The Minty Kalimba





Introduction: The Minty Kalimba

About: I become obsessed really easily, so weekend projects are the perfect thing for me! Once I start, I can't stop. I LOVE TINKERING!
My quest for the perfect portable musical instrument has led me to attempt my own creation. Over the years I have indulged myself with the likes of harmonicas, kazoos, and ukuleles in pursuit of the tiny and versatile. Thus I have created a new addition to my portable, quirky, arsenal of sound... The Minty Kalimba.

Due to the obsession of the Instructable community with the deliciously designed Altoids tin, naturally, I incorporated one in the construction of the Kalimba.

Check out the video right down here to see how it sounds! Sorry for the awful visual quality. I think you'll get the idea regardless:

Step 1: Materials

The whole project shouldn't cost much more than the price of a tin of Altoids. I just improvised in terms of materials and you may find that you have some stuff lying around the house that would work better than what I used.

You'll need:

1 x Altoids Tin
~1/2 foot of 1/8th inch Steel Bar
1x 1.75" Length of 3/8" Brass Tube
1 x old/broken Rake you are willing to mutilate
2 x 1 inch Machine Screws with nuts and washers (Look around and see what you have)
1 x Inquisitive Mind

OPTIONAL (to make electric):

1 Small Piezoelectric Buzzer from RadioShack
1 1/4" Audio Input Socket

Step 2: Making the Keys

Okay, so you have your old Rake in hand. Now, were going to try and destroy as little of this Rake as possible, so you won't drown in dead leaves next Autumn.

Step 1:

Cut the outermost finger of the Rake off at the base. I used a hacksaw, but you might be able to use some heavy duty tin snips if you don't have a saw.

Step 2:

Cut the single Rake finger into four, equally lengthed sections. The length I used was the exact distance between the sides of the gold border on the tin. The approximate length is 3 1/4".

Step 3:

Remove any paint or rust from the Rake sections. I did this by soaking the keys in nail polish remover for a couple hours because I didn't have any turpentine on hand. This step is more for aesthetic purposes than anything.

Step 4:

Using a bench grinder, or hand held grinder, round, and dull the end of the key you will be playing with your thumbs. It might be a good idea to dull the other side too in order to reduce the risk of cutting yourself on the jagged edge.

Now you have the keys for the Kalimba!

Step 3: Preparing the Tin

Step 1:

Eat all the mints in the box. Now take some Peptobismal because your stomach is killing you.

Step 2:

You have to drill two holes in the lid of the tin for the machine screws to pass through. The holes should be spaced as follows:

1st hole- 3/4" from the bottom side of the tin and 5/8" over from the left side of the tin.
2nd hole- 3/4" from the top side of the tin and 5/8" over from the left side of the tin.

The holes should be a tiny bit wider than the machine screws you are using.

Step 4: Making the Key Vice

The vice is the part of the Kalimba that connects the keys to the resonating box (the tin). The way it is constructed allows for unobstructed vibration of the keys and thus SOUND.

Step 1:

Using a hacksaw or coldsaw, cut two 1 3/4" lengths of the 1/8" round bar.

Step 2:

Now, cut a 1 3/4" length of the 3/8" brass tube.

Step 3:

Place your cut 3/8" tube in a vice or clamp it down some other way. It's time to drill the two holes in the tube for the machine screws. Drill straight down through the tube. The middle of both holes should be exactly 1/2" away from each end of the tube. This allows for even spacing of the keys (two in between the screws and two on the outside of the screws). Make sure the drill bit you use is a little bit wider than the machine screws you are using so that you don't have to force the screws through. This is all approximate so make sure that the holes you drill in the tube line up with the holes you drilled in the lid of the tin.

Step 5: Putting the Whole Thing Together!

Now that you have all your parts made (keys, tin with holes, and vice) you can finally put the whole thing together and hear what it sounds like. It may take a bit of fiddling in order to make it so all the the pieces fit together snuggly.

Step 1:

Put together the top rod and machine screws. Thread the machine screws through both the holes in the 3/8" brass tube and the holes in the tin itself. Put on the washers underneath the tin and then put on the nuts. Keep the whole part as loose as possible because we'll need to have room for the keys and the 1/8" rod underneath this component.

Step 2:

Sit the two 1/8" rods about half an inch apart from each other, equadistant from the holes in the tin.

Step 3:

Tighten the machine screws until the top tube is about a quarter of an inch above the bottom two bars.

Step 4:

Slide the ends of the keys into the space between the bars. This is the part that requires a bit of fiddling in order to make sure everything is square. This is the time to figure out what notes you want your keys to have. The note played all depends on the length of the key. The longer the key, the lower the note and vice versa. Before you tighten the vice completely you can slide the keys in and out to change the pitch.

Step 5:

Tighten the screws until the keys are firmly locked in place.

Step 6: ELECTRIFYING!!!!!!!

You'll notice that your shiny new Altoids Tin Kalimba isn't very loud. We can fix that and it'll only cost you a couple of bucks.

Step 1:

You'll need to drill two more holes in your tin. The first one is for the 1/4" Audio socket. I decided to put it at the playing end of the Kalimba. So drill a 3/8" hole in the middle of the short side of the tin.

Step 2:

Drill a hole exactly opposite the hole just made on the other side of the tin. This will be where you put your On/Off switch. The size of your hole depends on how big the switch you have is. Mine fit through the 1/8" hole I drilled in the side.

Step 3:

Push the threaded part of both the switch and the Audio Input through their respective holes from the inside of the tin. Now screw on the nuts that came with either on so that the walls of the tin are sandwiched between the parts and the nuts.

Step 4:

Get out your soldering iron and that wire you collected. Now take the piezoelectric buzzer you got and solder the red wire to one of the legs on the Audio Input. Be care not to wire it to the ground (the leg that doesn't look like the other two). Now solder the black wire on the buzzer to the middle leg of the switch. Then, cut a shortish length of wire and solder one end to the other leg on the Audio Input and solder the other end onto one of the outside legs on the switch.

Step 5:

Tape the buzzer to the inside of the tin facing upwards. Close the tin. Plug into any amplifier via 1/4" cable and presto, you are rockin out on an electric Kalimba!!!!! Enjoy!

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56 Discussions

very cool i love it! but may i ask how many nuts and washer i need for this? thanks so much!

Awesome Instructable! Thank you!

do they sell altoids in england, was it your idea and do you mind if i use this to make an intructable?

10 replies

1st question: Unfortunatly they don't sell Altoids in England. I've read a few complaints about that travesty. 2nd question: As far as I know, it was my idea. I'm pretty sure no one's done this before. 3rd question: I wouldn't mind it at all as long as you cited your source. Cheers

No I didn't use any effects. I just ran it through the clean channel of my guitar amp. It has a little bit of gain but that's all. Let me know if you have any other questions!

I asked THIS QUESTION a while ago. I get mine from Morrisons, but it looks like Tesco, Waitrose and some chemists sell them. Look in the sweets section rather than on the till-ends.

Shame you can only get the mints though, rather than all those interestingly flavoured sweets in the interestingly shaped tins. Hopefully going for a stay in the US next year so I'll stock up. (How many Altoids can you bring back through customs? ;¬)

thank you m8. Even my dad sayz it makez a nice sound. If you dont mind me askin, about how much did it cost the mush? And to make it electric, can you buy the 2 items from electric shops

it didn't cost much at all. the pickup setup only cost about 5 bucks all together. yea you can buy the parts from pretty much any electronics shop. thanks for the comment! Don't forget to vote in the contest! THANKS!

You could just order them off Or amazon. They come in packs of 12 for about $20. I believe thats about 14 to 15 Euros.

Yes! You can get Altoids, but they're hard to get hold of. If you live near Catford I can tell you where there's an off licence that sells them. Alternatively, Marks and Spencers sells them in a green tin, but just called "Curiously Strong Mints" rather than "The Original Celebrated Curiously Strong Peppermints. Altoids"

I AM gonna make this... just a soon as I finish this tin of altoids lol. Just got it for this purpose. Anyone want pics of my design when it's done?

1 reply

it might be better to glue the peizo to the top of the kalimba, because thats the soundboard, no?

i don't think u need an on/off switch but i just built one. good idea