I saw in a few different haunted radios in stores this year. They played music and lit up. Some had moving parts. They were plastic and didn't look like they'd hold up for very long. Especially the music/speaker setup. I could make a better one, that played music I liked and looked how I wanted it to look.
The goal was to spend less on building a radio than I could buy one. My budget was $25 since that was the cheapest radio I found.
So instead of a haunted radio that has sensors and moving parts, I'm making a possessed radio that plays weird music and makes people question my taste in music. :)
Here we go.......
Step 1: Supplies
Use what you have. Post Office and Amazon boxes work really well.
Balsa wood & Balsa plywood:
1 pc - 1/8 x 12" x 24" for the radio face
2 pcs* 1/16 x 4" x 36" for the side.
*you can get away with only one piece of narrow balsa (the piece for the side)
The second piece is for the feet if you have them and you won't use very much.
You can use the scrap from the radio face instead.
I got the wood at Joann Fabrics. They can be a little pricey; between $5 - $10, so if you have coupons, use them.
Wood applique for speaker cover - again Joann, with a coupon it was $2
*It's easier to take the cut out piece of paper for the speaker grill with you when searching for the wooden applique.
Hot glue and gun
Jigsaw or Dremmel
Small piece of burlap
brown or black
gold or an aged looking yellow or orange
I'm using buttons, but you can buy wooden drawer pulls
Wood stain and a cloth to wipe with
$5 at Home Depot
Cheap throw away paint brush 1"-2"
LED string lights - any color
the tiny ones that are on the bendable wire w/a small battery pack
Portable speaker and iPod (or a combination like that)
Step 2: Template
Find a picture of a vintage radio you like. I found this on Pinterest and picked it because it looked easy to copy and wasn't too flashy.
Open whatever photo editing program you are comfortable using. I used Photoshop. I started a new project and set the canvas to 8.5" x 11". Copy and paste the picture, enlarge it to 8.5" x 11", then crop/cut out the top half. In another window, again with the canvas at 8.5" x 11", enlarged the top part of the radio to the full page (8.5x11). Do the same with the bottom half.
Print (save your ink, print in b&w or gray scale), you should have two pages.
Cut out the radio and tape your template together.
Cut out the speaker and dial face.
Transfer your template to the cardboard. You will need a front template and a back template. The back template should be solid.
Note* If your radio has feet; your template needs to have feet.
Step 3: Radio Face
Once your template is complete trace it onto the balsa plywood.
If your radio has feet like this one. You need to trace the template onto the wood without the feet.
Cut out the face, the speaker and the dial with a jigsaw or Dremmel tool or whatever cutting method you prefer.
Sand around all the edges to smooth any rough cuts.
Next size your wooden applique. I got a bat but only wanted the wings so I cut the body out and pieced the middle together to make it look like one piece.
Glue the applique to the radio face.
I only used wood for the radio face and sides and used cardboard for the back. If you want the whole radio made of wood, cut out the back when you are doing the front. It all goes together the same way.
Step 4: Radio Side and Back
Heat up your glue gun.
Lay the long thin piece of balsa on the table. Lay the radio face on it's side. Line up the bottom of the radio face with the bottom edge of the balsa. They go together in an "L" shape. I'm sorry I don't have a picture of this. It was hard to hold everything together and take a photo.
The balsa goes on the outside, around of the radio face. Glue the joint the first couple of inches. Enough to hold it so you can bend the rest of the wood around the top of the radio.
Once it's secure, tape down the rest of the balsa to the outside of the radio face. Go slow so you don't snap the wood in half. It should be longer on one side of the radio face than the other.
Glue it all together. Add tape as needed to keep it together.
I taped the back to help keep it's shape.
Once it's dry you can trim any excess wood as needed.
Get your back cardboard template or wooden piece.
Cut an access panel in the middle. It will need to be big enough to get your hand(s) in and whatever speaker you are using. It needs to open outward. Add some sort of knob to the back so you can open the panel as needed. I used the 4th button and "sewed" it to the door.
Lay the radio face down and tape on the back.
Glue the back to the side same as the front was glued to the side. It's a little tight but it can be done.
Let it dry.
If your radio has feet.
You can see in the pictures there on are no feet on the face of the radio, but there are feet on the back template. The radio sits on the feet so. When you start to tape the back cardboard template to the side thin balsa, line it up so that the feet on the template sit just below the side piece of wood.
Step 5: Bottom and Feet
If your radio has feet like mine you will need to build out the feet to support the radio.
*The radio front won't have feet if you are using this template.
To add feet to the front:
Cut off the bottom half of the front template, glue it to the inside front of the radio. Line it up the same as the back template. The wood on the side should rest on top of the feet.
To reinforce the feet:
Take a scrap piece of cardboard the width of the radio. Lay the radio down. Budge the cardboard up until it hits the wood sides of the radio. Trace along the bottom of the template and the feet. Cut two (2) of these. Glue one to the front template and the other to the inside of the back template. Each pair of feet will have two layers of cardboard.
Now take the other piece of thin balsa or you can use the scrap plywood from the radio face. Trace the same foot template as for the cardboard in the previous step. Cut this out and glue it on to the front of the radio, covering the exposed cardboard. It should give you the look of trim on the bottom of the radio. If you feel it is too thin, add another layer of wood.
The bottom of the radio.
Take another piece of cardboard or wood and cut it to fit the inside bottom of the radio, between the cardboard feet. Glue in place. It's easier to glue the long sides on the outside bottom rather than try to get your glue gun in there again. The ends should be glued from the inside though because will be able to see any large glue globs from the side.
Step 6: Stain
Once your radio is dry and sturdy it's time to stain.
Get a small size can of stain the color you like. I went with Varathane wood stain in Espresso from Home Depot.
Lay out some cardboard, put on some clothes you don't mind getting stain on and some latex gloves.
Take the brush and slowly brush on a small bit of stain on the side. Take the cloth and wipe it, following the grain, to spread the stain. Keep brushing and wiping until you have a good coat. Let it dry a little and go over any areas you want darker. The important thing is to go with the grain. You want it to look like it's old but that it's well made.
If you have wood knobs now is the time to stain those as well.
If your speaker grill isn't the color you want, either get a different color stain or paint it.
I also painted my buttons black at this time.
I didn't buy any polyurethane. I had matte clear spray paint. You can use either. Once it's dry and as dark as you would like it, spray on or brush on your clear coat. Let dry.
Step 7: Radio Face, Speaker Grill and Tuner Dial
Ok now we are ready to do the speaker grill and dial.
Take the cut out part of your original paper picture or you can trace using the leftover cardboard template.
Lay out your piece of burlap and trace the speaker grill. Trace a little beyond the pattern so that you can glue the burlap over the speaker hole from the inside. Cut that out and dry fit it in your radio.
If you are happy with it the fit go ahead and glue it in place, get it as tight as you can.
Now is also a good time to test your light source too. You don't want to be able to see the light source and you can add or subtract layers until you get the look you are going for.
The dial I used was also on Pinterest. Copy and paste into Photoshop to resize to fit the dial face hole of your radio.
Print dial onto the velum, be sure to let the ink dry before handling the paper. Cut out the dial and glue into place.
Glue on your knobs and the face of your radio is ready to go.
Step 8: Lights
The string lights are on a bendable wire.
Fold them in half twice. Center them inside the radio above the speaker grill and tape them into place.
Tape the on/off switch to the radio face for easy access.
Turn on the lights and make sure you don't have any light seeping around the edges. If you do, like I did, take a few thin strips of card stock and tape them around the inside seam.
*I think there are lights you can buy that blink to the beat of the music and change color. That would look good too if you can find something like that. I looked at speakers that do that but I couldn't tell if they would be bright enough. It's something to play with if you want.
Step 9: Music
For the music:
Find and download a radio tuning sound. Add this between the songs on your playlist to make it seem the radio is tuning to a new station every song.
Create a playlist of all your favorite creepy, funny, hokey, scary, obnoxious. campy music.
- Music soundtracks from the Red Violin, Doctor Who, Hocus Pocus, Disney Fantasia.
- Creepy classical music like the Danse Macbre, Op. 40., arias like Momma Morta, Night on Bald/Bare Mountain
- Artists like Dr. Demento, Rockwell, The Civil Wars, Primus, Micheal Jackson.
- Classic Rock, Country, Electronic, BPM, Soul - whatever gives you the crazy possessed vibe you want.
Load your playlist onto whatever MP3 player you have.
I'm using an iPod shuffle and portable bluetooth speaker that has an aux cable.
Put the fully charged speaker and player inside the radio when it's time to put on display. Make sure you have the volume loud enough for people to hear.
Step 10: Ready to Rock!
You are done! Set it up and add some Halloween ambiance to your display!
All said and done this cost me about $20 to make. I had to buy the balsa wood, wooden applique and stain. I had everything else on hand.
The radio measures: 11 7/8" wide, 15 5/8" high and 4 1/8" deep.
If you have any questions or comment please let me know and I'll do my best to help.
Enjoy and Happy Haunting!