Hi. It's Mandi from Making Nice in the Midwest. Admit it! You hate how ugly speakers usually look. It's a first-world problem, for sure, but it's not too difficult to remedy. Of course, if you want a stylish set of speakers, you could just go out and find a really expensive set that suits your taste. Or you could make your own speaker box cover, like I did!
We were gifted a nice receiver with speakers from my in-laws, but I balked at the thought of actually setting up those boorish black boxes in my home. Yes, movie nights would be all the better thanks to those speakers, but, but… the whole setup just looked so ugly to me. Thanks to these simple DIY speaker box covers, though, I get to enjoy surround sound without sacrificing style. Why didn't I think of this sooner?
-1/2" and 1/4" baltic birch lumber (See formulas below to see what size to trim the pieces.)
-wood glue or Liquid Nails
-large circular drill bit (size depends on speaker size), jig saw, or a circle cutter for a drill press (that's what I used)
-compass to draw a circle
-duct tape or wood clamps
-paint + primer in the color of your choice (I used white.)
-sandpaper in 180 and 320 grit
-screen material (I used a starchy loose weave white fabric that I found in the utility fabrics section at JoAnn.)
-hot glue gun with glue
Step One: Cut your plywood to size. I recommend using baltic birch plywood because its thinner layers make for a strong material less likely to chip during cutting and drilling, and it won't warp over time. If you decide to stain your boxes instead of paint them, the grain looks nice too. Also, the most important thing about birch plywood in following these steps is that it is actually 1/2" thick, unlike other plywoods, which might say 1/2" but actually measure differently. If you follow the formula below and you are not using 1/2" thick plywood, substitute the thickness of the plywood you are using in place of .5" in the formulas below, and multiply the thickness by two to substitute for where 1" appears in the formulas below.
First, measure the height, width, and depth of the speakers you wish to cover. Then add 1/4" of wiggle room to each of these measurements for your final height (h), width (w), and depth (d), which will be plugged into the formulas below, working in inches not feet. Be sure to account for any portions of the speaker that stick out beyond the walls of your existing speaker box. You will be cutting out 5 pieces of wood for the front, back, two sides, and top of the speaker box. The bottom is left open so you can just slip the cover over the top of your existing speakers. Follow the formulas below to cut the exact sizes you need for your own speakers. As you cut out the wood, place masking tape on each piece and label it to make assembling the box easier. Note that the formulas below are for the dimensions you will cut your wood; you don't need to multiply out the formula. The x stands for "by". (i.e. 4" by 5")
back piece: w" x h"
side pieces: d" + .5" x h"
top piece: w" + 1" x d" + .5"
side pieces: d" +.5" x h"
front piece: w" + 1" x h" +.5"
diameter of the front circle: w" – .5"
You may cut the circle before cutting out each piece of wood, or afterwards. I personally think it's easier to do afterwards. If you are using a jig saw to trim it out, locate the center of the front piece and draw the circle with a compass, then trim it out with the jig saw. If you are using a circular drill bit or circle cutter for a drill press, just mark the center of the front piece and work from there. Make sure to thoroughly sand around the circle opening after cutting. Then sand the fronts and backs of each piece of cut wood.
Step Two: Assemble the box. Start with the top side laying on your work surface and glue the sides and back to it and to each other. The back will be bordered by the top and side pieces. Wipe away any excess glue and tape or clamp the pieces in place. Then, with the back piece resting on your work surface, glue the face piece into place, again wiping away excess glue and taping or clamping into place.
Step Three: After the wood glue has set up enough to be handled (check recommendations for the glue you are using), apply wood filler around all of the connection points of the box and also onto any areas which have been chipped or marred. Use a craft spatula for this, and really glob it on well. I didn't worry about filling the areas on the back of the speaker box since it won't show when it's on display, but that is up to you!Step Four: After the wood filler has set up (follow the recommendation for the type of filler you are using), sand down the entire box using 180 grit sandpaper. It took one piece of sandpaper per small box I worked with to really smooth everything down. I used a power sander and wore a respirator, which made the whole job pretty easy. After you've felt along the box with the back of your hand and can tell that it's smooth, get out the 320 grit sandpaper and sand it all down again to make it extra smooth. Ever so slightly round off the sharp edges of the box while you're at it.
Step Five: Drill holes into the back piece of the box so the wires have a place to go. I accidentally forgot about this step until I was halfway through step six, so lookout and don't forget like I did! I didn't carefully measure the hole placement because they won't be seen from the front. I just eyeballed it and got them pretty well centered any way.
Step Six: Wipe away any dust or debris and give the boxes a few light coats of primer on the inside and outside of the box. This can take a while because of all of the sides that need covering, and the fact that you don't want to put wet paint against your work surface. Patience, my friends! After the primer's mostly or totally set up, begin painting the boxes with several light coats of your finish paint. Make sure to get a satin, gloss, or semi gloss paint, not a flat finish of paint. If you're worried about the paint finish sticking while it's drying, because maybe one side of the box hasn't cured but it's resting on your work surface, rest the box on wax paper and it will be less likely to stick.
Step Seven: Cut out your screen material to.25" shorter (in height not width) than the size you cut the back piece of wood for the box. I had these leftover practice pieces of wood, so I used them as a template. The pieces you cut don't have to be perfect, just at least .5" larger than your hole opening. Leave the corners instead of cutting the material into a circle.
Step Eight: Heat up the hot glue gun and dot a bit of glue around the hole opening on the inside of the box. Don't use too much glue or it will seep out into the front of the screen. Feel free to be generous with the glue deeper into the corners, though, since that area isn't likely to leak onto the front of the screen. Quickly, but carefully lay your screen material into place, pressing especially in the corner areas where you placed extra glue.
Now your speaker boxes look sleek, shiny, and are ready to be slipped over the top of those ugly black ones. Hooray! Put the wires through the back of the boxes you made, and connect them to your receiver. Enjoy the sounds that come forth from the box, unhindered by the ugliness of the old speakers. Oooh yeah.Between cutting out the the pieces of wood, assembling the boxes, filling, sanding, and all of those layers of paint, this project isn't exactly a quick one. But if you're really looking to improve the little details in your home, I'd say making your own speaker box covers is worth the effort! Nice looking speakers make your favorite tunes even more enjoyable.
Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson