Wenge and Zebrawood Speakers

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Project by Ron Stewart posted 12-31-2013 09:55 PM 3838 views 17 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I finished this pair of speakers right before Christmas. I didn’t design the functional parts (or overall dimensions) of the speakers—just the aesthetics. The drivers and other non-cabinet components are from a kit.

Like most speakers, the cabinets are made of MDF, then veneered. I suspect that some LumberJocks might recoil at the thought, but I used reconstituted wenge and zebrawood veneer (from Tape-Ease). The finish is six or seven thin wiped-on coats of gloss Arm-R-Seal.

Using reconstituted veneer saved me a lot of money. I paid about $150 total for the veneer (one full sheet each of wenge and zebrawood). “Real” veneer would have cost me nearly $400. I compared samples of actual and reconstituted wenge. The actual wenge is slightly prettier, but not that much prettier for this particular application. I didn’t compare actual vs. reconstituted zebrawood, but the latter looks close enough to photos I’ve seen to satisfy me. (Plus, real zebrawood is so striking that it has always looked a bit fake to me.)

I used pocket screws for the interior braces and main cabinet, along with dadoes in the sides and top/bottom for the braces. That made glue-up a lot easier—no clamps required. The backs are removable, attached with 3/32” bolts and and T-nuts.

I didn’t veneer the back panels because I built and tuned the speakers before applying the veneer, and I just didn’t want to deal with trimming the veneer around all of the counterbores and binding post mortises. So I just went with satin black paint.

I know this is a woodworking site, not a speaker building site, so I’ll spare the speaker geek details. Anyone who’d like to know more about the design and internals can read my detailed build thread at Parts Express.

Thanks for looking!

-- Ron Stewart

17 comments so far

View NormG's profile


6252 posts in 3151 days

#1 posted 12-31-2013 10:03 PM

Looks great, I bet the wood makes it sound great

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View Ron Stewart's profile

Ron Stewart

137 posts in 2651 days

#2 posted 12-31-2013 10:11 PM

Thanks, Norman. Actually, the idea is that the cabinet itself should be inert not contribute to the sound, but that the sound should come from the drivers (cones/domes in this case), and from that port in the back. The cabinet volume and internal dimensions also factor into the bass quantity and quality. I’ve even seen guys build the cabinets out of granite and concrete to make them even more inert. Probably way more than you wanted to know… :-)

-- Ron Stewart

View larson1170's profile


32 posts in 1758 days

#3 posted 12-31-2013 11:49 PM

I will back Ron up incase anyone takes offense at his using the MDF. It is necessary to avoid natural resonance frequencies that occur in real wood. I have listened to some speakers where they use concrete and/or over built the structural bracing, yes it neutralizes the frequency response but I feel it also takes some of the life out of it. Those are some beautiful speakers, hope they sound as good as they look!

View KnotCurser's profile


2026 posts in 3215 days

#4 posted 01-01-2014 12:17 AM

A stunning look for a speaker – nicely built!

-- Robert Rhoades WoodWorks / Email: /

View Holbs's profile


1959 posts in 2176 days

#5 posted 01-01-2014 01:59 AM

i still remember buying “The Loudspeaker Design Cookbook” back 20 years ago :) but the mathematics of Einstien calculations kind of threw me off for a time. And of course, the actual construction. I would bet.. 85% of speakers are MDF / veneer. I am old school. When it comes time for me to build speakers, they will be monster towers with 5 drivers each and topping over 5’ tall, like the good ‘ol 80’s :)

but know this… your end result looks highly professional with etiquette.

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter

View BenR's profile


340 posts in 2775 days

#6 posted 01-01-2014 02:30 AM

Excuse my ignorance, but what is reconstituted veneer? Speakers look great.

-- Ben in Va

View ChipByrd's profile


146 posts in 2074 days

#7 posted 01-01-2014 03:45 AM

Great looking speakers. I have been an audio nut for years and that is what got me into woodworking a couple years ago. I decided to build a pair of subs. Again, great work.

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 2439 days

#8 posted 01-01-2014 04:24 AM

Very attractive speakers.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View Ron Stewart's profile

Ron Stewart

137 posts in 2651 days

#9 posted 01-01-2014 04:56 AM

Thanks everyone for the nice comments.

Lyn, reconstituted veneer is fake/simulated veneer made out of real wood. My understanding is that manufacturers take cheaper, faster growing species of wood, dye it, press or laminate it to create grain patterns, and then slice it. Some of the photos I’ve seen look pretty bad (very artificial), while others, like the wenge and zebrawood I used, look nice and pretty close to the real thing.

Holbs, you should visit the Parts Express forum and search for “Statements”. I think that design would be right up your alley.

-- Ron Stewart

View Picklehead's profile


1043 posts in 2076 days

#10 posted 01-01-2014 01:21 PM

Veneer, pocket screws, unfinished back?! OMG!!! It’s a good thing these turned out so nice or you’d have burning crosses (real wood, half-lap joined, backs also on fire) out front of your shop tonight! Awesome speakers!

-- You've got to be smarter than the tree.

View dshute's profile


219 posts in 2833 days

#11 posted 01-01-2014 03:07 PM

Awesome project, nice woodwork in hi-fi were the hallmark of quality for decades. Components used to be housed in wooden enclosures and speakers always had rich veneers on them. Not to mention the furniture to house the entire system. Great job.

-- dshute, Warsaw, New York

View steveni70's profile


5 posts in 3469 days

#12 posted 01-01-2014 04:59 PM

I’ve been considering reconstituted veneer for my speaker project. I got a sampler from Certainly Wood. It seems like it would be good for larger areas where you would otherwise see the slip matched pieces. It’s a lot cheaper too.

View Nicholas Hall's profile

Nicholas Hall

352 posts in 2253 days

#13 posted 01-01-2014 06:26 PM

Beautiful. Very nicely done.

-- Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. -Groucho Marx

View majuvla's profile (online now)


13050 posts in 3014 days

#14 posted 01-01-2014 06:48 PM

Looks awsome!

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Trevor Roth's profile

Trevor Roth

90 posts in 2253 days

#15 posted 01-01-2014 08:58 PM


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