Wooden LED Synced Headphones From Scratch




Introduction: Wooden LED Synced Headphones From Scratch

About: Hi I am a sculpture major at VCU Arts and I love to create functional art pieces. Whether its wood, metal, or 3d printing I love to be challenged.
Over the past few months I have been asked by my fellow classmates and friends,"Mark, why are you making headphones?" My response has consistently been, I love music, I want good quality over ear headphones, but I don't want to drop 300+ on name brand headphones. If you know me I will take almost any opportunity I can get to make something if i need it. So I received mixed reactions in the early stages of the project, some positive some negative, but as these progressed more and more people realized how cool these were going to turn out. 

Why do they blink? Well I wanted there to be a unique effect that would make them stand out, and not just be wooden headphones. I've had people stare at me while I'm in the library, with faces saying "Wait a second, is it blinking to the music? Sweet I want a pair!"

I just want to say that I made everything from scrap pieces of wood, leather, acrylic, plastic, and foam with the exception of the electronics of coarse. I had no directions, just countless prototypes out of packing material and some rough measurements of Bose acoustic  headphones. Making these headphones has been a wonderful experience for me and is one of my more successful pieces of art I have made and thats why I want to share them with all of you. Special thanks to my mother, father and Garry Cerrone for all contributing knowledge of their trades.

Step 1: Everything You'll Need and More!

Materials- (optional, in parentheses is what I used)
  • body: Any hard wood (Cherry) -  1" thick, at least 3x 8.5'' to accommodate two pieces.
  • top ring: More hard wood (Oak) -  1.5'' think,  at least 3x 8.5'' to accommodate two pieces.
  • Plug: 
    • Even more wood (mahogany) - .25'' thick, 
    •  Acrylic 1/4 thick or two .1/8" pieces glued together.
  • Squishy donut:
    • High density foam, can be purchased at fabric stores -1" inch thick, but go bigger because it is easier to cut down to have a little extra, plus it compresses
    • Very thin soft leather or suede, I believe mine is 1/32" (I got a scrap from saddle maker at my moms store) you can purchase the color of your choice: Here
    •  A spool of upholster or ultra strength thread with extra wax coats. 
  • Headband 
    • Heat molding plastic sheets(ortho plastic) search amazon for "moldable plastic sheets"
    • (1/4'' to 1/2'' BrassChicago screws) depends on thickness of plastic
    • black 1/16'' cut of black leather
    • spandex fabric for padded sleeve 
    • foam for padding
    • use wax coated thread for leather stitching
Electronic Materials
  • Plug: 2x (blue) LEDs -  5mm, 3.7volt
    • Electrical wire
    • TIp 31c transistor
    • alligator clips
    • speaker wire
    • thick stereo headphone wire
    • 2x Stereo jacks
    • Headphone splitter
    • 3v battery
  • Sewing machine
  • stove top
  • pan
  • Jig saw
  • miter box 
  • x-acto knife
  • hand saw
  • dremel
  • chisels 
  • hammar
  • needle nose pliers
  • wire cutters
  • flat pliers
  • soldering iron
  • at least 5 clamps
  • wood rasps
  • vice grips
  • Sanders
    • barrel sander
    • normal belt or electric hand sander
    • paper
      • 120 g
      • 200 g
      • 300 g wet dry
      • 400 g wet dry
      • 600 g wet dry
Glues and Wood Treatments
  • Gorilla wood glue
  • 2 part epoxy
  • Danish oil
  • solder rosen core FOR AUDIO VERY IMPORTANT
  • electrical tape
  • masking tape

Step 2: Planing and Designing

Make a template with Photoshop
  1. Measure size with ruler mark with the grid lines
  2. then use the marque tool to snap to the grid measurement
  3. use fill tool to color selection
  4. deselect and drag circle to gauge size of plug
  5. print to appropriate scale
  6. Use card stock or some kind of thick paper to cut out

main template: 3" x 4"
Plug diameter 1.75"

Step 3: Trace the Templates to the Wood

Draw templates on 1" inch thick hardwood, make sure the grain runs with the longer dimension. I drew it the wrong way first, but fixed it afterwards.

Step 4: Carving the Ear Cups

The videos will show you how to carve out the first few layers. Pictures show the following  layers I carved out

Step 5: Cutting and Drilling the Cups

Cut the Pieces out on the scroll saw. Try to keep the blade on the line to minimalize sanding.

Drill the hole
Find the center, mark it with an awl, then drill through with a small bit.
I used a 1.5" hole saw bit to remove about a 1.75" hole with it clamped in the drill press 

Step 6: Oak Rings

The oak rings and similar to the cherry rings in that they are the same size. 
  1. Use the red template to trace on the 3/4"oak
  2. Drill out a hole for the scroll saw blade to come through.
  3. Thread the blade and remove the center. Make this as smooth as possible for the inside will be hard to sand.
  4. Once everything is cleared out, move to the outside and cut.

Step 7: Attach Oak Rings to Cup

You can take a file to the outside of the ovals to true everything up. Move the ovals around until they fit best then dampen, glue and clamp.

Step 8: Rounding and Shaping Ear Cups

Once these are glued use a belt sander to clean up sides for this is the last time to do heavy sanding on the oak section.
  1. Before you start rounding mark a fall off line that's the same height all around the cup.
  2. Try to blend the the rounding right before the line.
  3. I started rounding with some big toothed wraps and files. This takes a very long time so using a dremel is a possibility too.

Step 9: Plug Design

The plugs were based off the size of the template
  1. Mark acrylic and cut out squares
  2. Frost both sides of each piece, I sandblasted them, if thats not a possibility, sand with 320+ grit paper.
  3. glue with epoxy and clamp to wood
  4. mark with circle template and mark the center on the wood
  5. sand to size on barrel and belt sanders
  6. drill out center based on the size and depth of LED. It should be flush with the bottom of the led, but not so deep that it punches through.

Step 10: Cut Heat Sink of the Transistor

The transistor at the original size doesn't fit well so the heat sink needs to come off. I don't think this effects anything because the circuit still works, and the transistor never gets that hot.

Clamp the transistor tight and saw back and forth with small hacksaw or serrated cutting blade make sure to cut all of the way through or it will snap.

Step 11: Wiring the Transistor

Much thanks to motadacruz for posting such a detailed instructable on their blinking light box I was able to create a similar circuit and apply it to my project. 

Both ears are slightly different, what I'm calling the left ear, has the jack receiver where the music plugs in. The right channel then goes over the top of the band and down to the right cup powering that circuit. 

Step 12: Complete Circuit

Bend the wires around the 3v battery so it stays and makes a good connection. You can purchase little slides that hold the batteries that have solder ports. I never thought to use one until recently, and I ordered some off Ebay. i'll show updated pictures when they get in.

Step 13: Wire New Leads and Extract Speakers

The speakers used in these headphones were from a of $20 pare Sennheiser HD 201. I used these because they are very cheep and have a really nice overall sound. I was honestly surprised with the quality, and listend to them as is for quite some time. When finally I put them in to the cups all wired up the quality and sound range increased substantially.
  1. Take the headphones apart until you get down to the speaker where you can see the ports. Be sure not to take apart the protective fence around the speaker for you can easily break them for being careless.
  2. snip the red and the copper wires.
  3. Get a fresh strand of speaker wire from the spool. Make it a little longer than you think you need split , strip and twist it. Making sure that all 7 internal wires are intact before proceeding for this will diminish the quality of your music.
  4. Scrape any old solder off the speaker contacts with the soldering iron. Re solder making sure to use rosin core AUDIO solder for it needs that higher conductivity rate to transmit music well.
  5. Heat the wire and the contact plate then melt the solder by touching it to the wire and plate. Don't try to force solder on with the iron tip let the solder flow to the heat.

Step 14: Fit Circuit in Plug

push the led into place and rotate the speaker until the wire coils and press it lightly down. Cut a notch for the wire to pass through. feel free to cut foam and fabric to diffuse and insulate speaker.

Step 15: Construct Headphone Cord

If you want to make a cord like me than read this otherwise they can be bought pretty cheep online if your search for "stereo male to male plug

I wanted to make one because more often than not these cords are flimsy and break easily. I got two stereo audio jacks from radio shack for pretty cheap and soldered them to a thick cord my physics teacher gave me. Its very simple to do, when you solder these make it quick and try to minimize heating of the soldering ports for they could come loose.
  1. Pass the wire through the hole of the correct ports (See pictures)
  2. Solder
  3.  Snip excess

Step 16: Sewing the Donut

Foam donuts:
  1. cut a rectangular slice to set thickness
  2. trace the red template with a sharpie
  3. Cut out with scissors or knife
  4. cut a bevel on all edges to round the foam completely
This was much more difficult than I originally thought it would be and took a couple tries.
  1. Cut a rectangle to 3.5"x 6"
  2. Sew ends together leaving smooth side out (img.8)
  3. Wrap around donut
  4. Put a stitch on the top bottom and middle of both sides to hold the leather in place
  5. Work around connecting the sections and pull leather tight around foam but not too tight because it will deform the donut shape.
  6. you man need to trim the leather down a little bit as you go.

Step 17: Finishing and Treating the Wood

There are countless ways of finishing wood, depending on what you want. I thought about going for the the lacquered finish, but I don't like how artificial it feels afterwards. I wanted to preserve the wood, yet leave it somewhat open to feel and build a patina of its own. This is what I've done so far.

First things first is to sand these things till they glow. The trick to getting insanely smooth wood is not just using high grits it all starts with the lower grits. After this things are shaped go over them with some finer files to achieve perfect roundness, i.e. no bumps, or lumps. next get some 100 or 120 grit and a powered sander and go at it working in circular motions around the ovals. Do this until all traceable scratches, divots, and imperfections are removed. In between grits wipe with a rag to remove clinging dust. Keep working up the grits making sure that each one is properly addressed. The more care you give the better your final result will be. Once you reach the 400s and 600s its good to touch up by hand. Try to minimize strokes against grain for they will fog wood. Stop and wipe clean with dry cloth when reached desired smoothness.

I used tung and linseed oil, danish oil works well too, this strengthens and brings out natural color in wood. I think I used 4 to 5 coats. Instructions are different for each.

I have yet to put anything else on mine yet, but I plan on putting several coats of wax on a later date. I will upload pictures when I do.

Step 18: Headband Design and Bending Template

This template shown was originally meant to bend wood for one of my failed attempts at a headband, however it served as a perfect template for bending the top plastic band. (Ignore the interior hole it was originally for clamps).
  1. The template needs to be bent smaller than a head, so measure a diameter of 6 inches with ruler then set a compass to 3 and draw a little farther past halfway on each side. 
  2. cut out on a scroll or band saw
  3. sand lightly

Step 19: Bending and Constructing the Top Band

Once again the perks of a mother who owns several tack and horse shops has been the deal breaker. I was lucky enough to have huge sheets of of this Ortho medical grade plastic laying around the house that I normally couldn't afford. She had originally used it to mold horses backs for custom saddles. 
Anyway I have been trying tirelessly to create a headband that would be sufficient for these headphones. I was stuck on making everything from scratch, or else I would do what everyone else does who makes custom headphones and reuse the headband from the headphones I jack the speakers form. I really wish that there was somewhere on the internet that would tell you how to make some kind of headband, but I found nothing. So I had to experiment, I tried everything from  bending aluminum with my forge, using sheet steel and rivets, wetting and gluing veneer,  but I'll tell you if you can get your hands on some of this plastic its amazing and will make an incredible headband. Try to get the densest stuff you can find it needs to have a good spring to it. 

Plan out your top band and forks all in one mine was 2" wide on the band, 18'' long, forks were 4" wide and tapered to band. the top band cuts down to about 6''.
  1. Make a paper template for the forks, and cut it out. This way it's the same on both sides and looks the way you want. 
  2. Now for the cutting and bending of the plastic. Get a cookie or brownie sheet and lay the non stick plastic down with a pretty high water line and heat it. The plastic should start melting around 150f. 
  3. Draw directly on the plastic with a sharpie and heat the plastic so its soft and cuttable with a scissor.  
  4. Get the template we made in the previous step and have it ready for when you heat (Sorry I don't have bending pictures of the band on the template). Once you have the strip cut to size and smoothed the way you like, take it out of the water and immediately wrap it around the template so that the forks hang even on both sides. Hold it to fit for a few seconds and then plunge it in ice water to quench the hot plastic and hold its current shape. When most things get cold they contract so the plastic should cling pretty tight to the template, making for good flex in the headband.
  5. Take the plastic off and make sure the flex and curvature is ideal.If not you can sometimes cut a second smaller piece of plastic to adhere and strengthen the curve.
  6. If everything is good mark where to cut the forks off, reheat and snip them.  It's good to leave a little extra room on the forks, the top doesn't need to be as long as you think. 
There should be enough room to overlap the forks on the upper band.
  1. Have your wooden pieces ready so you can use them as bending templates.
  2. before you bend the forks themselves get a scrap wide enough to accommodate the width of the forks. Make a S shaped bend to mold the forks to.
  3. heat and mold to the template you made in step 2. once its fully hardened move on.
  4. heat only the legs of the fork not where they come together to preserve structural integrity. It helps to run or dip cold water in the areas you don't want to change. Once you have selectively heated the legs drape the fork over the cup and lightly squeeze and hold in place making sure both sides are symmetrical. Dunk in ice water when reached desired shape. 
  5. If your plastic gets banged up it helps to smooth with a wet spoon while hot.

Step 20: Attaching the Headband to the Ear Cups

Before you drill its best to attach the forks to the cups and make sure they are the same on both sides. I found some small brass screws with a smooth section towards the top so they can swing and move around. put a mark in the middle of both sides where the plastic meets the wood. Make sure the fork is far enough back so it doesn't stick above the edge. Pre drill the plastic and wood separately and screw in halfway to make sure it fits. 
Tape drilled the forks to the band and make sure everything is the way you want it.  Once its perfect mark where the holes will be. Select a bit according to the size of your hardware. Rest over a section of wood when drilling to get a clean hole.  Remove tape and cups when done to paint.


Plastics usually do best when sprayed, I happened to have some gloss black that works with plastic. WARNING  this stuff takes at least 5 days for the extreme tackiness to subside. Don't be like me, I was in a rush to finish a portfolio for school. Have patience for it to dry fully or you will have to do lots of touch ups and it could get on the wood. 

Step 21: Upholster and Finish the Headband

Its the home stretch, wrapping this thing.  When leather is this thick and sewed this tight it is near impossible to turn inside out, so I sewed it on the outside. Measure the EXACT width of the band and make sure you have more than enough extra length to cover both forks at the end. You can use your average sewing machine but be sure to increase the stitch distance, and use a thicker needle. 

IMPORTANT: Before you slide the leather on remember to pass the speaker wire though the leather sleeve so it will be on the other side to power the right ear cup.

Step 22: Attaching the Donut

Use some double stick tape nothing too permeant. I had these double stick dots that attached to wood pretty well, and pulled the donuts down tight. You could probably glue it with some epoxy and carefully clamp the leather.

Step 23: Finish

Snip, strip, twist, and solder the wires in the right ear. Push the plugs in snug, a strip of electrical tape can help seal. 

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    The Science Brony
    The Science Brony

    6 years ago

    Do you mind if I use a few ideas for my headphone build?


    6 years ago on Introduction

    That is really cool. Looks like it takes a lot of work. Nice job!


    7 years ago

    hey! amazing instructable. I want to try making this, but can I use 5W 4ohm speakers I salvaged from an ihome? I'll mainly be using it with my laptop. Thnx in advance


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks a ton!
    also is it just generic rosin core solder or does it have to be anything special like lead free?
    Thanks again


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Yes there is no such thing as AUDIO solder.

    Wooaaah these are really nice! Hahaha they remind me of soundproof headsets for bullet practice :) Thanks a lot! I was looking for an instructable like this for one of my final projects at school :) I'm gonna see if I could possibly add RGB LEDs and a switch to switch their colours hahaha. I'm gonna do that music led box from motadacruz with RGB LEDs to see if that works :)

    ultra magnus
    ultra magnus

    8 years ago on Introduction

    awesome photos. great job. i've often wanted a pair of wooden headphones. i think they would be classy. sure enough yours do look good. thanks for sharing.


    8 years ago

    Sorry for the late response, It's all 18 gauge speaker wire. It doesn't matter that much just know the more copper strands the better the quality. And for the battery used a single strand electrical wire.

    Thayheb, think of it this way. The transistor is essentially using the music as a light switch. The circuit is already complete so when a high enough frequency passes through it makes a bridge and turns on the light.

    Also I am not selling this model but I am making a second generation that will be easier for me reproduce.

    Hope this helps!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    youre a genius
    pls tell me more about the gauge
    and the figure between the ground connection at tip31 and the battery


    8 years ago

    Are you planning on selling it?


    8 years ago on Step 11

    Also what gauge is it?
    Anything you can do to help would be great I just have no clue!



    8 years ago on Step 11

    What kind of wire are you sodering to the transistor?
    Is it just electrical or speaker wire?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    There are pretty awesome. I had a few questions:
    1. How long do the batteries last?
    2. They just work like regular headphones if the battery is dead or there isn't on in, correct?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Victim115, they last a long time because battery is only powering the light when its on. I have yet to change the original batteries since I finished them. Recently I soldered in a 3v battery holder so if need be they can be replace easily. Also yes the headphones work the same with or without a battery.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Great idea! I have a Sennheiser HD535 open air sustem, several years old (12??) and it is falling apart. The parts I need are so expensive that the option to buy a new one is a better option. The polstery at the head band and the foam cushions inside the ear parts has gone bad. The foam is replaced by felt. It is open and the filtering is minimal. I always would have had a wooden version of a headphone. Your idea is great! Thanks for sharing.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Also I want to thank everyone who commented and viewed this instructable! I will be posting a better schematic shortly and please stay tuned and subscribe for I am making a second generation that will blow this one away. I hope to have them finished by the end of the summer.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Just kinda wondering, anyone know how much it would be to make these?


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I suggest saving the headband it will make life easier. If you already have headphones you like its mostly just the cost of electronics and raw materials, so probably no more than 50$ if you don't have access to hard woods, acrylic, etc.