My grandson starts kindergarten this fall and the school he will be going to has a student Marimba band. My daughter asked if I could build a Marimba after looking around and finding pictures of one. I told her I would give it a try. I like the sound and it looks pretty simple to build.
I ordered plans for one from makeamarimba.com. They also had a plan on how to make the mallets (commercial mallets start at $50 and rapidly climb into outer space. It was discounted to half price and included a free glockenspiel plan. I got the plans and found they had to be translated from australian english to US english. After reading everything a couple of times, I thought it might be a good idea to build the glockenspiel first. It was much smaller, simpler and looked easier to tune.
The first step was to build a frame and drill it for the the key seperators and retainers. These were #4 screws and 1/4” vinyl tubing. This is where the trouble began. I got in a hurry and drilled the screw holes with a hand drill and was a little sloppy with my spacing.
I got everything screwed in cut the keys to length from 1/8×3/4” aluminum bar and tried to tune. Didn’t work some of the screw were too close to the bars and wouldn’t let them vibrate properly. Time to quit for the day and have a beer.
I had enough cherry prepped that I could build another frame, that I did and used the drill press and stops to space the holes this time.
It will tune now. To tune the keys you grind or sand material foo the bottom center of the bar until you get to the prober note. I only had to burn my fingers once or twice to come up with a stop block and backer board for the keys. Aluminum gets hot in a hurry.
Tuning was an education in itself. I can’t tell one note from another. I had an electronic tuner and it was easy to use. I found that the bars did not always tune in a linear manner but would be all over the place before it finally would come in on the note. I did a couple of bars then quit and went to an Ada County Woodworkers meeting that evening and had a long question and answer session with one of the guitar makers. I found I was doing everything right. I spent yesterday and today tuning and finally finished and polished the keys. It actually sounds in tune to my lead ear and the tuner says they are in tune.
This is a paint roller that chucked into my lathe and used with the tripoli and rouge to polish the keys works fairly well and only gets a little compound on your shirt and pants next I’ll put on an apron.
They polished out nicely get the in the sunlight and the flash is blinding.
I guess I will have to start accumulating the materials for the marimba. I think I will use a cherry frame on that. On one of the commercial marimba sites a cherry frame is a $450 upgrade. There might be $50 of cherry in the entire frame. I will use paduak for the keys that will make for an orange shop.
-- Bruce, Boise, ID