Building cajon

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Re: Building cajon

Postby Dangler » Sun Apr 22, 2012 2:01 am

This thread inspired me,thanks to Oscar (p.a.dogs)for the plans for the conga cajons,the bajo is the same size as the Pancho Quinto one that danno posted,it has really nice tight bass tones. I put a 4" hole in the back instead of the 2.5" square one on the side.The congas are great too, one is 16" the other 12".
Havin fun finding the sweet spots and trying to decide what colour of stain to use on the Baltic Birch.
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Re: Building cajon

Postby smackdaddy » Tue Jul 02, 2013 10:54 pm

I am on a quest for the perfect cuban cajon as you guys are. I used some of the plans i have seen here as inspiration for my own cajons. It took me three years to learn how to use certain things like a table saw and clamps as well as glue and other things since i have NO prior experience in woodworking. I am a rumbero however, and have been doing it for 7 years. My favorite group is "Rumberos de Cuba" and my favorite video of them is "Rumbon Tropicales". If you ever watch or listen to this group, they have a unique way of playing bombo on these cajons.

I am not interested in open tones or even the concept of it being "conga-like". I only want it to sound like the cajons I hear on many rumba recordings, with that long sustaining bass tone. That is my quest, and I have made several attem,pts at it, only to come up kinda short.

The first picture is the first attempt; the sides are 1/4" pine plywood, and the top is 1/8" birch, with a width of about 19" x 19". The drum itself is 29" tall. One thing i noticed is the walls absorbed too much of the bass tone, so when i played it slightly tilted to let the sound come out, the sound was rather weak. When i turned it sideways and played it, the bass tone was beautiful! However, the sustain was rather short, as Birch has a more punchy bass tone (I dont know how fat conga got those smaller segundo cajons to make so much bass with great sustain because they used birch wood as well). When i tried it out at the rumba, maestro Agustin told me that the sides needed to be thicker and the hole smaller. I also chose to use a hand rubbed varnish and coated it 3 times. Sold it to some lady for $100 and it costs $40 to make. Also because I cant make 45 degree cuts yet until i get a new saw, i had to add some reinforcements to the inside as you can see.
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photo-1.JPG
photo-2.JPG
photo-3.JPG
https://youtu.be/10wqmq94w5Q

Me on quinto with the rumberos of Kansas City!

http://www.etsy.com/shop/63rdstreetpercussion

Afro Cuban cajons for sale.
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Re: Building cajon

Postby RitmoBoricua » Tue Jul 02, 2013 11:43 pm

Welcome Smackdaddy. Hopefully some of the forum members
with knowledge in making cajones and rumba can give you
some pointers. If I remember correctly we had some members
in the past that made their own cajones. Keep trying and
good luck.
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Re: Building cajon

Postby jorge » Wed Jul 03, 2013 12:38 am

I like short bass without too much sustain. Playing fast rumba, the sustain just mucks up the rhythm and short punchy bass sounds better, more on time with more force. Even yambu with double bass hits starting on the second hit of clave, the shorter bass sounds better than two resounding goon goon sounds close to each other.
Also don't worry too much about the wood for the sides, baltic birch is premium quality but some of the best sounding cajones I have heard have been cheap plywood or wood found in the street. The top is a different story, you have to really experiment to get the sound and the durability you want. And most important don't let knuckleheads who hit too hard anywhere near your cajon. Mongo didn't call them concusionistas for nothing. I made a raspadura style tres dos cajon similar to the smaller one and the one Smackdaddy showed and used 1/2" plywood sides for a 12x12 top size. If anything, the sides are a bit thin. I would definitely not go with 1/4" sides on a cajon that size or bigger.
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Re: Building cajon

Postby smackdaddy » Wed Jul 03, 2013 3:53 am

thanks for the welcome guys!! I have been on this sight for 3 or 4 years, and I practically live in these forums, but did not want to post anything until i obtained some knowledge about afro-cuban rumba and other forms of caribbean drum cultures. I dont wanna be that guy that is always posting but doesnt know what he is talking about, lol.

Yeah Jorge, I have seen that as well on countless youtube videos; cajons looking very beatup and raggedy, as well as congas with heads on them that are pulled waaay down on one side and high on the other. . . but them bad boys sound like the best instruments on earth when played by those cubans. I also agree with you on the short sustain when playing fast rumba, I guess what I had in my mind while making that cajon was that song by munequitos de matanzas "Rumba para Rumberos", which is a medium speed guaguanco (matanzas style). His cajon has MAJOR sustain, and it is basically covering the whole track, but it still sounds good for some reason. and he is playing 1-2-3-4, with the 1,2,and 3 kinda low and a heavy emphasis on the 4, which is the bombo. But yeah, I feel you, when it gets fast, you want your note to get in there quick and not linger.

Here is the one i just made from baltic birch, with the hole narrower this time. I am not finished with it, I still have to sand and varnish it. I have noticed a deeper bass note, but in order to get the end narrow, I had to sacrifice some inches from the top which affects the sound. The reason why is because my table on my table saw is too small on the right side; i need about 5 more inches to slide my taper jig over after i make my first taper cut. I am getting a new table saw next week with an extendable table to the right. After I get this, I am going to make a fat upper body and a skinny bottom like this one and see how it sounds. I might use maple for the top this time.
Attachments
photo.JPG
https://youtu.be/10wqmq94w5Q

Me on quinto with the rumberos of Kansas City!

http://www.etsy.com/shop/63rdstreetpercussion

Afro Cuban cajons for sale.
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Re: Building cajon

Postby RitmoBoricua » Wed Jul 03, 2013 10:08 am

<<I dont wanna be that guy that is always posting but doesnt know what he is talking about, lol.>>

Do not worry just keep posting. Another thing to consider is your technique.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqKmWtDV_bk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jp9pHFQV1XQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Olo81PqOXkc
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Re: Building cajon

Postby p.a.dogs1 » Wed Jul 03, 2013 5:18 pm

Hi smackdaddy, I built several cajones in the last years and I am still experimenting with measures and materials. There are some things I found out (maybe :| ):

1.Every single piece of wood has specific sounding properties. The birch plywood you buy today is different from what you´ll get one week later. I don´t know from where the wood comes in the USA, but here in Germany it comes either from Finnland or from Sibiria. The finnish quality is generally more white with a rather accurate surface, the sibirian quality is often more yellow and the surface sometimes a little splintery. Seen from the aspect of sound I prefer the sibirian quality for playing boards - as someone, who likes to work with wood, I prefer the finnish quality.

2. A cajon´s functionality is the same as other kinds of drums: one part is swinging (skin) and another part (shell) constitutes the counteracting force. Among drumset-builders there is a permanent discussion, if shells have to be thick or thin for better sounds. Beside the question of proportion you should decide, if you want to have a sound, where the sides are involved in producing it´s charakter, also depending how much contact the instrument has with your body (legs). Then you should choose a rather thin plywood (8mm or 9mm - maybe 6,5mm with supporting ledgers). If you prefer an independent sound, no matter if you have it between your legs or if it stands seperated, you should choose a thick plywood - 12mm, possibly 15mm (but birch would make the instrument very heavy).

3. The proportion. I found out that a cajon does not need to be such tall (29"). 25", 26" or 27" is enough, when you keep it up a few centimeters with your feet. Watching Daniel Aldama El Bonkoiro in the first of RitmoBoricua´s clips you see that tones are produced with a technique which is similar to how congaplayers produce muffled tones. The hands come from more above. I am rather sure, that I found out some rules for proportions with 9mm birch plywood and a tallness of 27".

Image

smackdaddy wrote:I am not interested in open tones or even the concept of it being "conga-like". I only want it to sound like the cajons I hear on many rumba recordings, with that long sustaining bass tone. That is my quest, and I have made several attem,pts at it, only to come up kinda short.

Almost open tones are produced by hitting the cajon very close to the edges of the playing board. You can say, that it is more or less the body below the playing board which makes the sound´s character (similar to accented muffled edge-tones on a macho). Therefore you can also think about taking a thick poplar plywood (15mm, 18mm) for the body, which is not as heavy as birch, but gives rather clear tones. The disadvance of poplar is it´s bad surface quality.

For a long sustaining bass you need a rather thin playing board (slow frequency) of plywood with a high specific weight and density (the more mass the higher the amplitude and the longer it swings). In Europe we have beech plywood in different qualities (more ore less heavy) and prices up to more than 50 euros per squaremeter. For open tones thicker playing boards of plywood with low specific weight and density (poplar) are often better. A width of 19" is really large. My favorite cajon is 36 cm (14,4") with 9mm birch plywood for the body and 2,5mm beech plywood (5 plies) as playing board.

I recommend reinforcement ledgers at the top edges of the cajon. This gives an additional stability and you can fix the playing board with some screws. Otherwise heavier bass hits can stress it too much by and by (especially when it is rather thin and the edges are possibly not perfectly plane to each other).

Image

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Re: Building cajon

Postby RitmoBoricua » Wed Jul 03, 2013 9:58 pm

That's what I am talking about, p.a.dogs1.
With that kind of information I may jump
in the bandwagon too and make me a cajon
one of these days.
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Re: Building cajon

Postby CongaTick » Thu Jul 04, 2013 12:10 pm

p.a. dogs1,

Absolutely impressed with your dedication to craft and precision. This is the sort of detailed info that is invaluable to serious aficionados. Though I may not hit the workshop on this any time in the near future, I am extremely grateful for the investment you have made in bringing these measurements, findings and plans to the forum!!
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Re: Building cajon

Postby p.a.dogs1 » Thu Jul 04, 2013 8:38 pm

:oops: Thank you for the compliments.

It is a strange thing. I built maybe more than 300 afro-peruvian cajones, of which single exemplars achieved the highest quality you can imagine. But these were mostly not the ones I expected to be superior during the building process. No, some of them were built parallel to ordered cajones (with residual materials). Maybe it is typical for all kinds of art-working, that the true things don´t happen in the sphere of your focussed intentness. So, every cajon is a very individual thing - the more assured facts and rules you assemble the bigger is the surprise about the (unexpected) result!

Here is another graph which shows how I experimented with the size of the bottom aperture:

Image

Just take several quadratic pieces of plywwood (1/4"), which are some millimeters bigger than the aperture. Then cut out holes of different sizes into them. Now you can insert these pieces (diagonally) into the corpus, turn the edges parallel to the cajon´s sideplates and pull them down to the bottom edges. The sounding character will change depending on the diameter of the cutout. When you shape the edges of the pieces with a miter according the angle of the cajon´s sideplates, you get a perfect contact. But this is not necessary. The pieces would also wedge with just a little rounding by hand.

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Re: Building cajon

Postby jorge » Fri Jul 05, 2013 4:41 pm



Yes, technique is much more important than the actual cajon, even more so than with congas. Every cajon is different and is played a little differently, you have to play for the sound and learn how to get the best sound out of each cajon.
And please, no snares in cajones built for rumba de cajon.
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Re: Building cajon

Postby guarachon63 » Mon Jul 08, 2013 6:39 pm

I guess what I had in my mind while making that cajon was that song by munequitos de matanzas "Rumba para Rumberos", which is a medium speed guaguanco (matanzas style). His cajon has MAJOR sustain, and it is basically covering the whole track, but it still sounds good for some reason.


I could be wrong but am pretty sure that the bass tone heard on that track Rumba Pa' los rumberos on the Tambor de Fuego CD is not from a cajon but rather comes from the low conga drum, it is just miked very close and then pushed up in the mix.
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Re: Building cajon

Postby jorge » Wed Jul 17, 2013 5:03 pm

Guarachon is right. There is no bass cajon on that recording, only the quinto cajon that comes in after 3:30. That bass is all from the low tumbadora, it is just too loud in the mix.
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Re: Building cajon

Postby ABAKUA » Wed Jul 17, 2013 11:48 pm

hehehe I had to look twice at one of those pics, looked so much like mine! (except for the size)

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Re: Building cajon

Postby wooddrum » Thu Jul 18, 2013 12:00 pm

I like it straight ;)
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