Electronic Windchimes

Introduction: Electronic Windchimes

For more projects and a summary follow up from our January build night, please see this thread!

I wanted to make a windchime that uses all 18 signals on the MaKey MaKey to control instruments and knob tweaks in music software like FL Studio or Linux MultiMedia Studio (LMMS).

With feedback and help from various people at my local hackerspace (Knox Makers) during a Build Night and open hack night, I got this off the ground and chiming up a storm.

Technical summary

This project uses a laser cutterorprinted transfer for my windchimes. I used 3mm black acrylic tassels for my project, each coated with black conductive paint and strung with conductive thread. The threads are connected to their own wires, which are in turn connected to signal ports on the MaKey MaKey. This controls a music program via USB 2.0.

Special notes

MaKey MaKey uses simple digital connections to complete circuits through anything that is conductive such as banana peels and humans. When circuits are completed, keyboard and mouse signals are sent to your computer through USB.


3D printer or laser cutter file for a mini version!

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Step 1: You Will Need:

Materials and Tools Needed

Step 2: The SVG File

  1. Download the SVG design
  2. Do a test cut with throwaway material like cardboard and only a few side tassels + the main tassel if your finished material is expensive or less environmentally sustainable. Make sure you have some clearance but not too much between side tassels and the main tassel. The image here shows my first proof of concept.

Step 3: Make the Things!

Laser Cutter

Make the things with the laser cutter.

w/out Laser Cutter

Transfer the design to your material, such as wood or acrylic. Then, make the things.

Step 4: Remove Backing and Finish Material

If using acrylic with backing like I did, remove the backing.

If using wood, go ahead and sand it down. Get your material ready to paint.

Step 5: Prepare the Small Side Tassels and Main Tassel

Tie approximately 18 inches of conductive thread to each of 18 side tassels and main tassel. This should leave 3 small tassels leftover if using our design.

Cut off any excess thread from the tie itself.

Slip knots are useful here, but flex your best knot tying skills with your own preference. I'm probably just being lazy with slip knots and not giving incredibly sound knot advice here, but that's OK.

Step 6: Paint All the Things!

Paint the 18 small side tassels and the main large tassel.

Be liberal like you are getting paid per mL of paint you apply. Get both face sides of each piece, the thin sides all the way around, inside the holes, and even up along the conductive thread. Make sure the conductive thread has as much contact with paint on each tassel and that each tassel is continuous conductive paint.

This might take multiple coats.

Step 7: Glue, Act I

Seal up each hole with hot glue.

This protects the otherwise tentative and potentially erratic connection between the conductive paint and the thread.

This also helps to add a little more semi permanency in case your knot tying skills are a little rusty like mine.

Step 8: String All the Things Some More!

Try to tie everything up so that the main tassel has plenty of room and availability to connect with each side tassel.

Step 9: Wire All the Things!

  1. Strip about two inches off both sides of each wire (should be 19 wires)
  2. Thread each wire from above the top plate
  3. Make a hook with the wire
  4. Crimp the wire tightly around the conductive thread in that hole
  5. Pull the wire and thread through the top plate
  6. Smash the wire so it won't fall back through the hole

This should make a good connection between thread and wire, with a little help from gravity.

Step 10: Glue: Act II

Gob hot glue from above and beneath the hole to hold everything in place.

Step 11: Brief Intermission From Glue

Find a small piece of material to use for the main tassel that will hang from the center hole.

Loop a knot around it and connect the last wire.

Crimp or smash the wire after hooking the thread with it, and then let gravity hold it snug.

Step 12: Glue: Part III

Yep, you guessed it. More glue. Top and bottom, get a good seal here.

Step 13: Prepare the String

If you need to, singe the end of the string to get a fine point. This was a plastic string that was frayed at the end.

Tie a basic knot on the other end.

Step 14: Feed the String

Feed the string up through the top plate, there should be three holes leftover here.

You can also go ahead and string up the remaining three decorative tassels to the bottom of the main tassel. These are decorative + help to catch wind for the main tassel to blow around.

Tie the three strings together at the top above the windchimes. This is to hang the windchimes from things like hooks.

Step 15: Plug to the MaKey MaKey

Male/male and male/female jumper wires are super handy here.

Basically, we want the main tassels wire to go to ground on the MaKey MaKey, and we want each of the 18 side tassels to go to a different signal on the MaKey MaKey.

Step 16: Try It Out

Load up a music program that accepts keyboard strokes to control music and sounds.

Here is a cool resource for this:

FL Studio Fruity Keyboard Controller

Feel free to remix this design. If you tried this out, use the "I Made It!" feature and share with us!

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