Instructables
Picture of Tree Speakers
P1020583.jpg
P1020590.jpg
P1020594.jpg
P1020599.jpg
P1020603.jpg
These tree speakers were handmade from +14" thick sections of what was once a towering elm tree, that have now been transformed into a completely unique piece of hi-fi art.  The speaker enclosure is made from one solid piece of elm, sectioned only at the rear of the speaker in order to hollow out enough material to create the speakers internal volume of air.

Aside from being aesthetically pleasing and unique, using actual tree rounds as speaker enclosures is beneficial to the overall speaker design because it results in an almost seam-free cabinet, thick and acoustically dead enclosure material, and non-parallel internal sides which help to reduce unwanted frequency amplification and reverberation.

This Instructable describes the unique process of how I built these specific tree speakers, and is not meant to be a complete and comprehensive guide to speaker building.  For that, please see my Instructable on How to Build Custom Speakers, which the DIY speaker builder working on his or her own project will find much more helpful.

I think that the appropriate question to ask here is not "why build speakers out of a tree", but rather, "why not"?

 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Story

Picture of Story
image25.jpg
image22.jpg
image33.jpg
PICT3051.jpg
In 2004 while I was attending Brown University, a massive and historic elm tree located on the east side of Providence sadly succumb to Dutch Elm Disease.  After years of trying to save the tree, it eventually had to be removed by chainsaws operated by the hands of skilled arborists and towering cranes with slings to lower the towering branches onto flatbeds and out of the city piece by giant piece.  

The giant tree's death was unfortunate and sad, but the loss of the tree ultimately led to the birth of something else: The Elm Tree Project.  The joint venture between Brown University and The Rhode Island School of Design produced a set of classes, exhibitions and specially designed studios, all built specifically to explore and produce various forms of art that could be made from the deceased tree.  

I was lucky enough to be a part of this unique program during my time at school, and have finally gotten around to documenting some of the work that I produced during my involvement with The Elm Tree Project on Instructables.

1-40 of 86Next »
Hi. I saw this amazing idea and want to build this myself maybe with a few tweaks but do you know any UK websites that I can get a good pair of speakers for a decent price
BLR_RAVI11 days ago
very nice idea..very beautiful and cheap too..
ke8bg6 months ago
Great project.. should sound great as well... decibels as you know are logarithmic.... lol
buskrat1 year ago
If you have a band saw you can do this much easier by cutting down the sides the other sides off throw away the middle and glue it back together. This is the same way they make log jewelry boxes
danchapy501 year ago
this is awesome. my Brother who passed had a large rock delivered to his home it took some time but he made speakers out of the rock. the sound was awesome and weather proof. he occasionally had to put car grease on parts of the stereo. we have since move the rock several places.It is now at (1) of his many resting places. I am happy you were able to do something in memory of the tree.
Hombre30001 year ago
Very beautiful work.
karlicnp2 years ago
I made them too but different
IMG_2951.JPGIMG_2952.JPGIMG_2953.JPGIMG_2954.JPGIMG_2955.JPG
noahw (author)  karlicnp2 years ago
Those look great! How did you hollow out the inside? I also like your stands for them...I've always needed to make stands for mine.
karlicnp noahw2 years ago
I hollowed the first one with a big drill and the second one with a chainsaw and the second method was better.
sooooooooooo cool! I hope I get to see these someday!
noahw (author)  amandaghassaei2 years ago
Awe thanks - you were actually standing in the same room as them when you helped me move the bathtub couch.
wobbler2 years ago
Tree speakers? I can only count two. Great design though!
Tzabary wobbler2 years ago
It's TREE speakers not THREE speakers
noahw (author)  wobbler2 years ago
How many were you expecting? Two is the standard number of speakers for stereo sound that I'm familiar with.
exstatosoma3 years ago
Very nice, noahw, though I would also worry about splitting over time. I have had a big round from a Norfolk Island Pine for about 5 years. It's about 60 cm diameter (about 2 feet for the nonmetric minority) and I reckon that it's stable to work with now.
If you would like to see another recovery and use project for a dead tree, go to the Kauri Project at the Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney.
http://www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/friends/events_activities/kauri_project
This beautiful old Kauri tree was killed by fruit bats (truly). The gardens recovered it and the items made from it are very beautiful.
noahw (author)  exstatosoma2 years ago
Pulling from my limited knowledge of tree round drying, you get better results when you remove the center pith of a round. The pith has a much higher moisture content then the exterior ring, and thus dries at a different rate, causing the splitting. I've had these speakers for 6 years now, and there's no signs of cracking or splitting. Trying to dry a solid round however is a whole other story, that I know can cause a lot of problems. If you're trying to make these speakers or replicated this method, I'd definitely recommend drilling out the center pith while the round is still fresh and wet.
tbailey1032 years ago
This is amazing! I think I'm going to make a surround sound system using this method. As long as I have a surround sound stereo (like the one in your picture, it should all work, correct?
Dr. Science3 years ago
Wouldn't a person just use a router and probably varying levels of depth (like 2 inches) at a time, obviously using a jig to keep it all the same, using a deeper bit each time for every 2 inches of depth. The opening could take on a square or rectangular shape if wanted, for example. The same way the opening for the drivers should be made. The driver's particular pattern of their "frames" should be counter sunk about a quarter of an inch for a perfect fit. Two reasons: (1) for looks, adds value and craftsmanship (plus, it's pretty easy to do) and (2) it "seats" the driver to the "baffle", that is, in this case, the tree trunk making it become one with both. The object of the driver, the "transducer", is to make active, and, as active as it most possibly can, the baffle. The more immoveable the baffle, the more the baffle can be controlled. While this is being done, it's nice to know that the driver is perfectly mounted, on it's own plane, not warped or rattling against a non-prepped perfectly flat baffle (tree trunk).

While you're at it, design into the routed out area for the frame, countersink 4 anchors aligned perfectly to receive high tech looking machine threaded fasteners, for both the woofer and the tweeter.

And really, don't stop there. Find a decent self amplified - properly cross-over-ed sub drive amplifier that's piggy backed off your pictured receiver / amplifier, made the same way, same proportioned dimensions, with a larger tree trunk section. Design it to allow the room to be part of the speaker.

Lastly, choose the right driver. A really friendly vendor for this might be Parts Express out in Ohio. I live in Montana and have done a lot of business with these folks. Good people. They sell a type of product for every taste. See:
http://www.parts-express.com/home.cfm

One might consider thinly sawing a much larger section of tree for the very high frequency driver, like a nice soft dome tweeter for those really sweet highs.. Mount the tweeter as close to center as possible for best dispersion, on the same wall (plane). Cool idea!

I think countersinking the surface for the frame is a great idea, and you'd need a router for that, but where would you get router bits long enough to mill out a deep enough hole, or a hand held router with strong enough bearings to handle them? Also, auger bits remove material (albeit vertically) much more easily than any router bit I know of. I'd do the same as in the instructable, but use a heavy drill press.
I think the beetle and other marks like water marks like in (Spalted beech) wood bora give it character.
I am a wood turner and often use driftwood with lots of worm holes the more the merrier. I love it check out my web site click link www.scorpionwoodcraft.co.uk
kingcm3 years ago
cool,that's nice!
drewgrey3 years ago
Very Cool.
redbeatles3 years ago
Magnificent!!!
awfeckit3 years ago
They look good, but it seems to me that a major problem will be how to stop the wood from drying out completely and then splitting. I've seen the same thing happen on tree section coffee tables, clocks, etc.
And it seems to me that the vibration from the sound would aggravate that.
I didn't read the whole instructable. Maybe I missed that part.
Gozer awfeckit3 years ago
I would recommend drying the wood before starting the build. You could cut multiple sections in case they crack. Also, the wood would be more rigid at that point, which may improve sonic characteristics. While this would slow down the process and require storage space, it would result in a superior product
sabbbanana3 years ago
amazing
FANTASTIC - IM GOING TO MAKE A HOME THEATRE SYSTEM ALONG THESE LINES - GREAT JOB FROM DORSET UK
Beautiful idea, and nicely done! 5 stars :)
davescott3 years ago
I like it!!!

I have a similar idea which I've not yet implemented, which is to cut the trunk vertically - giving two D-profiles and using the flat surface as the baffle - scooping out the pith and leaving a strong outer shell of the xylem.
Grqqvy4 years ago
Just saw this, great idea! Always looking for more small things (e.g. plastic containers, PVC tubing, etc.) to make little pairs of speakers for computers and iPods. On that scale, these would be even easier to make out of smaller-diameter logs or branches, with 2" to 3" aluminum-cone speaker drivers. Thanks for the inspiration! I will post an Instructable when I make the first pair!
Hey, something else that might speed up drilling time could be to build a small fire on top of the log and let it burn through. Kind of like making a dugout canoe.
RelientOwl4 years ago
Are they heavy? I would think they are.
 
skwoorl4 years ago
THIS WAS A VERY INSPIRING INTRUCTABLE! I havemade many home decore items from the logs harvested from our property and will definitely be adding tree speakers to my list. Thank you for the idea, and the how to.
Neato.  One little bit of pedantry though.  In step 5, it might be good to stress the importance of maintaining a death grip on the drill's side handle.  But hey!  I used to be a Safety Professional.  So naturally, I have a stupid injury story to relate.  A while ago when I was spending a fine couple of days crouched in a crawlspace, boring a 5 inch diameter hole through my foundation, I momentarily lost my grip on the side handle.  The drill caught me a good one upside the head.  My tongue's pretty much all healed up where I bit a wee chunk out of it.


OUCH! Hate when that happens! I recently got a literal ride on my old steel case 1/2" Black & Decker Catalog #361 Drill. While drilling in the foundation (cement) of my basement, (These drills have massive torque so I was hanging on with a "death grip") the bit got stuck and it spun the drill with me on top! Luckily I was using a short cord and it unplugged from the wall after about 3/4 of a revolution, I'm sure the next thing to happen would have been a broken finger or three or even an arm. When I got this drill I was told many people broke their arms using these torque monsters back in the day! Glad you're on the mend and it wasn't more serious!
I can plainly recall sitting there, spitting blood on the wall, swearing profusely and thinking that I could very easily have been hurt much much worse.  I was using one of those humungoid Bosch rotohammers that I rented at the Homey D.  These things drive a shaft that's something nutty like inch and a half, so I have little doubt that it could have taken my fool head clean off.
ArlisVDV4 years ago
  I often see chunks of elm like this with the center rotted out.  A large dutchman (plug) in the front and back would save all the hollowing work.  I would think if you worked carefully the plug would not be noticed.  I say this knowing exactly what it takes to hollow a log out as I spent many hours making a planter using your method.
noahw (author)  ArlisVDV4 years ago
Sounds good, but you knew this question was coming - how do you make a dutchman for a piece of wood like this? 

Planters in tree rounds - nice.


ArlisVDV noahw4 years ago
I was thinking either trace the opening from the inside on to a solid cutoff  piece.
Or take a cutoff piece and trim it up and trace it on the hollowed piece letting it in with a chisel.  Using a lathe like someone else mentioned would work beautifully.  But I don't have a lathe.
driesyo4 years ago
cool
1-40 of 86Next »