Rhumba Box

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Project by bonobo posted 11-07-2012 10:41 PM 11342 views 8 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is based on a marumba box, rumba box, mbira, marimbula, bass kalimba that I saw on holiday years ago. It’s a substitute for a standup bass.

I’m told that in the Caribbean, they originally made the “twangers” out of shipping straps or old victrola springs. I chose to to try poplar sticks and they work quite well. I tried cutting up a saw but my wife preferred the brighter sound of the poplar. Sizing the twangers is just by trial and error. I tapered mine towards the tips and smoothed/rounded them so that they don’t make a thwacking noise as they leave the finger. Use carriage bolts set into a thin strip of maple on the inside of the box, so that they don’t spin as you turn the wingnuts. Alternately, you could put “T” nuts on the inside and tune it with the bolt heads on the outside.

Her’s a link to the construction plans I more or less followed:

I used 1×8 pine boards but will use 1×10s next time to make it deeper and less tippy (important, since people mostly play it in casual jam scenarios, with a beer in one hand). I rabbeted the corners and reenforced them with glue blocks. I was using this as a hand tool practise project, so I rabbeted the edges as well and set the panel into it. The sound board is a piece of 2’x2’ poplar ply from HD (but you need to choose carefully because some HD stores carry a similar poplar sheet but it has a pressboard interior layer that doesn’t work well. You want to look at the side of the ply to see actual wood in there. It should make a pretty loud “bong” when you tap it. I’ll add a couple more holes to the sound board on the next one.

I cut up and old belt for the handle.

If you want to try steel twangers, I’ve found that the best/safest technique for cutting up a saw is to clamp the saw in a bowed position and score out the lines with the edge of a file. You probably need to get about a 1/4 way through the saw plate. Then you can put the saw into a machinist’s vise and crack the metal along the score mark the way you would if you were cutting glass.

-- “The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” ― Mark Twain

5 comments so far

View bonobo's profile


297 posts in 2258 days

#1 posted 11-07-2012 10:55 PM

...I’l just add that this can be a fun instrument for your hootenanny guests who don’t really know how to play an instrument. Laying guide to the notes on the floor makes it easy to follow along with a chord/lyric sheet. You can play a fifth by hitting the twanger to the immediate right. You can ignore sharps and flats without it sounding too bad..

-- “The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” ― Mark Twain

View vipond33's profile


1405 posts in 2699 days

#2 posted 11-08-2012 01:06 AM

I’m confused. Does it make sounds that only a dog can hear?

-- gene@toronto.ontario.canada : dovetail free since '53, critiques always welcome.

View mcoyfrog's profile


4542 posts in 3795 days

#3 posted 11-15-2012 07:42 PM

Cool sounds like a fun piece. I’ve done a bunch of tounge drums over the years and love the sound. I’m going to have to hit youtube to find what these sound like.

Thanks for the post and welcome to LJ

-- Wood and Glass they kick (well you know) Have a great day - Dug

View GaryCN's profile


358 posts in 4136 days

#4 posted 04-09-2016 08:07 PM

Possibly my next project, check out a different style here

-- Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati

View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3068 days

#5 posted 04-09-2016 08:19 PM

That’s a good looking instrument. Nice work.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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