DIY Acoustic Panels
Having purchased a pack of 16 two-inch acoustic tiles I was faced with the problem of mounting them on a wall without leaving any marks, in other words without using pins, nails, screws or glue.
After careful consideration, I came up with the idea of gluing four of the 300x300mm foam tiles to a piece of plywood, which could then be propped against a wall. Thin plywood, and therefore relatively cheap, should do the job, and provided the grain of the wood runs vertically it should be stiff enough not to bend when put into position.
I bought a large sheet of 3.5mm plywood and had the shop cut it to size. Before gluing the tiles I put the plywood in position behind my studio monitors. As expected it didn’t bend, but the wood was warped, only slightly, but enough to be unstable – and unsightly. There was little point in buying a replacement piece of wood in the hope that it wouldn’t be warped, or wouldn’t warp in the future, and thicker plywood could prove hazardous to other equipment if it fell over. The best solution would be to stiffen thin plywood in some way.
The illustration left shows the final design (made using the free Google 3D design program Sketch-Up). I glued 9x15mm wood onto the plywood base to make three sides of a pseudo picture frame, and put a 30x15mm frame member at the bottom. This was to add clearance when mounted at the back of my desk, but also added a significant amount of stiffening. The original plywood I bought was too small so I needed to buy a slightly larger piece. The wood I chose was only 2.5mm thick, and had a clean smooth white plastic finish on one side. This would be the side that rests against the wall, guaranteeing that no marks would be left.
After carefully measuring and cutting the frame members, everything was glued into position. Since no pins or screws were used, I had to rely on clamps to hold everything in place until the glue set. Someone once told me that you can never have too many clamps, and this is certainly true. In fact I bought two more clamps to add to my collection when I constructed the second acoustic panel.
I painted the edges dark grey, to blend in with the colour of the tiles, using a brush. However, when the first coat of paint dried the brush strokes were clearly visible. Consequently I sanded the wood and then repainted it using spray paint, having first carefully masked the parts that didn’t need painting with newspaper and masking tape.
I freely admit that painting is not one of my strong points, and never has been, but I know when using spray paint to apply many thin coats, leaving time for each to dry before applying the next. This takes patience, but the results are worth it.
At this point I started to have second thoughts about my choice of finish. Was the grey border going to blend with the dark oak in my studio? Fortunately it didn’t need to. It blended with the grey foam tiles, and that was enough.
The final step was to glue the four foam tiles onto the base. I used contact adhesive, testing it on just one tile first to make sure the glue was effective. It was. To make sure the adhesive I put on the tiles lined up with the adhesive I put on the wood, I made a simple template from a sheet of cardboard, with equally spaced holes for the glue to pass through (see the picture below).
The finished product is sturdy, light and mobile, and could easily be supported from a single picture hook if you don’t mind putting a nail into your wall. Pictured below is the panel propped against a wall. The bottom of the panel rests on two brackets that extend from the underside of the desk.
Although the actual construction time is short, maybe just a couple of hours to cut, align, and glue the wood, the whole job takes at least three or four days when you factor in waiting for the glue and paint to dry.
I estimate the total cost for the project to be around the £20 mark (for a set of two). This includes the timber and glue, but not the acoustic tiles.