@BASSIST aka Torin Opper's fEARful 15/6 Build

Feb 26, 2020
@BASSIST aka Torin Opper's fEARful 15/6 Build
  • Introduction
    Welcome to the build journal of my fEARful 15/6. Before I say anything, I first want to thank Dave "Greenboy" Green for spending vast amounts of his valuable time on this design and making these plans available for free. I'm very grateful to Greenboy for that. My goal with is cab was to build a cab that is light as possible yet loud enough to be a single cab solution for rock band volume levels. Naturally tone was critical as well. While weight was a primary concern for me, I did not want to build a cab that featured weight over a robust, durable, fully functionable, great sounding cab. For example, I could have gone with the “bone” style handles and I might have shaved a half pound off, but while a bit lighter, it would have sacrificed the utility of the cab, at least in a small way. Sometimes at a gig there might be a large staircase and no elevator. Having to hold the cab via those handles in such a situation would be far from ideal. Since I plan to use this cab for a very long time and use it often, I wasn't willing to make those kind of sacrifices in the name of weight. No doubt, as you read thru this build journal the issue of weight will come up again and again. Some might say, “Dude suck it up, you're a bass player.” Bullocks to that! I really enjoy gigging, but I hate lifting heavy gear. It really diminishes the gigging experience for me. To that end, I spent a lot of time and effort trying to find the best solutions in terms of wood, hardware, finishing materials etc that would minimize weight, while still having an exemplary cab at the end of it all. I believe I have accomplished my goal. The final weight of my fEARful 15/6 is 43LBS. Previously, I owned an Art Of Noise Audio fibreglass 15/6 cab that was supposed to be the epitome of lightweight. That cab weighed 39.6LBS. My build, using ½ inch Italian Poplar, is a marginal 3.4LBS heavier. I am very happy with that. Especially, given that I MUCH prefer wood over fibreglass. My experience with fibreglass/composite and AoN let me down big time, but I am not going to go into that here. Okay, enough jibber-jabber. Onto the build!

    I bought a 4x8 sheet of Italian Poplar from a specialty place on Vancouver Island and had it shipped to me in Vancouver. The total cost including shipping was $130cdn. I got in touch with a furniture maker off of craigslist and he did the cuts for me. He did a fantastic job. The cuts were precise and very well done which made the build that much easier. For my 12/6 build I used a $25 jigsaw and did the cuts myself. Needless to say the 15/6 with the professional done cuts was much easier to build. The furniture maker only charged me $40 and for the amount of headache it saved me, I thought it was well worth it. I live in a condo and built this cab on my balcony and in the underground storage area where the bikes are kept. I don't own that much in the way of tools. I should note that this is the first cab I have ever built. In fact, up to this point it is the most involved project I have ever taken on. I am not especially handy, but maybe a smidge more than average. That said, I believe virtually anyone can build these cabs IF they think thru each step thoroughly and take their time... oh yeah, and follow the plans precisely.

    Here is a pic of what I started with once the furniture maker had made the cuts.


    The Baffle
    For a rookie like me I wanted to know where everything was going to go before I Cut wood or got out the glue. So I drew everything out. Having no tools, I used a paperclip and a piece of stiff paper to draw driver circles. Take a sharp pencil stick it thru the paper, leave the correct measurement of space and poke the paperclip thru the other end. The paperclip denotes where the middle of the driver will be and with the pencil draw the circle. The end result is a perfectly formed circle to the exact measurements. I recommend looking at the driver spec sheet from Eminence to make sure you have the correct measurements.


    Below is a pic of the baffle with mid chamber and extra bracing. Some say the extra bracing was unnecessary, but seeing as how the Italian Poplar wood is so light I wanted to be cautious and add extra strength and stiffness to the baffle. When the volume gets loud the baffle will really vibrate if its not braced well. I have experienced this on previous cabs I've owned. Now that I have gigged the cab and have checked for the possibility of baffle vibration I am very glad I went with the extra bracing. The baffle is rock Solid, as is everything else. I got chidded a bit for the overkill bracing, but I have no regrets. The extra bit of weight is worth it to me. If this baffle was built out of Baltic Birch or some other heavy/stiffer wood I would have not done the extra bracing.


    Baffle with the port shelf attached.



    Left Panel
    There is a certain order to putting the cab together to help keep the cab square. Here's a pic of the port divider on the bottom panel with the left panel. If you make sure this part of the build is good and square it will make it easier to keep the rest of the build square. I should mention that one tool that in my opinion is absolutely essential is a carpenter's square/ruler.


    I then attached the back panel of the cab with 2" drywall screws, no glue. This helped me keep everything square.


    Dude, what's with all the holes?
    Next I PL'd on the baffle. When I built this cab I used 4 large clamps. My method was to: 1. Dry clamp the pieces together 2. drill pilot holes 3. drill in 2 inch drywall screws 4. take screws out and unclamp 5. add PL 6. re-insert screws. I found with the PL on the pieces and clamps would want to move. Using this screw method I got everything lined up perfectly regardless of what difficulties the Wet PL was providing. More experienced guys may have faster ways of getting this done, but though my method took time, the results were worth it to me.

    In the pic you will no doubt notice all the holes in the baffle bracing. After reading the comments on the Greenboy forum about the unnecessity of my baffle bracing I added the holes in an effort to minimize weight. I am not sure to what degree those holes compromised the structural integrity/rigidity of those braces, but the guys on the gb forum said they were unnecessary. Anyway, its there and done. As I mentioned the baffle doesn't vibrate *at all* so all is well.


    Port detail
    Painted port with little black 1 inch ply cube for extra strength for the foot to screw into since the wood is so soft. T-nuts are used to hold the foot on. PL premium glue adheres the cube to the cab. This another part where I may have overdone it. However, knowing just how soft the wood is, I had an inclination that the T-nut may just get ripped right thru at some point in the cab's life. So I PL'd the one inch cube on. In the rear I attached the rear feet using recex screws, the one inch cubes and PL.


    At the time I decided to take the crossover and drivers out of my Art of Noise Audio cab since they are exactly the same. If I were to do it again I probably would have bought a pre-built crossover from Speakerhardware.com as this crossover is not too tidy. I hope that doesn't indicate anything about its longevity. I guess time will tell. Attaching this AoN crossover was quite challenging. The batting caused the screws to bind no matter how hard I tried. At first I used drywall screws and little rubber feet (for added vibration protection), but she just wouldn't go. If you look closely on the left hand side you can see the tip of the drywall screw with the batting on it. No matter what I tried the batting would just collect around the screw as I drilled in. My solution was to Cut a tissue paper roll and, with some masking tape, create two little "tunnels". The tunnels kept the batting away from the screws as I drove them in there. I used two recex screws with rubber washers instead of the rubber feet since the recex screws I have are much shorter than my drywall screws. With the tunnels keeping the batting away the recex screws went right in, no problem. I screwed right into the port divider so that I wouldn't have screws sticking out the underside of the top of the port holes. I only used two screws as I didnt want to go thru the hassle of making more tunnels. Plus, the two recex screws seemed to give quite a firm hold. The blue camping foam is underneath to add protection from vibration. Nice balcony shot, eh?


    Rear Panel
    Back panel with additional top and bottom bracing. I decided to keep the input jack simple and just added a one inch hole for the speakon input. I added black paint where port will be, and left the areas unpainted where PL will be applied. You can see all the screw holes left behind from my screw clamping. What I did with the screws/bracing was to add a washer onto the screw so it would not end up going right thru the bracing and thru the outside of the cab. It worked well. I removed all the screws to minimize weight.


    Starting to look like something
    Poly batting yet to be glued in. Also new in this pic is the handle bracing and handle holes as well as the rear feet cubes.


    Poly Batting
    Gluing in the poly batting took more effort than I thought it would and I could have done a better job of it. However, no one is going to see it once the cab is done and as long as it does its job and stays put, it will do. In this pic the crossover is permanently attached. Also, you can see that I added ply backing blocks to the back of the baffle where the driver screws will go. They add more Bite for the screws to dig into. I used recex screws to attach the driver and they seem to be working well.


    Interior of the cab with poly batting for dampening purposes to minimize midrange reflections. Boy, does it look cozy! The rear panel is not attached.


    I didnt want to use the odorous spray adhesive in my condo as I want to be considerate of my family so I did it downstairs in my buildings bike storage room. Glad I didn't catch heat from the strata for that. Cool pic... I think.


    I used zip ties to keep the wires nice and tidy. They will also minimize the chance of unwanted vibration noise at high volume.


    Long view from the top. Still need to put the speakon in and connect up the wiring. I used wire nuts (those orange thingies) where I needed to connect wire. I tested them by pulling hard and with a good tug they did not come apart so they should do fine.


    Close up of the crossover. PL adhesive got a bit messy here.


    Clamps? Who needs clamps? This is the rear panel screwed and glued and waiting for it to Dry. Screws will be removed once dry and eventually the speakon will find its way into that hole.


    Top Panel
    Top panel brace in place.


    Underneath of top panel after poly batting added. Centre view.


    Sand & Spackle
    Screw holes and various blemishes filled with spackle. Cab fully sanded and all outside edges Rounded. Next is black spray paint as primer and then the duratex finish coat. For a hack like me spackle and duratex is a life-saver. All those screw holes will be gone. https://fbcdn-sphotos-b-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/560275_10150784805697307_1946223345_n.jpg https://fbcdn-sphotos-g-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/576363_10150784806612307_817855303_n.jpg

    Almost Finished!
    Pics of my almost finished cab outside where I can get some decent light. I still have to add the grill, put on the corners, add screw covers to the front feet blocks, and do a few touch ups with paint in the ports and along the Edge of the baffle.



    You can see the dried Contact Cement along the Edge of the tolex. I'm probably going to paint over it to hide it. Either that or add the optional grill standoffs. Heck, I might just re-do the tolex altogether as I have a ton of it left. Contact Cement was a huge pain in the butt to use. When I built my 2u rack I used PL to adhere the tolex. It worked great and had the advantage of no harsh fumes and not drying so dang quickly. I'll never use Contact Cement again.


    Taking pics outside always gets better results with my humble cell phone camera. The cab is 90% finished. I am going to re-do the corners with plastic chevron corners that speakerhardware carries. They have a curved inner edge that I prefer the look of. The ones that are on the cab in this pic are from parts express. I trimmed them with a razor/utility knife, which I found not easy to keep straight. Aside from that I may re-paint the ports. That empty space in the rack was a result of me doing some decision making as to whether or not to leave my ART 351 Dual 15 Band EQ or not. I decided to put it back in. I can never have too much eq!


    Top view. I really like the matching tolex of the rack and baffle. I like the colour and flower pattern. People keep saying its a cowboy thing, but that wasnt my intention at all. I think brown and black looks nice... and it matches my bass.




    Update: December 2012... I decided the brown wasn't really doing it for me and that I wanted to change the baffle. I decided to try just painting the baffle with flat black paint. It turned out pretty decent so I am going to keep it like this for awhile. I also have some maple veneer I would ultimately like to put on, but for now the black stays.



    Here's my 12/6 with the maple veneer to show what it would look like.


    My Choices for Lightweight Hardware
    Hardware is an important area to consider when opting to build a lightweight cab. Wood choice makes a far greater difference but you can save quite a bit of weight by being careful with what you choose for hardware. The grill and handles will give the greatest weight savings, but I find all the smaller bits have a cumulative effect that can save you a fair chunk of weight if you're careful. While I would have rather given all my business to Leland at speakerhardware.com, I had to buy some things at Parts Express, because Leland didn't carry the lightest choices.

    1. Handles - Penn-Elcom H1024 PA Cabinet Handle ABS/Aluminum - Weight: 0.49 lbs Handles are one area in terms of hardware where you can save significant weight. The standard steel D-Cup handles are close to 2LBS each.
    2. Speakon - Neutrik NLT4MP Speakon STX 4 Pole Male Chassis Connector Metal Housing Weight: 0.11 lbs. Yes, these speakons are not light compared to others. However, I wanted the silver colour as it would contrast nicely with the black duratex and therefore be easier to see on a Dark stage. Also .07LB difference isn't really that big of a deal.
    3. Corner protectors - Dayton Audio PC123 Plastic Stacking Corner - Weight: 0.04 lbs each This is one thing I would definitely do differently if I could go back in time. Since I opted for ¼ inch roundovers I had no choice but to use this style of corner protector. I should have gone with a ½ inch and then been able to use the nice looking steel corners. I also prefer the ones from Speakerhardware.com that have a curved inner edge versus these Daytons with their sharp angles. Minor though.
    4. Grills - 15" Economy Speaker Grill (1.14LBS) 6" Round Grill (.32lbs) The bug eyed grills are another big weight saver and significantly lighter over a Full baffle grill. Here I made a choice of weight over aesthetics.
    5. Strap - Penn-Elcom H1014K Extra Wide Strap Handle Weight: 0.22 lbs
    6. Feet - Penn-Elcom F1686 Rubber Cabinet Foot 1.57" Dia. x 0.61" H Weight: 0.05 lbs each
    7. Wire – I used 16 gage Monster speaker wire I found for a good price at a local stereo store.
    8. Gasket tape – Essential for gasketing the 18Sound mid that comes sans gasket. You can also use it underneath your crossover to minimize vibration.
    9. Recex screws – Excellent screws. I used them for attaching both drivers as well as the crossover.
    10. Duratex – For my 15/6 I used black spray paint as a primer. Then I gave it two coats of Duratex. I bought two 1 pint bags from Speakerhardware.com and if your careful you can do one 15/6 cab with 1 pint. Keep in mind that I didn't need to duratex my baffle since I had put tolex on it. I'll be using my second pint for touch-ups and my 12/6 build.

    Matching DIY 2u Rack
    I have always wanted a "rack that matches my cab" type of look that I have seen on TB from time to time. I also wanted a rack that was light. Unloaded my gator 2u rack bag weighs a bit over 9LBS. So what I have is built a 2u rack out of 1/4 inch pine ply and I have managed to get the weight down to 4LBS unloaded. The rack is not perfect but it will do for now.


    Closing Remarks
    Overall, I am very happy with how everything turned out. This is actually my 3rd 15/6. My first one was an LDS 15/6 clone. I really liked that cab but found its squat, cube shape a bit on the awkward side to move. Plus, I wanted a real fEARful, not a copy. At that time Art of Noise was just getting started. I drooled over a 39LB fibreglass cab that was a true fEARful. However, unfortunately everything about that experience with AoN was subpar, including the 5 month wait. So I decided to build my own and see how light I could get it. I really enjoyed the building process although it took a few months considering I have two children and a Full-time career etc. I'm very pleased with what this cab turned out to be. You can have light, loud and low. The cab does very well at reproducing whatever you put into it. In can do vintage, it can do HiFi, it can do whatever you want depending on your amp, and eq choices. Cabs and amps have always been a particular interest for me. I don't know why. I have been thru over a dozen cabs as I searched for the right cab for me that would be loud enough, light enough and have great tone. The fEARful 15/6 meets those criteria. When you add in the support and community you get from Greenboy and his Forum, Facebook page and website with detailed plans, it really takes things to the next level. There are alot of knowledgeable fEARful guys, who are generous with their experience of the science of bass cabinet building. fEARful is SO much better than buying a commercially built cab in so many ways. I cannot recommend fEARful enough.