DIY Speaker Building Toolkit

I see so many posts with specific questions that I thought it might be worthwhile to start a thread focused on the very basics. The reason for that is because having been through the process (read: pain)

The chart below breaks down tooling into these three categories:

Assembling: Having a pre-packaged kit from a vendor with pre-milled wood. There is no requirement for cutting of material. Minimally, all crossover components and wires are defined. Speaker drivers are dictated.

Building: Having a set of plans from a third-party that you are going to follow. You buy the raw materials and cut everything per the plan. Components are spec’d and you build the crossovers.

Designing: Truly starting from scratch based on a need and design goals. You own the design of the cabinetry and crossover, speaker selection, test and measurement, etc.

Here’s the chart up for debate:

Assembling Building Designing
Minimal Optimal Minimal Optimal Minimal Optimal
Tape measure X X X X X X
Rulers X X X X
Vernier Caliper (6 inch) X X
Steel Rule (fractions and decimal – 24″)
Circular saw (with fine tooth cross cut and rip blades) X X X X
Sabre saw X X X X
Table saw X X
Band saw X X
Drill press X X
Plunge router (2 HP Min) X X X X X X
Trim router (1 HP) X X
Router table (with micro fence) X X
Sand paper (120, 150 and 220 grits) X X X X X X
Glue (Yellow -Tite-Bond) X X X X X X
Clamps X X X X X X
Random ordit sander X X X
Hand drill X X X X X X
Soldering iron X X X X X X
Heat gun X X X
Wire strippers/cutters X X X X X X
Closed cell foam tape X X X
Damping material X X X X X X
Heat shrink X X X
Hand rasp X X X
Jasper Jig X X X
Hook up wire X X X
Measurement microphone X X X
Measurement software X X X
Test amp X X X
ASIO Soundcard X X X
Mic stand with boom X X
Infinite Test Baffle X X
Multimeter X
LCR Meter X
SPL Meter X


While many of these are obvious, some may need some explanation. Brief descriptions of them follow:

Calipers: How think is ¾” MDF? It is almost always more than .750 inches. On average, we encounter MDF that is .770 inches thick. This is why folks end up with the head scratcher of “Gee, my dado measures ¾”, why doesn’t it fit? Calipers eliminate the inaccuracies of nominal wood stock. They come in both dial (analog) and digital. We use both. They can be cross-referenced and hey, batteries die exactly in the middle of a measurement.

Band Saw: Yes, you can cut arched lines with a sabre saw. We do it all the time. The flaw is that the blade of a sabre saw deflects very easily, making true flush routing more difficult. Band saws aren’t nearly as susceptible to deflection. If you don’t have access to one, be sure you get the rasp as it can smooth things out for pattern routing.

Trim Router: A massive hand router is not always needed for DIY speaker building. Not only do we use these $100 beauties for veneer trimming, they’re plenty powerful for routing rabbets and dadoes. And, they are much less unruly. Sure, you have to set up the depth manually, but (to us) it is a good trade-off. We use the Bosch Colt.

Clamps: The old fashioned, simple screw-tightening work fine. No need to get sucked into the Bessey K-Clamp super expensive models. They are mostly just holding the box firmly together while the glue dries. A nice add-on are the corner braces that you can get at Woodcraft so guarantee a squared up cabinet.

Heat Gun: You can use a lighter, of course. The heat gun applies even heat to heat shrink and leaves a professional finish with no burn marks. We use a Porter Cable and it works great.

Hand Rasp: For chamfering an edge or smoothing small imperfections it can’t be beat. Cheap and effective. I use the the flat-on-one-side-curved-on-the-other-side type.

Mic Stand With Boom: Accurate measurements without a boom are a challenge.

Infinite Test Baffle: The update here is that I’ve built a test baffle per the IEC specs suitable for up to a 8″ driver.  This is simply because anything taller didn’t fit in the shop.  We will still use it for larger drivers too…it’s pretty nice.

LCR Meter: Critical for unwinding coils to get the exact value that you modeled out. Also makes measuring components a breeze. Use it all the time.

This is meant to be debated, as it likely will be. It surely isn’t perfect and the feedback is welcome so we can all learn. Our hope is that we can provide some useful tools that helped us along. Build well and listen!!


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