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From a new Sunset book, musical instruments to make ahead for Christmas.

From a new Sunset book, musical instruments to make ahead for Christmas

Boom, rattle, and clack! The whole family can become a rhythm band with simple musical instruments made from wood, leather, and bells. None requires any musical skill, and they're all fun to play.

These and other holiday projects appear in Sunset's new 256-page Christmas Treasury (Lane Publishing Co., Menlo Park, Calif., 1987; $19.95 paperback, $25.95 hardbound). The book contains 182 recipes and 136 crafts projects representing the magazine's best ideas over a 60-year period. (If you don't find the book in a bookstore, you can order a copy directly from Lane Publishing; include $1.75 for postage and handling.)

The musical woodworking projects range from simple (the bells and rasp) to slightly complex (the xylophone and drum). Let's look at three.

Hand bells: just shake your hand

To get a "Jingle Bells' sound, all you need to do with these is shake your hand. To make them, you'll need:

12 inches of 7/8-inch hardwood dowel

Three bells (1- to 1 1/2-inch diameter)

Three 1/4-inch eye screws

Clear sealer or paint


Sand and round dowel ends. Seal or paint the wood; when it's dry, mark the locations for the eye screws (about 2 inches apart starting at one end). Open each eye screw slightly with pliers and screw into the dowel. Slip the loop of the bell through the open end of the screw and close the eye with pliers.

For other jingly sounds, you can make hand bells with 12-inch lengths of 1/2-inch dowel and 6 medium or 12 small bells and 1/4-inch eye screws.

Rasp: like a musical washboard

You get an exotic washboard grating sound when you rub a smaller dowel over the rows of notches cut in a larger dowel. To make this background rhythm machine, you'll need 16 inches each of 7/8-inch and 1/4-inch hardwood dowel, a handsaw, sandpaper, and clear sealer.

Sand the dowels, rounding the ends slightly. With a fine-toothed handsaw, cut shallow angled notches across the length of the larger dowel; the sound will vary according to the amount of space between the notches. File and sand the notches; seal both dowels.

Hand drum: bang with your hands

Use your hands to make this instrument resonate. To build one, you'll need a saw, needlenose pliers, a crafts knife, an awl, wood glue, sandpaper, and clear sealer. For supplies, purchase:

3 feet of 1/2-by-6 pine

Enough medium-weight leather for two 9-inch octagons

Leather bootlaces: enough for eight ties 14 inches long and four ties 10 inches long

Finishing nails

For the body of the drum, cut the pine into four 8-inch-long rectangles and four 1-inch squares. Cut squares in half diagonally; triangles will be used to reinforce corners. Glue and nail sides of the drum together using butt joints; glue triangles into the top and bottom corners. Let glue dry overnight; sand.

If you want to decorate the sides, now's the time to paint on some words or symbols. For a more rustic look, use an electric wood-burning tool. Seal drum's surface with the clear sealer.

For the top and bottom of the drum, cut two 9-inch leather octagons, using the crafts knife. With the awl, punch 16 evenly spaced holes about 1/2 inch in from the edges of each octagon.

Next, soak octagons and leather laces in water for an hour. Position the tops and bottoms over the frame so one of the points is centered on each side (see drawing at left). Knot one end of each 10-inch lace; run the other end through the top hole at each corner of the drum and down through the corresponding hole in the bottom. (Use needlenose pliers to pull the laces through the holes.) Adjust all the corner laces to center the top and bottom leather pieces on the frame; then, pulling laces tight, tie knots at bottom.

Using eight longer laces, tie and knot the remaining sides into V shapes, as shown. Cut off excess bootlace leather above the knots, and let the drum dry completely.

Xylophone: mallets catch its tones

Different lengths of hardwood have their own resonance when struck with wooden mallets. For the family member with perfect pitch, this xylophone may prove a bit unsettling: tonal differences between the keys may not conform to any known scale.

To make the xylophone, you'll need access to a table saw and an electric drill with an 1/8-inch bit. You also need the following:

5 feet of 1/2-by-4 pine

9 feet of 1/2-inch-thick, 1-inch-wide hardwood (for keys)

30 inches of self-adhesive foam weatherstripping

Two 12-inch lengths of 1/8-inch hardwood dowel

About 26 1/4-inch wooden beads

Two 1-inch-diameter wooden beads

One skein pearl or heavy crochet cotton

1-inch finishing nails

Wood glue, sandpaper, clear sealer

To build the frame, first cut the 1/2-by-4 pine into 2- and 3-foot lengths. Next, rip the 2-foot length to measure 2 1/2 inches wide, the other to measure 2 inches wide.

For xylophone ends, cut the 2 1/2-inch-wide strip into one 7-inch length and one 12-inch length. Starting an inch in from each end and 3/8 inch down from the top, drill two holes in each end piece.

For xylophone sides, cut the 2-inch-wide strip into two 14 3/8-inch pieces; angle your cuts so sides will be flush with ends. Glue and nail together the sides and the end pieces, taking care not to cover drilled holes. Sand and seal wood.

To make the keys, cut the hardwood into 11 pieces, in 1/2-inch increments from 7 to 12 inches; sand. Center and drill a hole horizontally through each key, 1 inch in from each end. (If you like, cut ends of keys at an angle as shown in drawing; mark and drill holes at same angle.)

Glue weatherstripping along the top of each side piece and position keys on top. Starting at the narrow end of the frame, thread a long piece of pearl cotton through the end and drilled keys, adding 1/4-inch beads between keys (and extras, as needed, between end keys and frame). Loop the cotton through other end of the frame as shown, then thread it back through the other ends of the keys. Pull both ends tight and tie in a knot.

To make mallets, glue dowels into the holes in 1-inch wooden beads.

Photo: Handcrafted percussion and rhythm instruments--a drum, xylophone, bell stick, and rasp--make great gifts to jazz up Christmas or any festive day
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:excerpt from Sunset Christmas Treasury
Date:Oct 1, 1987
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