Wood Headphones Using 123D Catch + SolidWorks + ShopBot.




About: Damon is a grad student & assistant attending School of Visual Art's MFA Product of Design program in New York City.

Wood has been know to have a great warm tonal quality for music. It only makes sense then to craft a pair of headphones from wood.

This tutorial illustrates how to create a pair of functioning headphones from wood.

I used:


-an iPad with Autodesk 123D Catch software to capture my head profile (free 123D Catch download)
     *you may use a digital camera & Autodesk 123D Catch for online instead
-SolidWorks CAD software to model the headphones
-Adobe Illustrator software (free Illustrator trial)

-12" x 7" x 0.85" thick walnut lumber
-1" thick high density gray foam (I purchased at Canal Rubber in NYC)
-speakers: 2X 40mm 0.1W round speaker drivers from Digikey.com, model number GF0401M-ND
-RCA jacks: 2X barrel jacks from Digikey.com, model number CP-1413-ND
-3' long 1/8" stereo to dual phono Y-cable at Radioshack
-4" of 20 gauge insulated wire
-2x brass hinges 3/4" x 11/16" at HomeDepot
-I reference my friend John's great 13:30 Printable Headphone tutorial at Thingiverse for the audio components

-ShopBot CNC router
-portable power drill or drill press
-soldering iron
-wire cutter/stripper

-a buddy to assist you with your 123D Catch

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Step 1: 123D Catch Your Head

As a product designer, I've worked on my fair share of headphones. Head profiles come in an infinite number of sizes & shapes. I wanted to create a pair of headphones that fit my dome perfectly. By using 123D Catch, I created an accurate CAD representation of my head.

Using the iPad (or digital camera) open the Autodesk 123D Catch app. Have a buddy take photos of your head. Your photographer should start at a low angle & progressively increase the height of the camera. They should move around your head in about 15-20 degree increments for each photo. Use the maximum of the 30 allotted photos for a more accurate catch. Hold your pose as still as possible for the best results.

My face resulted in looking a bit warped, but my head profile was decent enough to model headphones around.

Step 2: Import Your Head Into SolidWorks

Download the STL file off of the 123D Catch website. The STL file imported about 50 times the size of a normal head, so I had to scale it down. Using a ruler & looking in a mirror, I measure the width of my head (ear to ear & top to chin). In SolidWorks, I created a sketch on the front plane of a rectangle with my head dimensions. I then scaled the STL down so my face fit inside of the rectangle. SolidWorks does not make it easy to scale STL data. It does not preview the scale while in the feature, so it was a tedious task of scaling, refreshing & scaling again until it was the correct size.

Step 3: Build Your Headphones in SolidWorks

Use your head as reference for earcup placement & headband profile. Build the wood earcups so that they are almost touching your head since the foam will compress & the band will flex a little. I created a "U" key feature for the foam earpads to attach to the earcups.

I am not going to go into detail as to all of the necessary steps for creating the headphones, but the SolidWorks website has numerious tutorials if you need some assistance.

Create a SolidWorks drawing with all of your parts laid out how they will be cut on the CNC. Save the linework out as Illustrator files.

Step 4: Layout Linework in Illustrator

Open the AI files in Illustrator & make a copy of the earcup linework. Position the two earcups within the headband profile for most efficient use of the the wood. Copy & paste a duplicate for the foam earpad linework as well. Turn all of the linework to 0.001mm stroke & save out as AI files.

Step 5: Assign Cut Depths to Layers in PartWorks

Using the ShopBot native software, PartWorks, assign each level of cut depth to its own layer. There are four levels of elevation for the earcup parts. The headband & foam earpads are profile cuts, so there is only one layer for those parts. Add tabs to the profile cuts so the parts don't dislodge when cutting. Follow the ShopBot guide for cutting hardwood.

Step 6: Cut the Parts Out With ShopBot

Foam earpads:
I was mildly successful in attempting to cut out the 2 foam earpads with the ShopBot. I compressed the foam down onto the ShopBot bed by screwing down a thin piece of plywood. I was hoping the CNC bit would cut cleaner if the foam was more dense. The inside profile came out really clean, but the outer edge of the circle resulted in being pretty rough & torn looking. After cleaning the edges up with a fabric scissors, I rather like the aesthetic though.

Wood earcups & headband:
Screw down the piece of walnut securely to the ShopBot bed. Send the linework with the top level of the earcups first, then the second layer & last the third fromt the top. Then send the the profile linework of the earcups as well as the headband.

Step 7: Finishing Work

Detach the parts by using a cutting blade on a Dremel. Use a medium grit sandpaper (around 220) & sand off the tabs. Measure the diameter of the RCA input jacks & drill a hole in bottom of each earcup so they fit.

Step 8: Solder the Drivers

Cut the 20 gauge insulated wire into four 1" long pieces. Strip the ends of the wires & solder two wires to each driver. Cut the other ends of the wires so that when soldered to the RCA jacks, the components fit into the cavity of the earcups. Plug the Y-cable into the RCA jacks, then plug the 1/8" jack into an audio source. If everything was soldered correctly, the drives should produce sound.

Step 9: Assemble the Parts & Rock Out

You'll have to remove the drivers to attach the earcups to the headband with the hinges. Drill pilot holes for the small screws for each  hinge. Slide the driver assembly back into the earcup cavity.

Push the foam earpads onto the earcups & rock out to some sounds of WOODstock, ha.

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    36 Discussions


    5 years ago

    cool nice design well done


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice! Any idea where I can get drivers with a range of 20-20000Hz
    (not on Digikey)?

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I'm not sure where you can get drivers with those specs. I hate to be captain obvious, but did you try google?


    Hey, thanks!
    I listed the drivers I used under the Materials section.
    -speakers: 2X 40mm 0.1W round speaker drivers from Digikey.com, model number GF0401M-ND
    They are really cheap (under $5 each). They have a lot of treble & not much bass, but worked for a first attempt.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome....i don't think I could make these myself but will ask someone to!! love them.


    6 years ago on Step 9

    Hey littlebuddha,
    thank you for your blunt critique. I do agree the earcup pads could look a bit cleaner, but this was more of an experiment to see if our ShopBot could cut foam. I rather like the DIY rough aesthetic though. If you have another method of cutting foam in a more clean manner, I am open for suggestions.

    p.s. You may want to proofread your posts before submitting them.

    3 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I like the inperfect DIY style. Anyway cutting sponge as it is in geometric shapes may be almost impossible because it is a soft material. I would try dipping foam in some sort of freezing medium like melt margarine, freeze the whole thing hard solid and then cut with some sharp blade such a scalpel or surgical scissors, then melt and wash in some ultrasonic device or just in warm water and mild soap

    That sounds like a great idea! Put the foam in a. Shallow dish of water and freeze, then put it on the CNC! BrilliantAristide! Except the margarine! Margarine? :*)


    For cutting the foam pads, have you tried a CNC hot-wire cutter, or a die, like a doughnut cutter? Cutting soft materials is almost always a bear for machine tools. I would think that a high spindle speed, a moderate toolpath speed, and shallow cut depth would be your best bet.

    For myself, I LOVE the wooden design aesthetic of your headphones! I've thought of making some myself, but I don't have the obvious skill and training you possess. I don't think I'll let it stop me though. Thank you for your time and work!


    6 years ago on Step 9

    Foam cutting. Problem is when cutting with a blade the foam compresses and you end up with the foam dished/uneven. However I have found cutting on a band saw works a treat, preferably the more teeth per inch the better. But... watch out cutting small pieces as the blade can grab the foam and pull it in. I have cut a couple of seat pads and it has worked really well. P.S really like the head phones


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Very, very, nice!

    Just a couple of thoughts.

    For this item I think 3D data is overkill. A frontal, scalable, picture should give all of the pertinent data required. In that way it would be easier for the customer to produce the needed data. That is assuming that the ear pad diameter is fixed.

    Another way for cutting the foam pads, especially for large quantities is to use a, decades old, tried and proven steel rule die.

    Oh, grain direction plays heavily in the strength of the head piece. Steam bending or a laminated piece would be much better. But you already know that!.

    Again, nice work!!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    In regards to your first comment, most everyone could agree that there was a tone of superiority in your critique. If your first thought, after skimming this instructable, was to point out that the author neglected to sand the wood, then you miss the point of this site. It is apparent the author is skilled and most people can look past the prototype appearance. I doubt the author was happy with how the foam turned out on the ShopBot, but he shared the results anyway. I do not have a solution but others might. You contribute nothing to this community. The five years you have been a member of this site you have only gave pointless comments and no projects of your own. As for the multiple comments you made in defense, you lost too much credibility to be heard any further.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Think what you want mate, but don't think for all others. No tone of superiority from me. But lot of aragance from you i would say.
    You have a real nice xmas,


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I was viewing the Ible and was going to make a comment, but seeing as a similar one was made i'll leave it out.

    The work you've done is good , but it looks like the foam ear pads will defeat you . Did you consider using replacement pads from Grado, Sennhe??ser (spelling) etc. they aren't expensive and would be available in a size that would suit your project.