|Project by vipond33||posted 08-14-2011 07:18 AM||6998 views||32 times favorited||14 comments|
My daughter is in a movement and music class, song and dance too I suppose, with the music component performed entirely on xylophones. The teacher is trained in the Orff system, a method that teaches music much like learning a new language, something that young kids absorb easily. Xylophones are great instruments, piccolo to bass they are simple tools that allow even the youngest to master a simple tune or compose. My daughter liked it a lot so I thought maybe I would buy her one – till I saw the up to $1000 price tag. Now I know what you’re thinking, ”Build it and make this post come true!”. OK OK, so I thought and pondered and searched and was lucky and found a detailed set of plans here:
Right, super, this looks good, cutting list and all! How hard could it be? what could go wrong? Plenty it seems.
To build it I had a small dead straight piece of quartersawn ash for the soundboard and a length of rosewood for the keys and grips. Orff is very picky about their materials – rosewood is classic, so fair enough, I’m out of the gate.
In the soundboard the bottom must rise to create different volumes of air for groups of keys to resonate and is carefully divided for tone separation. The plan, surprisingly or not, called for butt joints at the ends ??? but who am I to question Orff? I did use a simple trick to re-enforce them though. Brass screws were driven in short, the heads nipped off and then filed flush. Solid and pretty.
The keys had to be very precise dimensions with nodal points (drilled holes to you) placed accurately and with curved undercuts.The shape of the top surface was also critical. I managed to do it with a tilting head shaper, screwing each piece onto a carrier.
After the build it was time to tune the keys by sanding, or removing minute amounts of material from the underside arc and the ends. Looking around the net I found a staggering amount of information available to do this, so after leaving the names of my next of kin I waded in. Well now, the writers of many of these pages used sophisticated tone generators and setups to vibrate the keys, scientific analyzers to decipher it and enough math and graphs to make the average calculator choke. They were talking about first, second, third, fourth order harmonics and beyond. Bewildered, and after hours of reading, I gathered the simplest of instructions and fled.
As a side note, it is interesting that there are only three ways to produce a pure tone for help in tuning. You can use a tone generator, a tuning fork, or you can just whistle. I think it’s rather amazing that we have pure tones within ourselves. Try it.
In the end it sounded ok, not perfect, but I gave up trying. It was very frustrating and strange, as a woodworker, to not be pleased with just the looks of a piece but needing to hear the wood as well. Will I ever make another musical instrument? Not in this lifetime, for I think that instrument makers are blessed with a certain skill at birth, my hat is off to them and now I understand the price.
24”x10 1/4”x5 1/2”
Build on LJ’s.
-- firstname.lastname@example.org : dovetail free since '53, critiques always welcome.