Speaker cabinet making

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Arnt Rian
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Location: Trondheim, Norway
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Speaker cabinet making

Post by Arnt Rian »

I recently had a couple of old Fender amps put back into action ('61 Tremolux, 70’s Quad Reverb). The Quad’s cabinet I'd already chopped down to "Twin" size (back around 1990...), so I cut it down to head size, the Tremolux of course was a head from the factory. So they both needed speaker cabinets, and I decided to build my own, and I took some pictures of the process.
The old Fender cabs were made of ¾” pine with a thin plywood speaker baffle, and many feel that their construction contributes greatly to the old Fender amp’s musical character. I got some pre laminated 18mm pine from the lumber yard, should be pretty much the same thing. In the early (pre CBS) days, their corners were finger jointed, glued with hide glue, and they have proved to be quite robust over time.
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I don’t have an industrial size moulder, so I decided to use this old cabinet maker method to produce the joint. By using a simple sled on the table saw...
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...with an index pin that is equally thick as the saw kerf...
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...and by cutting all the pieces that are going to fit together in one go….
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...the pieces should fit perfectly. Even if you accumulate errors along the way, and you will, they will be equal on all the pieces, so they should fit anyways. So it is a good idea to mark the pieces accordingly. A dado set would have made things go faster, I guess
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Next step is assembly, and making sure things are nice and square
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Finally, a use for my long glue clamps!
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Instead of hide glue, I used fish glue, which I find more convenient in situations such as this because of the much longer open time
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Close-up
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Carcasses done; the smaller one is for 2*10” speakers, the larger one for 2*12”.
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Gluing on battens to attach front and back panels
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Using a roundover bit in the router to shape the edges
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Routing the 10 mm plywood baffle speaker cut-outs with a circle jig
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Part of the fun is testing different speakers, I got a few different ones from Warehouse that have gotten good reviews
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I also have an array of oldies that I can test them against
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Finally! The hardware and things have arrived from a distributor in the England
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Tolex, grill cloth, corner protectors etc
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Cutting the pieces to size
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From my tests, fish glue seems to be a good choice for attaching tolex to wood, but not so good for tolex on tolex, so I ended up CA-gluing those overlaps.
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Another issue is that the tolex will slide until the glue sets, so I had to staple and clamp everything well. There are contact glues that are especially made for this that probably are easier to work with, and I’ll probably look into those more if I decide to do this again.
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You can never have too many clamps etc...
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Even though the corners will be hid by the metal protectors, it is always fun to be neat
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Attaching the hardware and baffle...
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...and some more hardware
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...and we’re done! The tilt back feet seem to work fine
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According to the tolex vendor, this fabric was made one the same old machines that made the material that Fender used back in the day. I don’t know if that’s true, but it seems like its color and texture matches that of the ‘61 Tremolux head quite well (minus some honest wear of course…)
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I dig the colors!
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The other cabinet was more of the same. Cutting...
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...glue, staples
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The black tolex is thinner, so it moved even more, grrrr...
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Keeping things as taut required various clamping arrangements
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Fitting the baffle, checking to see how much space to leave for the grill cloth
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I picked some wheat colored grill material for this one, the amp ioiginally had the sparkly silver stuff, which I’m not crazy about.
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Almost done
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Back, with amp (I have since added a proper jack input)
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Loaded with Warehouse ET-65 and Retro 30 (I substituted the Retro for a Cannabis Rex later)
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Front
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Mark Swanson
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Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan USA
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Re: Speaker cabinet making

Post by Mark Swanson »

Great Arnt! That makes me want to Rock!
I am doing an amp project myself, a 1960's Bogen tube amp that I am rebuilding and putting in a cabinet. I'll be posting that one too after I get done.
  • Mark Swanson, guitarist, MIMForum Staff

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Peter Wilcox
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Location: Northeastern California

Re: Speaker cabinet making

Post by Peter Wilcox »

Great looking cabinets Arnt - doubtless better than the originals. Your thread came at a good time for me, as I'm going to make a cabinet with 2 15's for a 60's Bandmaster head to play a 5 string bass through. However, mine isn't going to be anything close to your level of excellence.

I don't understand why Fender's cabs have such robust sides, yet a relatively thin and presumably flexible front/speaker baffle. I guess in an open back it may not matter, but what about the closed back cabs? Do they have thin fronts also? Maybe weight is a factor?
Maybe I can't fix it, but I can fix it so no one can fix it

Halgeir Wold
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Re: Speaker cabinet making

Post by Halgeir Wold »

Hi, Arnt
As usual, - a perfect job! Hobbyplank can be quite useful, even if it's not very pretty on its own.... :)
I'm finally about to start that combo amp I've promised my son. I do have a cheap dovetail jig, but I think I'll follow your example...
BTW - do they still carry any hardwoods at the old G.T.Strom place..? I guess I'll be down there for Olsok, as usual...
Even if I'm still caught in the same old situation, I better get something done, before I get too unpopular aorund here....

Arnt Rian
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Re: Speaker cabinet making

Post by Arnt Rian »

Thanks folks, glad you like the cabinets.

Peter, I can't know for sure why Fender built their amp and speaker cabinets that way, but I suspect like everything else they produced, the main concerns were about cost, ease of production / reparability and robustness. One piece 3/4" pine boards, wide enough for cabinets, were plentiful and inexpensive, same thing about the thin plywood for the baffle back pieces. The finger joints are very quick to do with the right machinery, and the early cabinets are known to be very sturdy; Leo Fender was known for his obsession for building stuff to last. I don't know how involved people like Freddie Tavares and other musicians, who gave lots of important input and design advice on the instruments, were on the amplifiers. I recently read "The Soul of Tone: Celebrating 60 Years of Fender Amps", and according to that book, Leo tinkered with the electronics constantly, it doesn't seem like he gave much thought to the cabinets, beyond utility. Sales chief Don Randall apparently was the guy who came up with most of the fancy names, the tolex colors etc.

About the closed back cabinets; yes, I believe they have the same type baffles, but the there is also insulation and the divider in the middle, that connects the front and back, and probably serves to avoid some internal standing waves.

Halgeir, I visited that lumber yard recently, they still have some OK hardwoods, but most of the nice stuff is gone. "Hobbyplank" is still plentiful, though! :roll: :lol:

Steve Senseney
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Re: Speaker cabinet making

Post by Steve Senseney »

Nice work! Nice pictures and presentation.

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Peter Wilcox
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Location: Northeastern California

Re: Speaker cabinet making

Post by Peter Wilcox »

Thanks Arnt. I think I am going to build two separate 15" cabs because of weight considerations. I can always run them in parallel if I need both.

Again, great job on those.
Maybe I can't fix it, but I can fix it so no one can fix it

Karl Ruffing
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Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 7:17 pm

Re: Speaker cabinet making

Post by Karl Ruffing »

Arnt, your cabinets look simply amazing!!! I'm quite impressed with your skills. But I didn't notice a port on the cab for the Tremolux. Did you include one, and if so, what size did you make it? Good job, though.

rob bowen
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Re: Speaker cabinet making

Post by rob bowen »

Beautiful job !

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