DIY Speaker Stands

Anyone who really enjoys listening to their home stereo or entertainment center knows that speaker placement is important. Not only does that placement affect the quality of the sound, but it can also affect where we hear the sound coming from. Speakers on the floor are great for boosting the base sound, but in the process, you can end up with muffled sound. This can make voices, whether speaking or singing, harder to understand.

Today, most people will tie their home stereo system and their large-screen television set together, creating a home theatre experience. This explains the high popularity of 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound, sound systems, which can make it sound like the action is happening all around you. But that effect can easily be destroyed if the speakers are on the floor, making it sound like the people are talking from down there, rather than from on screen.

The simple solution to this problem is to put the speakers at the same height as the screen. If your entertainment center is mounted on a wall-sized storage unit, that’s easy. But if it’s just hung on the wall, the solution is to put your speakers up on stands.

Those stands can be anything from a pile of cardboard boxes or cinder blocks to some rather artistic creations. Personally, I gave up cinder blocks and cardboard boxes are decorating accents when I got married. My wife prefers something that looks a little better, and to be honest, so do I. So, let’s make some stands out of plywood.

Design Options

Speaker stands are rather simple; consisting of a base, a shelf for the speaker to sit on and something to hold the shelf up off the base. Where we can get creative, is in what we use in-between the two, to hold up the shelf.
To start with, you’ll need the measurements of your speakers. Ideally, you want the shelf to be the same size as the bottom of the speaker and the base of the stand should be the same size. Height-wise, you want the center of the speaker to be aligned with the center of your television screen.

  • ⦁ For screen: top of screen + bottom of screen ÷ 2 = height of screen center
  • ⦁ For speaker: height of screen center – [height of speaker ÷ 2 – 2 plywood thicknesses (1 ½”) ]

This will give you the dimension for the height of the vertical supports for your speaker stands. There are a wide variety of different designs you can use for your vertical supports. A quick search online will show you countless different designs that others have done.
One key design criteria to consider is that squares are very unstable structures. Ideally, you want your design to incorporate elements which form triangles, either by their shape or their placement. The worst possible design is two parallel vertical supports, and nothing else. Side-forces will eventually cause the joints between those supports and the base to weaken and even collapse.

speaker stand, design
Three speaker stand designs, shown from above

All three of the designs above are using angles to add strength. If the two uprights in the design on the left were parallel, the stand would collapse easily. By angling them slightly, we are incorporating the elements of a triangle, adding considerable strength. For the other two designs, the two uprights in one direction support the two that are perpendicular to them, preventing them from flexing enough to begin the process of collapsing. All of these designs are fairly strong, when properly assembled, but the one on the right is probably the strongest.

Angled speaker stand

If we want to go more complex, we can angle the pieces, as in the drawing below. This is essentially the same design as the one in the middle above, with the exception that the uprights have been moved to the edge and they are angled.

angle, speaker stand, design, wood
Angled speaker stand

To make this design, without having to calculate the angles for the cuts, first cut the strips of plywood for the uprights. Then lay out the side view of the speaker on a piece of uncut plywood or newspaper, spacing the top and bottom for the correct height. That will allow you to lay the uprights directly on that pattern and transfer the angles from the patter to the wood.

Selecting Your Plywood

Since these speaker stands will actually be furniture, you want to be careful in your selection of plywood. A high quality cabinet grade plywood is best, giving you a smooth finish and less voids in the core. Applewood is excellent for projects of this type, as it has a lot of layers, which look nice when finished. Stands of this sort should be made out of ¾” plywood. Typically, cabinet grade plywood is only available in ¼’ and ¾” thickness. Anything ½” or smaller would be difficult to assemble, as it would be too easy to go through the side of the plywood while screwing the pieces together.

Cutting Plywood

Plywood is usually best cut on a table saw. However, most people keep a rip blade in their table saw, with a low tooth count. For cutting cabinet grade plywood for furniture projects, you want to change this blade for one with a high tooth count (60 or above) to help prevent splintering of the surface veneer. It is also important that the blade be sharp, as dull blades tend to splinter the surface veneer more. Cut the plywood with the visible side up, so that any splintering is on the hidden side.

Some plywoods, especially luan plywood, splinter very easily. This is mostly due to the surface veneer being very thin. Some cabinet grade plywoods will be the same, especially when crosscutting. If you have a situation where the surface veneer is splintering, you can alleviate this by cutting through the face veneer with a utility knife, before cutting the plywood with a saw.

Assembling the Stands

The stands can either be screwed or nailed together, although screwing is stronger. The problem with screws, is that they will be visible on the top surface of the stand’s shelf. However, this will be covered by the speaker, so it’s really not an issue.

Screws or nails should be a minimum of 2 inches long. For screws, drill and countersink through the base and shelf and make a small pilot hole into the end of the upright pieces. Glue all joints, in addition to nailing or screwing them, with a quality wood glue.

It is best to use some sort of jig or support to hold the pieces in place while nailing or screwing them together. It is extremely difficult to hold pieces together at a right angle, while connecting them. This problem is compounded by the fact that you will probably have marked the locations of the uprights on the opposite surface of that which you are putting the fasteners in from. So you won’t be able to tell if the uprights move, until after you fasten the parts together.

Simply stacking scrap wood, and setting the uprights on it, is sufficient for ensuring that they are parallel to the edge of your base and shelf, as long as the edge of the base is flush on top of your workbench. A square can help ensure that you have the base set perpendicular to the upright, while fastening.

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