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A steam bent horn

9th December 2010

A month or so ago David Gilbert asked us if we would like to do something for Derbyshire food and drink festival.

A month or so ago David Gilbert asked us if we would like to do something for Derbyshire food and drink festival.

As most of our instruments were on show in Sheffield we discussed doing something new. Recently we have been trying to make some different shaped horn speakers and really wanted to work with steam bending so we proposed to work with Mike Turnock, who is apparently the last riddle maker in the UK and an expert in bending wood.

Mike lives near by so we drove down to his workshop in Whaley Bridge and checked out his steam bending equipment, essentially a hacked boiler. We got a load of tips such as; leave the wood in there for 4 hours, taper the ends to make it easier to bend. After a great tour through the whole riddle making process we bought a couple of riddles and some 1/4 inch thickness beech.

Back in the studio we modeled the shape we wanted in Blender and then unwrapped it and cut out the 12 segments on a cnc machine. After some fiddling around I discovered that we could give the model a thickness and work out the angle the wood needed to be cut.

This is a bit of a jump forward to post cut, steamed and bent wood. ( I must add the images that  Steve took of our steam box shoved out of the studio window. Unfortunately we didn't document the swearing that went into getting the bits of wood into gigs. )

I was left with the the job of assembling the horn and I ended up using a threaded bar with appropriate sized dodecahedron shapes fixed on it.

Amazingly it came together.... but only after a lot of swearing, gorilla glue and sanding. I think sanding should be really only be used as a finishing touch and will endeavor to make sure the next one needs less. We will definitely be using thinner wood for the end curve !

Finally we made it to the food festival with our horns. The new one was still looking a bit rough so it was lucky we had a two others. 

It was great to hear so many peoples memories of horn speakers, they have an interesting history, apparently they were really popular during among hifi enthusiasts in 50's and some people went to the lengths of extending them into their gardens to get the bass frequencies ( I have yet to see a photo of this). At the festival we happened to be next to the guy who was doing the announcements.  He had this fantastic set of Grampian speakers that were quite a bit louder than ours and apparently made by lathing a solid piece of aluminum.

All these horn shapes do dramatically change the sound, and allow you to create a big sound from a small speaker. We are still trying to decide what style works best and will try and post some of our audio experiment with them soon.

If you know a lot about horn speaker and have building tips etc please get in touch we would love to hear from you.