View Full Version : Making horns.

05-02-2015, 11:21 AM

Hi Everyone,

Just joined the forum in hope of some advice on machines that may suit my purpose.

I make loudspeakers and at present the mid range horns are commissioned, here is a picture of how they come in.

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7328/16447159801_5c4d1417a9.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/r4nZAH)DSCN1737 (https://flic.kr/p/r4nZAH) by mearssimon (https://www.flickr.com/people/96914305@N02/), on Flickr

They are made from 18mm layers of ply, joined on dowels and glued then sanded back. The sanding takes some time to get the steps out before they are sufficiently smooth.

The top 2 123d make images are the horns that I am now looking to make (different shape). I have had quotes to have then done on a 5 axis machine (expensive) and also on 3 axis in 2 halves joined down the center and smoothed inside and out.

I want to cover all my options and may consider buying a machine, I have a budget of 7-8K.

Any advice would be most welcome,

Many Thanks,


05-02-2015, 02:28 PM
Sorry for the double post. Please feel free to remove the other one mods.

05-02-2015, 03:52 PM
Is wood your best option ?
Also are they that shape for acoustic reasons or just for the looks ?

Boyan Silyavski
05-02-2015, 04:37 PM
The inherent problems of acquiring 5 axis machine is: price and software, so i would forget about that.

It seems to me what you need is precise and sturdy machine, which is well within your budget. Size wise it will be good idea to make all loudspeaker parts with it.

So if you make the part from 2-3 pieces machined cleanly with ball nose bit and glue them together, you will be left with only minor finishing job.

Or once you know that the shape is right you can machine yourself molds and make the parts from epoxy for example, or whatever. There are many many things that come to my mind. MDB or wood and then epoxy impregnate and so on...

PS. Of course i would start doing it the way you have done it till now. Just use 3d paths and ballnose. So when all goes together it will need only minor sanding. If i am not mistaken looking at your photos, it was used 2.5D path not 3d. On your pictures it looks like a 2.5D path or 3d roughing pass, not 3d finishing pass which would leave all super smooth


05-02-2015, 05:07 PM
Thanks for the replies, the horns are machined in wood as it offers the best sound and the profiles are specific for drivers used. The other loudspeaker parts are run through saws and veneered but it may be an option to consider as the biggest panel is 1000 x 520mm.

Sturdy, precise, that's what I am after as it will mainly be used for machining the horns, I have had a brief look through the site here and EXEL seem well though after. I am a novice with regards to CNC so is the consensus that it is possible to make these horns leaving say a 240 grit sand and finish or am I asking too much. Any advice on particular machines they may recommend for this purpose?

05-02-2015, 08:21 PM
I'm not sure you would get away with 240 grit and here's why. If you think about the cutting tool, probable a ball mill where the end is rounded, and imagine it cutting tiny furrows in the material, then the amount of stepover you give it will determine how far it moves across to cut the next furrow. So if the furrows are very close together it will take a very long time to cut and at some point there is a trade off between time to cut and desired finish. There's not a great choice of UK made machines, Exel was the one I was going for before deciding to make one.

05-02-2015, 08:35 PM
Thanks Eddy, I am going to contact Exel tom. with similar info to what I have posted here to see which of their models they would recommend for machining these things and off course the price. I thought it might be asking a bit to much to go straight to 240, I don't mind a bit of elbow grease.

05-02-2015, 09:10 PM
why does the horn have to be split to do it on a 3 axis ?

if you run a .3mm or .4mm stepover you will have very little sanding to get to smooth

whats the dimensions of the horn ? width and depth ?

05-02-2015, 09:14 PM
On the other hand the stock is so light you are not going to have issues with torque so you could opt for a larger diameter cutter (for all convex work) which would keep the scallop height pretty low so if nothing else you could go with a 3 axis machine with a decent CAD/CAM package. You might still have to make it out of a number of blocks to optimize step over with different gradients but it might be 4 or 5 instead of the 3D jigsaw.
Best of luck with it

05-02-2015, 09:19 PM
I will be making several different sized horns the biggest at about 500mm wide 400mm high and 500mm deep (roughly). As I said I am a total novice and my comments on machining in two halves are simply taken on face value from this e-mail,

True 5 axis machining is complex and expensive, and should be avoided if possible

Cutter lengths are limited. Your item in one piece exceeds this. The cutter length for optimum machining is 50mm.

To accommodate 1. & 2. the machining solution is a hybrid 3 axis one. The first 48mm of material is positioned and bonded up. The surface is machined from 0 to 48mm in the height with a 12mm ball ended tool stepping over 1mm per pass, cutter orientated vertically. The next 48mm of material is bonded on, and machined from 48mm to 96mm in the height. Etc, etc, up to 216mm.

The inside surface of your horn could be machined using this technique. The outside will be the edge in plan projected down to the same plane as the small hole (ie not 25mm thick). Is this an option?

To cut the outer surface at 25mm thick the item need to be inverted. As it no longer has a flat bottom this way up it will require a male support jig, increasing the nominal cost by 50%. The item is now too deep for the 50mm cutter vertically, so has to be cut full 5 axis (expensive).

Another option would be to split the model into 2 halves. Each half could be machined front and back using 3. above, as there are flat joint surfaces for support when inverted. The outer surface would require some limited cutting with a 100mm long 12mm ball ended cutter, run at a slower feed rate to avoid it snapping off.

05-02-2015, 09:29 PM
ok i see ... what sort of thickness would be acceptable for the horn ( the above sketch just shows a surface ie. 0 thickness)

05-02-2015, 09:32 PM
Yes it does, just getting to grips with the drawing side, the walls would need to be 20-25mm thick, sorry forgot that info.

Boyan Silyavski
05-02-2015, 10:26 PM
So the company that you asked gave you the correct answer.

If you want best finish,what you miss to understand here is what material and price. There are blocks or thick sheets of some compounds that could have perfect finish but they are not cheap. The wood will always need sanding from 60 grit if you use cheap pine. MDB will be ok, but then you need to treat it additionally.

So to resume what i believe is the correct answer:
1. IMO you need custom sturdy cnc with high Z axis/200mm or more/ and fitted with extra 3D printer head. 1kg of material is cheap 15eu or a bit more and you put it where you need it, no waste here and there. Then you machine it where and when necessary. Note should be taken that it will never be perfect perfect, you will need to sand and possibly flame polish for industrial look.
The bad thing is that it could never be a production, just a way to make cheap prototype. The 3d print i mean. And it will take you a lot of time to learn both.

2. for starters- cnc + what you are doing till now . Instead just implement 3d paths so the curves are smooth. Or do it 2 pieces. Of course if you go with 2 or more pieces split, you will need jigs about each step of the process.

One thing you should understand though. What you aim to do will always be done better if you make one piece, perfect it as much as possible and then cast it from whatever resin. If you can not, then hire somebody to teach you and make you the mold. That will be cheapest and fastest.

Of course that depends on what people would pay money for, if the idea is to be done artistically and finished by hand or they would care only for the custom acoustics.

05-02-2015, 10:45 PM
Hi Simon,
Welcome to the forum. I followed your Tannoy builds a few years back on the Wam, very impressive work indeed.
I would imagine the horns will be a real challenge for any off the shelf 3 axis machine. Trying to make these in one piece and getting a cutting tool right down into the throat of the horn could be an issue. What sort of diameter are we looking at the bottom of the throat.

05-02-2015, 10:58 PM
Thanks Ian, the big Tannoy Autographs are such a grand sound and down to the design of the driver ultimately, there will be more to come there as we move forward with various plans. I am worried I am biting off more than I can chew as a novice to CNC but was hoping to take on these horns myself if at all possible, the throat is 3.81mm in diameter to suit the compression drive unit ajoining it. Obviously I cannot expect .1mm degree accuracy but was hoping have a dedicated machine for say 5 horns with a small amount of finishing involved.

05-02-2015, 11:25 PM
Really 3.81mm or should that be 38.1mm?

05-02-2015, 11:28 PM
Yes, sorry, 38.1. Vitavox S2 driver.

06-02-2015, 06:51 AM
So the company that you asked gave you the correct answer.

i would be inclined to cut this in 50mm stacks , inside first, flip it over and cut outside (have done this many times using locating pins on the table to locate the part)

the geometry of the face of the horn having that curve will make the last layer or two little challenging

if you do many parts of the same, then id be inclined to make a mould like silyavski suggests, proving that composite materials will work