Introduction: Upcycled Vintage Suitcase Boombox
I am currently an Artist in Residence at the San Francisco Dump, run by Recology.
There, I have witnessed unending tons of unwanted debris flow from the consumer into recycling centers and landfills. I noticed that nearly all of the E-waste was almost entirely functional, so I decided to make myself a speaker set made entirely from waste.
This Suitcase Boombox boasts ~100w of sound, AUX connectivity, AM/FM Radio, MP3 via USB stick or SD card and enough clothing storage for a short trip to a three letter acronym of your choice. LAX, NWK, ORD, HFW, HND, LHR, JFK, DEN. I make no guarantees on what the TSA will say.
I first saw this idea in 2009. Mr. Sino has been making 'BoomCases' for quite some time. They are pretty expensive, and very pretty. I saw 10 or so suitcases in the dump one day, so I took one and got to work.
Once I finished this instructable, I learned that my other friend Amanda had made this exact project already, except much better with batteries and nice photos. I suppose the only difference is that mine is made out of trash!
- Jigsaw or Keyhole saw or Serrated Knife
- Drill + Phillips bit
- Drill bit (big enough for saw blade)
- Hot Glue gun + Glue or silicone caulk (better, but takes time to dry)
Step 1: Find Speakers
Dumpsters, thrift stores, your basement, and more are full of old speakers that are certainly functional.
I've learned that most things are discarded simply because they are unwanted — not because they're in any way broken or damaged.
A few speakers cabinets I found had damage to a few of the speakers inside, but the other speakers worked great.
Aesthetically, I dig the asymmetry in cobbling together many different systems.
In terms of sound quality, using just one pair of identical speakers will be best, as they were engineered to work together and complement each other.
Step 2: Find Suitcase
Suitcases- one day someone decided they should have wheels. It was an incredible day for travel, as carrying a 40lb bag in one hand is not a good idea.
This sudden wheel innovation left millions of clamshell classics in the dust.
Call your friends. Someone certainly has a set in their attic or basement. Thrift stores, antique shops, and dusty piles are other good sources.
Get creative, ammo cans, foot lockers, furniture. Anything can be a kludged stereo!
Step 3: Find Amplifier or Car Stereo
I got a little lucky here. I found a Boss brand 612UA Receiver in the trash. It was pretty new, and exactly what I wanted. It is loud, efficient, and the features I wanted. AUX in for plugging in your phone, USB for mp3 playback, and a radio if you are into that sort of thing.
Lucky for you, it is way cheap at ~$35. Link to Amazon.
Alternatively, you can find an amplifier or take apart a pair of computer speakers, but these tiny amps are often are not helpful enough to drive the large speakers we are scrounging from the depths of the 70s, 80s, and 90s.
Step 4: Tear Apart Speakers
Take a screwdriver to these things and see what's inside. Often near filled with fiberfill like you'd find in a pillow to provide additional sound happening. This makes the process open them up feel little bit like tearing apart a teddy bear. Often there's some small circuitry inside the speaker to help the signals crossed over between the various sizes and colors. Just make sure the tweeter gets the highs, the woofer gets the lows.
In the event there are colored wires, be sure to mark which speaker gets which one, in order to ensure that it's the right signals when everything goes back together.
Be sure to keep any screws you fine, because they will be used again to install the speakers into the suitcase.
Step 5: Arrange Components, Trace Shapes
This step is pretty pretty fun, you get inside what speaker goes where. Set aside all the speakers you like and start placing them on the suitcase when you finally arrange you like use the speaker itself as a stencil to trace out the shape. Often you have to offset a smaller circle make up for the difference in the size of the lip on the speaker once you have all your circles and squares cut for all of your woofers, tweeters, and the stereo deck, you can move on the next step.
Step 6: Cut + Drill Holes
Start making a mess.
Drill holes near the edges of the lines you've drawn to allow you to easily insert the tip of your saw, or serrated knife. Then go to town. The plastic composite these old suitcases are made out of is pretty strong stuff. Despite this, it cuts fairly easily. There is a little bit of wiggle room in how precise to be due to the fact met the speakers often have lips that are quite large.
As you cut occasionally test the fit of the object to make sure your hole is not to small.
I found the hole for the stereo deck to be the hardest to cut due to the very small lip on the steel sleeve insert that came with the stereo.
Step 7: Mount Speakers + Car Stereo
The steel sleeve the came with the stereo had these really clever tabs stamped all along the edge. They were hard to photograph. :-)
This let me very easily secure the sleeve by simply inserting it into appropriately sized hole and bending the tabs down to hold in place. Later, I drenched the entire inside edge in hot glue to secure it further and to prevent it from wiggling out.
Place the speakers into the hole we cut out. Using the same screws that you recovered from the speaker, screw the speaker into the suitcase using every available hole. You may find that rotating the speaker will find you better spots to put the screws, as your hole was probably not perfectly round.
Don't worry about small gaps or things feel loose, we're going to bathe the edge the inside edge of the speaker in hot glue or silicone caulk to secure it further.
Step 8: Wire It Up
The car stereo came with a well labeled wires and made this process much easier.
For the audio wires, Things are pretty straightforward. There were total of eight wires– two for each of the four speakers that typical cars have. There's a front set the speakers and a back set of speakers. For my system, I treated the two smaller speaker pairs as the front speakers and large roofer as the rear right speaker. This means that anything I listen to on this system is imbalanced toward the right, but I haven't been able to notice anything strange. Note the polarity of the speakers, as sound quality is diminished when they are switched.
I used wire nuts and solder to secure the speaker wires in place. I was sure to include the small circuit boards that came with the speakers in order to ensure they were getting the right kinds of signals.
For power the only tricky bit was that I had to connect the red and yellow wires to each other before connecting them to 12 volt source in order for the system to turn on. I then attached these two a 12 volt wall-wart style transformer that supplied enough current to drive the system. In this case a 1000 mA transformer I found in the trash was enough for full volume.
Ones that'll always have and un-I wrapped things in electrical tape and zip ties to ensure I wouldn't be able to hear them rattle while I was listening to music.