The Big Think

March 6, 2007

Studio Construction

Filed under: Studio Construction — jasony @ 1:12 pm

I spent the last two days finishing the framing on the vocal booth in the studio. Since I’m a woodworker (and perfectionist) at heart I tend to build my framing to woodworking tolerances (1/16th of an inch) rather than framing tolerances (1/8″). Believe me, that’s a big difference. Instead of nailing the framing 2×4’s together with a framing nailer (which costs $200 or so), I came up with a way of building walls that allows me to build the wall in place. Basically, what I do is cut and assemble the 2×4 and 2×6 pieces into the wall shape standing in its final position. I use clamps to hold the pieces in place until I get everything aligned just right. Then I disassemble it a piece at a time and cut pocket holes in the ends of the main joists with my Kreg Jig (great tool). I then put the pieces back into position and screw them together with the pocket screws, carefully checking the alignment as I go. The process is: remove one stud, make pocket holes, replace stud, fasten with one pocket screw per end. Once the wall section is fairly stiff I can tilt it down without fear that it will get out of alignment. When it’s on the floor I use normal deck screws to fasten the whole thing together through the floor and ceiling 2×6’s(after drilling pilot holes for each screw… thank goodness I have two drills!). It’s actually better to do it this way than just banging away with a pneumatic nailgun. Why? Because I can unscrew the walls if I make a mistake. And believe me, I’ve made plenty. I’m sure the professional framers can do this much faster and more accurately, but I’ve made some oopsies that have resulted in my disassembling a whole wall. Remember, I’m not working off of a blueprint here, so my construction time is also partially design-on-the-fly.

Anyway, I framed up the funky sloped high walls, finished the attic space above the vocal booth, got the ceiling rafters in, and framed up the space for the attic door. And with that the booth framing is finished! It’s a room-within-a-room design. There are 2×6 footers and headers with 2×4 studs every 12 inches or so. Each alternate 2×4 is the stud for an opposing wall. This picture and short article describes it well. The idea is to achieve as near-total isolation of the inner and outer wall as possible. In principle it’s easy, but in practice it can be quite hard, especially since my vocal booth is built into the corner of the room and has three wall at odd angles (18 and 9 degrees) with a 24″ door cutting off the corner. Weird dimensions, but it was necessary so as not to take up too much of the main studio room (or not to make the vox booth seem like a casket when you’re in it). I’m very happy with the results. Heck, I could always unscrew the thing if I wanted to!
I’m most proud of the window framing I did. I plan on cutting a window into the solid core door I bought. I also decided to have another window in the side wall of the booth so that the talent can look out and see me at the computer (or so that I can use a wireless keyboard and mouse to control the computer while I record). In order to preserve the isolated inner/outer wall idea, the window has to be made up of two sheets of thick glass, and each pane must be built into its own isolated window frame. What this means is that, when you look through the window at the isolate frame (the part between the panes of glass), there will be a very small crack running the entire circumference of the frame. It’s basically TWO windows back to back but not touching. Add to this the fact that each pane of glass will be completely isolate with weatherstripping material and you have one very soundproof window.

Why do you need to do this? Well, if sound hits one window, it will vibrate the glass, transfer that vibration to the frame, and then vibrate the inner glass. Viola: sound transmission. If there is a gap in the frame then no sound vibrations can pass from one side to the other and very little sound is transferred. Why go to this trouble? Like I said, I’m a perfectionist.

A sound booth/studio is only as good as its weakest link and unfortunately I don’t have the means or resources to float the floor in the vocal booth. This means that there will still be some residual sound transfer because the studio proper shares the same floor joists and underlayment as the vocal booth. I’m going to put some sheetrock on the floor of the booth and top it with ply before the wood floor goes in, but that’s probably as far as I go. It just means that Erin can’t practice piano if I have a session, but that’s not a big deal.

The other big source of sound is the large window next to my desk. The large, cheap, single-pane window. I will be building an insulating window similar to this as part of this project, but that’s still a ways down the line. I got a quote for this kind of window several years ago when this madness was still a gleam in my eye. They wanted almost $800 for a custom window for my studio (the window frame has a curved top). Fortunately, I looked carefully at their demo models and I am confident that I can make something that’s almost as good for less than $100. Of course, it’ll take me forever, but that’s why I have a workshop. 🙂

Tomorrow: wiring up the electrical stuff and trying to lug a 4×8 sheet of 5/8″ sheetrock up the stairs. Wish my back luck.

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