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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:

    An iPad Case from 1945? How To Make Your Own

    2011 - 04.05

    Apple’s iPads are incredible, beautiful, and a joy to use. They aren’t cheap however, and the investment is worth protecting. You definitely should have a smart cover or case to keep the iPad from getting scratched or cracked. I decided to use some wood and a pair of old shorts to create a black distressed case to protect and tote it. I used a 3/8 inch thick piece of wood, an old pair of shorts with the fuzzy inside (like Wilson gym shorts or sweats), some 3/8 inch square wooden rods from a craft store, brass screws, a piece of leather from a luggage tag, a large gold brad, some strong round magnets, wood glue (gorilla glue), and black wood stain.

    I wanted to create something that looked old and weathered, like an official Apple carrying case circa 1945. Here’s the process:

    Get a sheet of thin 3/8 inch wood from the hardware store. This large piece (enough to make about 4 cases) was under $5.00. Cut 2 pieces about an inch larger than the size of the iPad. Cut a small half-circle out of the top of both pieces. This is where you’ll grab the iPad to pull it out of the case.

    Cut up your shorts or sweats into 2 pieces the same size as the 2 pieces of wood.

    Be sure your iPad will fit snuggly between the square rods without sliding side to side. Using the wood glue, attach a piece of the shorts to the wood, and cut the square rods to fit 3 sides of the wood. Clamp down the 3 rods tightly and let them dry. Build the other piece of wood the same way, but before glueing down the soft material, drill a hole and insert the gold brad through the leather and the wood.

    This will keep the leather strap in position without the risk of it popping off. Once you bend the brad, glue the soft material over it, like the first piece. Position them together and make sure your iPad fits snuggly between them, encased in the soft material. You may need to add a small piece of wood on all 3 sides to get the proper spacing. The iPad should slide in and fit snuggly but not too tightly.

    Cut the luggage tag to about 4 inches. Take one of the small magnets and glue it on the other end of the leather. Fold the end over the magnet and glue it down tightly. The magnet should be covered by the leather on both sides.

    Put the 2 pieces of wood together and fold the leather piece over. Mark where the magnet touches the wood on the other side. This is where you’ll need to glue another magnet so the leather piece can keep the iPad from slipping out of the case. I used a dremel to drill a little into the wood so the magnet would rest flush.

    Once you are sure that the spacing is correct, glue the 2 pieces of wood together with the wood glue and clamp them down. Once dry, add the small brass screws around the box on both sides. Sand all the edges so it is completely smooth all around the box.

    I had an old back cover from a titanium G4 powerbook laying around so I used it to spray the Apple logo onto one of the sides of the wood. I sprayed it with a clear acrylic sealer from a craft store. This was to keep the wood under the logo from staining black and made it show through in a very cool and distressed looking way.

    Now it’s time to stain. Using a black wood stain, rub all the visible wood being very careful around the opening where the iPad slips in. The Apple logo should resist the stain and show through. Once the stain is dry, I sprayed the whole box with the acrylic sealer to protect the wood and give it a nice matte finish.

    And that’s how you protect your $600 investment with about $20 worth of materials. Please let me know if you make your own, I’d love to see other DIY cases!