The cajon drum is getting popular in fusion and pop music. If you want to own one, you can even build it yourself! Melodyful will give you simple step-by-step instructions to make your own cajon drum box from ordinary sheets of plywood.
Did You Know?
The largest cajon ensemble was achieved when 1,050 players played the instrument together on 11 April 2009 in Lima, Peru, according to the Guinness World Records.
A cajon drum box is a box-shaped percussion musical instrument that traces its roots to the early African slaves brought to Peru. The word ‘cajon’ means box or drum in Spanish. The story goes that, the slaves had all their drums snatched by their European masters with the intention of crushing their spirit. But the wily slaves fashioned a drum from simple wooden crates, which would go undetected when a search was conducted for any musical instruments. This is how the cajon came into being.
The cajon is played by sitting on the top surface and keeping the box slightly inclined. The player then slaps the front head, called the Tapa, with his bare hands. The back or the sides can also be slapped for additional sound effects. Also, certain objects like sticks can be used to play the instrument for varied beats.
The instrument is a six-sided box made from solid wood or plywood. The sides, top, and bottom surfaces are made of thicker material, while the tapa and the back are made of thin wooden sheets. There is a circular hole in the back surface to allow the air to escape and create an acoustic effect.
How to Build a Cajon Drum Box
☞ Baltic birch plywood/solid wood sheets
☞ A power drill
☞ Wood screws
☞ Measuring tape
☞ Wood glue
☞ Jig saw
☞ Drum snares/guitar strings
☞ Wire cutter
☞ Wood clamps/belts
☞ Sandpaper/block plane
☞ Rubber feet, 2 pairs
Cut the Wood
▷ For the sides, cut two sheets of dimensions 12″ × 18″ × ½”.
▷ For the top and bottom surfaces, cut two square sheets of 12″ × 12″ × ½”.
▷ For the front surface, take a thinner sheet of ⅛” thickness.
▷ For the back surface, take a sheet of the ¼” thickness.
Attach the Sides, Top, and Bottom
Taking the sheets cut out for the top, bottom, and sides, glue them together, or fix them with screws. You can affix belt or wooden clamps on it to hold it together while the glue dries overnight. Before fixing the clamps, some people prefer to fix right-angled triangles of wood at the joints in order to ensure that the sides of the box are perpendicular to one another even when the glue is wet.
Attach 4 Blocks at the Joints
Take four 12″-long rectangular blocks of wood and stick them to the joints between the sides and the top/bottom, using glue. This is to increase the joint surface and ensure a compact joint, besides providing reinforcement to the whole structure. When using screws, these blocks help hold them together.
Cut a Hole in the Sheet for the Back
Take the sheet cut for the back of the cajon box and cut a circular hole, about 4 to 4.25″ in diameter, such that it is about midway from left to right and one-third the distance from top to bottom of the sheet. Begin cutting the hole using a jigsaw, and then proceed to finish the hole using a power drill (with a grinding bit attached to it) for good results.
Prepare the Snare
Take a drum snare and cut it midway wire-by-wire using a wire cutter. You will now have two pieces of snare. There are various ways to attach this to the cajon drum. One is to fix these snare pieces to a dowel rod. Cut holes in the box sides to insert the dowel and make some arrangement to hold the dowel in place. The snare is on the rear of the tapa, and creates an attractive rattling sound with every blow.
Cut and Attach the Back and the Tapa
For the tapa, cut the sheet according to the dimensions of the front. The tapa should be of the exact width of the cajon box, but about an inch longer in length. The snare should be pressed on the inner side of the tapa for best performance. Sand the edges of the tapa and attach it to the front of the box using glue or wood screws, but do not screw the bottom edge. Some prefer to apply glue only partly to the edges of the tapa, later drilling holes and fixing screws to the glue-less parts. This is to enable the player to vary the tightness of the tapa, and hence the sound produced. Using thinner wood gives a good sound effect while playing the cajon. Also, it is advisable to leave the corner edges of the tapa loose (not screwed to the box) to produce a pleasant slapping noise when played.
When fixing the back sheet, first sand the edges and then fix it to the box using glue. Take care to avoid any gaps.
▷ Drill small holes at the base and attach four rubber feet with screws. This is to protect the cajon and the floor from scratches. You can also use ready-made cabinet feet.
▷ Sand the corners of the top surface to smoothen them and make the box more comfortable to sit on.
▷ Apply an oil finish to the box. Decorate it the way you want.
Your Cajon Drum Box is Ready
It’s quite easy to make your cajon drum right at home, and the above instructions have made it even simpler. One word of caution though; keep your eyes protected when working with wood, by using safety glasses.