Picture of Kids' Toy Xylophone
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.
AJMansfield2 years ago
It looks great. I want one of these :D