Introduction: Retro Wireless Speakers From Ikea Salad Bowls

Thanks for checking out my Instructable for making your own Retro-modern style wireless speakers using rocketfish speakers and two Ikea salad bowls.  

In a nutshell, this tutorial is a housing conversion.  We'll take the guts out of the rocketfish speakers and transfer it over to each of the salad bowls.  I came up with this idea for my blog ( where I do one creative thing a day for a year and document it each day.  This was Day 140.

I did this conversion mostly over a period of one night so some of my solutions might seem a little temporary to you.  As we go along I will try to suggest alternative methods.

The two main ingredients in this tutorial are:

1.  The Rocketfish speakers (RF-WS01)

2.  2 BLANDA MATT 11in Ikea serving bowls

Now, lets begin...

Step 1: Opening Up the Speakers

Now its time to open up these speakers.  The tools you will need to cleanly remove the circuit boards, woofer and tweeter from it's original housing are:

A phillips head screwdriver
A smaller precision phillips head screwdriver
A T10 Torx Screwdriver
A 1/2in. Nut Driver

Begin by removing the volume knob from the front of the speakers.  It's on there tight so you might want to use some pliers of channel locks to pull it off.  Then take the 1/2in. Nut Driver and remove the screw attaching the potentiometer to the plastic housing. (see picture)

Next, take your T10 Torx screw driver and remove all of the screws off of the back of the housing.  Don't miss the four located inside the battery compartment.  There should be eight altogether (see picture)  Once the screws are removed you should be able to open the speaker housing quite easily.

Step 2: Separating the Power Supply

Examine the interior: You should see three ribbon cables connecting the two sides of the housing together. They go from a circuit board on the front housing to the power connections on the back.  (see picture)  Disconnect all three of them from the circuit board  but remember their location and orientation for when you reassemble it.  I took a picture that I referenced later.

Snip the red and black wires connected to the battery compartment on the back of the housing.  Snip them close to the battery compartment so that you leave yourself some length of wire to work with later. (see picture)

Next, you'll need to remove the power connection meant for the AC adaptor from the housing.  It's connected with some hot glue so I used a flathead screwdriver to pry it from the glue holding it to the housing. (see picture)

Then, use the precision phillips head to unscrew the AC connector from the housing.  You should be left with a bundle of wires matching the last picture in this step. (see picture)

Step 3: Removing the Rest

Turn your attention to the front side of the speaker housing.

Begin by removing the woofer and tweeter using a regular phillips head screw driver.  Be careful of the capacitor connecting the two speakers together.  A strong force could easily break the connection.  I broke the connection accidentally on one of my conversions and had to re-solder it back into position.

Remove the speakers gently and set them beside the housing.  The gray wire connecting the speakers to the circuit boards should be long enough for you to place it beside the housing.  

You should now see three circuit boards left in the housing.  Two of them easily slip out.  The last one is screwed into the back of the housing.  Remove the screws holding it in using the precision phillips head screwdriver.  Make sure you got them all out before prying.  I believe there should be eight.  There is also some black tape holding this board down as well.  After a bit of prying on each of the four corners, the board should come out fairly easily.  

The other side of this board has the Power Button, the Volume Knob and a Three-Position Switch which decides whether this speaker will be set to Left, Right or Mono.

You should now be left with something similar to the picture below.

Congratulations,  you can now chuck the ugly housing Rocketfish provided.

Step 4: Soldering the Battery Holder

For this part of the process you will need:

- 2 8AA Battery Holders
- A Box of 9V-Clips (to connect to your battery holder, see picture) 
- Soldering Iron with a small to medium tip
- Solder
- Electrical Tape (or heat-shrink tubing)

*If you don't have soldering equipment but know someone who does get them to do it for you.  It will seriously take them a few minutes to finish.

Now, it's time to solder our battery holder to our power supply.  

The Rocketfish Speakers call for 8 C batteries for each speaker. (I know!  That's a lot of batteries!  If it's any consolation my speakers are still running off the original batteries I put in there.)  

When I put this project together I had to post it on my blog the next morning.  My initial thought was that I would somehow cut out the battery compartment from the original housing and use it in my salad bowls.  I quickly realized that this wasn't going to work.  As serendipity would have it I DID have two 8AA Battery holders left-over from a previous project.  I still think if you went to your local electronics shop and picked up an 8C-Battery Holder it might fit inside the bowl and would last some time longer than the AA's.

Okay, now the step.  Take your 9V battery clip and your leftover power supply that you saved from the speaker and solder the black wires together and the red wires together.

(see pics below)

There.  Easy.  Now just tape it up with some electrical tape and your done.

Step 5: Prepping the Salad Bowls

Now, it's time to cut the holes for the speakers to sit in.  These particular speakers have 4in. woofers and 1&1/2 in. tweeters.

The tools needed for this step are:
A Drill
A 4in. Hole Saw
A 1&1/2in. Hole Saw
(If you've never used these types of bits before make sure you ask one of the hardware store employees to make sure you have everything needed to mount these bits into your drill)

Main Step:  Drill each of the holes.  I placed the Woofer directly in the center of the salad bowl and my tweeter about an inch and a half below that.  Normally tweeters are placed above woofers but since these speakers were meant to hang in trees above the party-goers heads I placed them below.  

When using the 4in Hole Saw make sure you don't press down to firmly.  To get the cleanest cut you want to ease the drill down lightly until you have a deep enough groove.  If you press too firmly then the bit has a tendency to get caught in the wood and then you have a bowl spinning out of control.

I then used a flat file to smooth out the inner rim of the hole and to clean up some leftover splinters that were still holding on.

When I cut these holes in my own salad bowls I learned the hard way about how firm to press down, especially with the 4in hole saw.  The ridges of my holes ended up a little jagged.  I believe with a more subtle amount of pressure you can get a pretty clean cut.  If it turns out jagged I would recommend a few passes of some different grained sandpaper.  From rougher to smoother.

Okay, now your ready to load in the speaker guts.

Step 6: Mounting the Woofer and Tweeter

In this half of the tutorial you might find some of my solutions to things a little temporary and I am positive that there are better ways.  I mounted everything in the salad bowls in the simplest fashion possible.

For the next few steps the tools you'll need, give or take, are:

 - A Pencil
 - Phillips Head Screwdriver
 - A 1/16th Drill bit
 - Double Stick Tape (one of those temporary solutions)
 - Gaffers Tape (Really one of those temporary solutions)
 - Small wood screws:  The thickness of the bowl is a 1/4 inch so you will want some pretty short wood screws.  Get at least 20.  I used slightly thicker wood screws for the woofer and tweeter and thinner wood screws for the circuitry.  The thinner wood screws were a bit longer because they go through the nylon spacers you'll see below.  I apologize for my lack of specifics when it comes to these screws.  You should use your own judgment when you get the salad bowls and see for yourself.

*I tended to over-buy the wood screws in various lengths in order to guarantee that I had enough to finish for the night

 - Nylon washers:  These are meant for the wood screws.  I got nylon because of the circuit boards.  it really doesn't matter what they're made of as long as they don't make contact with any of the components or pads on the circuit boards.  With my time constraints for finishing I just felt better using nylon.

-Nylon Spacers:  These are for inbetween the circuit boards and the interior of the bowl.

The first step was to screw the woofer and the tweeter into position.  Start by lining up the woofer over the 4inch hole and putting some firm pressure down to bend the metal where the screws go, to form to the curved surface of the salad bowl.  While holding it in place flip the salad bowl over to see how it's lined up.  If it's good, flip it back and mark the locations with a pencil.

I started by drilling four pilot holes with the 1/16th drill bit where I had marked with the pencil.  (See Picture)  Then I placed the woofer back into position and flipped and checked again.  I used the phillips head screwdriver and the thicker wood screws with the nylon washers to attach it.  

(The nylon washers were used because at the time I wasn't sure if my screws were going to go completely through the bowl.  The length of the screws that I had were awfully close to the same thickness of the bowl.)

Once the woofer was secured into position I repeated the process with the tweeter.

Step 7: Adding the Circuit Boards

I went for minimalism when it came to mounting the circuitry inside the salad bowls.  I used the least amount of screws possible.

To begin, reconnect the ribbon cables of the power supply (now, with the newly installed AA battery holder) back to the circuit boards.  Remember the orientation from the earlier step?  If you examine the connections you'll see that there really is only one way to connect it but I find a little more peace of mind having a reference picture.

Once connected you need to figure out how your going to orient all the boards around the salad bowl.  I wanted to give every board as much space as possible.  (See the picture below to see how I oriented everything)

I attached the circuit boards with the thinner wood screws with the nylon washers and the nylon spacers.  I didn't feel the need for pilot holes on these ones.  I used a battery powered drill at half power to gingerly screw them in.  I started with the main circuit board and used one screw with nylon washers and spacer to mount that.  Then I did the same with the receiver circuit next to it.  (see picture)

The circuit board with the switches and knobs I knew I needed to get at in order to use the speakers so I used the thick double-stick tape to mount that slightly standing up a little so I could get to the controls fairly easily. (see picture)  

*The double stick tape, in my opinion, is one of those temporary solutions I was talking about earlier.  Eventually that tape is going to come loose and perhaps a better solution is to use some small L-brackets instead.

Finally, the last step in this process is my worst temporary solution.  Because I needed to get these guys done before the next day as well as get some sleep before work.  I decided to simply Gaffers Tape the AA battery holder and the little AC connector board to the side of the interior of the bowl.  I plan on fixing this in my own speakers by using some sort of velcro solution.

OK, you have successfully finished one side of the speaker sphere.  Now, you have to go back to the beginning and repeat the process for the other side.

*No worries.  It's a lot of explanation for a pretty simple process.  Once you've done one side you will be able to do the other side in half the time.  My first complete speaker sphere took me about five hours to finish.   The second one I did took only a couple of hours.

Step 8: Connecting Both Sides of the Sphere

Now that you have finished both sides of your new retro speaker spheres it's time to connect the sides together.

I decided to use a couple of brass draw-hasps to connect the two sides of the speakers together.  There are many ways you could do this part of the process and I leave it to you to be creative.

In order to do it the way I did, the tools you'll need are:
2 Brass Draw Hasps
A Roll of Self-Adhesive Black Sponge Rubber Weather Stripping
Some Binding Straps or Some Heavy Object (You'll see why below)
A Drawer Handle (Or something more creative)

First thing I did was stick the weather stripping to the ridge of the bowl.  (See Picture Below)

After both sides have their weather stripping applied I placed them on top of each other.  I made sure that I had them lined up correctly and that my tweeters were roughly symmetrical to each other.  I didn't have a good strap at the time so I used this big heavy speaker that I had in my studio to weigh the top half down upon the bottom (See Pic Below)

That way I could attach my hasps to the bowl and be positive that it was going to be a snug fit later.  After the hasps are in place you are one step away from being done.  You still need a way to hang these guys.

This is where I used the drawer handle.  I drilled a hole slightly off from the direct top of the speaker so that when I hung the them one side would be angled downward a little.  (See Pic below)

Okay, you are officially done!  Now you can enjoy your super cool retro modern wireless speakers.

Some Final Thoughts:  I have had a person recommend placing a thin piece of MDF between the two sides of the sphere.  This way none of the sound gets cancelled out by having the two speakers directly behind each other.  It should improve the sound quality.  

I can say with great confidence that this housing is a great improvement from the original in regards to sound quality.  If you have sound coming through, the moment you connect the two sides together you will instantly hear the difference.

I hope this was helpful and I welcome your comments.  I'd love to hear about alternative methods for things that perhaps I will implement in my own speakers.  Thanks for reading and be sure to check my blog every once in a while.  I do one creative thing every day so maybe today there is something new to inspire you.