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28 June 2014

Cajón - Finished!

Less than a month ago you might remember that I started to build a Cajón as a side project. In previous updates I've showed you how I cut the wood and how I started gluing the various bits together. When we last spoke, I'd got as far as sticking the top and bottom to the sides. A lot's happened since then; I've only gone and finished! Well, I think that I have. Here's the final update

The back of the Cajón is made of slightly thinner wood than the sides. Here you can see me cutting a sound hole with my jig saw. I'm sure there is a science to where the hole should go and the size and shape, but I let my heart guide me here. I've gone for a traditional circle. It's slightly above centre and on the large size with a 12 cm diameter. Remember that I will use this to access my patented snare adjustment bar.

Next, I glued the back in place.

Hold on... here's something I did prior to gluing the back on. See that I've glued a little bit of extra bracing to the bottom of the Cajón to hold the rubber feet. 

This a teaser of me pounding out some Hobbit music before I set about making the Cajón beautiful. I couldn't resist a quick trial to see if it worked. It does! In case you're wondering, that's a Hologram Earth t-shirt I'm wearing. I bet +Luuk van der Velden could teach me a thing or two about playing Cajón.

The front Tapa is the thinnest of all the plywood I've used. These are the basic black wood screws that I bought to fit it.

Everything I've read told me that I needed the front to be nice and smooth and easy on the hands. That meant that I needed to countersink the holes to allow the screws to be flush.

The screw placement I've gone for is pretty conventional. If you look close enough you'll spot the lines I drew on to allow me to line everything up. The bottom 10 screws are in the shape of a square and there is a gap between those and the top 5 to allow for some "snap" at the top.

I add this close-up of one of the holes to show you why I added the bracing at the front. I knew that I didn't want the screw too close to the edge and this gave me a bit of room to play with. 

Here, I've fitted the rubber feet. This was done really just to get the holes in place before I moved on to finishing the box.

I'll come clean and say that the box is square except for the bottom at the back. You can see the shadow in this picture where the bottom is slightly proud of the back plate. It's close enough for me to leave it as it is and once I've rounded the edges, you can barely tell at all.

I've been rounding the edges in this picture. I did this with a rasp and then sanded with a rough grit sandpaper. You'll remember in my last post that I was speculating on how I would finish the wood. At this point I think I'd convinced myself that actually, rather than to stain the wood, I'd simply varnish. I want some rough-and-ready gaucho chic!

Having sanded the box down I was quick to paint my famous dead-hand logo with acrylic black paint. This will be the only embellishment.

I was feeling pretty good about how things were going until Mrs Uke pointed out that there is some orange showing through on the sanded Tapa. WHAT! I'm colourblind and hadn't realised that anything was wrong. I immediately went into solve-it mode...

I varnished the body with some satin varnish. What was I going to do with the front?

Bugger it... I got hold of some red paint and mixed some in with the varnish. See here the first coat applied to the Tapa. Oh dear, oh dear! I'm told that this is bright pink and you can still see the orange. There was only one thing to do... add more layers! 

Here's where I stopped after 4 layers of red varnish. It isn't dry in this picture, but I knew that it would dry darker. I worried that the dead-hand would be lost in the process, but look... it's still visible! Ha ha!

Take a look at this! Can you watch without falling over?

Here's a close-up of the finished Tapa. I like it!

There's one thing that I need to call out here. There is quite a lot mentioned on the internet about shaping the top corners to allow some "snap". I considered it, but then I found that the ply wasn't flat anyway, so I left it as it is and we'll have to see how it goes. I've tried out my Cajón and I reckon it's got more bite than Saurez! Ha ha... see what I did there?

I know that you want a soundcheck and I will oblige as soon as I learn how to play the bloody thing. Yee haw!

This could be the start of something brilliant!

One last picture...

I snapped this photo inside the Cheltenham Town Hall whilst I was at Uke Fest GB last week. It reminds me of being at school - I'm sure my school had flooring like this. I post it here as an idea for a possible Tapa design. I know you're meant to make them out of ply, but wouldn't something like this look cool! Might be worth a try?

That reminds me... I really should get back to the Highwayman! ;-)


  1. Looks the business to me! Bet it sounds great too.

  2. I can't really play it well enough as a solo instrument to give you a real feel for the sound, but it does sound good to me GF. This song uses it...
    Thanks for commenting.