So, one of the things that has been distracting me from posting on this blog is the fact that I found a great ukulele club. I’ve been spending a lot of time attending, preparing and doing other stuff related to the club.
At some point someone brought a cajon to one of the meetings and I couldn’t believe how cool it sounded. It’s a great kick and snare drum sound built into one portable little box. Other than symbols I can’t really understand why anyone would lug a huge drum kit around when this is an option. Of course I had to have one. After a bit of shopping I put them starting at about $120 and like anything, you can go as high as you like on the top end.
Being a chronic DIY-er, I thought “I could probably just build one of those” and after some material pricing I placed the DIY cost at about $35. 6 pieces of plywood with a thinner piece on the front, what could be easier. So I designed and built one without too much trouble and I was pretty happy with the results. The store bought ones look much nicer and they probably sound a little better too but all things considered I think making your own is a totally viable option that brings the cost down into the no brainer range and the end result sounds great.
I designed it in a free 3d program called SketchUp (which used to be a Google product), got the materials at Home Depot and got started.
The video doesn’t really do the sound or look justice (neither does my playing) but you get the idea.
After making one, taking it to the uke club and telling my story, I immediately got orders for like 5 more and I’ve been making them ever since. I’m actually kind of sick of making them at this point and I would love to get back to my other projects (like my Panjolele and posting on this blog). So I might take a break after I finish the one I’m working on now. It’s definitely a lot of fun to see them going out to people who I know will really enjoy them.
Everything you should need to get going
Materials (links meant as examples only, YMMV)
- I bought a 4’x8′ sheet of 1/2″ sanded plywood for the top, bottom, back and sides.
- The front is thinner 1/8″ plywood which they sell in smaller sheets for like drawer bottoms or something. One of the sides looks pretty good. I picked through all the sheets to find the nicest one.
- 1″x2″ for the bracing
- Drum snare
- Glue and screws.
- The front doesn’t show any joint, it sits flat against the front of the edges of the main body, the top is secondary and only shoes the front joint, the back sits inside the rabbit joint all around the back edge. Does that make any sense? Just follow all the joints in the plan very carefully and have faith. You’ll be fine.
- I mostly used my table saw and router, lots of gluing and clamps too and I counter sunk all the screw holes through the front to the body.
- To get a rim shot sound I leave the screws off the top 2 corners and maybe even sand down those corners a little so there is some space between the front and the body. Not too much though.
- I used a round over bit in my little router to soften the outside edge of the hole in the back and the top side corners.
- I put everything together then do a final sanding to even all the edges up, if you sand too much on the plywood you get waviness and you can even sand all the way though the top ply.
- I did a coat of stain and a couple coats of clear on the main body, and like 5 coats of clear on the front board.
- Cut the snare in half and attach the metal ends to the framing and let the free ends just hang down against the front board.
Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions and please comment here with pics if you make one.