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The TNT Stubby

A DIY Speaker Stand Project on TNT

(you will understand the name after you read the article)
[Italian version]

Product: TNT Stubby - Speaker Stand
Producer: not for sale, TNT-Audio DIY design
Approx.cost: $ 40 or less
Head Idiot in Charge of the Project: Scott Faller - TNT USA
Published: January, 2003

Warning: The events depicted in this article are true. There is graphic content of a mature nature that may upset certain individuals. The names have remained the same to expose the true idiots of the world. Parental discretion is advised.

[A forest of stubby's]
Look Margo, its a Herd of Speaker Stands!

Well, now that that's out of the way.............

Trivial Bits

As part of my upcoming speaker comparison articles (about ten pairs), I decided that I needed some decent speaker stands. Two pairs in fact. It just so happens that one of my oldest buds (George) called me the other day and said he was finally taking the plunge into the Home Theater market. He had picked one of the lessor expensive Home Theater's in a box. These are the ones that come with the receiver and speakers together.

We started talking and he began asking me about speaker cables, interconnects and eventually the conversation led to speaker stands. On the cable's and interconnects, I pointed him to our website. Since his gear is in his living room and he has a wife (Ellen) to answer to, he decided to try the TNT Sonus Flatter.

The two of us met at the local Electronics Surplus Store and we picked out some really nice multi-colored wire. In fact, this stuff was pretty nice. It's 10 twisted pairs of 26 gauge. The coolest part was, the twisted pairs are in a flat cable. That means you have better noise rejection using one of the pairs for positive an one for negative. I wish I had seen it first actually :-) Anyway, after paying the nice lady at the counter all of $10 for about 100 feet, we ran out the door.

Getting back to the speaker stands, George described his speakers to me. These are the typical speakers that come in one of these packages. They're a two way design with a 6 1/2" woofer. Basically, a standard bookshelf speaker.

[Typical mega-buck stand]
these puppies weigh
in at $500 per pair

So it dawned on me, hey George needs speaker stands too! So I asked him if he wanted to get together and build some. In turn, he asked what they were going to look like. Well, I had this design floating in the back of my mind for a while so I described it to him. I obviously didn't do a very good job because we ended up on the Audio Advisor website looking for a pair of stands that were comparable to what I wanted to build.

After the first stand or two, George got a load of the pricing. All of the sudden I hear this "Jeeeeezzzuussss!" on the other end of the line. I said "What?". George immediately started quoting me the prices :-) See, George hasn't quite caught the audiophile bug yet (though I'm still working on him :-). He's not used to seeing the outrageous prices that comes with our gear. That's not really fair to say, he's been down to a couple of the Fi shops here in town. Most notably the Krell and Dynaudio Palace, so he's got a little bit of an idea of what the extremes are but I don't think he was totally prepared for the cost of the accessories.

That's good though, because I had a cheap, excellent alternative. While we were looking around the different sites at speaker stand designs, I brought him back to the TNT site and showed him the Akropolis. This a great speaker stand but Ellen wouldn't go for it. It's that WAF thing I think. In the end, I found a speaker stand that was pretty similar looking and everybody seemed happy with it.

So the stage was set. We planned on getting together the weekend following Christmas to build a bunch of speaker stands.

The Basic Design

The design is pretty darned simple actually. Sandwich a sand filled piece of 3" schedule 40 PVC between two pieces of solid Red Oak. Tie them together with some 3/8" all thread rod and nuts, slap on some stain and you are done.

End of article.

Not really :-)

All of this stuff is easily attainable from your local Home Depot or Lowes. If you don't have either one of these near you, pay a visit to your hardwood lumber store and plumbing supplier. They can set you up with everything you will need.

For the platforms, I chose solid Red Oak primarily for its looks, though it is one of the stiffer woods. You could use MDF or some nice stiff Baltic Birch Plywood even. If you decide on MDF, you could laminate it, or you could also paint it to make it prettier. I actually thought about using some of those PVC cutting boards. That would be pretty cool too but here we run into some serious WAF issues.

For the vertical sections, I chose PVC rather than steel because steel rings when it reaches its resonant frequency. Don't believe me, wrap on a piece of steel pipe or conduit with something metal. Better yet, think Symphony and chimes. Dampen all you want with sand but IMO these things will still ring to a certain extent. It will just be at a lower frequency. Therefore, PVC was the obvious choice in my book. PVC's much lower resonant frequency coupled with sand filling as a damping material and now we're talking about a good sounding speaker stand.
Well.....that was an oxymoron actually (sort of…..maybe....... )
Speaker stands aren't supposed to make a sound...... You know what I meant.

On To The Construction

[Forstner bits, $17 set at Home Depot]
forstner bits and countersunk hole

The dimensions I chose for the platform and base were governed by the stock sizes at Home Depot. For the base, we want as wide a piece of wood as is reasonable. Home Depot stocks 12" wide Oak so I just squared it up making the base 12" x 12". I used (kind of) the same rule for the platform. I've got a bunch of bookshelf speakers sitting here for review so I took some quick measurements of the speakers and decided that an 8" square piece of oak would work quite well.

Now, you are going to need to drill a hole in the center of the base and platform to slide the all thread (AT) rod through which hold this thing together. Also, you will need to counter sink a hole so you the nut, washer and exposed rod doesn't stick out beyond the flat surface to the platform or base.

In drilling Oak, I'd like to suggest using a Forstner bit. A paddle bit will work you to death because it gets dull really quick. Drill your countersink hole first. Mine was 7/8" and went down about halfway though the wood (or about 1/2"). Then you can finish up the hole for the AT rod after the countersink hole. See, the Forstner bit gives you a little centering, pre-tapped hole that you can just insert your smaller bit and chase the hole. Does that make sense?

For the vertical riser of the stand, I wanted to add as much sand weight (damping material) as I could without throwing off it's aesthetics. I chose 3" PVC pipe as the riser. If you want to get fancy and really work your tail off, you could use (say) three pieces of 2" PVC in a triangular pattern. That would look really cool but since we were making a total of four pairs, I decided to keep it simple.

First off, these speaker stands are at a fixed height (well duh!). So you need to determine the height of your ears in your favorite listening chair. Ultimately, you want the speaker height at the mid point between the tweeter and the mid-bass (or woofer) to be at ear level. I'll leave the (not so) complicated math to you guys. George and I built all of ours 24" tall.

Here's where things got downright ugly

[Flesh eater, meat grinder, disc of death]
new toys

Since we built eight stands between us, it took us several days to complete all of them. Not full time, mind you, just part time over three days. On New Years Eve, I decided to stop at my local Home Depot to pick up something, Lord knows what, but I ended up bringing home one of those Industrial strength, bench top, belt sanders (I hear all of you guys grunting out there :-) These things are way cool and besides, I could finally justify buying one because of this little project :-) Well, not long after I got home with my new toy, George showed up for our second days work. We wanted to get all of the wood sanded, square up the ends of the PVC, paint the risers and stain the wood. That way, on New Years Day, all we had to do was assemble all of the stands.

Well, I went out to my car and grabbed the new belt sander and brought it in the house and immediately my Wife asked if I bought a new toy. Sheepishly I said "Yep, I bought a new belt sander." and I showed it to her. She immediately grunted a couple of times (literally) and I knew all was OK :-)

George and I went downstairs, unboxed it, set it up and slowly flipped the switch. We immediately looked at each other and made more primal noises.

I grabbed one of the pieces of Oak and ran one side across the top belt sander. I flipped it over and sanded the other side. I showed it to George and he thought it did a pretty good job. Then I took the same piece of wood and started sanding the cut edges on the disc sander. I pulled it off and said to George that this was going to make quick work of our sanding project. Very cool.

Don't Try This at Home Boys and Girls, We're All Trained Professionals Here

Just about that same time I did something infinitely stupid. I got my fingers too close to the disc sander. By too close, I mean I shoved my hand into it. As I stood there stunned, I saw my third finger of my left hand wrap itself around my wrist (or so it seemed). Needless to say, I yanked my hand out of the meat grinder.
George said, "Your bleeding!"
Well Duuuuh!!!
Here I am, cupping my hands to keep the blood from running everywhere, meanwhile it's oozing through the cracks of my fingers and dripping on the floor. I look closer an there's this big chunk of meat (basically my fingertip) hanging on by just a little bit of skin and I can see the blood red streak on the sanding disc. greeeaat. (Nice visual, isn't it ?)

So off to the medicine cabinet I go. On the way past my wife I said "I need you in the bathroom." and she silently shakes her head as if to say "Oh, Jeez, here we go again", she knows my "I'm injured again" voice all but too well.

[tim the tool man]
Oh, oh, oh!

See I have this love hate relationship with tools. I love tools but they hate me (and they reinforce that fact on a regular basis). I've caused more self inflicted injury to myself because of power tools than I care to admit. You guys all remember Tim the "Tool Man" Taylor right? Well, when that TV show came on, everybody asked me if somebody had been following me around with a TV camera (seriously). Tim Allen didn't invent this guy, I am him.

Well, today was no different. My new belt sander an I did battle and guess who won? As I sit here typing this confession review, my finger is a few millimeters shorter (no BS). Fortunately, nothing was broken, though its going to take a while for my fingernail to grow back, plus the tip of my finger will look a little weird until I become worm food but Hey! Look at it this way. Somebody has to demonstrate to you guys the proper way to use power tools!

Anyway, back to the TNT Stubby

(see, you were wondering about the goofy name......now you know :-)

Well, once my loving wife fixed me back up, I went back downstairs and George and I finished up what we had started. We got everything stained. George was trying to match his entertainment stand so he opted for the Cherry stain and I went for a nice Pecan.

While we were at it, we sanded the PVC piping, then painted it with a Satin black to give the stands some contrast. The typical speaker grille and driver(s) are black which makes the stand match really well.

[the action shot]
filling the stand

New Years Day George came over and we began assembling the stands. This was really simple though it is a two person job. We cut the all thread rod about a quarter inch short of the total height of the stand. We took one nut and washer and installed it on the end of the AT rod then slid them threw the hole. To hold the rod in place, we took another nut and washer and tightened it down on the platform (visualize a nut and washer on both sides of the platform). Result, a free standing piece of AT rod attached to the platform. Reason, we didn't want to fight to hold the AT rod in place as we assembled the rest of the stand.

Next we took the PVC pipe and I put rope caulk on the circumference of the end of the pipe. This does two things. First, the rope caulk is sticky and allows the pipe to stand on it's own, unassisted. When you are trying to hold the pipe plus fill the pipe with sand, you just can't do it. The pipe wobbles, sand goes everywhere.
It's a mess. That's the main reason I used the backer nut to hold the AT rod too. Imagine trying to hold all three of these things together during assembly. It would be nearly impossible. The other reason for the rope caulk is it seals the edge of the pipe so no sand leaks out. Now, if you have done a good job of cutting your pipe straight, leaks aren't an issue, but you really need it for assembly.

Next, we filled the PVC with sand. Unfortunately, all I had was river sand. It would have been nice to fill it with Silica sand but river sand works just fine. After we filled the stand we took one of the tops and installed it hand tight with a nut. Then we tamped the sand down by picking up the stand about two or three inches and gently bashing it on the ground (vertically) about twenty times. This forced the sand to prematurely settle (dramatically). In fact, the sand level went down about three inches. We pulled the top off and topped off the stand with sand (wow, that was a weird sentence). After that, we installed the top piece and we were almost complete!

As a finishing touch, we installed some nice squishy rubber feet rather than spikes. George has hardwood floors. For me, I believe in isolation rather than coupling, but that is a article all unto itself.

So, How Do They Sound ? (or not sound as the case may be)

[Loads of stands]
the finished project

Well, George hasn't ever listened to speaker stands side by side. First, I used an older pair of stands that I built a number of years ago. They are solid oak, vertical risers included. They are nice and sturdy but they are solid wood. To demonstrate the "sound" of the two different stands, I used a pair of Dynaudio 42's. Nice deep bass for a bookshelf, plus a revealing midrange.

I played some Alison Krauss and Union Station. Great music, uncluttered. You can really hear timbral differences in things like stands using this music. I had George listen to the first track. I repeated it in some critical spots so that his music memory was fresh. Then I moved the Dyn's to the new stands and played the same selection. In the first three notes, I could tell an immediate difference. I let George listen a little bit longer and suddenly his expression changed (when a firm bass note was struck). He was amazed that a speaker stand played so big a part in the sound of a pair of speakers.

Needless to say, the bass firmed up dramatically. The mid-bass and midrange became audibly clearer. I explained to George about the Darryl Scale to give us (and you a reference point). We decided together that these strands rank about a 4 or 5 over the old ones. Not bad.

Over all, these stands do a great job and at a far lesser cost than the commercially available ones. It just takes a little elbow grease and a few common tools. We took them up to show the girls (our wives) after we were done. They liked them…..I think. Well, lets put it this way, they didn't say that we couldn't use them in the living room :-) So, we took this occasion to let the girls know we can actually build something without using bailing wire and duct tape. Although we did use caulk, that doesn't count since it was a sealer :-)

Here's a summary of the costs (averaged for a pair, since we built eight).

12" x 12" Red Oak



8" x 8" Red Oak



3" Schedule 40 PVC Pipe


$ 5.00

3/8" All Thread Rod



3/8" Hex Nuts


$ .30

3/8" Washers


$ .18

80 lb Tube of Sand



Stain and Sundries



Total Cost for the Pair




© Copyright 2003 Scott Faller - http://www.tnt-audio.com

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