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Chris Metcalf

specialization is for insects

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Update: Hello Makers! Sorry about the brief outage earlier. This post has been featured in Make Magazine’s blog and the temporary spike in traffic took my server out for a short period of time. But, with the power of wp-cache, things are back up and running quickly and they should be more stable.

I’ve recently been building out my home theater system. One thing that’s always difficult, especially in an apartment without a dedicated TV or home theater room, is where to place your speakers.

Traditionally you’ll wall-mount them or put them on speaker stands. But wall mounting isn’t a good option for me, since all the “good walls” are too far away or obscured by doors or bookshelves. And stands are out, because they’re prohibitively expensive ($40-100 each) and generally too short to stick up above the back of my couch. Plus I have an overactive cat who gets her thrills by bouncing off of and knocking over things, so normal speaker stands generally aren’t stable enough to withstand her abuse.

So I decided to build my own. What, I thought, is:

  • Tall
  • Black
  • Stable
  • And most importantly... cheap?

The answer came in the form of a pair of Walmart “torchiere lamps”, those tall, wide-based lamps that are pretty much ubiquitous in everybody’s first apartment. The results were quite impressive, given the materials I started with.

Cheapo Speaker Stands

Read on for more details…

Step 1: Acquire Parts

I attempted to scour Craigslist for second-hand torch lamps, thinking I could pick them up for free or near-free, but I never managed to find them for less than $10 each and I never managed to find a matching pair. So I broke down and bought a pair new for $13 each at Walmart. I’m cheap, but I’m not that cheap.

Acquire lamps

You’ll also, obviously, need speakers and whatever parts you need to attach said speakers to your speaker stands. My speakers hang off of a screw in a keyway, so I just used some sheet metal screws I had laying around.

Of course you’ll also need about two beers.

Step 2: Temporarily assemble and measure

Go ahead and cut the lamp cord and remove it from the pole segments and base, since you won’t be needing it. If you’re cool you’ll save the lamp and make a chandelier or something out of it. I’m not that cool.

Temporarily screw together enough of the segments and the base to get something approximately the height of your final speaker stand. Have your nice and very understanding girlfriend hold the speaker for you at the right height so you can mark where the top of the speaker will be.

Mark speaker height

Step 3: Cut your stands to length

If you’re lucky (or lazy), your speakers will line up with one of the existing lamp post segments and you won’t have to cut it. But, if you’re like me, you’ll need to hack-saw off one of the segments to make the whole assembly the right height.

Draw a line to cut on around the circumference of the segment to be cut. There are fancy ways of doing this but the simplest way is to just wrap a stiff piece of card stock around the pole and use that as a straight edge. Yes I used a mailing from the Pacific Northwest Ballet. And I’m OK with that.

Marking cutting line

You’ll want to use a miter box otherwise your cuts will come out crappy like mine.

Step 4: Install your “speaker mount”

This will largely depend on what kind of speakers you have. Mine have a simple keyway, so I just measured down the appropriate distance from the top of my cut segment, drilled a pilot hole, and drove in my machine screw partway.

Mounting Screw

Step 5: Cut exit hole for your speaker wire

You’ll want to find a good point on your post to create an exit hole for your speaker wire. I’m using somewhat large gauge speaker wire, and the terminals are about halfway down the speaker, so I created a large squareish hole approximately where the terminals line up on the pole.

I still don’t have a proper workshop, so I basically drilled 4 small pilot holes and then expanded them with a larger bit, so it’s messy and embarrassing. Don’t laugh. Fortunately the speaker covers it up pretty effectively.

Speaker wire exit hole

Step 6: Run your speaker wire

Feed your speaker wire up through the holes in the base where the lamp cord used to run, then up through the post and out your new exit hole.

Running speaker wire

Step 7: Assemble and hang your speaker

Now screw together all of the pole segments you haven’t already assembled, connect your speaker, and hang it on your new speaker stand.

Assemble!

There you go. Perfectly serviceable, some would even say attractive, custom speaker stands, for only $26 a pair.