Are you sick and tired of letting big-name manufacturers tell you what to do? Would you like to make your own DIY turntable, free from the constraints of those conglomerates?
Then step forth as we explore some methods by which you can create your own record players and why might even want to do so in the first place.
Table of Contents
- Method 1: Making a DIY Turntable (that actually works!)
- Method 2: Making a Record Player for the Kids
- Method 3: Making a DIY Needle for Your Record Player
- Final Tones
- FAQs DIY Turntable
Method 1: Making a DIY Turntable (that actually works!)
First up, let’s look at a method that you can use to construct a turntable that actually works. You will need to source the supplies yourself, of course, though these are thankfully fairly inexpensive and easy to source – unlike some other DIY projects, am I right?
For this project, you will need:
- Circular disc
No DIY turntables are, after all, complete without their circular disc, are they?
Step 1: Constructing the Box
Excitingly enough, the design of this box is entirely up to you. You can make this part of the process as creative or as vanilla as you would like.
Of course, if your woodworking skills are a little limited, you can always keep it simple. This would be rather aligned with current trends in hyper-minimalism that permeate the various echelons of home design. Instead of going all out on the design of the box, why not try focusing your attention on the output of the sound, ensuring that your wiring is as good as it can be?
In terms of dimensions, the box should be around two feet long, sixteen inches wide, and five inches tall. To give yourself a more concrete idea of what this is all for, try and visualize the needle, tonearm, and record all fitting atop this box. Each of these parts of a turntable will also be contained within, so whatever room is being used on top will have to be accommodated within too.
Combining the different lengths of wood should be easy enough with some clamps and some wood glue. Do, however, ensure that leave any wood glue off the top, for you are going to need access to the inside throughout the process of installing the platter bearing.
Step 2: Installing the Turntable
Next up, you will need to mount the motor to the bottom of the box, using a dowel rod to connect the box to the motor so that it doesn’t go walking about in there when it is on.
Another thing to check on throughout the process is that you are not overloading the motor, something that can easily happen if the voltage you use is too high to play records. Here, the plinth design will be crucial for dissipating that spare electricity.
Next, in order to have control over the turntable’s speed, you will need to install a potentiometer, something that metes out the electrical signal, dealing it out more when a faster speed is being used, and vice versa.
Then, cut out a circular plate for the platter measuring roughly twelve inches in diameter (though perhaps a little wider, depending on your preference). Needless to say, you will want to drill a hole right in the center of the plate for the dowel so that the record can then effectively be hooked into the middle and not spin off-kilter. For easier rotation, feel free to use a Lazy Susan for added support, should you feel it necessary.
Step 3: Speakers & Tonearm
Now, it is time to get building that tonearm! First, connect one dowel to another dowel so that it is placed perpendicularly to the first. You can, if you prefer, use ring-shaped magnets to allow the arm to move freely.
Place the record player’s needle on the end of the tonearm, making sure to wire the right and left sides properly. To do so, connect the positive right wire to the amp on the right side, then the left wire to the amp on the left. Simple!
The needle you choose will, of course, depend on your budget, though you can’t go wrong with anything on the more affordable side of Audio-Technica’s range of turntable cartridges.
Lastly, if all else has gone to plan, then you should only have to connect both negative to the ground for the amp in order to progress. Oh, don’t forget to connect the amp to a power source, lest there be no electricity flowing through the circuit whatsoever. Oh, yes, and of course, make sure you use a set of speakers, lest there be no sound. They don’t have to be anything fancy, but you don’t want to sell yourself short, either.
Step 4: Finishing Touches
At this point in the process, you should have two separate circuits. One should connect the needle at the end of the tonearm to the speakers and amplifier, and the other should connect to the turntable itself.
While you are at it, cut a couple of holes in the front part of the box to accommodate the speakers. This is not necessary, especially if you have opted for a bigger and altogether more suitable set of speakers. There should be another hole in the top for the wires to reach the needle, lest there be gaps in the circuit. Thankfully, you shouldn’t need to ground the record player unless, of course, you made the casing out of metal, in which case you might have an issue, especially if you have never done this sort of thing before.
If all went to plan, then the project should be complete. There is still plenty of room for creativity and customization and you can keep coming back after the completion of this project to customize it when you grow more comfortable with your abilities later down the line.
Method 2: Making a Record Player for the Kids
Alternatively, if you are not looking to make a turntable for yourself, but instead are looking for a simple project for you and the kids that has the added benefit of teaching them a thing or two about science, then look no further.
This project is far simpler than the one above and so it should be easy to explain and complete in the space of one afternoon (before mom comes and picks them up until next week).
Handily, this has the added benefit of being an ample opportunity to teach kids the importance of safety around electrical wiring while also exhibiting the inner machinations of a turntable and how the speed of a turntable can impact the sound it produces.
For this, you will need:
- a shaft
- a small motor
- some wiring
- a light switch
- paper clips
- some paper
Arguably the most important component here is the small motor, so you will want to test it properly before you install it. You can do this by hooking it up to a small battery to ensure that it works properly.
For the power button, you can use a simple light switch, connecting it to the battery and the motor so that it sits between the two and thus controls the flow of electricity in a circuit between them.
Use some masking tape to wrap around the shaft that comes out of the motor until it is the right size according to the small hole in the center of a record. Try fitting a record on it, and if it isn’t tight enough, try adding more tape until it does.
Grab a sheet of paper and roll it up like a megaphone. Then, take an unbent paper clip and place it through the hole, using some more tape to secure the paper and ensure it remains tightly in place around the paper clip.
Now, you are ready to switch on the motor, touching the paper clip onto the spinning record (making sure that it is one you don’t mind scratching too much, thus causing the record to play aloud.
If the record player is not playing fast enough to accurately portray the record, then you will need to either purchase a faster motor and/or a bigger battery. Another issue might present itself when the record starts spinning backward, in which case simply reverse the light switch wiring. It could also be that the turntable is spinning too fast, in which case you will want to use a smaller battery and/or a slower motor.
As already alluded to above, you should not incorporate any records that you care about lasting a while in this experiment – the paper clip will do some serious damage if left to its own devices. Using a cheap throwaway disc, you can perform the experiment without fear of doing any damage to any of your precious records.
Method 3: Making a DIY Needle for Your Record Player
Equally, you could use your efforts and resources to replace a needle on a record player you already have. Whether you have a bad needle or whether it is a good one that has simply stopped working, you might need to replace it. We have all been there! The parts of a turntable are not meant to last forever.
If your needle, then, is broken but you are dying to play your records and cannot even wait the short amount of time that anything takes to be delivered in this hyperfast day and age we live in, then help is at hand.
Step 1: Amplifier
First, you will need to make an amplifier for your needle, something that is surprisingly easy. In fact, all you need to do is roll a piece of paper into a cone, just as above.
The important thing is to keep one of the ends rolled incredibly tight. If tightened correctly, the design should amplify the sound of a record just as a megaphone. For best results, use stiffer paper or cards instead of printer paper.
Step 2: Stylus
Now, use some scotch tape to secure the edges of the paper into position. Take a sewing needle and place it through the hole at the tightly rolled end of the cone, taping the needle in place to prevent it from moving during use.
Pick a record and let it spin, using the needle as the needle. If the turntable is also broken, you can always spin it manually clockwise, though keeping it at the optimum speed can be incredibly difficult.
This obviously will not sound anywhere near as good as using a proper stylus, but you should have expected this. It is literally some paper and a needle, after all, though that never stopped anybody from trying…
So, there you have it! Hopefully, you are now feeling ready and able to step forth and design a DIY turntable for yourself, making sure to take extra care at each step of the process.
FAQs DIY Turntable
Can you build your own turntable?
Indeed you can, though it certainly is not going to measure up to any turntables that you can purchase from the shops. If you are looking for a fun project to occupy yourself with that can also teach you a thing or two about the inner machinations of a turntable, then go right ahead. If, though, you are looking for a piece of kit that is going to enable you to hear your records as intended, then you are going to be a little disappointed unless you are especially gifted at this sort of thing.
What is the best material to place a turntable on?
Many people have distinct and separate personal preferences. Nowadays, it is rather fashionable to feel like the best material to place a turntable on is cork. It is, after all, an inexpensive, lightweight but rigid material that is less prone to static and can improve the sound quality of your records. Equally, there are plenty of audiophiles that swear by silicone and other such materials.
What is the difference between a turntable and a vinyl player?
While there is not technically a difference, especially as the two terms are used so interchangeably these days, they do inherently mean different things. A turntable is the part of a stereo system that spins the record and then interprets the vibrational data set within the grooves into phono sound which is then sent forth to the preamp and then the amplifier, and then the speakers. A vinyl player has come to refer to an all-in-one record player that can do all of those separate things in one neat package. Neat!