How to build your own plans for a cajon drum

Written by ryan dunn
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How to build your own plans for a cajon drum
(vintage notebook and pencil #2 image by Adam Borkowski from

In recent years, cajon (pronounced ca-HONE) drums--also called "box drums"--have gained in popularity. Though cajons were originally developed for flamenco-style music, percussionists have begun adapting the cajon for a wide range of musical genres--from acoustic rock to big band music. Cajons are highly adaptable, quite easy to play, and are fairly simple to assemble. With a few clear ideas about the future use of the cajon, some typical hardware and tools, and a few pieces of plywood--a percussionist can create a great sounding cajon.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Graph paper
  • Pencil

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  1. 1

    List the items needed for the cajon. In essence, you will assemble a simple, rectangular box with six pieces of wood. The top and bottom pieces are of equal length and width. The two side pieces are also of equal length and width. The front striking head and back piece will fit into the frame of the assembled top, bottom and side pieces, and need to fit accordingly.

  2. 2

    Add the wood to your list. Many cajon drums are made from plywood. The larger the drum, the larger the sound. So if the cajon will be used in a large band, add larger-sized wood. Use sturdy enough wood to support the weight of the drummer, as he will sit on the drum to play it. However, the front piece--or striking head--can be a thinner piece of wood. The thinner the striking head, the more resonant the sound of the drum will be.

  3. 3

    Add hardware to the list. In the simplest plans, the top and bottom pieces are glued to the side pieces. The back piece is glued to the frame. The striking head is screwed onto the frame using small wood screws. These screws can then be adjusted to change the pitch of the drum.

  4. 4

    Add snares to your list. Traditional flamenco-style cajon drums usually are simply hollow boxes. But cajon drums adapted for rock and roll and other musical styles often use wires attached to the back side of the striking head. The wires give the drum a distinct rattle reminiscent of a snare drum. Snare drum snares or guitar strings are often used as snares in cajons.

  5. 5

    Draw the sides of the cajon on the graph paper. These are the two supporting sides of the box, and should be of equal length and depth.

  6. 6

    Draw the top and bottom pieces on the graph paper. In the simplest designs, the top and bottom pieces fit squarely on top of and below the side pieces, respectively.

  7. 7

    Draw the front and back pieces. These will fit over the two sides, as well as the top and bottom pieces, so take into account the width of the wood you will use when determining the exact measurements. The back piece needs a port--which is a circular hole cut in the wood. This allows air to escape the drum and gives it a fuller sound, instead of just a "thud." Different size ports will change the acoustics of the drum. Start small, and you can expand the port as you assemble the drum to develop a sound to your liking.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep in mind that the proper playing position requires the drummer to sit on top of the cajon and strike the drum between her legs--so keep the size of the drum reasonable.

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