How to make a cajón: 11 steps (with pictures)

How to make a cajón: 11 steps (with pictures)
How to make a cajón: 11 steps (with pictures)

A cajon is a six-sided Peruvian percussion, which is often made as part of DIY projects. It is a versatile and fun instrument that can be played simultaneously with the hands and feet and thus produce a wide variety of sounds and rhythms. Get started with this carpentry project with the right plan and the right materials. Go to step 1 for more information.


Part 1 of 3: Getting started

Step 1. Obtain enough plywood to build the cajon

A cajon is usually made from two different thicknesses of wood. One, thinner, for the surface to be struck and another, thicker, for the rest of the instrument.

  • Use 3mm plywood for the tapa. The tapa is the surface of the instrument that you will strike on and for most cajons you will use a 30cm x 45cm piece.
  • For the other sides of the instrument, use 12 mm thick plywood.

Step 2. Cut the plywood sheets

Prepare the body of the cajon by cutting the plywood to the right dimensions to form the sound box. Make sure the cuts are straight by attaching a metal ruler to the plate and using a circular saw or jigsaw.

  • The top and bottom pieces will be 33cm x 33cm.
  • The back piece will be 33 cm by 45 cm.
  • The sides will measure 45cm x 30cm.

Step 3. Cut a 12 cm diameter hole in the back piece

Drill a hole around the perimeter of the drawn circle and use this hole as a starting point to cut out the instrument's gill with the jigsaw.

Round and sand the edges of the ear to get crisp, clean edges

Step 4. Create your snares

One of the distinguishing features of the cajon is that clicking sound, similar to that of a drum snare, obtained by hitting the tapa. To get this sound, attach several strings (the snares) that you can make yourself, take on an old instrument or buy new.

A snare is a string or wire stretched and connected to a rattling element. To make your own snares, you could use old guitar strings, fishing line, or other cable. To produce the clicking sound, try paper clips, fishing weights, or other small metal items

Part 2 of 3: assemble the frame

Step 1. Glue the base frame

Start with the base and one of the side pieces, applying a sufficient amount of glue. Then glue the other side and the top piece to get the base frame.

Have someone hold the pieces in place as you glue them and have them hold them straight or cut out guides to place in the crate so you get right angles

Step 2. Apply pressure

Large carpentry clamps would be ideal, but luggage straps will do. Apply strong pressure as the glue dries. Let the frame dry for several hours before adding the back, tapa and strings.

Wipe off any excess glue with a wet cloth and read the instructions for the wood glue you are using to determine the pressure needed and the drying time

Step 3. Secure the strings before gluing the tapa

Depending on what you have chosen to make your strings, you can secure them in several different ways. Ideally, you could get tuning pegs from a music store so that you can tune the strings every now and then.

Stretch the strings diagonally from the top side where the tapa will be placed, securing them about 7cm lower on the opposite side. Screw them in with wood screws or secure them with wall plugs in order to best control the sound

Step 4. Glue the tapa and the bottom

Glue the bottom of the instrument and tapa with the previous method and exert pressure for the same time. Orient the pieces so that the hearing is at the base of the instrument and the strings at the top. You could also add wood screws to secure your instrument as well as possible. You are going to sit on it, then it would be worthwhile to strengthen your cajon.

Part 3 of 3: finish the cajon

Step 1. Cut legs from the scrap wood and screw them under your instrument

Rubber or cork stoppers might also do the trick. The ideal would be to have a somewhat padded surface on which to place the box, since this surface will also support your weight. By placing the plywood directly on the ground, you could damage your surface.

Step 2. Round off the top corners to make it more comfortable for you to sit on the instrument

Use sandpaper and take the time to soften the edges and surfaces. Sand your cajon with increasingly fine sandpaper and finish with the finish of your choice.

Step 3. Decorate it

Decorate your instrument according to your personal style. For a professional and classic finish, varnish it with a wood varnish. Or paint psychedelic planets and polar bears for a hippie look. Have fun !

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