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Built your own Cajon (a drum) for less than 25.- Euro

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A Cajon is a south american drum made completely out of wood. It is played by slapping the front face with your hand and it's perfect for unplugged sessions because it could substitute a whole drumset. 
This instructable shows you how to build a perfect Cajon for about 25.- Euros and only a few hours of work.
It is perfect for schools as the steps themself are short. They only take 30-60min. each but you have to wait each time for a day to let the glue dry.
And you don't need many tools, an electrical drill is essential, all other steps might also be done with manual tools (jigsaw, screwing...)

The result is an individual Cajon that meets even high standards. I chose the size so that it will also fit in any commercial bag, which you might want to buy.
 
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Step 1: You need


Tools:

an electric drill with 2mm drill bit, can also use a cordless screwdriver for this job
a jigsaw (electric or manually operated)
a screwdriver (electric or manually operated)
some wood glue
a tape measure or ruler (30cm is enough)
4 clamps or something heavy like a set of filled water bottles

Materials:

You need six pieces of wood to built the box. The best and most common wood that you can take for this job is birch multiplex. Every hardware store should have this and they could also cut it for you to the right size.

For one Cajon we need:
2 pieces of 300 x 300 x 12 mm (bottom and top)
2 pieces of 300 x 476 x 12 mm (side parts)
2 pieces of 300 x 500 x 4 mm (front and back)
 4 pieces of 290 x 12 x 12 (not multiplex, I used pine, because it is rather cheap, this can be made from a rectangular block of wood, doesn't have to be birch, also the size doesn't have to be exact 12, can also be 10 or 14)
some screws of 2.5 x 16mm and 2.5 x 20mm
some knobs for the foot.
and optionally: a set of snare wires, the longer the better, 35cm or 14" is ok.

Cost:
wood: < 20.- ( I got mine for 16.-)
snare wires: ~ 5.- (I paid 7.- (optionally)
screws and glue: 2.- (had it at home already)
knobs: 4pieces 1.- (also had it at home)

Total: 23.- to 30.- Euros

ssspppooo9 months ago
I made it my self!! Cheers from Greece!!! A great tutorial!! I put the snare in the middle and in a very small difference from the vertical position!! Made the perfect sound!!!! Thanks again!!
PunkZERO10 months ago
Since I'm from Germany, too: where exactly did you manage to get 14mm Multiplex? I searched for it and 15mm was the closest I could get. Since it's that hard to find on the Internet I don't suppose it's easier to find at Toom or such stores.
andyk75 (author)  PunkZERO10 months ago
Actually I used 12mm for the side and 4mm for the front and back side.
And I bought them both at Bauhaus.
The sides are not critical, they only have to carry the weight of the player, even 15mm is ok.
The front and back panel shall be as thin as possible, to provide a good sound. The 4mm might not always be available, just keep on trying!
How do you keep the snare rattles from staying in that position against the wood? Wouldn't it fall off if you hit the front side?
andyk75 (author)  kimjames2291 year ago
The wooden 'U' keeps the long rectangular rod in place and the snares produce counter-pressure to the 'U'. It won't fall off, even if you would turn it upside down!

On the other hand, if you install the snare so that they don't touch the front side, because you don't want the snare sound, then the rod may fall out if turned upside down!
pat425861 year ago
I made my own and the coats of stain and polyurethane did wonders and made it look store bought. I made four legs by cutting out 1.5" holes in a 1" piece of wood with a hole saw, then countersinking them and putting felt tabs underneath. A great instructable
Cajon.jpg
msoft41 year ago
Perfect! An absolutely wonderful tutorial. I just finished mine and the sound is incredible. A quality cajon like this is sold for $100 - $300. We have enough wood to build 4 and we only spent $80 (wood, glue, sandpaper, etc. included).

Thank you andyk75!
Jodex2 years ago
I have this project going on right now. I'm gonna make those snare wires myself by recycling old guitar strings.
evindrews2 years ago
I haven't read through the whole instructable, but, are the cornered shafts actually just for the corner? Are they necessary? Thanks!
andyk75 (author)  evindrews2 years ago
I think yes. They are used to take up the screws from the two sides parts that form the corner. Otherwise you would have to screw directly screw the side parts to each other and they are rather thin for this purpose. Look at step 10 to see what I mean. With the shafts it is much more stable.

What gldx03 meant was the main frame of the box. I used 12mm wood and he suggested 8mm. Then you really need corned shafts! The front part could also be thinner like 3mm or so, but that is hard to find.
gldx033 years ago
Hi, I am Peruvian, and the "Cajon" is from Peru, and I want to comment that the wood should be thinner for that sound is much better, should be around 8mm
Are you talking about the front part that you beat on? I'm not a very good builder, so i'd like to make sure...
tamazer3 years ago
are the screws in the small blocks completely necessary?
aaron00lee3 years ago
Do you have any idea how many double entendres are in this instructable? I was both cracking up and admiring the detail the whole time. Helpful and entertaining.
andyk75 (author)  aaron00lee3 years ago
Yes indeed, I didn't intend to, but now you said it I might have thought a bit longer about the text...
GOODGHOST3 years ago
Very cool.
I have played a few Cajon drums, and I really liked how versatile they can be. The only thing that has kept me from buying one myself is that it seems to always bee overpriced. I guess also.... my lower back would start to ache if I played too long. It would be nice to be able to sit more upright when played.
gldx033 years ago
To play the "Cajon" it takes a lot of practice with the techniques in their hands. Afro-Peruvian music is the most used instrument. I can see Eva Ayllon concert or Peru Negro as an example but there are many more.
static3 years ago
Never heard of a cajon, or one played. After looking at youtube, this is something I might try. thanks for posting.
huugje873 years ago
A tip: next time you should clamp the block first exactly into place, then drill the holes, release the clamps, apply glue and after five minutes put the parts together and immediately screw them together. This way you don't have to worry too much about the parts swimming in glue or sliding out of place when clamping. And you're not stuck with some parts with clamps on it for hours as the screws will hold everything in place fine and no clamps are needed after glueing.
andyk75 (author)  huugje873 years ago
I tried this several times before, but the chance for a misaligned piece is much higher. You might drill precise enough, but the screw causes some force by itself. Think of a hard piece of wood right beside one of the drilled holes! The screw will then be shifted to the other side...

Because of that it is much better to glue the parts first and then screw them together. It's the difference between enough and too much that is difficult for beginners, this is why I wrote these notes.

Kiteman3 years ago
It would be good if you could add an mp3 or video of it being played...
andyk75 (author)  Kiteman3 years ago
I have tried a video yet, but the sound is so bad, you only hear a click any time I hit the cajon... I hope to get a better one soon.
Andy, Any idea why you are not getting a better sound? I wonder if plywood is appropriate? Also how thin were your front and back?
andyk75 (author)  LandMime3 years ago
It's a problem with my camera, not with the cajon! The Sound of the cajon is great, but recording a drum is not easy. Front and back are 4mm thin or thick.
Andy - Just a thought... if you are trying to record the sound and a video using a digital camera it might help to see if you can set it not to change focus during the video. I had an old Cannon camera that picked up the sound of the motor adjusting the focus. Just an idea, you may have tried this already. Cheers - Mike
I second Kiteman, I would love to hear how it sounds. You did a very good job laying out the steps and I'm think about making one, but I would really like to hear it! Thank you for the effort you put into the instructions, well done.
Verga3 years ago
Thanks now i have another project ot add to my list of things I need to build. Seriously Great project and great instructable, very clear
HaPPI3 years ago
Looks good andyk75 - nice work! They are really fun to play, sound much like djembe/cunga/bongo once you get the hang of it. It makes many sounds depending where you tap it or even slide your hand along the head like a brush sound, just combine the different sounds like any hand drum. I've made a number of them and given away most. I make three sizes, one very large I call filing cabinet (drawer, get it? use it for bass drum, tap it with my foot while playing a smaller one with the hands) one I call kitchen (the size of a kitchen drawer or briefcase, much more portable, 12x20x3 inches) and one called nightstand about 13x13x2 inches. I try to use only recycled wood, and the older the better. Old wood gets more resonant with age, more sustain, a more rich tone, like a Stradivarius! My fave that I kept has sides of 50 year old red cedar and heads from 50 year old 1/8th inch wood paneling before they invented that particleboard junk. I've made several from actual crate wood, some from tearout from remodeling, always free and otherwise headed for a landfill. A light finish like a thin coating of wax or tung oil on the 2 thin "head" plywood sides and rubbed on, rubbed off urethane/stain on the 4 thicker sides. A light, very resonant wood is the best side wood such as red cedar if you can find it, or any guitar wood or other musical instrument wood, solid wood or ply. A wonderful ply is birch. Whatever species, if you tap it and it sings, it will make a great cajon. I have a little black walnut I'm going to try next for sides, and I predict fabulous tone. Tried pine but its too soft and makes a more muted tone. Most important thing is to have fun making it beautiful, and then have fun make the music beautiful. Enjoy!
MTJimL3 years ago
A guy in our church worship team went from a djembe to a cajon and the volume is about the same, while the range of tones is spectacular for such a small instrument. Another advantage is the player has a built-in seat. In fact, that's the way it's supposed to be played.
Here are my plans which include the ability to "tune" your cajon. http://www.tomasdaly.com/How_to_build_a_Cajon.html
codeblue123 years ago
Very nice instructable. a cheaper alternative is to use guitar strings for snares. but this looks very well constructed.
zerty0n3 years ago
I have always wanted to build one of these self so simple but yet very cool instrument. One thing tho don't the real drums lie this ave snare wires in the to resonate. here is a link of a picture of the snare wires inside sorry about low res i cant find any better ones http://brandontrading.wholemusiclearning.com/BTE%20Graphics/LP%20Aspire%20Cajon%2001B.JPG. Also another picture a little better resolution with snare wires only going half way im not sure what difference it would make http://caseyconnor.org/cajonstuff/images/markscajon4.jpg But I've heard if u want to go cheap instead of snare wires you could use old guitar strings (or new if you want) but i would say to wait till u have a bunch of the same gauge. Good instructable tho i still may try to build one myself!
LandMime3 years ago
Looks really cool. Be nice to see it played, especailly regarding how to position yourself for play and also to see the size compared to a person. I'm assumming you can play it from any side, right? I wonder how loud it is?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXeNTf2EaUI&feature=related
scoochmaroo3 years ago
I just saw one of these at a live gig recently. I was completely stumped as to where the drum set was. It took me a while to figure it out, but as soon as I saw it, I wanted an Instructable about it! Thanks!!!
andyk75 (author) 3 years ago
It's kind of a drum that's completely made out of wood. It's origine is from south america, Peru.
In an earlier version I had a short description, but that somehow got lost. Obviously...

Thanks to edbro, g2yeux and jacob13 to set this clear!
I would add this to your intro to make it better :) I was wondering what a cajun is as well. Perhaps you also should put "music instrument" in the title or something. Judging by the front picture I was thinking of a small stool or something :p
andyk75 (author)  MichelMoermans3 years ago
I didn't know I could edit the instructable once I submitted it! But now I added some information to the intro.
The similarity to a stool is not wrong. It is also a very comfortable seat during outdoor sessions...
bmlk993 years ago
A cajón (Spanish pronunciation: [kaˈxon], "crate," "drawer," or "box") is a kind of box drum played by slapping the front face (generally thin plywood) with the hands
framistan3 years ago
I for one am mystified. What is a Cajon? is it a coffin?
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