How to Make a Retro-Looking Bluetooth Speaker Using an Old Intercom

We turned an old wall intercom found in the Brady Bunch house into a new Bluetooth speaker. Get inspired to combine your own vintage electronics with the latest wireless technology.

August 30, 2019

Host Dylan Eastman works on the Bluetooth Speaker project,as seen on Sunshine Upcycle

Photo by: Melissa Libertelli

Melissa Libertelli

To make this mid-mod style sound system, we salvaged the face of a built-in intercom system then built a wood box around it to house a set of wireless speakers and an amplifier. If you don't have an intercom, a free-standing radio could also be retrofitted with the latest sound technology.

Materials and tools for the Bluetooth Speaker project, as seen on Sunshine Upcycle

Photo by: Melissa Libertelli

Melissa Libertelli

Tools and Materials

  • old intercom front panel
  • speakers - 4 to 8 ohm
  • speaker wire
  • wire stripper and crimper
  • Bluetooth amplifier
  • 4’ of new or salvaged 1x8 wood
  • (4) salvaged cabinet knobs for the feet
  • 1/4 plywood
  • clear polyurethane or stain
  • table saw
  • miter saw
  • router
  • drill
  • hole-saw bit
  • orbital sander
  • jigsaw
  • corner clamps

Step 1: Prep Upcycled Pieces

Materials being upcycled for the Bluetooth Speaker project, as seen on Sunshine Upcycle

Photo by: Melissa Libertelli

Melissa Libertelli

Remove the intercom from the wall. They're usually held in place by a few screws. If the system is still powered, have a licensed electrician disconnect the power first. Remove the old wiring from the back and also remove the control board. Be sure to retain the knobs and accessories — even if they're not functional, they can still look cool.

Step 2: Determine Speaker Size and Placement

Measure the speaker size and determine if a modern speaker will fit in the existing location. Most intercom systems use line-voltage speakers, so it is unlikely you can reuse the existing speaker. For our project, we decided to use two new speakers which means we will have to make a new mounting plate to hold them in place.

Step 3: Trace Mounting Plate Shape

For our project, two 3.5” speakers are being installed in the former location of a 5” x 7” oval speaker, so we created a mounting plate for the new speakers using 1/4” plywood. Use the old speaker as a template for the mounting plate. Trace the shape of the new speakers and their mounting holes. Also, trace the old speaker’s mounting holes – it’s easiest to use the existing speaker mounting points (screw holes). If you’re using a hole-saw bit to cut the speaker opening, trace that placement as well.

Step 4: Cut Mounting Plate

Use a hole-saw bit to cut out the holes for the speaker. You can also drill a hole and use a jigsaw to create the speaker holes. Use a jigsaw to cut out the entire mounting plate.

Step 5: Drill Mounting Holes

Drill the holes for the speaker mounting plate to attach it to the intercom faceplate. Test that the holes line up to the old speaker's original mounting screws. Remove the mounting plate from the intercom faceplate so you can install the speakers.

Step 6: Attach Speakers to Plate

Test fit that the speakers fit in the holes, then fasten them to the mounting plate with short wood screws or bolts.

Step 7: Build Wood Frame

Measure the height and width of the faceplate. Miter cut four pieces of 1x8 wood so that the short ends match the height and width of the faceplate. We used a more advanced method 45-degree router corner for aesthetics, but that is completely optional. Use a table saw to cut a 1/8” groove in all four sides of the wood to hold the faceplate upright. Make the groove 1/2” to 3/4” from the edge so the faceplate will be slightly inset.

Step 8: Test Fit Frame

Double-check that all four sides fit together and that the faceplate lines up in the grooves.

Step 9: Add Feet

We used four old cabinet knobs (also from the Brady house) for the feet on the bottom of the speaker box. If you're using upcycled knobs, the trickiest thing is to make sure the screws are long enough to go all the way through the wood. Drill the holes and then insert the screws and tighten the knobs.

Step 10: Determine Amp Placement

We chose to showcase the vacuum tubes on our amplifier by having them peek through the top of the unit. To do that, measure the size of the tube openings (ours was 1"). Mark the placement on the top panel and at the same time mark the placement of the amp on the side panel.

Step 11: Cut Holes for Amp

Use a hole-saw jig to make the cuts for the tube holes. To give the hole a beveled edge, we used a router to angle the holes inward. Then use a jigsaw to cut the side panel where the front of the amp will sit. For our project, the lip of the amp held it upright within the box; you may need to create a support bracket for yours.

Step 12: Assemble Box Frame

Test fit the frame with the amp in place. When you've got a perfect fit, remove the amp and assemble the box using wood glue. Square up all four sides of the box using corner clamps or a jig. Remember, a little wood glue goes a long way and it's no fun cleaning excess glue off of sealed wood. Sand the exterior of the box with 220-grit sandpaper and then stain or apply a clear coat of polyurethane depending on the look you want.

Step 13: Wire Amp to Speakers

Wire the amp to the speakers. Start by hooking up the speakers to each channel with 18-gauge speaker wire and crimped ring terminals. Make sure you keep the +/- channels consistent, otherwise the speakers will cancel each other out.

Step 14: Make Back Plate

Cut a piece of 1/4” plywood to the size of the back of the box. Drill a hole in the plywood for the power cord. Cut two small blocks of wood to use as a stop that will hold the back piece in place. Run the power cord through the backplate, then fasten the plywood to the stop blocks using a couple of screws.

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