Genius! DIY Gramophone

If you're looking to buy a modern gramophone speaker, prepare to pay a pretty penny. Or save and make your own, like this industrious maker did.

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DIY gramophone

Photo: instructables.com

Vintage lovers will probably love this throwback-looking iPhone speaker set. Designed to look like a gramophone but designed to amplify songs straight from your phone, this project marries the best of old and new tech.

We spoke to the maker, Bryan Bales, to find out how long this stunning project took him to complete. “I made the gramophone over the course of two weeks, usually in the evenings after work, but most of that time was waiting for glue to dry, paint to dry, and lacquer to cure. Actual work was between 5-10 hours, but that includes designing on the fly, troubleshooting, over-analyzing, and working slow,” he said.

But does the sound quality pass muster? “With the box empty, the sound isn’t great. It’s amplified, but the box/chamber acts as band-pass filter for the mid-frequencies. I’ve experimented with different chamber configurations (think bass box in a car), paths or mazes (think Bose wave radio), as well as varied amounts and configurations of fiberglass insulation. My best result thus far, has been with a terry cloth shop towel inside the box—just loose, not folded. I have more ideas to try and I’ll be adding a video of the results to the Instructable.” 

The project gave him some surprises. “The glue up didn’t play out as envisioned… I had hoped the top would automatically keep the sides square, but the glue acted as lubricant so the sides were sliding around and I was getting gaps at the corners… If I were to do it again, I’d try two separate glue ups—sides first with clamping squares, then the top.”

Check out his how-to below!

MATERIALS
-poplar 1×8
-hardboard
-funnel
-copper elbow
-epoxy
-wood glue
-screws

TOOLS
-bandsaw
-table saw
-router
-drill press
-oscillating belt/spindle sander
-orbital sander

STEP 1

DIY Gramophone - funnel

To make the horn, I needed a fitting to hold the funnel at an angle and I decided on a 1 3/4″ 45 degree copper elbow. Using the bandsaw, I cut the funnel off at a point where it just fit into the copper elbow. The cut was cleaned up and the fit fine tuned on the orbital belt sander. I also roughed up the plastic with sandpaper so paint would adhere. The copper elbow was bonded to the funnel using two part epoxy.

STEP 2

DIY Gramophone - Cutting the Box Parts

The resonator is nothing more than a box with mostly mitered sides made from Poplar. Box joints would look pretty cool I think, but I don’t have a jig for cutting those … yet. Dovetails would be awesome. Even pallet wood and butt joints would look cool for that rustic feel.

Since the 1″ x 8″ was too wide to cut cleanly on the miter saw, I used a large crosscut sled to cut rough lengths. The sides were then ripped to rough width.

STEP 3

DIY Gramophone - Rabbets

The bottom panel is a removable piece of hardboard attached with a few screws. The reason for this is so I can experiment with dampening materials and/or acoustic chambers.

In order to accept the recessed hardboard, I cut a rabbet into the bottom of each side panel.

STEP 4

DIY Gramophone - cutting the side miters

The side miters were cut on the table saw using a miter sled. I used a stop block when cutting the final length to ensure the opposing sides were equal.

STEP 5

DIY Gramophone - cutting the top miters

The top miters were cut on the table saw using the rip fence. I also decided to employ a method I saw Jimmy DiResta use, which was a splined miter joint. Not only do they assist alignment during glueup, but they also strengthened the joint.

STEP 6

DIY Gramophone - glue up

Thanks to the splined miters, gluing up the sides was achieved with a band clamp. The top however, wanted to slide around a bit, so I added a few vertical clamps and one horizontal clamp across the middle to prevent any bowing.

STEP 7

DIY Gramophone - drill for horn

In order to hold the horn, the top of the box needed a 1 3/4″ hole to accept the copper fitting. I used a forstner bit and drilled down about 3/8″, which is half the board thickness.

We need a through hole for sound, but we also need a shoulder to support the copper fitting. I switched out to a 1 3/8″ bit, which gives us a 3/8″ shoulder. Location of this hole is up to you, but just be mindful of your side thickness. You can see I marked 3/4″ in from the sides so I could avoid any mistakes.

STEP 8

DIY Gramophone - iPhone

To cut the slot for the phone, I used a trim router with an edge guide. The width of this slot, and therefore the diameter of bit used, will depend on the width of your phone. I personally went without a case for a minimalist look and a 3/8″ straight bit did the job. For depth, I went about 3/8″-1/2″ deep.

Just like the horn, we need a through hole for the sound, but shoulders to support the phone. I used the locations of the speakers to determine this layout. I then marked these stop points with a forstner bit.

As before, location of this slot is up to you, but just be mindful of your side thickness. I chose my location solely based on visual appeal.

STEP 9

DIY Gramophone - Corner Splines

I wanted to use corner splines for decoration, but they also add strength to a miter joint. Internal and external miter splines… this box is solid.

To cut the slots, I used my shop-made spline sled, which is based off of the Eagle America jig. 1/8″ strips of red oak were ripped on the table saw, cut into triangles on the bandsaw, and glued in place.

Once the glue was dry, the excess was trimmed off using the bandsaw.

STEP 10

DIY Gramophone - Sanding

The corner splines were sanded flush using the Oscillating Bent Sander, sides and top sanded with an orbital sander, and the sharp edges of the box eased by hand.

STEP 11

DIY Gramophone - oiling

Finishing was rather simple. First, use one coat of 50/50 boiled linseed oil and mineral spirits to enhance the natural wood grain and coloring. Then add several coats of lacquer. Do wet sanding with 400 grit wet/dry paper. And end with some renaissance wax followed by buffing.

STEP 12

DIY Gramophone - copper patina

 

I’m too cheap to buy a metal horn… that doesn’t mean I can’t make a horn that looks like metal. If you know the price of Sculpt Nouveau finishes, you’re probably yelling “you idiot” at the computer screen. Normally, I would agree with you, but I purchased these finishes for custom drums. Side projects like this are just a bonus in my mind.

Anyway, the funnel was prepped with a coat of plastic primer. Next was a coat of a copper metal coating.

The horn looked great at this stage, but I wanted that green patina on mine. To achieve this, I misted on Sculpt Nouveau’s patina solution while the third and last coat of metal coating was wet. I then stuck the horn in an upstairs closet to let humidity aid the process.

Once I was happy with the level of patina, I sprayed on a few light coats of lacquer to seal in the finish.

Tips:
1. The patina will smear/rub away if you touch it… trust me.
2. The lacquer did reduce some of the patina—dissolved some of it basically. That was a bit of a bummer, but still a pleasing result nonetheless.

DIY Gramophone - finished

To learn more and see more pictures, visit this tutorial, and see even more projects from Bryan Bales right here. Or