Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Wired for Sound

My new speakers are installed, and I love them!

This project is of great significance because:

  1. it required many of the skills I hold dear: woodworking, hole-drilling, varnishing, measuring twice and still screwing up, and wiring.
  2. it went from idea-stealing to idea-implementation in just one months' time.
  3. i couldn't hear my ipod played through my cabin speakers from out in the cockpit, and this bummed me out quite a bit.

The design was stolen (with permission) from Cathi and John at August's Ladies' Night. I have been craving some new speakers for the cockpit, but not enough to drill holes in the boat -- especially in the highly-coveted and comfortable 'bulkhead backrest area.' I had heard of the 'speaker-board' idea plenty of times, but I'm a visual learner and needed to see it up close in personal to take it all in before deciding if it was something I wanted to do.

I started by lugging a sharpy-marker and a piece of shockingly yellow poster board (less $ than white) up to the boat one afternoon to trace the lower portion of my hatchboard. Then I purchased the speakers from my local West Marine store and a gorgeous (aren't they all? sigh) piece of oak from my local Lowe's. I was a bit peeved that Lowe's wasn't able (willing?) to cut the oak for me, but they said they couldn't (wouldn't?) make angle cuts, despite two separate attempts to play 'the chick card' on them. Sigh - I must be losing my edge. Fortunately, my friend Chris came through in grand style and made two perfect angle cuts for me!

Next, I sanded the oak and applied two coats of clear polyurethane to it, sanding and dusting again between each coat. I have a terrible issue with (fear of) chemicals and the inhalation of them. I am always careful to perform such tasks in a VERY well-ventilated area. It pains me to say this because I know that it's SO BAD, but I must admit that varnish smells pretty good. Ooh - I feel so dirty just saying that. Okay - moving on...

After the wood was properly finished (and subsequently dropped on the floor and de-virginized - oops), I measured several times, marked the holes for mounting the speakers, and drilled my pilot holes. I apparently used too small of a drill bit in drilling the first pilot hole, because I wasn't able to get the first screw all the way in... stripping it in the process, of course. (I am surprisingly able to sleep at night, despite the fact that this detail isn't perfect. Note to self...) After switching to a slightly larger drill bit (but not *too big*, which is a different lesson I learned on a different project), I screwed the speaker mounting brackets to the board and saddled up the speakers themselves. Slightly crooked, but CUTE! With that done, I measured, marked, and drilled (*love that*) the holes through which the wiring would pass (as opposed to have the wires pass underneath the hatchboard into the cabin.) This went flawlessly and was infinitely satisfying!

Uh - let me pause here for a big shout-out to my brother, who sagely pointed out to me that screwing the 3/4" screws that came with the speakers through my 3/4" thick board could result in some pointy parts sticking through the opposite side of the board. God bless you, Bro!! Sadly, there are no guarantees I would have thought of this myself! Not one to ever avoid 'overkill', I bought the best stainless steel washers I could find... and used two of 'em on each screw. No risk of pointy ends sticking out here!

Electrical work is my achilles heel. I'm much better with a pair of knitting needles and some wool than I am with a crimping thingy and some wires. But unfortunately there is no way to wire a set of speakers into an existing speaker/stereo setup without picking up a pair of crimping thingys and locating a few good crimps and whatnot. Oh -- and unraveling a mess of existing wires and old electrical tape, too. Bro explained the procedure to me very well, but I should have drawn a diagram. Once I got everything taken apart and was staring at a pile of wires (and sort of worrying that I might get shocked), I just kind of froze. I tried to crimp things together one way, and then neither the old or new speakers worked. In my mind, it should have been sufficient just to wad together the whole mess of them and hold it all together with some electrical tape. If it weren't for Dave, who stopped by to say hello to my friend Kacey and me, I would have never gotten 'er done. Dave explained how I needed to have two crimped packages of wires per speaker, consisting of one wire each from stereo, old speaker, and new speaker. Since there were two speakers in each 'set', I ended up with a total of four packages. (Boy, I sure hope that I'm explaining that correctly. Don't quote me!)

When we fired up the tunes and found that sound was coming from all four speakers, it was magical!! I don't recall exactly what was playing, but it should have been Safety Dance and we should have all headed straight to the dance floor because it was some high-quality sound coming from those speakers.

There is one final finishing touch to describe here. In order to keep things neat and tidy, I left plenty of slack in the new speaker wire so that the speaker-board could be moved around for stowage and such, and then I created a bundle of the wires and electrical-taped them together and up out of the way. Also, I wrapped the new speaker wires together at roughly 2-inch intervals with zip-ties so that they will always be nice and neat (and neurotic and fabulous.)

So, finally, here is a photo of the much-heralded 'speaker board', as modeled by our spokesmodel, Judy Jetson. (It also makes a handy cabin 'dog-gate'!)


1 comment:

Parmis Oke! said...

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Thank you.