Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Making Tunable Tubular Wind Chimes

If you want to make a really personal gift for someone or create something special that will give your garden or porch your own personal flavor. Really pretty wind chimes can be really expensive to buy, but they can be really affordable to make yourself and it doesn't take a whole lot of special skills. If you can handle a drill, tie a knot or operate a saw, then this project should be a breeze!

You can build your chimes out of anything tubular. Even solid hardwood can make a lovely sound, like marimbas. You can also make your wind chimes out of tubular metal, bamboo or even plastic - virtually anything that makes a musical sound when struck by metal or wood. You can even tune your chimes to play the notes of your favorite tune - not necessarily in order, but enough that when the wind blows, you'll almost recognize the music. It's really quite fascinating to here the sound.

Tools You Need:
  • Drill and bits
  • Saber Saw, table saw, band saw, radial arm saw or any saw that can cut the material you are working with and wood. You'll need the right blades, of course.
  • Electronic keyboard (if you are tuning the chimes)
  • A roll heavy of 80 pound monofilament or multi-filament fishing line.
  • Tubing that sounds pretty when struck (metal, glass, wood, plastic, bamboo, etc.)
  • Nylon cord
  • Small boat hook for hanging the chimes
  • 1/2" hardwood board - enough to make a 6 to 8 inch disk.
  • Sander and sandpaper
  • Oil stain (wipe-on)
  • Varnish/polyurethane
  • Brush and paint thinner
  • 3/16 hardwood - 2-1/2 inches by 6 inches 
  • Five small eyelet screws
  • Medium sized hook

Step 1:
Mark off a six to eight inch circle on the half inch plywood. Cut the circle out with a saber saw or band saw.

Step 2:
Sand the edges of the disk, top and bottom rounding all the edges. If you have a router, you can do some fancy edgework.

Step 3:
Draw a 3-1/4 inch circle in the center of the half inch wood circle you just cut and cut it out leaving the circle a donut. Sand the edges round and smooth. Sand the 3-1/4 inch circle's edges smooth and drill a small hole in the center.

Step 4:
Drill a pair of 1/16th inch holes 3/4" apart halfway between the inner edge of the donut shaped disk and the outer edge. Space other pairs of holes so that there are a total of six pairs or holes, each 1/6th of the way around the disk from each other.

Step 5:
Cut the tubes. Stagger the lengths for visual effect or, if you are tuning them, cut each tube to whatever length gives you the note you want. You can do this by using an electronic keyboard or piano to sound the notes as you gradually cut down the chiming tubes. Cut the tube so that the note is a little lower than the note you are going for.

Step 6:
Next drill small holes large enough for the monofilament line to pass through the tube very near the top. Suspend the tube by running a foot of line through the holes so that the tube swings freely when struck. 

Step 7:
Then, gradually shave off the other end of the tube a bit at a time till the tube  sounds the note you want when struck. You can tune the tubes to a chord or to a six note sequence. I know a friend who tuned his notes to the opening of the Harry Potter theme. In a wind it plays variations on that theme and it's quite lovely. Set the keyboard to a chime that sounds close to the material used in the chime.

Step 8:
When finished making the chimes, tie the tubes through the pairs of holes in the O-ring and tie them off. Drill four small holes evenly spaced in the top of the donut and screw in four eyelet screws.

Step 9:
Run nylon cord from the top eyelets in the donut together about 8 to12 inches above the donut and tie them to the boathook. Now you can suspend the donut and the chimes and it will be easier to work with.

Step 10:
Tie a single cord to the boathook and let it run through the center of the donut down through the center of the chimes. Cut it off about a foot below the longest chime.

Step 11:
Drill a hole through the center of the 3-1/2" wooden disk large enough to accommodate the nylon cord. Thread the cord through the disk and tie a knot below it so that it hangs just above the bottom of the shortest chime so that the cord swings freely and the wooden disk striker swings equidistant between all of the chimes.

Step 12:
Drill a hole in the 2-1/2 by 6 inch 3/16 inch hardwood board near one narrow end. Attach the paddle about 6 or 8 inches below the sounder. This paddle will catch the wind and knock the sounder against the chimes when it catches the wind.

Step 13:
Stain and varnish all the wooden parts and hang your chime in a place where it can catch the wind. If you didn't get the chimes perfect they'll still sound good. If you did get them tuned right, the sound will be amazing.