Thumb Pianos

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Project by whitedog posted 1160 days ago 1700 views 11 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I made a couple of Thumb Pianos for the kids. But being a non- musical guy I now have to figure out how to tune them , not that they care. They are easy to make just a box with some hardware on top.

One is Walnut with Oak sides and Cypress on top , its 5 1/2×7 x 1 1/2 , this one has a nice deep tone to it.

More like what I thought they would sound like.

The other one is Walnut with western cedar side , it’s a little smaller with a bit of a tapper. This one doesn’t

have as nice of sound to it , maybe I will be able to help it by playing with the tuning .

The metal key things are from an old lawn rake , after I’m done trying to tune them I’ll cut them to look a little better.

Please comment even if I did it wrong.

-- Paul , Calfornia

12 comments so far

View Grandpa's profile


3044 posts in 1272 days

#1 posted 1160 days ago

First one that I have ever seen. They are interesting looking devices. I would think you would tune one by adjusting the length of the keys wouldn’t you. what do they sound like when you play them? I might need to make some of these. Tell us more about them. What is the metal you used? those look like a leaf rake tine. Play us a tune. ha ha Thanks for the post.

View rance's profile


4125 posts in 1758 days

#2 posted 1160 days ago

Paul, Very nice looking pieces. BTW, your photography is superb. I have no idea but there is a possibility that trimming off the back sides may affect the tuning so it may be a multi-step process. Also, I’ve heard that you can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish. Again, nice job.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View Brit's profile


5107 posts in 1440 days

#3 posted 1160 days ago

Nice one Rance.

Paul, the only thing that will affect the pitch is the length of the fingers on the hole side. In other words the distance from the metal bar underneath them to the end. If anyone in your family plays guitar and has a chromatic tuner, you can use that to see what notes are sounding when you flick each finger and adjust the length until the correct tones are heard. It might be a bit hit and miss (pun intended) though.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View amagineer's profile


1383 posts in 1194 days

#4 posted 1160 days ago

Paul, the Kalimba looks great. If you want to change the sound tone you can also add two 1/2 holes on the underside. Located about where your index fingers are when your are playing the instrument. Something like opening and closing a hole in a flute but not required to play.

-- Flaws are only in the eye of the artisan!

View HallTree's profile


5661 posts in 2364 days

#5 posted 1160 days ago

Very nice job and very interresting. ‘Thumb Pianos’, I have got to check those out on the internet. Where did you get the info to make them?

-- "Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life" Solomon

View Bearpie's profile


2584 posts in 1615 days

#6 posted 1160 days ago

I like this and it sounds like fun to make(pun intended) I will attempt to make one as soon as my workshop work is finished. Thanks for posting this and stirring my interest.

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View Jimthecarver's profile


1121 posts in 2383 days

#7 posted 1160 days ago

very cool….....if you use a droid type phone they havean app to tune them rite up.

-- Can't never could do anything, to try is to advance.

View whitedog's profile


650 posts in 2054 days

#8 posted 1160 days ago

Thanks everyone…
I just did a google search for Kalimba / thumb piano to find out how to make one.

I do know how to change the tune , I just don’t know what a G or any other note sounds like .

amagineer.. I think I might try the holes in the bottom.

Jim I’ll look into that app I think that is what I need.

-- Paul , Calfornia

View HallTree's profile


5661 posts in 2364 days

#9 posted 1160 days ago

I just found a ‘on line tuner’ that might be helpful:

-- "Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life" Solomon

View whitedog's profile


650 posts in 2054 days

#10 posted 1159 days ago

Ron that looks perfect.

I have a couple of other instruments in mind to make that will need to be tuned also.

-- Paul , Calfornia

View Bertha's profile


12951 posts in 1290 days

#11 posted 1159 days ago

They’re wonderful. Did you build the mechanism or purchase it? If purchased, I’m dying to learn of the supplier. Nice work!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View learnin2do's profile


866 posts in 1449 days

#12 posted 1159 days ago

Those are marvelous; they look like fun!
-I know what you mean -i want to make a giant marimba for the playground at the Montessori, but i don’t know how to make it functional, since i’m tone-deaf!

-- christine

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