My wife and I are expecting, so I'm making some toys. Sure, you can buy good toys easily and cheaply, but homemade ones, especially wooden ones, have much nicer feel and more meaning. And besides they're just fun to make. 

We bought a cheapo wooden xylophone from Target and the pitch of every single bar was off -- and we're not talking off by a little bit, we're talking off by full pitch steps in random directions. So I set about making my own. I made it at TechShop San Jose (www.techshop.ws) with my wife. It was both of our first time in the woodshop, so I can guarantee this is easy to make, and it took ~2-3 hours but it would take an experienced hand less time.

TOOLS NEEDED: We only used:
1) Bandsaw
2) Belt sander
3) Drill press
However certainly some of the steps would be better to do on better designed tools (e.g. the first cutting step may be better on a table saw but we couldn't get the fence close enough to the blade, so ended up using the bandsaw).


* Two 1 inch square, 3ft long rods of a hardwood. If you can get it in rectangular cross-section that is about twice as wide as it is thick, then you can skip the first step, where I cut the square bar to make two rectangular bars.
Note: Use the hardest wood available. We used poplar, which is harder than pine but not amazingly hard. It's good enough though. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janka_Wood_hardness_rating. Harder woods makes the sound ring out for longer, which is why metal "xylophones" (actually metallophones, since "xylo" means wood) ring out for longer than wood.
Note 2: You'll notice the frame wood is redder than the wood that makes up the xylophone bars. In reality we were going to make the whole thing out of poplar but then found some scrap redwood the right size, so decided to use two different woods for the contrast.

* Wooden pegs. You can either get pegs shaped like the one in the photo, that look kind of like a nail, or get wooden dowel and make your own (by attaching a wooden ball to the end of a dowel, for instance). You can get the pegs shown from a hardware store. The ones we used had a shaft of about 3/16" and shaft length of about 3/4".
Note: Alternatively you can suspend the blocks on strings or rubber bands as described later. We used pegs because we wanted something robust for young children to throw around without the bars falling out.

* A wooden dowel and wooden ball to make the mallet. Really any size will do. We used 3/16" dowel about 8" long and a 3/4" diameter wooden ball. Drill a hole in the ball, put some glue in the hole and put the dowel in it, and you're done. See the third photo above.

OK next we make the xylophone itself.

Step 1: Making the bars

OK, so we have already made the mallet in the previous step. Now on to the xylophone.

Cut the square-cross-section wood lengthwise to make two rectangular cross-sections. We cut each 3ft length lengthwise. One of these 3ft lengths is shown in the photo after we cut it. Just make sure you make the two sides as evenly thick as possible, so your pitches are on. You'll be tuning it later anyway but you should still try to do it to make life easy for yourself.

We used the bandsaw with a fence to keep it the same thickness all the way along. See photo. Then we sanded on the cut side. We were left with two rectangular bars per starting square piece.

Next you cut the bars to length. 

Get the lengths from the .xlsx file here: davidnhutch.com/files/keep/XylophoneLengths.xlsx. I found some xylophone bar length calculators online (link is in the .xlsx file), and used that as a starting point for the Excel file. Basically, you input the total length of rectangular bar you have available and it will tell you how to cut 8 bars that use that length, making an octave of musical notes. These won't be perfect so we will tune them later, but you should try to cut them as accurately as possible anyway.

* Larger bars are better. Larger bars ring longer, make better sound, are easier to tune (because shaving a few mm off a larger bar does little while shaving the same amount off a smaller bar does a lot). However you don't want to go too large otherwise: (1) your wood may be warped and this will show for longer bars, (2) It may be too big for use by small kids, (3) Many of the wavelengths of sound may be below human hearing. I recommend keeping the bars less than 12" long, and for a small kids' xylophone a longest bar of around 7" is fine.

OK now you have your bars cut. Drill holes that are 1/4 and 3/4 of the way along the bar as shown. The holes should be much bigger than the shaft of your pegs (perhaps 1.5 times larger diameter), because the bars need to be able to freely move.

Next we will make the frame, then the suspension padding, then assemble it and we're done.
<a href="http://makeamarimba.com/" rel="nofollow">http://makeamarimba.com/</a>
It looks great. I want one of these :D

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