DIY : In pursuit of a lost childhood — A DIY story of my bookshelf speakers + Hi-Fi music system

Hello, India

Since we are now running this project under budget constraints, I figured it made financial sense to get this done in India as everything here is really, really cheap and cost effective. And also, I happened to visit India at the time and thought it would be a good opportunity to go full on with my speaker project.

Designing the box

For my box design, I used BassBox Pro, which is the industry standard software for designing enclosures. It’s pretty straightforward as well, except for the fact that it ran only on Windows. Sadly, there’s nothing out there for Macs.

I used VirtualBox to run the software and all I had to do was feed it my speakers’ parameters and requirements for my box and it took care of the rest.

Now that I had the required dimensions for the box, the next step was to go for some shopping for wood.

Selecting the right wood

MDF is the wood of choice for speaker enclosures since it has very good compression properties as opposed to other types of wood, although, some like to build them with plywood and few even with walnut wood as well.

I was on a tight budget after blowing out money on my trips and settled down on MDF since it’s considered as the standard material for enclosures.

I drove up 600+ kms all the way to Tirunelveli, to meet my favourite carpenter, who has been making boxes for over 30 years now and who is the only one I trust this project with as I have worked with him in the past.

Upon reaching there, we wasted no time and immediately got down to business.

I shared with him my required dimensions and he started off cutting the MDF board for me.

He is fully capable of building the whole box himself, but where’s the fun in that? And so, I just got the cut out boards from him to do carpentry myself, later.

Everything was ready. The design I had in mind was a transparent speaker box surrounded by glass panels on both sides. So, after some carpentry work, it turned out quite well.

However, there is a problem that’s not immediately obvious. The wood I chose is quite thin. Testing revealed that the woofer would easily destroy the joints in no time. That was not just it, the box would also now vibrate along with the speakers and lead to unintended sound frequencies crippling my sound signature— thus defeating the purpose of this project.

You see the problem with being a software engineer and not a real carpenter? Experience. In fact, my carpenter did warn me of this, but I shrugged it off like it would be no problem.

Sadly, I had to dump away this beautifully finished piece, since it can’t really be re-used anymore.

And so, we’re back to square one again. Fortunately, I had the chance to travel back to the same carpenter again and get the box re-done from him directly.

So, here we go again — round 2:

Finally, the box was ready and all I had to do was test it for flaws and tune the sound signature to my liking.

Trying to play with crossover values to tune the signature

Now, that I was satisfied with the box’s performance, all that remained was to paint it.

Unfortunately, for a software engineer, painting isn’t the easiest of jobs. I tried different variants, colors, mixtures and what not. I had to scrape off the paint several times with sand paper and re-coat it till I was satisfied with the results. It took me almost two weeks to settle down with satisfaction.

Scraped off the paint because the finish wasn’t upto my expectation.

The secret is to mix the right amount of paint and varnish together and use a good brush for your first coat of paint.

Now that the paint has dried, the finish starts to look much better. There’s still some uneven edges I would need to sand, but atleast, now I know my mixture of varnish and paint was perfect.

The other important takeaway here is don’t let it dry in the sun. It really ruins the finish and also, there’s a lot of dust outdoors.

You want to let it dry in the interiors so that dust doesn’t settle over it and ruin your hard work. You also want to ensure there’s proper ventilation since the smell from the paint and varnish would be really strong.

I recommend letting it dry in the wash area, or inside a closed store room, if you have one.

Building the amplifier

Note: Medium has some sort of internal limit on the number of pictures I can upload to this post. Therefore, I’ll continue this story on part 2 of this article.

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