In building this cajon, i had hoped to make an instrument that was a little bigger, a little bassier, and generally more burly than the standard cajon. I was worried about passing some point of diminishing return by enlarging the cajon without having adequate knowledge to simultaneously tweak other factors in the design (thickness of the front, shape of the box, size of the hole, etc), but i think it worked very well. The tapa of the cajon presented by Ocaña is about 12.5" by 18". This tapa is about 14" by 21", with the other measurements similarly scaled. This increases the internal volume by a factor of about 1.4 or more, which is no kinda small potatoes.
Another unusual feature of this cajon is that i made a hinged door on the back. To avoid impacting the kick sound too much, i designed it to seal well, and to stay closed with significant force (as opposed to a simple latch.) Since it was the first cajon i made, i knew that i would be inside it a lot, adjusting things, installing new gadgets, etc, so it was worth it to me (even though the door took a large percentage of the total construction time.) The risk is that the bass sound would suffer; instructions i read from Ocaña and others make a big deal about how well the box is sealed, glued, etc, and certainly such a door compromises that issue. My feeling is that my seal is not so great, but the bass sound is very good. I may add a second layer of bicycle rubber to make it a tighter seal, or replace the sealing material altogether, but it already sounds much better than store-bought cajones.
What i would do differently next time:
- Perhaps make the hole a bit smaller (closer to the "normal" size holes on cajones)
- Perhaps not include a door
- I haven't played enough professionally-made cajones to know, but i'd consider making a "regular-sized" cajon instead - there may be a reason they are smaller, but then again, it may just be their traditional place as either solo or ensemble instruments in a particular culture and genre.
- I would consider a solid-wood tapa (see Wood and Frame discussion).
- I would put the hole in the traditional upper-back location, rather than the side (see the section on the hole, below, for more.
- I would use a different snare design (see snare section for ample discussion).
- I would invest in some clamps, for god's sake.
- Just as a note: salvaged and reused materials could easily be used in this project!