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Thread: Built a Cajon... (Box Drum)

  1. #1
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    Built a Cajon... (Box Drum)

    On a bit of a whim, I decided to build a Cajon.

    A Cajon -- spanish for box/crate/drawer -- is a box-shaped percussion instrument, originally from Peru. You play it by sitting on it and tapping on the front in different places. If you check google and/or youtube you should find plenty of info and videos.

    As I said, this was a bit of a whim. I can't play one, and no one has asked me to build one. I just was watching a few videos online about Cajons and thought it would be a fun quick and easy project. My son (the future musician) might have some fun with it, or I might end up loaning it out or even giving it away.

    In broad terms, there is not that much to say about the design. It's a box about 12"x12"x18" (30cm x 30cm x 46cm) with a hole in the back to let out the sound. My own design was based a great deal upon the Steve Ramsay (Woodworking for Mere Mortals) Cajon build and I also drew from a Lee Valley tools newsletter article by Serge Duclos.

    I'm building it with spare plywood that I have laying in the shop. The front is 1/8" oak "door skin" plywood. The rest of it is Baltic Birch, mostly 19mm (3/4") thick, which should be nice and strong.

    Here it is glued and clamped together. BB takes glue very well, even on the edges, but I did plough shallow rabbets in the top + bottom pieces to help lock things together





    I picked up a drum snare kit for about $10 at a local music store. It was then cut in half, and the two halves are mounted as shown here. A piece of angled pine is mounted to a plywood scrap, and the two bits of the snare are mounted on it. The angle is so that the wires press against the tapa for the snare sound.




    This illustrates how the snare block is mounted inside the Cajon. The tapa is then attached to the front over top of this. This is pretty basic, just a pair of notched boards that the block slips inside -- and you can easily slip it out also. There are many designs out there with knobs and things for adjusting the snare, which I omitted.

    I wanted a clean and smooth exterior. For one thing, I like the look. For another, the resulting smooth sides make it a bit easier to pack on a shelf for storage. (I was also making this project as much from available materials as possible, so I was not going to go out to buy hardware.) Bear in mind that this is my first ever cajon. So I wanted to keep the construction simple also. As well, this way makes it easy for me to make changes later, if desired.




    You don't need to remove the tapa to access the snare. The rear hole is just big enough that you can reach your arm in, pop the snare block up and out of it's mounts, and then work it out of the hole. This allows you to easily play without the snare, and also to access the snare block and make changes to how it is configured.



    Finished: Side and Rear view

    I removed the tapa for finishing. Wiped on one sealcoat of shellac. This gives a nice amber tone to the pale BB plywood, and also brings up a nice light brown to the oak veneer on the tapa. This was followed with two coats of Varathane.




    Finished: Front View

    One final design detail to note is that there are no screws in the top corners. Those corners are left loose so that they can vibrate against the edges. By hitting your hand there you can make a "slap" sound. I read some designs where they sanded those areas back about 1/16th inch (1.5mm) but I just left them alone to start, and they seem to work as is.




    More details and photos are on my website, if you are interested.
    There's usually more than one way to do it...
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  2. #2
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    What a fun looking project. How does it sound Art?
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  3. #3
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    Very cool Art! Would love to hear a sound clip of it.

    I was actually talking about building a stomp box the other day as a project for using my ibox jig. I had come across it via Steve Ramsey's (Woodworking for mere mortals) post on building a Cajon.

    http://www.woodworkingformeremortals...own-cajon.html

    http://www.woodworkingformeremortals...stomp-box.html
    Darren

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  4. #4
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    Interesting project & nicely done. How sensitive is the tone to the type of wood used in its construction. If so, I could imagine a combo of several boxes, each with their own tone, playing an unusual music.
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  5. #5
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    Wow...music and woodworking. Don't get much better. I have been looking at these in the music store and thinking they would be something nice to build. Yours is very cool.

  6. #6
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    Looks great.. I had never heard of this musical instrument. Nice clamp rack too.

    Now where did you stash what you won in Bessey's 12 days of christmas or was it some other Art Mulder?
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mohammad Madha View Post
    Looks great.. I had never heard of this musical instrument. Nice clamp rack too.

    Now where did you stash what you won in Bessey's 12 days of christmas or was it some other Art Mulder?
    Hey, no snooping!

    (nothing arrived yet. Wasn't a "major" prize, so I'm not expecting much.)
    There's usually more than one way to do it...
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  8. #8
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    Very nice, Art. Both of the drummers I play with have cajons, although I've only played part of one gig where the drummer was using one. (He started out with the cajon, but decided by the second set he wanted more volume, so he got the real drums out of his van and set them up during the break.) If you're making the cajon to be used outside of the house (like at gigs), a tip I got from one of the drummers is to make the cajon a standard size, so it'll fit in one of the commercially available cajon carrying cases.

    Curt Fuller has made a few cajons...hopefully he'll see this thread and chime in.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

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  9. #9
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    You can't beat some fine woodworking...oh wait, guess ya can
    Looks great Art
    The perception of perfection is perfectly clear to everyone else

  10. #10
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    There are lots of different sounding boxes out there. This clip compares some of the commercial offerings.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kCeIabNvWQ#t=68

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