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  • Homemade Percussion: Chimes and Temple Blocks

    2011 - 10.04

    Jacob and I purchased a new drum set a few weeks ago. I had been using my Dad’s old classic “Buddy Rich” style set since I was 7, and my Dad got it when he was around 13. It served us both very well, and now resides back at my Mom’s house. The new set is a nice black Ludwig with dual bass pedals, Zildjian cymbals, and more toms. I wanted to add some other percussion pieces to it, and I was also looking for a reason to use some power tools…so I built a set of homemade wind chimes and temple blocks. Store bought temple blocks like the kind I made go for about $260 and good chimes for about $100. I spent about $175 on the materials for both and had a few fun weekends with my friend Steve.

    Here are the chimes and temple blocks mounted on the new set. Click any image for a larger version. Read on to see how I made them:

    Let’s start with the chimes. You can make great chimes out of many different kinds of material. I chose copper because it was inexpensive and very easy to cut with a Dremel. You can buy long pieces of the tubing at any hardware store, and you’ll find many other types of material in the same section. Different material will make very different sounding chimes. Cut the copper to size with your power tool of choice, and drill a small hole about 1/4 inch from the top of each piece.

    Get a piece of wood to mount the copper. You can use just about anything, I read about a guy who used a simple paint stirrer from the hardware store. I used a small piece of oak because it’s very strong and has a nice wood grain look to it. Drill holes every 1/2 inch or so, for each piece of copper that you are using. Tie each piece of copper to the wood using fishing line. It helps to put something like a drumstick or another small piece of wood between the chimes and the wood to get the right spacing.

    That’s it! I added a wooden handle on top to hold the chimes, and also put some stain on the wood to bring out the grain. Click the play button below to hear Jacob demo how they sound:

    To make the temple blocks, I first did some research on the kind I wanted to make. I found a set of handmade blocks and used them as my guide.

    Basically, the blocks are rectangular boxes with the front and back open, mounted to a piece of wood. There is also a small slit in the side that gives the blocks their distinctive sound and tone. Decide the dimensions of the blocks you want to use, and get to cutting.


    The blocks will need to be mounted to the piece of wood, so you need to drill two holes in the bottom of each block. I used large hex screws to secure the blocks to the wood. Drill these holes and insert the two screws, then glue the wood together with a strong glue such as Gorilla Wood Glue.


    Once the wooden box is glued together with the screws inserted, clamp everything down tightly and let it dry for a few hours.

    You should now have 5 different sized boxes, each with two large screws coming out of the back.

    Once the glue is dry, cut a slit in the front of each block, no more than half way through the length of the block. This slit is what gives the blocks their great sound, and is also responsible for the tone (high or low) of the sound. The smaller the slit, the higher the sound. You’ll want to experiment a little with the depth of this slit to get the sound tuned to your liking.

    Now it’s time to sand and stain the blocks. A power sander comes in very handy for this and I used a basic clear urethane to bring out the wood grain. Mount the blocks to a long thin piece of strong wood using the screws and wing nuts.

    To mount this massive thing to your drumset, you’ll need a decent mounting rig. I used a Rhythm Tech Quad percussion mount for under $29.00 to mount to an existing cymbal stand. Press play on the movies below to hear how they sound:

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    9 Responses to “Homemade Percussion: Chimes and Temple Blocks”

    1. Jeremy says:

      Just curious as to what type of wood you used to make your temple blocks? Too bad you didn’t put dimensions on here as well. Cheers!

    2. Gary Katz says:

      I believe we used birch. I was also looking at walnut, but decided to go with the lighter color. The key is to use a hard wood rather than the cheap stuff. We’ve been pounding the crap out them, and there is hardly a mark on the wood.

    3. Robert says:

      Oak it’s oak

    4. Chris says:

      What dimensions did you use on the temple blocks? or how did you tune them?

    5. Dale says:

      Hi,

      What are the dimensions you used for each of the temple blocks?

      Are they tuned to the “C” pentatonic scale?

      How did you tune them?

    6. Darryl says:

      Would you share the sizes of the blocks with me? Trying to get a Christmas gift built for my Grandson. He is a drumming fool, both in classical and rock. The Temple Blocks will definitely add a new dimension to his music.
      Thank you
      Darryl

    7. Jay Aronow says:

      Hi, I built a set of 5. Some sound great others pretty flat. I wonder if you would mind giving me the dimensions of yours and the length and width of the cuts in them.

      Greatly appreciated,
      Jay

    8. Gary Katz says:

      Jay,

      I’ll need to find some time to measure the wood blocks. But I can tell you honestly, there wasn’t much science involved in the sizes I used. I just tried to get 5 distinctly different sizes, then I cut the slit into each one the same length. I adjusted that cut as I hit the block until I got the tone I wanted. I didn’t in any way “tune” them…I just kept cutting, hitting, listening, cutting, hitting, listening until I was happy. Not very scientific…

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