Introduction: Metallophone Toy From Scratch

About: I'm a web developer and I enjoy outdoors a lot

I decided to create a metallophone, from scratch, for my kid.

This ible shows how I did it, using simple tools most of us have and pieces of metal and wood lying around.


Disclaimer: this is meant to be a toy and not a professional music instrument, it might not play very true.


  • 1"x1/4" metal bars
  • 1/4" plywood
  • 1/2" wood dowels
  • some scrap pieces of pine
  • drawer metallic knobs
  • knails
  • door foam gasket (any strip of foam could do)

Step 1: Metal Bars

We will cut roughly to length some 1"x1/4" metal bars according to the table attached.

Drill a hole on one end of each bar, carefully located a the "node" position. This is where the bar will vibrate less, you want to try not to dampen the sound on the attachment points.

Then the fun part begins: the fine tuning, no joke!

Try to tune each bar, using an instrument tunner or a smart-phone app, this way:

  • if the sound is too low, raise it by removing material from the extremities of the bar
  • if the sound is too high, lower it by removing material from the middle of the bar (under it is best since it won't be visible)

Then proceed with the finish. I found out that it doesn't alter the tunning that much.

Step 2: Making the Sound Box

For the sound to be amplified a box with thin material is a good choice I believe.

Since you want to prevent sound dampening, you will need to set the width of the box on the nodes of each bar. Thus the box needs to be narrow on the right hand side (where the high notes usually are).

The amplification works best if the depth of the box below the bar is in harmony with the sound created by that bar. There must be some information about that out there but I didn't put too much importance on that aspect since this is a toy and not a professional instrument. Nevertheless I still made the box deeper on the left side than the right one, for aesthetics purpose.

This is somewhat simple woodworking, I proceeded with cutting the plywood boards, joints reinforcements and rails to the right dimension, then the glue-up and the finish.

Make sure you lay out the metal bars to locate the nail holes on the rails.

See Sketchup model attached.

Step 3: Play Time!

Put the metal bars on the rails and try it!

Step 4: Conclusion

This project was very fun to make!

It involves several aspects such as woodworking, a bit of metal working, musical theories etc.

I'm sure lots of things can be improved such as the box design, the material choice etc.
In particular, the stick heads, instead of metal balls I think it is good to use hardwood for one, and rubber for the other ... for the sake of everyone's ears! :D

I hope you enjoyed this ible, make sure to post your comments below!

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