How to Make a Camping Radio




About: Just a normal guy trying to make it in life .Good paying job but mindless sometimes .I enjoy making things in my garage to keep my mind going .. Its fun making something new but its more fun taking somethi...
     This  is a  homemade camping radio that I made from a piece of wood , A car stereo ,speakers and a power converter .The sound is incredible.It is a car  stereo, cd player, with a jack to play music from your ipod .In my younger years i bought my first mechanics tool box and decided i wanted to put a car stereo in it .So i bought a stereo, a set of speakers and a 12 volt converter .  As the years went by the novelty kinda wore off.
            So i decided to make use of the 12 volt converter since i already owned it. All i needed was a piece of wood  and a upgraded car stereo and speakers, we needed a new radio for our patio anyways because the one we have doesn't work very well. So this is what i came up with.

Step 1: Making the Stereo Box

The wood that i used  for the box to fit the stereo , cd , ipod player into  is a pine board 1x12x8 pine board.I cut the wood so it would be deep enough to carry good sound for listening to music. I  cut 2 pieces 27inches long and then ripped them two 10 1/2 inches wide .I  then used a router and a 1/2 inch round over bit  to router all the edges.
      The next step was to  cut the board for the face of the radio, which was cut  24inches long by 9 inches wide.
    The 3rd step was to cut 2 side boards  which were cut  9 inches long by 9 inches wide.
     The  4th step  was to  start assembling the box. l put a light coat of glue on all  the  mating surfaces and  used some small finishing nails to hold it together so the glue could dry.

Step 2: Cutting Holes for the Stereo and Speakers

I decided to put the stereo in the center of the wood face board 2 inches down from the top. the speakers I moved in on each side edge 2 inches and  cut the 5 inch holes.

Step 3: Staining and Polyurethane

I decided on a darker color stain so I went with minwax  provincial shade.
 I like to use minwax water based polycrylic  fora protective coat and sealer because it doesnt have a odor and it will dry clear.

Step 4: The Heart of the Matter!

1st pic  shows the stereo and speaker set I bought from walmart. Its not a expensive one . Its not needed for the size of the box and how it is going to be used. besides if I know me I would be getting yelled at by the wife because its to loud so I went conservative which is not like me....... I did though decide to put 4 speakers in it instead of only 2.

2nd  pic shows the  orginal  12 volt power converter I purchased over25 years ago when I put a stereo in my very first  tool box I every owned .

3rd pic shows all the components I had to purchase for the antenna since I never had one to fit into the new  car stereo.

Step 5: Istalling the Stereo and Speakers

I installed the speakers first with number 6 screws. The I siliconed  the  stereo faceplate where it was going to be touching the wood for a good seal.

Step 6: Securing the Components

1st pic shows the power converter mounted under the stereo with a thick bead of silicone for support.

2nd pic hows the  T bracket  i made from a 3/4 x 3/4 piece of angle iron to support the back of the stereo.

3rd pic shows the t bracket mounted

Step 7: Wire Harness

1pic shows the two wiring harnesses installed. the top plug is for the speakers. the bottom harness is for the power.

2nd and  3rd pic shows how to wire the stereo to the power and speakers. The red and yellow wires go to the power side of the converter. the black wire goes to the ground side of the converter.
The purple and purple with black stripe go to the right rear speaker
The aqua and aqua and black stripe goes to the left rear speaker..
The grey and grey with black stripe goes to the right front speaker
The white with white and black goes to the left front speaker

Step 8: Installing the Antenna

1st i had to drill a 3/8s hole in the top of the radio box to fit the motorola  3/8s connector
2nd  i installed the antenna adapter into the back of the stereo.
3rd i plugged the two ends of the antenna cable to the stereo and the antenna.

Step 9: Handle

I then bought a handle which i think is for a barn door but i wanted a black one and this is what i could find.

Step 10: Finished

Step 11: Sounds Great

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39 Discussions


Question 7 months ago

Is the 12-volt power supply necessary? Could you not just attach a wall plug into the radio?

2 answers

Answer 7 months ago

If you connected this to a wall outlet you would destroy this radio and possibly the speakers too. The radio is built to accept 12v DC to power itself and run the speakers from. The problem comes from the wall outlets in the US being at 120V AC which means it is switching from +170 to -170 60 times a second. This would cause serious damage to pretty much every component that it reaches, the only survivors would be the ones that where saved by the death of their fellow components. There would be the sound of capacitors exploding and possibly some flames. The speakers in theory should survive but who know for sure.


Question 1 year ago on Introduction

It looks fantastic . The only thing I would change is that antenna. If your cabinet is not made of metal, you will need to use a marine antenna, or an antenna that does not need to be grounded to a metal base for the best reception . Other wise, it looks great. Good job.


6 years ago on Introduction

Nice looks, since you got a lot of extra room, you could add a lead-acid or NiMH battery(pack), use a relay: when connected to mains: charge battery, when disconnected: normal state battery power. Also nice gadget: bluetooth audio receiver, play music from your phone or laptop wireless within a range of 10 meters(without obstacles)

5 replies

Reply 3 years ago

How would you set it up to charge batteries when plugged up and to run off batteries when unplugged. What type of switch?


Reply 2 years ago

In the one I made I use a solar charge controller and I'm able to switch between the power supply or a solar panel.


Reply 3 years ago

If weight doesn't matter use a Lead-acid battery, cheap in Amp/Hours, simple but heavy, connect a standard lead-acid charger and in between the charger and battery a big diode to prevent leakage current back to the charger.

If weight is important, Li-Ion is the way to go nowadays, on ebay or you can find cheap battery protection, search for BMS 4S (serial) and 18650 cells, 4 in series, multiple in parallel for more Amp/hours, the BMS switches and regulates the charge and discharge process, BMS will be around $15-20, cells don't buy the >3 amp/hour as these are not intended for large currents as the radio could use 10 amps. If possible, use Samsung, LG, or Panasonic as these are the best. Or salvage from powertool or laptop batteries....


3 years ago

Thinking about building this, just wondering what thickness of wood you used?


4 years ago on Step 10

Cool and there is still room there for two 12 volt gel cell batteries to make it truly portable. Great job!

1 reply

4 years ago on Introduction

reminds me of "ghost dog" he has one just like this when hes putting together his weapons

Cool. I made a little one in a milk crate, with a cheap Walmart FM/AM car stereo, an old CB radio antenna, and a hobby battery. It has a CB radio and a cigarette plug. It can listen to CB for hours but eats the battery up to transmit.

4 replies

The milk crate was handy in a yard hostler truck, but offers no protection from the elements (dew, rain, dust). I am thinking of rebuilding the radio in some small plastic lunch cooler or something, and leaving the satellite radio out of it (too many antennae, no subscription anymore). It was fun jamming people's FM radios with it though. I played my guitar into my car's 6 speaker stereo with it. hahhaha. I made a hugely powerful AM antenna with a long, cheap FM whip (minus the ball tip), a butte connector, some primary automotive wire, and a ring terminal for the mounting screw holding the antenna. The wire was tightly wrapped all the way down the antenna and shrink wrapped. Worked great as a CB antenna also.

Thanks. I might, sometime. You can find many like it by googling for "slipseat radio" or "slipseat case". There are even suitcases manufactured for this purpose (heavy duty portable radio, using automotive radio and speakers).


6 years ago on Introduction

I had to go sign up to comment. All of you are right- this is a great project. I remember my Dad building stereo's like this from car radios when I was a kid. I think some one mentioned making it primarily battery, but charges when plugged in. Using 2 12V sealed lead acid batt's (like used for ice fishing fish finders = about $25.00 each) in parrallel would be best for size & economy. Adding a 12V power socket or 2, USB charger & a small 110V AC inverter would also be a good idea.Some sort of LED positionable light would nice too. Make sure all of the stuff is fused or best = circuit breakers. I'm sure there's a bunch more extras that could be added for convevience. There is a white PVC type of board that Menards has called "AZTEC" that would be a good candidate for building it from. It cuts & shapes about the same as pine, but won't need finishing & glues together like PVC. I have used it for a dashboard on my boat.
Good job & good luck!