Introduction: Marching Machine- Percussion Instrument

Being one of the band fix-it guys (not technically a position, but if it gets broke, somehow it finds it way to me), I was asked to make a marching machine (also called Troop Blocks) for one of the pieces of music we were playing. The piece is Godzilla Eats Las Vegas, and is a fantastic arrangement. I found plans to build a marching machine similar to mine here, and elaborated on them to improve them to fit what I needed. Mine is a little larger, and has bolts for adjusting the tension of the strings. This is my first Instructable, so let me know if there is anything I can do to make it better. Enjoy!

Step 1: Materials

Parts needed (To build a 14" X18" Marching Machine):

Wood Screws
Glue (optional, but it makes the frame stronger)*
(2x) 1/4-20x1 1/2" carriage bolts (for tightening the paracord, it works well, but isn't necessary.)*
(2x) 1/4-20 lock nuts (aviation nuts)*
(2x) 1 1/4" fender washers*
Clear Lacquer (optional)*

*Not Pictured

Wood For the Frame:
(2x) 1x2x16 1/2"
(2x) 1x2x14"

Wood for the blocks:
(30x) 2x2x4" (making a few extras saves time later)

Everything I used in this Instructable I had in my garage, making it cheap to build. I decided on a 14" X18" frame, and cut the pieces out of a 1X4. The "Troops" were cut out of a few ripped 2x4's, and I made them 4" tall. I selected the blocks with the best wood, meaning few knots or defects, just to make the final product more visually appealing. Making a few extra blocks saves time later if you mess up with drilling the holes, that way you don't have to pull the saw out again.  I used paracord after reading other places about people having issues with the strings breaking. The wood screws are to hold the frame together. Later in the process, I decided on using some carriage bolts and lock washers to tension the cord, so they are not pictured here.

Tools Needed:
Drill Press (optional, but it makes all the holes alot easier)
Router Table (for finishing)

Step 2: Rounding the Edges

This is an optional step, but it creates a nice look for the final product.

I used a router to clean up the edges of all of the wood parts, making them uniform. I have sort of a rule that if I'm going to build something, I make it as neat as I can.

After routing, the parts all, have smooth, clean edges, and a uniform look.

I used my Homemade Router Table for this step, which I posted as a photo Instructable a while back.

Step 3: Drilling the Holes

Using a drill press, i set up a guide to drill the holes. This made it go quickly, as i only had to mark one block. The top hole is 1/2" down from the top, and the second is 1". Make sure the drill press is drilling straight and does not walk when you start it on the wood, otherwise it will drill a crooked hole.

Step 4: Assembling the Frame

I assembled the frame using 8 1 1/4" wood screws, and some glue to hold it together. Making sure it is square will help to keep the "troops" spaced evenly later.

Step 5: Drilling the Frame

For the holes in the frame, I used Corel Draw to make a template. I did this over measuring it because it was easier than dealing with  the measurements on a tape. The template shows where each hole needs to be drilled and the spacing is the same between all of the holes. The templates were larger than a piece of paper, so I cut them out and taped them together. 

Step 6: Sanding and Finishing the Wood

Sanding all the parts will help the finish to look nicer, and it will get rid of any pencil marks made earlier. I strung out all of the blocks on some string to make them easier to spray with the lacquer, and I hung the frame with some wire. The lacquer dries fairly quickly, making this a fast step to finishing. This step is unnecessary if you are going for functionality, but it makes the final product look cleaner.

Step 7: String It Up!

Run the paracord in a zig-zag through all the holes, with  a separate cord for each direction (one continuous cord going up and down, one going left and right.) it helps to have an extra set of hands to hold the blocks as you string them. The bolts are used to anchor the loose ends of the paracord, and it allows them to be tightened for a different marching sound. The extra paracord can be weaved in between the loops on each end of the frame to keep it out of the way. Once you are done, you are ready to march! Have fun with it!

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