DIY Monitor Stands: Trunk Stands!

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I’ve spent far too much time thinking about monitors stands. Drawing designs, looking for models online, wandering around hardware stores and lumber mills and picking my house contractors brain. Thx Miguel and Carlos. With the time I spent leading up to their construction I could have mixed 2 albums.

There are many commercial stands out there but imo most are badly designed. Here are my issues in order of importance.

  1. Lack of three point bases. Everyone knows 3 point (tripod) style bases are more stable then 4 points ones. I have lived in about 10 place in San Francisco and only 3 of them had level floors.  All stands should have 3 point bases.
  2. Narrow bases.  My speaker platforms are about 34″ high. This places my tweeter at ear level. My monitors weight about 32lbs. I think a good ballpark for the base is two times the speaker width or more.  My speakers are 10″ wide so I want a 20″ base.  Just take a look at many commercial monitor stands. They just don’t look stable. This might be fine if no drunk musician gets near them, your floor is perfectly level, and you never have earthquakes. None of this is true for me.
  3. Casters! Speaker placement can make a big difference when you monitor. Casters make it super easy to audition many positions quickly. They also help decouple the speakers from the floor. My floor is a large free standing concrete slab so decoupling isn’t an issue for me. But if your floor can resonate decoupling may be worth looking into.
  4. Lack of mass. You don’t want your stand vibrating with your speaker. For stability reasons you don’t want your stand to  weigh 10lbs. Many commercial stands are light.  Often you can fill them with something heavy like lead shot or sand. This makes them heavy and keeps them from resonating with the speakers but it sounds like a a pain in the ass to me.  It can be. The sand must be kiln dry. Some stands require that you plug holes. No thanks.
  5. Adjustable height. It’s hard to make a solid stand that is also height adjustable.  But it’s a nice feature when your studio arrangement changes. I like designs that are flexible but you have to pay for this one.

Of all the commercial stands out there I only found two that I liked.

Sound anchors makes a 3 point base stand.  I haven’t touched one but the specs indicate it’s strong. You can add mass via shot or sand and heights can be custom built. I would prefer a wider base, casters, and adjustable height but not bad. $285 a pair.

Towersonic stands cover all my bases and they look beautiful. Problem is they are in England with no U.S. dealers. They need to be shipped over the Atlantic, money wired , and converted to British pounds. This brings the total price to around $650-$700 U.S.

Shout out to cinder blocks! They are cheap, easy to buy and set up, massive, and super cost effective. My hands down choice for $15 stands. But they aren’t that stable. Most floors aren’t perfectly level and neither are the blocks. So your speakers will have some totter unless you use 2 blocks per level and rotate each level 90 degrees. They are also a giant pain to move. If you want to audition many speaker positions it’s similar to being on a chain gang.

It’s been a long period of deliberation. Should I shell out the cash for one of the few well made commercial stands? Should I roll the dice and build my own? If so how should I design it to meet my needs?

Here is what I can up with. The most difficult aspect of construction was finding 6″x6″ lumber and making a smooth 90 degree cut on it.

  1. Three point base. There are many ways to construct a 3 point base from lumber or concrete. This was the most practical design I found. Sound Anchor Project 3 stands were the inspiration for this base.
  2. A wide base.  The equalateral triangle formed by the 3 casters is 22.5″. This can very a bit due to the way the caster wheels are oriented.
  3. Casters! These are locking casters with 360 degree motion. Each one is rated to support more then the entire stand and speaker weight.
  4. Mass. These weight around 60lbs. Add the speaker weight and we are around 90lbs.
  5. Adustable height. Sorry. What do you want the world? But you could always swap in a longer post or cut the existing post down a few inches.

Materials (one stand): All of these materials were purchased at my local Home Depot Pro.

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Here is what you need for both stands.

  1. For the post and base, one Douglas fir tree. Err…6″x6″ Douglas fir. Lengths: 2×26″, 2×25″, 2×18 1/4″
  2. For the speaker platforms 2″x10″ Douglas fir. Length: 2×10.5″ (Here I have customized for my Monitors)
  3. To fasten the post and base 8x 3/8″x8″ lag screws plus washers
  4. Three locking 360 degree casters. Approx 2.5″ tall
  5. To fasten the casters 24 #10×1.5″ wood screws
  6. To fasten the speaker platforms 8 #10×2.5″ wood screws
  7. Non-slip material for under speakers. I don’t know what this stuff is called but it’s pretty common. I think it’s used on dash boards. Super grippy and light. Works great at keeping hi-hat stands in place.

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Tools:

  1. Some way to cut 6″x6″ lumber. You need a smooth cut at very close to 90 degrees. I found a very helpful guy at home depot pro where they have a 18″ saw. Even then the cuts were not perfect but close enough. This was the most difficult part of the project.
  2. A drill for pre drilling holes and putting in screws
  3. Wrench/socket set for 3/8″ lag screws. I forget what size fits 3/8″ lagscrews.
  4. 3/8″ spade bit to pre drill for lag screws
  5. 1 1/8″ spade bit to counter sink lag screws
  6. 1/4″ wood bit (twist bit or brad point bit) to pre drill for threaded section of lag screw
  7. Smaller bits to pre drill for woodscrews
  8. Phillips head for drill
  9. Square to monitor drilling progress. Ideally you would have a right angle drill, drill press, or a drill with a level bubble on it. I had none of these. When pre drilling for the lag screws I went slow and periodically checked with a square to make sure they weren’t crooked.
  10. A sander or plane might come in handy too. You may be able to get the joints to fit better if you plane the pre drill holes or sand down a spot or two.

Green Wood! Most likely you will use green wood. This means it has been freshly cut and still has a lot of moisture in it. You can expect it to check (crack), warp a bit, have sap, and loose weight as it dries.  You should not paint it as escaping moisture will blister up the paint. Why would you paint wood anyway? That’s wrong. I suggest checking the lag bolts after a few weeks to see if they need snugging.

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So we don’t get confused let me tell you what I call the 4 pieces of wood in this stand.  The speaker platform is the chunk of 2″x10″ the speaker is sitting ton. The post is the vertical piece of wood under the speaker platform. The front leg sits under the post and the back leg attaches to the front leg. Great, I’m already confused.

Step 1) Attach the post to the front leg. You can try fastening the front leg to the back leg first but only if you like “challenges”.

There is no front or back to this design nessessarily. You can rotate it any way you wish…but you should consider which parts of the lumber look best and build it accordingly. Also worth consideration, there are many ways to fit together the lumber. You may get a better fit by trying the second post  or rotating it 90 degrees. Try to get the joints to fit tight and at 90 degrees.

For this design I’ve calculated the post to be very close to the center of an equalateral triangle the legs creates. For these lengths of 6″x6″ the post should be about 4″ down the front leg as seen above.

I had to refresh myself on some trigonometry to figure out the placement. The corners of the triangle are at the centers of the casters NOT the edges of the wood. If the caster centers on the back leg are 24″ apart then the caster on the front leg should be approximately .87×24″ or 21″ when measured perpendicular from back leg (***) . Now then, wasn’t that clear? You probably could do a fair job using your eyes but there is a bit of an optical illusion here. Be careful. To my eye the speakers seem too far forward on the front leg. They aren’t.

First mark the distance where the post will sit on the front leg. Put the post in place and trace it. We are going to start drilling on the joint side of the 6″x6″. The holes will be cleaner and more accurately spaced this way. Use the 3/8″ spade bit and go slow. I’m drilling 1 1/2″ from the corners of the post. Measure 1 1/2″ from the corner with your ruler cutting across the 6″x6″ diagonally. You will have to periodically check to make sure you are going straight and clean out some of the wood.

Try and stop just as you break through the other side. This will help you get a better counter sink hole with the 1 1/8″ spade bit. You don’t have to counter sink but it looks better to my eye and it allows the lag screws another 1/2″ to grab the post.

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When your holes are done place it on top of the post, hold it steady or clamp it, and run the spade bit through marking where the holes will be in the post. The lag screws do not need to grip the front leg but they do need to grip the post so we are using a 1/4″ bit to pre drill that. Again be careful not to go crooked.

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Now use the racket or wrench and put the lag screws in. Try and press the post to the front leg as the lag screw is connecting them. This way you won’t have a gap. I put the other lag screw in at the same time and tightened them together. You can adjust the the way the joint fits this way if it’s out of square a bit. Loosen one a bit and then tighten the other. If you like over-engineering you can use 4 lag screws. I put in two. The joint felt rock solid.

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Step 2) Fasten the back leg to the front leg.  Same process as fastening the post to the front leg. Below the stand is on it’s side. Lags will go in from the top.

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I used a plane to smooth the pre drill holes for the joint.

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Step 3) Casters. I measured 3/4″ from the end of the 6″x6″, put the caster in place, used my calibrated eye to center it, then marked the caster holes with a pencil. Remove caster and pre drill. Then fasten the casters with screws.

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Step 4) Now attach the speaker platform. A 2″x10″ is bound to bow one way of the other. I prefer to have the concave side under the speaker. More stable.

I’m measuring the difference between the platform width and the post width. Lumber is never labeled with it’s actual dimensions. Even the “actual” sizes are not always right. So just measure. The difference in width is about 4″ which means the platform should stick out 2″ on each side of the post. Do the same process for the depth. Now draw a guide on the platform indicating where the post should be. Do this on the other side too so you know where the screws should go.

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Now measure in about 1 1/2″ from the corner of the guide with the ruler measuring diagonally across the platform (same as we did with the 6″x6″). You dig? This is where the screws will go.

Pre drill through the platform. Place it on the post. Hold steady or clamp down. Run the bit back through to mark where to pre drill the post. If you are using a clamp you can probably do the pre drilling while the platform is in place.

You need to countersink the platform screws so the speakers will sit flat. I used the 1/4″ spade bit for this.

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Use a plane or sander to make sure the platform is smooth. Remember planes only work in the direction of the grain. Don’t run them across the grain… unless you like “challenges”.

Now place your non slip material on the platforms. If you get a perfectly level platform consider yourself lucky. If you don’t simply fold or cut your non-slip material or decoupling wedge to level the speaker. Personally I don’t care if my speaker is slightly off level. Perfect level in one location will only mean off level in another where I live. I just don’t want it to slip off.

Back to green wood. Because I’m paranoid (or thorough) you may want to wait for the wood to dry. You could get moisture building up between the speaker and the platform. Not good if you’re speaker cabinet decides to absorb it. You could leave them on the stands but check every few days.

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Appreciate carnage!

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Sadly wave goodbye to cinder blocks. Eyes misty.

In a future post I will compare the acoustic performance of these stands with my departed cinder block stands.

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