How to Finish Speakers or a Custom Subwoofer Enclosure so They Look Great

 

but Don’t Cost a Fortune…

EbenLee Audio uses premium automotive finishes on all speaker models now including our custom subwoofer enclosures; this is notably very expensive. Undeniably, not all of our readers are going to be able to afford or even want to pay for these high quality finishes.

So we were looking for a solution to offer our same cabinet building expertise, high quality, and robust structures to those who are not willing to spend quite so much on a HiFi speaker system.

ELA-4DSP subwoofer 12 inch sub with DSP

The approach that you are about to see is unique to this industry. It’s not that you can’t buy speaker kits of unfinished speaker boxes from other designers; you can… But as far as I know you cannot buy custom speaker boxes of this unusually high caliber in a kit form. This is unique.

EbenLee Audio is offering the same exquisitely crafted CNC milled speaker boxes unfinished so that you can save money. By finishing them yourself you can maximize your home theater performance potential by taking advantage of greater savings in the form of assembling and finishing yourself.

Another way?

 

The problem as we see it is that many customers do not want such a costly finish nor do they want to pay for said expensive finish. You may be one of these customers, and it’s understandable that a costly finish may not be a high priority for you, while the quality of craftsmanship EbenLee offers in box construction is of high importance.We understand this; EbenLee takes speaker building very seriously… Very few manufacturers go to the trouble to build speakers the way we do. Even fewer are willing to let you save money by finishing them yourself.

We decided that we should offer a more cost effective finish option for some of our customers that aren’t afraid to get their hands a bit dirty.

The compromise we came up with was to offer many of our speaker systems as unfinished and unpainted speaker kits. These are the same speakers as the more costly models we offer but do not include the super exotic finishes that are included in those models.

You can order your speaker kits and finish them yourself saving hundreds and even thousands of dollars in the process. We also don’t have to charge for the assembly either so the savings become pretty substantial. You save money; and we save time while offering a lower price alternative to our higher cost models. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Our painted speakers are finished only with the finest automotive paints in the same paint booth where fine automotive finishes are done. We outsource the painting because we figure who better to paint than someone who knows how to make the finished look perfect. The results are worth the added expense in our opinion. But unfortunately it comes with some pretty serious side effects…

It’s ridiculously expensive; and the results are awesome looking speakers. Many of our customers love the high end quality that matches our overbuilt cabinet designs and feel its well worth the added costs.

In response to this move we also want to offer a cost effective way to get a high end finish on these speaker boxes should you choose to paint them yourself. This process is not difficult, but it does take time and sweat to get it right. Thankfully, the tools are pretty cheap and so are the materials. So if you are up for the task, want a high end speaker without the high end price tag, and don’t mind doing a little work, take on this custom subwoofer enclosure or speaker finishing project.

The boxes could be finished in your choice of Lacquer, real wood veneer, or any other type of finish, the choice is yours.

Why is this a logical product for many enthusiasts?

Some of the finishes on EbenLee Audio and other fine hi end speakers are well over $1000.00 per speaker (at cost). That is not a typo.

Some EbenLee Audio speakers paint finishes are over $1000.00 per speaker at our cost, we pay that much to have them painted.

Preparations of the speaker boxes – or, How to paint speakers and save money

Sand down the speakers with a flat block sander. The use of power tools can greatly speed this process. When sanding rounded edges be sure not to get into them too much and over sand causing the corners to warp beyond round. The best way to do this is to use at least 180 grit on rounded edges and take your time.

Sanding flat sides – preparing to finish and paint speaker boxes

I usually use either a large block of MDF with self-stick sandpaper attached to it and a variety of sponge sanders. Or you can custom make a thin block of wood that attaches to the bottom of a powered oscillation palm sander. These palm sanders are pretty cheap and make the job much easier.

The flat block will keep the surfaces much flatter than the conventional soft pads that come on the sanders. Block the wood down with 150 grit then 200 grit paper getting it reasonably flat.

How to paint a custom subwoofer enclosure or speaker box without a spray gun for cheap using oil paint

      • Mask off any holes that you don’t want filler to get into such as the label holes for the EbenLee Audio logo plate or the amp hole if you don’t want filler in the recess.

 

      • Carefully mix the filler according to the instructions on the container. Make the filler on the thin side of their recommendations as you will need to apply this with a brush. Cover the entire box with filler making sure to cover any cracks that you see.

 

      • After the filler dries go back and mud any cracks that are obvious to the eye.

 

      • Sand the custom subwoofer enclosure or speaker box down again with 180 grit paper making sure to flatten the surfaces as much as possible as you go. Don’t worry if some areas get back down to the bare wood. We will fill again at least one more time.

 

      • Cover the box with filler again and repeat the sanding and filling process.

 

      • When you think you have the surface pretty close take a bright light and look at the box using the light at the sides of a flat surface so that any imperfections will show as shadows on the surfaces.

 

      • Refill and sand any problem areas. The surface of the speaker box or custom subwoofer enclosure must be completely flat and perfect if you want to get a good paint finish.

 

      • When the filling is done prime the box with Kilz Oil base primer. Put about 3 to 5 good coats of this stuff on letting it dry between coats. If you see some areas you missed with filler go back and fill those now. You can lightly sand it between coats of primer if it does not coat evenly or does not smooth well. I have had success with a paint roller for this step instead of a brush. (store the roller in plastic wrap inside a refrigerator between coats)

 

      • Sand the primed finish with a power sander that has a flexible pad between the sandpaper and sander head. If you go through the primed surface recoat with primer in that area and re-sand to flat. Be sure every single void and surface is perfectly flat and covered. Keep repeating the filler and primer step if it is not completely perfect.

 

    • Use a light to check your work between coats. This is where most builders cut corners. You may be tempted to get in a hurry and go ahead and apply the first coats of paint. Don’t do it. Take your time and get the surface absolutely perfect. Flat. Smooth. Having no holes or blemishes is the only way to ensure that your upper paint coats will be able to be wet sanded to a flat surface and polished until very shiny.

The Final Coats of Paint and finishing touches

The final coats can be done with a high grade oil paint on the custom subwoofer enclosure or speaker box. These coats will need to be wet sanded starting with the 2nd or 3rd coat. Drying time is pretty long for oil paint. Follow drying times on the specific paint you use.

Use a fan to speed the drying process and experiment with how soon you can begin wet sanding. 24 hours should be enough for most paints.

You may add up to 5-7 coats of paint and wet sanding between each coat. The process is very long and tedious, but if you take your time you can get a flat mirror finish from glossy oil paint and lots of hard work. Use 400 grit wet/dry sand paper.

Wet sanding is your friend here. The last coat is when you know you have not gone through the surface of the color in any places and it looks very even and consistent.

Now use a car buffer set to about 1000rpms and some scratch remover compound (available at any car parts supply store such as Auto Zone). Use a polishing sponge specifically made for buffing cars and car buffers.

If you go through the paint, repaint the area and start over with the last process of wet sanding and buffing. Repeat this step until you do not buff through paint anywhere.

Finally the last step is to take some polishing compound and carefully polish the finish using the same car buffer. You should now be getting down to a super fine mirror finish on the speaker.

After this final coat you can actually buff the speaker with some good old fashioned car wax. This will seal it up and make it slick to the touch.

Summary – how to paint speakers and save money?

Using a high quality wood veneer is another excellent way to finish speakers. (we’ll write more about this in an upcoming article on other ways of how to finish speakers and save money; such as veneering)

Either way you choose to finish your own speakers or custom subwoofer enclosures is up to you and will have your own unique style.

Finishing a speaker in this way can take upwards of 20-30 hours’ time. It’s can be a real pain, I can assure you. But it looks fantastic and your efforts will be rewarded by a finish that is second only to a very high quality automotive gloss finish. Good luck!

See the Products that can be ordered as unassembled and unpainted speaker kits. Paint your own speakers and save on these HiFi Speaker designs.

 


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