Having finalized the design of my Imposing Speaker, it was time to begin building it. The finished product was to be made of brown foam and sprayed with flat gray automotive primer; this class was about exploring the form, so there was no need to use colors or other finishes.
Before I got started with the brown foam, I made a couple mock-ups out of blue foam, whiter is easier to work with quickly. I made some of these while I was still defining the final form (see the previous post), and then moved on to the top-heavy wave shape after that.
Cutting and Sculpting
With the shape and scale finalized, it was finally time to start with the brown foam. I started with a big chunk of foam and began cutting it down. Things were made much easier with some shiny new hand tools I had picked up; a pull saw, a coping saw, and my trusty Dremel.
I had worked with the brown foam before on the Material Interaction project. I knew that it would be fairly difficult to shape the speakers out of foam, so I ordered some auto speakers and cut them down to fit into my model. I removed the big magnet from the woofer, as it made the speaker too top-heavy. The good thing about doing this exercise and focusing only on the form is that I don’t have to worry about making it actually work.
After carving in a nook for the tweeter, I could set it into the foam. I left the entire tweeter intact, because the extra weight helped to stabilize the speaker.
As with any project, I was influenced by a number of constraints when building this speaker. The chief limitation I ran into was time; with a deadline looming, it was a struggle to find the time to work out all the fine details I wanted. As I came down to the end of the semester, I recognized that it was going to be exceedingly difficult to get the cylinders to protrude from the back of the form, as I had in my CAD models.
More coincidence than planned, it turned out that the woofer fit almost exactly into the plastic cover of a spindle of CDs I had lying around. This gave my a nice, smooth transition for the woofer to the speaker base. I then used the Dremel (with compass attachment) to create an annular seat for the tweeter.
Before putting the speakers on, the base and speakers were all painted individually. The tweeter sat pretty snugly in the recess I carved for it, and the ring that it sat on was attached with standard wood glue. The woofer-CD case sub-assembly was also a pretty tight fit into the recess made for it. I spent a lot of time between chiseling and Dremeling as close to a cylindrical hole as possible. The CD case did not protrude out of the back, instead leaving me with a new feature of the partial recess in the back. I used wood filler to smooth out all the gaps where parts met, and to put smooth rounds on the inside of this recess.
Once the entire piece was assembled, all that was left was the finish. On the early coats, I also used a watered down mix of the wood filler to take up a lot of the pores that formed in the paint coats. I sprayed about twelve coats of flat gray automotive primer over the course of the two weeks I spent building the final model. This took a ton of paint, and a ton of sanding. The benefit of the automotive primer is that it is wet-sandable, so with enough coats, it really does allow for a great finish.
After hours of sanding and painting, getting down to a 1500 grain sandpaper polish, I finally had completed my speaker model. Take a look.
I was very pleased with the results. I achieved the top-heavy look I was aiming for, as well as the fairly exaggerated scale. The clean geometric form kept things focused, but the speakers also had the right level of detail. Overall, I think I accomplished my goal of designing an “Imposing” computer speaker.
I am still toying with the idea of going the next step and building a working pair. This would obviously come with a host of other design challenges; I think the heavy woofer would pose a big problem with such a small base, but perhaps I could incorporate an acrylic foot for stability. I’d also have to brush up on my electrical knowledge.
At the moment, however, I am focusing my efforts on a new project, for a new class. I am taking a Furniture Design class, again at MassArt, and am finalizing my concept for a wine rack. I should begin building shortly. I will start posting about that project in the near future.