Retro Bluetooth Boombox




About: I'm an inventor / maker / designer based in the Bay Area. My background is in residential architecture, film set design, animatronics, media arts, exhibit design, and electronics. I use digital design and fa...

All the convenience of the 2010's, all the style of the 90's- this bluetooth boombox is the life of the party. With a 3D printer and some time spent finishing with the proper color scheme, you too can party like it's 1991.

All the parts are 3D printed or laser cut, but you could do everything with a 3D printer. The bluetooth speaker is a deconstructed BOSEbuild, but any bluetooth speaker components would work.

See a live demo of this project! Check out this video on of the webinar I hosted on July 11th 2017 to watch me design and render the style of this boombox in Fusion 360.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Tools + Materials

3D Printing

  1. 3D Printer: This project is designed so that all the parts will fit on a Makerbot Replicator 2, but any 3D printer with an equal or greater bed size will work.
  2. Filament: I used ASA for this project, but PLA will work just fine.

Paint + Finish

  1. Spray Paint: I used Montana Gold, but any spray paint will do. You could also just use colored PLA.
  2. 220 Grit Sandpaper: This is used between coats of paint to get a smooth surface

Electronics + Hardware

  1. Bluetooth Speaker: For the bluetooth speaker I used a BOSEbuild Cube because they gave us one to play with and it sounds really good. Any bluetooth speaker will do as long as you're willing to design the enclosure so that it fits the parts.
  2. Battery: I added a 12V rechargeable battery as a power source. It charges fast, the charger has an LED indicator to let you know when it's charged, and it drives this robust speaker with no trouble.
  3. Male DC Power Terminal: This connects the power cable from the battery to the bluetooth speaker controller.
  4. Female DC Poer Terminal (elbow): This part connects the bluetooth speaker controller to the battery pack. The design has the controller facing forward with a plate in front of it, so this will need to be trimmed down to fit.
  5. M3 Machine Screws: All of the fastening is done with M3 10mm machine screws. You can probably find them cheaper on Amazon, but I used McMaster Carr because it's so easy to insert the model into Fusion and order it there.

Step 2: Design

To design anything, you've got to start with precedents. I remembered the boombox I had when I was a kid- boxy, big speakers, retractable handle, controls on the front... I was nowhere near as cool as the kid in the picture below, but this is the theme I'm going for. I spent some time looking around online for pictures of old boomboxes and got a general idea of promotions, shapes, features, etc.

Wild Style


There's no point in just making a copy of a 90's boombox and putting bluetooth components in it. Why would it be that big? Why not just gut an old one and put the parts in it? Where's the fun in that? I wanted to design something myself.

The next thing I needed to get a handle on was graphics and colors. Two sources came to mind as the authors of the quintessential 80's-90's aesthetic.

Keith Haring

Image credit: The Keith Haring Foundation

This guy was a seriously prolific, seriously influential artist at the time. You've seen his work all over the place without knowing it. Lots of people were influenced by him, and his style quickly became the touchstone of art, graphic design, and all kinds of media.

Memphis Group


Lastly, the Memphis Group gets the credit for creating the quintessential design aesthetic of the 80's and 90's. Bright contrasting colors, busy patterns, whimsical shapes, and a general sense of fun and playfulness are the general theme here.

I started with a couple of quick sketches to get the general idea down. Bose gave us a BOSEbuild cube to play with, so I know the design would have a single speaker.

Step 3: 3D Modeling

I did the whole thing in Fusion 360 (just like everything else I design and make). I'll be doing a live webinar on modeling and rendering this project if you want to learn more. Check our Facebook page for updates!

  1. .F3D Files: These are Fusion 360 archive files. To use them, click upload in the Data Panel in Fusion and they will open as a native file.
  2. .STL Files: These are ready-to-print exported parts. You'll need to print the "inside cover" part twice- these are the caps that keep the handle connected to the shell.
  3. .DXF Files: These are the 2D vector files for the front and back covers. You can use these to laser cut these parts or cut them by hand if you want, but I've also included STLs of these parts if all you've got is a 3D printer.

Step 4: 3D Print

The parts all fit on a Makerbot Replicator 2 build plate. I used Simplify 3D to slice the models. Whatever slicer you use make sure to turn on support structures for the shell part.

The size of the largest part (the shell) is 250mm X 140mm X 100mm.

I laser cut my front and back covers, but you can do these on a 3D printer using the STL files I included for them.

Step 5: Prime the Parts

Now for the finishes! This is usually the most time consuming part of a project. The first step is always to prime the areas to be painted. Primer gives you a neutral base color to work with (white in the case) and it gives the spray paint a surface to adhere to. Always prime first!

As you can see in the video, I've put masking tape over that parts that I don't want to paint. These include the inside of the shell, the cavities on the inside of the handle, and the inside cover pieces except for the little patch that will be seen when the handle is up.

I use MTN Gold spray paint for pretty much everything because it's water based (keep your VOC's, thank you very much) and the colors look awesome.

I used "Dolphins" (cyan) "Pure Magenta" and "Shock Yellow". These make up a triadic color scheme meaning the three main colors used are equidistant from each other on the color wheel. This color scheme was all over the place in the 80's-90's.

I also used Chrome for the shell and the sides of the handle to bring it back to the quintessential metallic finish on the old boomboxes.

Step 6: Paint First Coat

As with priming, I try to use best practices to get a nice even coat. Here are the rules of thumb:

  1. Hold the can 6"-10" away from the surface when painting. If you get too close the paint will pool and ruin the finish. If you get too far away it will turn into sticky dust on the surface.
  2. Paint in a sweeping motion, start the spray away from the part, end the spray away from the part. Sometimes when you push the tip, the paint will splatter a bit in the beginning because of excess paint being in the tube or on the nozzle, so you want to make sure that splatter doesn't get on the part.
  3. Allow the paint to dry before sanding or applying additional coats. Sanding sticky paint will ruin the surface, and painting wet paint will make the paint coagulate and make the surface uneven.

Step 7: Sand

I used 220 sandpaper between coats for this project, but if you want to do it like a pro, step up in the grit size between coats. Start with 220, then 300, then 320, then 400, etc. If you take your time with this, you can get unbelievable finish quality.

Step 8: Paint Second Coat

With the silver paint done, I applied more making tape over the silver sides of the handle so I could do a two-tone finish on it. I used a razor blade to get clean edges between the colors.

Step 9: Glue Handle Parts

First, the handles need to be fastened to the shell. To do this, I just removed the tape on the inside covers, slid the handle onto the shell, then glued and clamped them to the cavities on the inside of the handle.

Step 10: Assemble

  1. Back Plate
  2. Front Plate Lower
  3. Bezel
  4. Battery
  5. Front Plate Upper
  6. M3 X 10mm Screws
  7. Power Cable
  8. BOSEbuild Speaker
  9. BOSEbuild Speaker Controller
  10. Chassis + Handle

The shell is designed with nut pockets on the front, but the holes are small enough that you can just thread the screws into the plastic. I used a 3mm tap to tap the holes to make sure the screws had good purchase.

The speaker and controller go in side-by-side with the speaker on the right. There's a recess in the shell that keeps the parts in place. The bezel has two holes in it that let the backs of the speaker and controller poke out. The cable has to be plugged into the front of the controller before the bezel is screwed on.

The cable is the only part that's soldered. The male terminal has screw terminals on it and the female elbow terminal has solder terminals. I left off the plastic cover for the female terminal and cut off the longest part of the + solder terminal so it would fit behind the front panel.

Next, I added the battery and the back panel. The battery has an input and and output built in, so I just plugged the output into the cable from the controller. The charging input goes into the hole in the back panel. I used a little hot glue to keep it in place, and I used double-sided tape to keep the battery in place. The battery has a switch that I made a hole in the panel for as well.

The front panel is pretty straightforward except for the buttons. The easiest way to do this is to press the slider onto the slider on the controller first- it will stay in place. The buttons should be inserted into the front cover and held in place while the covers are placed on the shell. They will be held in place by the buttons on the controller.

Step 11: Decorate and Rock Out

I made some vinyl stickers based on Keith Haring paintings to pull the design together.

Overall it sounds great and people love the look. The hole in the front lets you plug in an AUX cable in case you want to listen to your Walkman.



    • Indoor Lighting Contest

      Indoor Lighting Contest
    • Metal Contest

      Metal Contest
    • Make It Fly Challenge

      Make It Fly Challenge

    17 Discussions


    1 year ago

    This looks incredible! I really incredible. I would definitely make one in my style! Also, would it be possible to add bluetooth into the radio?


    1 year ago

    I could totally picture this being advertised for sale at JC Penneys or RadioShack during episodes of Super Double Dare.


    2 years ago

    Thanks for posting this! Definitely want to give this one a whirl. Maybe add a notation of how big a build plate you need, for people who don't know the dimensions of a Makerbot 2 build plate?

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Good point! The biggest piece is 250mm X 140mm X 100 mm.


    2 years ago

    Hey thanks a million, it will add to my research, I have been planning a build only I want to go back much farther to the 1950's and build a "Radio" looking set based on the radio that we listened to when I was young in that decade. It was a "modern" looking set pretty much a rectangular wooden box with the speaker along the bottom and the tuning setup above. Instead of a light (this ran on batteries after all why waste energy) she had a little red spot that flipped up via a spring loaded device to show when the set was on, and retreated when she was turned off. The quality of the sound was remarkable from what I recall, of course back then I had exceptional hearing, unlike today when I depend on hearing aides to amplify sound, the reproduction of which falls well below the quality of that old AM set (FM was unheard of back then). My plans are coming together, I have rescued an amplifier from an old set of speakers for a computer, the speakers themselves are going to the garbage, to be replaced by speakers that I picked up at a yard sale, the label proclaims them BOSE but now days, who knows. Being an amateur woodworker/electronics hobbyist, I look forward to combining the two loves to make one nice looking set. I found a supposedly 100 watt amplifier, as well as a blue tooth receiver that currently is residing in another set of speakers, which are going to the dumps after removing my bluetooth device, since the power supply is producing an annoying hum, I am sure the caps are bad in it but I don't think it is worth the repairs any more, it was an old TANDY speaker set made before anyone else ever put out a set as far as I can remember. I purchased it when I was still playing around with my old Commodore C=128 in the very early 1980's so I can't blame it for having some leaky caps after all those years of use. I had already replaced the volume controls as they were so scratchy that they were nearly usless but to recap her, that is just to much work

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Good idea. A friend of mine makes guitar amps out of old radios- take a look:


    Reply 2 years ago

    The Keith Haring work I used for the pictures was modified to such a degree that there shouldn't be any problem with non-commercial use (showing my project on the web), but ScottR is right, it would be too risky to sell one. Thanks for your interest though!


    Reply 2 years ago

    He could easily get sued for copyright infringement. :-( It's very cool however so try it on your own.


    2 years ago

    As a huge Haring fan - I give you major props. Just don't sell the otherwise the Haring Estate will come after you!


    2 years ago

    Jonathan. SHEESSH! So good! Amazing work, as always. Now if I could find a pair of sneakers with the same color-way and print :D


    2 years ago

    Nice, I like how you used the bose cube but made a new enclosure using just the front and rear panels. Might have to try this out since I was wondering what to do with my cube now


    2 years ago

    So cool Jon! I love the colors and retractable handle in Fusion 360! Keep it up

    1 reply