DIY build of amp, speaker or combo enclosure?

I’ve now had a few days with my new combo enclosure and, even without the amp itself installed, I’ve been using it with my little half watt Smokey amp and it is fantastic.

You can see examples of Chris Uff’s work, along with sizes, available finishes and costs at www.ampmaker.com and you can contact Chris directly at chris[at]c-and-l[dot]freeserve[dot]co[dot]uk

The quality of Chris Uff’s work is exceptional and this shows in the small details;

  • The way that the speaker mounting hardware lines up *exactly* with the holes in the speaker – and this is despite Chris not having access to the actual speakers.
  • The finishing of the tolex round the small tricky corners.
  • Most impressive of all is the neatness of the inside of the cabinet – even the hidden areas have been finished with care and attention to detail. Surely this must be the mark of a true craftsman.

I dithered for weeks over whether to commission Chris to build one or to do it myself. In the end the decision came down to a combination of the cost and the time it would take. I’d worked out that the materials to build the combo would cost me in the region of £90 to £100. The design I’d come up with was similar to Chris’, although was a little shorter and deeper. Add on to that the cost of tool hire for a table saw and the 20-30 hours it would take to build it and it looked like it was fairly evenly balanced between this and the £190 for a finished enclosure from Chris.

If I had then understood the quality difference between Chris’ work and the result I would have come up with, it would have been a very easy decision. I had planned to use butted joints, screwed and glued with battens, whereas Chris’ construction is finger jointed, which is neater, less reliant on the batten and structurally much stronger. There is no way, without a lot of practice and wasted tolex, that I could have covered the amp as neatly. I know from experience of similar projects before that I’d just be getting the hang of it as I was finishing the last piece. The flaws in the covering would have bugged me forever – but never quite enough to the point where I’d strip it off and start again. It would just sit there irritating me.

If you’re considering building your own amp, speaker cabinet or combo enclosure then, unless you have easy access to a good table saw and router, a cheap source of birch ply, and are confident in your finishing skills, I would heartily recommend that you drop Chris a line. Of course, depending on how you rate your skill and how much you value your own time, your mileage may vary.

I do realise that there is the pleasure and pride of “I built that” which I’ve not mentioned but, in my case, it was more than cancelled out by the potential annoyance of the flaws caused by my lack of skill.

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