Building cajon

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Re: Building cajon

Postby burke » Thu Jul 18, 2013 2:46 pm

Interesting! Have you made or played the traditional shaped ones we've been discussing besides your straight ones?

cause if there is no big difference between the two types sound wise ... yours would be a a lot simpler to make.

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Re: Building cajon

Postby wooddrum » Thu Jul 18, 2013 3:04 pm

my reasons to build them straight are that the sound is (in my opinnion) similar to the traditional shape (we know, its all about technique with this kind of drums), they are much easier to make and they´re standing much safer when you play them together with traditional congas. the soundhole on the side is giving them a nice bass even if they stay flat on the ground.
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Re: Building cajon

Postby p.a.dogs1 » Sun Jul 21, 2013 10:48 am

wooddrum wrote:... they´re standing much safer when you play them together with traditional congas.

Most of the players I see at YouTube have the cajon between their legs and the conga stands beside, integrating single tonal accents. So, the conic shape helps a little bit - especially when lifting up the cajon in order to modulate the volume of the sound.

wooddrum wrote:... (we know, its all about technique with this kind of drums)

Yes, of course! But there are some very special aspects which could be interesting to talk about:

When you have a cajon with a rather thin body, the physical contact/connection to the player´s body effects the sound very much (you get some general compression).

The conic form is more or less an invitation (almost a demand) to get very close to the instrument. Player and cajon merge to a unity (an act of incorporation) and become subject. A stand-alone-drum persists as an object - adding it´s potential when needed.

It is my experience, that a volumious cajon (= more than 11" wide and 25" high) in straight form have the tendency to produce a kind of shielded sound (a sound that happens inside a space apart from where I am). It is less possible to produce direct pressure. That´s why Jorge and Alex, my friends from PRK (Spain), built very slim cajones in straight form:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IL45pRffjQc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uFo3mrZHYg

A more realistic sound is in this clip:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8JOg530xFs

There is another more philosophical aspect regarding "technique" (meant as a question): the more a player knows, accepts and generates the specific nature of a primitive instrument the more greatly can appear all music´s universe (sounds a little pathetic, but English is not my mother language).

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Re: Building cajon

Postby smackdaddy » Tue Jul 30, 2013 3:53 am

p.a.dogs1 wrote:Hi smackdaddy, I built several cajones in the last years and I am still experimenting with measures and materials. There are some things I found out (maybe :| ):

1.Every single piece of wood has specific sounding properties. The birch plywood you buy today is different from what you´ll get one week later. I don´t know from where the wood comes in the USA, but here in Germany it comes either from Finnland or from Sibiria. The finnish quality is generally more white with a rather accurate surface, the sibirian quality is often more yellow and the surface sometimes a little splintery. Seen from the aspect of sound I prefer the sibirian quality for playing boards - as someone, who likes to work with wood, I prefer the finnish quality.

2. A cajon´s functionality is the same as other kinds of drums: one part is swinging (skin) and another part (shell) constitutes the counteracting force. Among drumset-builders there is a permanent discussion, if shells have to be thick or thin for better sounds. Beside the question of proportion you should decide, if you want to have a sound, where the sides are involved in producing it´s charakter, also depending how much contact the instrument has with your body (legs). Then you should choose a rather thin plywood (8mm or 9mm - maybe 6,5mm with supporting ledgers). If you prefer an independent sound, no matter if you have it between your legs or if it stands seperated, you should choose a thick plywood - 12mm, possibly 15mm (but birch would make the instrument very heavy).

3. The proportion. I found out that a cajon does not need to be such tall (29"). 25", 26" or 27" is enough, when you keep it up a few centimeters with your feet. Watching Daniel Aldama El Bonkoiro in the first of RitmoBoricua´s clips you see that tones are produced with a technique which is similar to how congaplayers produce muffled tones. The hands come from more above. I am rather sure, that I found out some rules for proportions with 9mm birch plywood and a tallness of 27".

Image

smackdaddy wrote:I am not interested in open tones or even the concept of it being "conga-like". I only want it to sound like the cajons I hear on many rumba recordings, with that long sustaining bass tone. That is my quest, and I have made several attem,pts at it, only to come up kinda short.

Almost open tones are produced by hitting the cajon very close to the edges of the playing board. You can say, that it is more or less the body below the playing board which makes the sound´s character (similar to accented muffled edge-tones on a macho). Therefore you can also think about taking a thick poplar plywood (15mm, 18mm) for the body, which is not as heavy as birch, but gives rather clear tones. The disadvance of poplar is it´s bad surface quality.

For a long sustaining bass you need a rather thin playing board (slow frequency) of plywood with a high specific weight and density (the more mass the higher the amplitude and the longer it swings). In Europe we have beech plywood in different qualities (more ore less heavy) and prices up to more than 50 euros per squaremeter. For open tones thicker playing boards of plywood with low specific weight and density (poplar) are often better. A width of 19" is really large. My favorite cajon is 36 cm (14,4") with 9mm birch plywood for the body and 2,5mm beech plywood (5 plies) as playing board.

I recommend reinforcement ledgers at the top edges of the cajon. This gives an additional stability and you can fix the playing board with some screws. Otherwise heavier bass hits can stress it too much by and by (especially when it is rather thin and the edges are possibly not perfectly plane to each other).

Image

p.a.dogs1



following your advice about the cajons, i made this one. . . will give specs later
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https://youtu.be/10wqmq94w5Q

Me on quinto with the rumberos of Kansas City!

http://www.etsy.com/shop/63rdstreetpercussion

Afro Cuban cajons for sale.
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Re: Building cajon

Postby p.a.dogs1 » Tue Jul 30, 2013 1:35 pm

:)
I am excited!

Here are some of my results over the last 2-3 years:
Image

Image

The next photo shows how I make the top edges of cajones with straight shape:
Image

This is how I build the edges of cajones with conic shape (and reinforcement ledgers inside):
Image

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Re: Building cajon

Postby smackdaddy » Tue Jul 30, 2013 8:11 pm

very nice work. . . what do you use to countersink the screws and how do you do it? i have a quinto cajon that i want to make with screws countersunk on the top for the rattle effect. . .
https://youtu.be/10wqmq94w5Q

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Re: Building cajon

Postby smackdaddy » Tue Jul 30, 2013 8:24 pm

here are the dimensions to the cajon i just made: 16"x16" for the top. I used 1/4" oak ply for the top which is different from all my other cajons which i used 1/8" on the top. I really love the 1/4" better especially when the cajon has a bigger body, as pa dogs mentioned; the bass tone is waay more powerful with punchy very short sustain. When i took my 1/8 inch cajons to rumba, they all said the sound was not coming out. This sunday i know they wont be saying that again!

the sides are made with 1/2" rose pine, which i caught on sale at a very good price. It is 20 inches tall. . . it is a small robust beast with tremendous sound.

The one mistake i made was during the staining process...i used painters tape, but i did not score the edges of the tape, which let the stain bleed through a bit. . . also i used too much stain. i spent hours wiping off the excess stain which caused a bit of smearing on the white parts. Oh well, at least it sounds GREAT. . . i just finished spraying on the final coat of polyurethane, now I will wait and see if the poly will affect the sound in some kind of way.
Attachments
striped tumba cajon.jpg
https://youtu.be/10wqmq94w5Q

Me on quinto with the rumberos of Kansas City!

http://www.etsy.com/shop/63rdstreetpercussion

Afro Cuban cajons for sale.
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Re: Building cajon

Postby p.a.dogs1 » Tue Jul 30, 2013 11:10 pm

Congratulations! You did not screw the top as I can see. I hope the glue will make it!

I made some graphics to explain how I screw my tops onto the bodies. First I drill holes in the middle of two opposite edges:
Image

Then I measure the distance between these holes and transfer it on the plywood for the top (which has a bigger dimension than the body´s aperture):
Image

After drilling and countersink the two holes I screw the top onto the body:
Image

With a router I remove the overlap:
Image

Then I drill two more holes:
Image

I use a small japanese brace ...
Image

... and augers with long centering spikes:
Image

Because I use 4mm screws I take an auger with the same diameter for just the top. The auger´s long spike make marks in the centers of the holes on the body´s edge (after having drilled through the top). Now I can locate the marks with a 3mm auger and drill perfect pilot holes for the screws.

When all holes are drilled ...
Image

... I remove the top and make countersinks for the screws with a box column drill.

Then I screw the top onto the body and round the edges - first with a router, later by hand with stripes of emery cloth.

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Re: Building cajon

Postby smackdaddy » Fri Aug 02, 2013 3:57 pm

wow, thanks for the detailed info! That helps me a lot.... i noticed you remove the overlap with a router; I am much more crude in my method, using a rasp very carefully to remove overlay, and then a sander with 50 grit to get it down the rest of the way. . . . I will now look for those bits at my local hardware store, I would love to start using screws only for my quinto cajons. I love glue, and here we have gorilla glue, which lasts a lifetime once applied. Also, i cut the top at a 10 degree angle as well as the bottom, so i make sure the glue can stick evenly to the top of the drums' frame.

*edit* I just looked up what a router is (had no idea), and it seems far easier than using a rasp. . . also they are inexpensive and very versatile. . . I am getting one this week, once again thank you for the knowledge pa dogs, you are great!!!
https://youtu.be/10wqmq94w5Q

Me on quinto with the rumberos of Kansas City!

http://www.etsy.com/shop/63rdstreetpercussion

Afro Cuban cajons for sale.
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Re: Building cajon

Postby p.a.dogs1 » Fri Aug 02, 2013 7:59 pm

8)
Thank you for your compliments.

I use two kinds of cutters:
Image

First the straight one (left) and afterwards the round one (right). As you can see do both have a ring underneath the cutting zone. In this clip you can see their function:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gK2t3x5EA9k

I use a round cutter with 1/2" radius. Because plywood edges often splinter when you cut them in one workstep I recommend to cut the curvature in 3 or 4 steps with rather high driving speed.

The advantage of screws is that you can prepare a couple of different tops for one body. Just take a 9mm plywood for the first top without rounding the edges. Make marks at the inside of the body and the undersurface of the top (so that all little imprecisions of drilling have their fix position related to the pilot holes in the top frame). Then this piece of plywood can function as master top in order to experiment with different materials (maybe acryl?). With those augers you can always transfer the holes´ positions very exactly.

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Re: Building cajon

Postby smackdaddy » Mon Aug 05, 2013 2:38 am

drum factory...

one thing i have noticed is that 1/4" ply is best for the top. I tried baltic birch and oak ply for the top. It seems like the birch is too dense or rigid, which limits the bass with 1/4", while oak has larger grain, making it less dense and less rigid. I like the more powerful bass note that oak produces over birch when using 1/4". All my tumba cajons will now be made with oak 1/4" plywood on the top. I also used 1/8" birch on the longer cajon in the picture, but that thickness does not seem to produce enough power to get the bass note out effectively (maybe it is the length of the body affecting the bass note, I dont know). Everytime I look on you tube at tumba cajons being played, they all have thick tops, some looking even thicker than 1/4".
Attachments
drum inventory.jpg
here is my inventory so far, some drums are unfinished. . .
finished cajon.jpg
finished tumba cajon
https://youtu.be/10wqmq94w5Q

Me on quinto with the rumberos of Kansas City!

http://www.etsy.com/shop/63rdstreetpercussion

Afro Cuban cajons for sale.
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Re: Building cajon

Postby p.a.dogs1 » Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:55 am

Seems to be the beginning of a lifetime obsession :roll: .

Are you sure that the oak plywood is really oak? Those thin sheets are mostly defined by only the cover plies. For the inner plies the producers use different and much cheaper wood. This material - also called "veneer plywood" - has more decorative functions (backsides of cabinets etc.) not constructive functions. Therefore it is not important from what material the inside is made - that means: it varies depending on what is just available (and regarding sounding attributes).

There is a constructive quality which is called "multiplex": all plies are of the same thickness and of the same kind of wood. But this quality starts from 9mm (ca. 1/3") in birch and from 12mm (ca. 1/2") in beech. Another quality is the so-called "modeling-plywood" (or "airplane plywood") which you can get with 5 plies (à 0,4mm) from 2mm thickness in birch or beech.

Regarding thicknesses of tops I would generally agree. But what you tell about birch and oak qualities makes me sure, that your oak is just a veneer plywood (probably the birch as well).

Another question: what sounds do you prefer? When playing lengthwise or crosswise the veneer?

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Re: Building cajon

Postby smackdaddy » Thu Aug 08, 2013 11:18 pm

p.a.dogs1 wrote:Seems to be the beginning of a lifetime obsession :roll: .

Are you sure that the oak plywood is really oak? Those thin sheets are mostly defined by only the cover plies. For the inner plies the producers use different and much cheaper wood. This material - also called "veneer plywood" - has more decorative functions (backsides of cabinets etc.) not constructive functions. Therefore it is not important from what material the inside is made - that means: it varies depending on what is just available (and regarding sounding attributes).

There is a constructive quality which is called "multiplex": all plies are of the same thickness and of the same kind of wood. But this quality starts from 9mm (ca. 1/3") in birch and from 12mm (ca. 1/2") in beech. Another quality is the so-called "modeling-plywood" (or "airplane plywood") which you can get with 5 plies (à 0,4mm) from 2mm thickness in birch or beech.

Regarding thicknesses of tops I would generally agree. But what you tell about birch and oak qualities makes me sure, that your oak is just a veneer plywood (probably the birch as well).

Another question: what sounds do you prefer? When playing lengthwise or crosswise the veneer?

p.a.dogs1


You may be right about the oak solely being veneer. . . why else would a 24" x 24" piece of oak ply 1/4" thick cost only $4.78? I thought that was pretty cheap, now I know why. I have shortened the body considerably of my cajons (from 28" to 20"), so I will once again try a 1/8" thick piece of baltic birch. . . maybe the length was making the sound weak. . .

also, I have noticed a different sound when turning the grain. . . I prefer to play the length of the ply rather than cross it. . .
https://youtu.be/10wqmq94w5Q

Me on quinto with the rumberos of Kansas City!

http://www.etsy.com/shop/63rdstreetpercussion

Afro Cuban cajons for sale.
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Re: Building cajon

Postby burke » Thu Dec 19, 2013 6:43 pm

New project. Saw the laptop conga in a store and thought how hard can this be to DIY ? ... turns out not very.

Here are a few pictures of it during construction and a less poor sound clip than I posted earlier [I'm editing the post now]. I only had a cheap digital recorder and the technique of getting sound out of these is a bit different ... starting to get it however. My wife recorded it with her Iphone a few minutes ago and the sound quality is better than the first clip I posted.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/20111806/Iphone.mp3

Pretty pleased overall. Cost was $20/25 bucks overall and a few hours of relaxing recreational time.
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Re: Building cajon

Postby smackdaddy » Thu Feb 20, 2014 5:27 pm

burke wrote:New project. Saw the laptop conga in a store and thought how hard can this be to DIY ? ... turns out not very.

Here are a few pictures of it during construction and a less poor sound clip than I posted earlier [I'm editing the post now]. I only had a cheap digital recorder and the technique of getting sound out of these is a bit different ... starting to get it however. My wife recorded it with her Iphone a few minutes ago and the sound quality is better than the first clip I posted.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/20111806/Iphone.mp3

Pretty pleased overall. Cost was $20/25 bucks overall and a few hours of relaxing recreational time.


WOW! I love that drum the finished look of it. What kind of paint did you use? After that, what kind of lacquer? Also how many coats of each?
https://youtu.be/10wqmq94w5Q

Me on quinto with the rumberos of Kansas City!

http://www.etsy.com/shop/63rdstreetpercussion

Afro Cuban cajons for sale.
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