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Old 06-15-2017, 03:14 AM
Push pull stroke Push pull stroke is offline
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Default Thinking about building a cajon

I want to build it out of solid Walnut planks. I know they're more expensive than plies, and more likely to crack, but the better sound quality is worth it to me. My only question is, how thick should the planks be? I'm thinking 22" tall by 16" wide and 16" deep. I figure the sides and bottom should be about 1/2" to support my weight, but the front and back should obviously be thinner. 1/8" was my thought for the front and back, but I'm asking for your thoughts.
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Old 06-15-2017, 03:17 AM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

Do you plan on putting snares inside? The front needs to be a thin panel to resonate and more so if snares are used. I have seen plans and directions on Youtube. You may want to look there.

I have watched a ton of this guys woodworkng videos, and he is a little loose but very knowledgeable. also check the other videos on the right margin. Have fun, photos along the way.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVZN_mdz7Ks&t=25s
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Old 06-15-2017, 03:54 AM
Matt Bo Eder
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

With a plethora of canons out there in the sub-$200 range, I'm wondering why you'd want to build one at all? Even if you managed to get the materials together for under $75, the labor that goes in to it will surpass the cost of a commercially made one. Do you already have one and building a custom job will give you something you want?
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Old 06-15-2017, 04:02 AM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

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Originally Posted by Matt Bo Eder View Post
With a plethora of canons out there in the sub-$200 range, I'm wondering why you'd want to build one at all? Even if you managed to get the materials together for under $75, the labor that goes in to it will surpass the cost of a commercially made one. Do you already have one and building a custom job will give you something you want?
Everything out there is plywood. I want the extra low end of a solid piece of wood, plus I want to build a slightly larger one than most. And there aren't a lot of Walnut ones, which I think is the perfect tonewood for toms, and therefore possibly cajons.
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Old 06-15-2017, 01:09 PM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

I'd check out a site on sonic properties of wood. Acoustic guitar forums and sellers have some excellent resources. I say this, because walnut isn't necessarily the best for low end. If you look at guitar construction walnut is often used for the sides or back, with soft woods providing better bass response. I personally like cedar, I have a tongue drum with a cedar top. More sensitive so that you don't need to hit it as hard to articulate a bass response. Plus it'll smell nice.

Both walnut and maple are used in guitar construction, however they tend to be used as tone color woods, as they tend to remove frequencies, though in a pleasant way, some of the louder woods can sound harsh or metallic. I would try to source some Black Locust.
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Old 06-15-2017, 01:36 PM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

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I'd check out a site on sonic properties of wood. Acoustic guitar forums and sellers have some excellent resources. I say this, because walnut isn't necessarily the best for low end. If you look at guitar construction walnut is often used for the sides or back, with soft woods providing better bass response. I personally like cedar, I have a tongue drum with a cedar top. More sensitive so that you don't need to hit it as hard to articulate a bass response. Plus it'll smell nice.

Both walnut and maple are used in guitar construction, however they tend to be used as tone color woods, as they tend to remove frequencies, though in a pleasant way, some of the louder woods can sound harsh or metallic. I would try to source some Black Locust.
Birch is a fairly bright wood, and it gets used a lot in cajons. Spalted birch, specifically.
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Old 06-15-2017, 02:59 PM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

I would say unless you a). are an experienced woodworker AND b). you are simply wanting the experience of building your own cajon, I'd just drop the coin to buy a decent one already made. Or heck, I'll bet there are some small-shop builders out there that will build you what you want.

I'd also maybe suggest building one (or two or three) out of some sort of cheap wood in order to practice before using the good wood. Good tone woods are getting more and more hard to find, and it would be bad to use your good stuff first just to find out the instrument doesn't perform as well as you had hoped.

I'm not trying to be a Debbie-Downer here; I'm just saying take your time thinking through the process before committing. Granted, all of the advice in this post is coming from a person who would love to do woodworking but doesn't have the patience for it. :)
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Old 06-16-2017, 01:22 AM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

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Originally Posted by PorkPieGuy View Post
I would say unless you a). are an experienced woodworker AND b). you are simply wanting the experience of building your own cajon, I'd just drop the coin to buy a decent one already made. Or heck, I'll bet there are some small-shop builders out there that will build you what you want.

I'd also maybe suggest building one (or two or three) out of some sort of cheap wood in order to practice before using the good wood. Good tone woods are getting more and more hard to find, and it would be bad to use your good stuff first just to find out the instrument doesn't perform as well as you had hoped.

I'm not trying to be a Debbie-Downer here; I'm just saying take your time thinking through the process before committing. Granted, all of the advice in this post is coming from a person who would love to do woodworking but doesn't have the patience for it. :)
I have woodworking experience, I just need to decide which wood. And I don't know of any cajons that have even the front playing surface made from a single plank, let alone the rest of the body. And the wood for the whole project would only cost me around $100, I found a good local-ish source. I was just hoping someone had tried this already, etc.. I don't always like reinventing the wheel.
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Old 06-16-2017, 01:40 AM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

Most cajons have an internal snare mechanism and engagement, but I find just taping or screwing snare wires to the cajon works awesome and fun to tap on directly and play. Hey maybe you can build an internal subwoofer nested head that you can pop out to give it some exta umphhhh. Hey I'm on a roll now so add two programable robotic arms that can play any poly rhythm on two sides while you play the other two sides. Dang after you build this one build me one just like it. LOL
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Old 06-16-2017, 02:13 AM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

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Originally Posted by Push pull stroke View Post
I have woodworking experience, I just need to decide which wood. And I don't know of any cajons that have even the front playing surface made from a single plank, let alone the rest of the body. And the wood for the whole project would only cost me around $100, I found a good local-ish source. I was just hoping someone had tried this already, etc.. I don't always like reinventing the wheel.
I did a little search for cedar and ding ding ding and seems to be one of the preferred woods of the Peruvian cajon traditions. Though it appears to still be layered, I'm guessing for strength.

If you wanted to go solid, maybe consider some bracing, these things really are constructed a lot like acoustic string instruments. Maybe like a cross grain shape or a plus to distribute the impact.
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Old 06-16-2017, 02:30 AM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

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Originally Posted by SmoothOperator View Post
I did a little search for cedar and ding ding ding and seems to be one of the preferred woods of the Peruvian cajon traditions. Though it appears to still be layered, I'm guessing for strength.

If you wanted to go solid, maybe consider some bracing, these things really are constructed a lot like acoustic string instruments. Maybe like a cross grain shape or a plus to distribute the impact.
I'm not going to be pounding the heck out of it. I have developed really good awareness of volume and force through years of orchestral playing and training. Plus cross-bracing will inhibit the lower frequencies, which are the ones I'm after. And Walnut is fairly strong. And this is just an experiment, to have fun with. I'm OK with whatever ways that it fails. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing anything major.
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Old 06-16-2017, 03:28 AM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

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Originally Posted by Push pull stroke View Post
I'm not going to be pounding the heck out of it. I have developed really good awareness of volume and force through years of orchestral playing and training. Plus cross-bracing will inhibit the lower frequencies, which are the ones I'm after. And Walnut is fairly strong. And this is just an experiment, to have fun with. I'm OK with whatever ways that it fails. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing anything major.
I'm pretty sure the bracing is there to enhance the low frequencies. It's why they call it a BASS bar in certain instruments. Basically it helps the top move air by distributing the force.

I've seen lots of these sort of go play in the shop videos and instructions for things like log drums and cajons, it's amazing how people with much more primitive tools had so much more taste. Untuned plywood log drums, plywood cornetto's, let's use shop tools to turn perfectly good materials into dust and garbage, and make fun of some other cultures... Good times. Er creativity. Yeah, yeah creativity... An experiment **snort**

Is it *really* that much more difficult to appreciate common design patterns that people have used before? Does it impede your enjoyment of destroying some perfectly good walnut that much?
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Old 06-16-2017, 04:01 AM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

I have built a few things and say if you are interested and want to have some fun, Go for it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. it will take a few tools and some time but in the end it's no different than the guys that build drums. You have to start somewhere. What would be more boring than just buying one.
Have fun.
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Old 06-16-2017, 08:22 AM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

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Originally Posted by SmoothOperator View Post
I'm pretty sure the bracing is there to enhance the low frequencies. It's why they call it a BASS bar in certain instruments. Basically it helps the top move air by distributing the force.

I've seen lots of these sort of go play in the shop videos and instructions for things like log drums and cajons, it's amazing how people with much more primitive tools had so much more taste. Untuned plywood log drums, plywood cornetto's, let's use shop tools to turn perfectly good materials into dust and garbage, and make fun of some other cultures... Good times. Er creativity. Yeah, yeah creativity... An experiment **snort**

Is it *really* that much more difficult to appreciate common design patterns that people have used before? Does it impede your enjoyment of destroying some perfectly good walnut that much?
Really? Buy what he does to offset the imbalance in your head mate.
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Old 06-16-2017, 01:48 PM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

Just for what it is worth. I also wanted bottom end in my cajon so I bought a Pearl Sonic Boom cajon. It has a walnut front plate and I just looked at it and I do believe that it is a solid piece. It also has a built in scoop to enhance the lows. Good luck on your project.
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Old 06-16-2017, 02:13 PM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

Build one yourself sounds fun. Why not?

Walnut is a fabulous wood. Snares yeah, but also for the typical hand drums. Crisp, rich and complex. One of my favourites, for sure.

As with any other drum, dimensions and construction is just as or more important.

Though the most popular option today is as a drum kit replacement cajons with snares are what most know, but there's all kinds.

Solid wood is risky also more heavy. Ply can be both strong and thin.

If you want to solid for the front panel, then yeah, cedar, spruce, pine and such, as used on other instruments would probably be the better choice.
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  #17  
Old 06-16-2017, 02:22 PM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

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Originally Posted by Push pull stroke View Post
I have woodworking experience, I just need to decide which wood. And I don't know of any cajons that have even the front playing surface made from a single plank, let alone the rest of the body. And the wood for the whole project would only cost me around $100, I found a good local-ish source. I was just hoping someone had tried this already, etc.. I don't always like reinventing the wheel.
This is good news.

The reason why I was concerned is because I've done A LOT of research as to what it takes to build myself an acoustic guitar. All in all, if a person wants to build a guitar (even from a kit), he/she should do it for the building experience and not to have a superior instrument. For the price that it takes to "tool up" and for the guitar kit itself, never mind the time and energy, a person could actually go buy a really nice guitar (or two!). As a matter of fact, I found a person online who said that his first guitar build cost him $17,000 because he didn't have the necessary tools to do it. Granted, his second guitar was significantly cheaper to make, but that first go around was a doozy! In addition, it would be heartbreaking to me to put in all of this work and money into an instrument that simply didn't sound good. However, this doesn't seem to be the case with you (which is a good thing!). Build thread....maybe? Please? :)

I know this would add to the cost, but if you wanted to order something like this and use it as a template, it might be a good place to start: https://www.amazon.com/Meinl-Percuss.../dp/B009VDW4OW
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Old 06-16-2017, 03:24 PM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

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Originally Posted by john gerrard View Post
Just for what it is worth. I also wanted bottom end in my cajon so I bought a Pearl Sonic Boom cajon. It has a walnut front plate and I just looked at it and I do believe that it is a solid piece. It also has a built in scoop to enhance the lows. Good luck on your project.
Let me check that out.
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Old 06-16-2017, 04:31 PM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

I'm going to try a Pearl Sonic Boom. See, this is why I asked here first, before building. Thanks for your help, guys.
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Old 06-16-2017, 07:24 PM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

I think you sort of need the thin sandwiched material to get a good sound from it. There needs to be a "membrane" for it to be a drum. The more solid your materials most likely the less sound/projection you'll get. You want a balance between too hard which is echo-ey to too soft which will break and produce a light sound.
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Old 06-17-2017, 01:50 AM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

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I think you sort of need the thin sandwiched material to get a good sound from it. There needs to be a "membrane" for it to be a drum. The more solid your materials most likely the less sound/projection you'll get. You want a balance between too hard which is echo-ey to too soft which will break and produce a light sound.
You might be onto something. I have a $50 thin plywood cajon (made by a relatively local joint called DrumBox Percussion) and a $200 Toca cajon which I think is made of oak. The Toca looks beautiful and has a crisper sound but feels too stiff. The DrumBox does sound a bit cheaper but has more oomph in the bass sound and is more playable, and also more light and portable.
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Old 06-17-2017, 02:17 AM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

Well, I just ordered a used Meinl Bass Cajon with Walnut front, so we'll see how that works. The front plate screws on, so I can experiment with different surfaces easily.
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Old 06-17-2017, 06:27 PM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

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Well, I just ordered a used Meinl Bass Cajon with Walnut front, so we'll see how that works. The front plate screws on, so I can experiment with different surfaces easily.
Just want to make sure you're aware that a standard cajon and a bass cajon are pretty different, both in terms of roles in music, and size/shape.
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Old 06-17-2017, 07:01 PM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

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Originally Posted by Push pull stroke View Post
Well, I just ordered a used Meinl Bass Cajon with Walnut front, so we'll see how that works. The front plate screws on, so I can experiment with different surfaces easily.
You can also get a cajon bass drum pedal and use the cajon with a snare for small acoustic settings.
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Old 06-26-2017, 04:52 AM
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Default Re: Thinking about building a cajon

As a drummer and carpenter who specializes in fine cabinetry, I have built cajons for myself and others using more involved cabinetry techniques to get an instrument that makes many more sounds and is a lot more durable than standard cajons. Plenty of good advice in the above posts and tons of videos show that with the right techniques you don't need 'good' wood to make a good cajon and beautiful exotic wood used badly gets you a bad cajon. Bad meaning bad in the original sense. I'd be glad to PM or email with anyone who is curious about what I do.
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