attaching the back plate to the housing, take the 4-inch speaker wire and cut away any excess you feel needs to be cut away, then solder the wires to the terminals on the back plate's banana plugs. Put the back plate on the back of the housing, align the holes with the holes in the mounting brackets, and apply the screws. I used silver screws, as the back is not meant to be seen, but you can use brass screws if you like. I found this to be much easier than attaching the speakers.
Step 6: Finished
And you're done! Hopefully yours turn out better than mine. I fumbled a bit and did not get everything lined up perfectly. My main problem was working with the round ring housing. I found it very hard to measure correctly and eventually gave up on measuring and just eyeballed most of what I was doing. I'm afraid it shows.
I think the hardest part of the project is placing the brackets correctly on the inside. You basically have one shot at it, and one mistake means you'll need to either scrap the housing and start over or patch any hole that you might have drilled wrong. I did make a mistake on placing one hole, and I chose to patch the hole with some caulk. After it was painted, the small blemish was not really noticeable. However, you can probably only get away with just one or two such mistakes.
I wanted to cover up the small silver rim and label inside the inner tweeter speaker, but never managed to find a good, clean way to do it. Ultimately, I just left it as it was.
There you have it. You should now have two steampunk speakers that can be pivoted any way you need and can bend up and down on their flexible steel coil legs. The quality of the Polk Audio speakers is pretty good, but they lack bass—the sound, I mean, not the fish (although they do lack that well, thankfully). I have a separate subwoofer that I use, so that was not an issue for me, but I just wanted to note this fact in case you are disappointed by the weak bass. In fact, you may want to test the speakers to make sure you like them before going through the trouble of building the entire housing.
Be sure to check out my steampunk amplifier, as these speakers were made to go along with the amplifier.