Introduction: Autoglockenspiel

Picture of Autoglockenspiel

Inspirations / props where they are due:

So here is my version of a programmable music box / glockenspiel. I'm posting this more as proof that such things can be made, and to give ideas of one way to do it. If you are looking for detailed plans, I'm afraid there are none. I used no plans to make this, except those I made as I went along-- Build a piece, figure out what the next piece would need to look like and build it, then figure out what the next piece would look like. If I started over I bet I could make a much better device by improving on this design. But other projects beckon, as always.

News: There is an outfit exploring producing Autoglockenspiel kits based on this design. Click here to show your interest if you think you might like a kit.

Step 1: What I Used

Picture of What I Used


  • Bandsaw
  • Spindle sander
  • Band sander
  • Disk sander
  • Drill press
  • Forstner bits. Get some.
  • Countersink bit.


Oak Ridge Boys, "The Oak Ridge Boys Have Arrived"

Other supplies:

  • A toy xylophone. Got mine for $14 on Amazon. Hohner makes toys that are actually in tune, which I read is not the case with other brands. When you deconstruct the glockenspiel save the rubber feet that hold your metal bars, since they really help the sound.
  • Scrap wood. Primarily walnut, I think. Some is cherry. Some is hickory.I get a box of scraps from a local furniture factory every so often and just burn through it until I need more.
  • Rubber cement to hold on the rubber feet for the notes.
  • Spray adhesive to adhere paper plans to wood.
  • Wood glue.
  • Drywall screws. Black and grippy.
  • Dowel rods. Lots of dowel rods.
  • Metal washers to fit your various axles
  • Howard Feed-n-Wax beeswax with orange oil


Step 2: Making the Drum

Picture of Making the Drum

I had one good board of what was probably walnut. This defined the maximum length of the drum. I set the tablesaw to 22.5' and cut 8 staves of equal length, used the disk sander to true them up, and glued together 2 at a time. Since this is a low-stress project I didn't worry about things like tricky joints, just glue. Once I had the octagonal tube, I just rounded it off with the disk sander until it was mostly cylindrical. Exactitude ain't necessary since the drill press will set each pin to the same depth relative to the drum axis.

The octagonal end plates helped true up the gluing.

As for drilling the holes, you can see where I traced (mostly) parallel lines 1cm apart circumferentially, then 4 lines per stave longitudinally. I mounted the drum in its frame so it would rest on the center axis, then used a drill press to drill holes a set distance toward the center of the drum. It was not ideal, and some ended up off center, but again, this was meant to be a low-stress project. If I did it all again I would have made a jig to assure all holes were spaced regularly.

I laid out the gears with, then printed them and glued to some cheap plywood and cut on the bandsaw. I always use plywood for gears, since the alternating grain direction provides strength in multiple directions where single-ply wood is strong across but not with the grain.

Step 3: Making the Hammers

Picture of Making the Hammers

Since my xylophone is longer than the wood available to make the drum, my hammer tongs needed to splay out from the drum. If you can avoid this step by using wood the same length as your xylophone, do it!

I've included the Inkscape file I printed out and glued to wood guide cutting the pieces. The arms are 3mm birch ply and the hammer and axle are 1cm cherry scrap.

Step 4: Other Pieces

Picture of Other Pieces

This stuff had no plans, I just made them to fit the drum and hammers. There's a base to support the xylophone, a bar to support the hammers so they only hit the notes once rather than bounce, and a crank for the gear.

The pins were just cut from dowel rods, sanded on the ends, and slotted to make insertion easier. I also sanded little notches with the spindle sander to make them easier to grasp when pulling out.

Step 5: Finished Item

Picture of Finished Item

Here you see the amazing effect of rubbing with beeswax, before and after.

My kids love playing with it, though as with all kids their primary interest is in how fast they can turn the crank until it breaks. Fortunately it has withstood their efforts so far.

Incidentally, I also made plans for a laser-cut version, but have no laser cutter to do it on (I know, got that one backwards). If you do, and would be willing to cut me one for free, I will send you the plans. Cheers.


FlishS (author)2015-11-02


olgerongo (author)2015-05-17

Yes - I made it! thank you Patrick for the nice work and the sketchup
plans! Greetings from Berlin - Folker All Acrylic Laser cut. Works
fine! All was I need is a XYLOPHONE :D

Zippityboomba (author)olgerongo2015-05-19

This is great. I imagined it in birch plywood, but the acrylic makes it look like art. How long did it take to run the cutter? With materials and cutter time, I wonder how much you'd need to charge to sell at a profit.
Great build!

binaryben (author)Zippityboomba2015-05-25

What you have made is already art Zippityboomba. No need to stress about which material to use for it to be considered as such! :)

olgerongo (author)2015-05-24
ChrisS28 (author)2015-05-07

I too would buy these in either kit or (more likely) file form to then have 3d printed myself

NathanSellers (author)2015-04-21

Congrats on the win! I told you you had a good chance of winning it. Such a cool project.

congratulations, I feel very happy for your winning... Because, i think u r post is the first post in this contest. Its very amazing, on see this i feel what are the other instruments we able to automate like this. And also if we did in a long chain then almost a song is able play in this one. Very very superb idea... best wishes.

Zippityboomba (author)2015-04-20

Thanks to everyone who voted for me, and congratulations to the other winners.

Barbara Pevafersa (author)2015-03-18

Great glockenspiel, and it's auto, how amazing!

JWDIYguy (author)2015-03-17

A fascinating piece of technology!

They used to (might still) use this technology for mechanical looms.

This is basically the precursor of record players and CDs! They all function upon the basic principle of ones and zeroes; peg or no peg. For more information and to compare and contrast all these forms of recording music go to:

Awesome instructable!

sarahhanahghan (author)2015-02-23

Excellent, i've got an old toy xylophone in the cupboard, i might try this

1up Living (author)2015-02-21

This is ace! Like a rotary step sequencer!

twilightfox (author)2015-02-21

You need to play Freddy's song

heathbar64 (author)2015-02-21

This is the coolest thing EVER! Now if you could make a clock weight motor to run it.......

fsteff (author)2015-02-20

You could sell those. My kids would love one!!! Great project.

zyll (author)2015-02-20

You might want to think about a springy surface, like felt, for the arms to land on so that the mallets don't continually rest on the bars and deaden the notes as they're struck. The action overcomes the spring, strikes the bar, then springs up just enough to allow the note to sustain. Awesome project!

Zippityboomba (author)zyll2015-02-20

Came to the same solution myself, though you can't see it in the pictures. Due to imperfections in the hammers even the felt has to be "tuned". Some felt needs to be crushed with pliers to lower the hammer, while some needs to be roughed up with a knife to raise the hammer.

Kycie (author)2015-02-17

wow would really like to see the laser cut version, as we've just got a laser cutter

Zippityboomba (author)Kycie2015-02-17

Check out the image just added to the last page!

Kycie (author)Zippityboomba2015-02-19

Where are you in the world, I'm UK,, would you be willing to sell the laser plans?

DarkDecko (author)2015-02-19

At least you don't have to buy a really expensive one at the store plus you can make your own tunes

jbarrington3 (author)2015-02-19

WOW!!! This project is just what I have been looking for! Thanks so much for posting! Now I just have to find instructions on how to make a coo-coo clock type bird to sing. Got any ideas? LOL Thanks again for THIS instructable it has saved me MANY hours of googling. Warm Smiles to you!

Motta (author)2015-02-18

This is awesome and well timed for this generation! Let's make kids stop wasting time behind a smartphone screen and instead make them code (with music)!

UncleEd (author)2015-02-17

When I saw this, my first thought was the history of the mechanism. Automatic chiming bell towers were the first programmable machines, dating back to the 1600s. The placement of the pegs, just as you have in your player, actuated the chimes. There is a picture of one from 1659 at

Well done!

Zippityboomba (author)UncleEd2015-02-17

So, uh, you're saying there's prior art invalidating my patent troll dreams by 300+ years? Curse the Dutch.

Seriously, that's a cool video.

UncleEd (author)Zippityboomba2015-02-18

Good job. You got Morgan's Maxim to Poe's Law (see Wikipedia) nailed big time.

brucecannon (author)2015-02-17

Sweet! Is there video of it playing?

If the video appears as a photo, paste these links in your browser:



Thanks! How'd you know all I saw was a pic? :). Even better than I thought it would sound!

ninepound (author)2015-02-17

Hey zippity, I'd be happy to laser and mail you a set if you'd like, this is too cool.

Zippityboomba (author)ninepound2015-02-17

That'd be fantastic. I've added a picture of the laser version to the end of the instructable. It needs some adjustment before cutting. Do you know the exact kerf you are getting (or how much you are adding to get tight tongue-in-groove joints), and the mean thickness of the boards you have access to? The current version is designed for 6.4mm mostly.

ninepound (author)Zippityboomba2015-02-18

Sadly it's not showing up for me for some reason.. Entirely possibly because I'm on mobile. I'll check tomorrow after work. And I'm pretty sure it's 6mm nominal, I'll double-check with the calipers tomorrow though. If I need to make some manual adjustments in inkscape that's no trouble at all, I'm sad to say I don't know my way around sketchup yet.

cprosser1 (author)2015-02-14

This is a great idea and you instructable is good the only thing I would like is a cutting list to make it easier to follow, I'm going to make one for my son thanks

Zippityboomba (author)cprosser12015-02-17

I'd like to help, but as it had no real plans...

Do you want to see it disassembled?

ProphetMargin (author)2015-02-17

Great project! Lee Valley sells xylophone kits in 13 and 25 bars.,250,43313,63477

25 bars.

Could be great for a laser cut version.


Bverysharp (author)2015-02-17

Nice build. well done!

e-beth (author)2015-02-17

Video please!

Zippityboomba (author) e-beth2015-02-17

There are 2 videos at the start of the post, but I noticed that on my mobile phone they appear as photos. If that is the case, try these links:

johsou (author)2015-02-17

excellent, and fun

MootScience (author)2015-02-17

This makes me smile.

robin isan (author)2015-02-17

This is a beautiful thing!

spikec (author)2015-02-17

When I first started reading I was thinking "what cool thing to make for little kids with your CNC machine." The fact this was done by hand with no plans makes this an exceptional project, imho. Awesome, awesome job!

Instructadam (author)2015-02-16


Antzy Carmasaic (author)2015-02-16

Bring back childhood memories of opening up a few toys to find this mechanism inside...

JON-A-TRON (author)2015-02-15

Well done!

adamwatters (author)2015-02-15

This is the best! You have my vote

vegatek (author)2015-02-14

It will be a source of joy for many years!

Give us some tips on how to drill the holes for the pegs

Thank you

Zippityboomba (author)vegatek2015-02-14

I just added a paragraph on the holes. I would not even attempt this without a drill press so you get reproducible depth and angle to your holes.

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