Introduction: Vintage Suitcase Speaker
For this Instructable, I will show you how I converted a vintage suitcase into a speaker system. This is a pretty straightforward build--I was able to accomplish it in an afternoon. The end result is a handsome and conversation worthy speaker for your home!
sharp exacto or snap knife
Pneumatic or T-50 stapler
Speakers (I re-purposed a set that was getting thrown out but was still in pretty great shape.)
Amplifier (for my build I used:Pyle PFA300 90-Watt Class T Hi-Fi Stereo Amplifier with Adapter, available on amazon.com for about $35.00) You are going to want to double check that you choose the right amplifier for your project.
Step 1: Speaker Assessment and Pattern Layout
The first thing you are going to want to do is to open up the back of your speaker cases and figure out the dimensions of your speaker cones. Be sure to do this cautiously--you don't want to damage your speakers!!
My speakers were pretty basic, no tweeters or anything. Just one speaker cone per cabinet.
The next thing you want to do is to determine how you want to layout the speakers in your suitcase. I decided just to mount my amp right in the middle, with my speaker cones symmetrically placed on either side. Use your layout tools (ruler, pencil, compass) to mark out your pattern on your suitcase. My suitcase actually had a couple travel stickers already on it at time of purchase, so I chose to make this side the front for visual interest. Be sure that you under size the circles you are cutting out of your suitcase a little bit so that you have some material to screw your speakers onto from the back. (re: you do not want the holes in your suitcase to be the same size as your speaker cones--you want them to be a little smaller.)
Step 2: Lining and Cutting
Once you have laid out your pattern, you are going to want to open your suitcase and tear out your lining. You need to do this so that your jigsaw blade does not get caught up in the fabric. You don't need to be too careful here---no one is going to be looking at the inside.
Once that is done, drill a starter hole for your jigsaw blade in the areas you need to cut, and go on ahead and carefully cut out your circles and ellipses for your speaker cones and amplifier.
Step 3: Leather Backed Speaker Grids
For my suitcase, I didn't want to just mount my speaker cones on the inside and call it a day, as it left the build looking a little unfinished. I had some scrap leather laying around the shop which I thought accented my suitcase nicely, so I chose to mount some leather backed lauan circles on the front of suitcase to provide some protection for the speaker cones and to make the overall piece pop a bit.
I cut out my lauan doughnuts for the two speakers and the amp.I then chose to glue my lauan onto some leather first and then cut out the corresponding shapes with a sharp knife, although you can just as easily cut the leather separately and then glue the pieces together. I prefer the former method because I find it easier to get clean edges that way. Be sure that when you cut out your leather, you cut it out on a clean flat surface, as leather can mar very easily.
I chose to adhere my lauan to the leather using epoxy resin, as I happened to have a lot of it on hand. If you don't have any available however, there are a variety of adhesives on the market which work just as effectively: contact adhesive, spray 90, etc. Just make sure to use a strong contact adhesive and to work with it in a well ventilated area.
Step 4: Fabric Backing.
Now that your leather is cut out, you want to back it with some fabric to protect the speaker cone. I also happened to have some scrap lightweight black fabric laying around for this. An pneumatic stapler or T-50 stapler works great for this, just make sure that your staples are short enough that they will not punch through your leather! My leather happened to be pretty thick, so this wasn't a problem for me. You don't need to back the ellipse for your amplifier--that is just an accent to match the speaker cones. You need to be able reach through it to the amp buttons.
Now, I chose to bolt on my leather backed speaker accents. I knew my mechanical fasteners were going to be visible, so I carefully marked where I wanted my bolts to be so that it would look like an intentional choice, and not haphazard construction. Note how the bolts are placed symmetrically on the finished suitcase.
Carefully center your leather backed pieces over the speaker holes and drill holes for your fasteners. Go on ahead and bolt in those bad boys.
Step 5: Amplifier Installation
Now its time to move onto the amplifier. I knew that I wanted all the buttons and knobs on my amplifier to be easily accessible to the user. Since I chose to mount my amp right in the middle of the face of my suitcase, I had to figure out a way to keep it supported and secure as the suitcase will likely get moved around a lot.
To do this, I cut a small piece of scrap plywood to act as a little shelf for my amp, and then screwed the amp down onto it. I then bent some scrap aluminum flat stock into shape to make two small brackets to support the shelf. You want to bend a slight angle on each side, about an inch deep. The trick here is that you want to be sure your shelf sits exactly at 90 degrees with the brackets bolted on, so bend carefully.
Once you have bent your angles, drill a hole onto each side of your aluminum brackets, and screw them into the shelf. On the other side of your bracket (the side to attach to the suitcase) go on ahead and drill corresponding holes for your fasteners. Be sure to carefully line up your amp with the hole you cut out for it earlier when you do this. Bolt them in through the front of your suitcase.
Step 6: Speaker Installation
Now its time to install your speakers! Carefully unscrew your speakers from their original speaker cabinets and screw them into the back of your suitcase. Again be sure that you are using a screw long enough to keep it secure, but not so long that it will poke through your leather. Keep in mind that the wood in vintage suitcases is very thin to save on weight.
Once you have installed your speakers, go on ahead and wire them into the amp! Simply plug the color wires into the corresponding ports on the back of your amp.
Step 7: Wrapping It Up.
Plug in your amp and plug something into it with an auxiliary cable to test that you wired your speakers correctly. If not, double check your wiring. If so, you should be in business!
This particular amp needs electricity to function (re: not battery powered). I chose to open my suitcase and close it on the cord, but if you like you can drill a small hole in the wall of your suitcase to feed the plug into so it can plug into the amp.
Apart from that you are finished! Your suitcase is now ready to use at parties, picnics, and dancing in your kitchen while cooking. Please remember that this instructable is infinitely customizable, with a huge variety of suitcase (or other cabinet) options, amp options, speaker grill options, and power and connectivity options (bluetooth capable amps, battery powered, etc).
I sincerely hope you enjoyed this instructable. If you did, please remember to vote for me in the Audio contest!