Friday, November 26, 2010
Building a Kalimba
Base, Bridge and Tine Rest

wooden rods

Learn more about Ian Clothier, the author of Ian's Corner.

Last time I left you with a shopping list and a promise to take it slowly. Well I'm hoping you've got your piece of wood and that you're ready to start. All of the measurements are only a rough guide, a little more or less will make your instrument that much more individual!

First job is to cut a 1/4 of an inch slice from one side and then cut that in two to get two 1/4" square wooden rods as in the picture at right. These will need to be fairly uniform and smooth. A quick rub with some 120 grit sandpaper should do the trick.


Then cut them again so that they fit across the remaining wooden block as shown in the picture at left. These will form the bridge to give the tines something to rest on and resonate against.

Do you remember me mentioning a bike spoke? To get a clean ringing sound from the tines they need to vibrate from a hard surface, just like a guitar string over a fret or a ruler plucked over a table edge. I use a hard round steel wire and I buy it by the yard. You won't need yards of wire and most bike shops will give you a spoke or two for nothing so you won't have to spend much if anything at all. The main reason for using a bike spoke is that it has a file on one end the exact size we need. Use the treaded portion of the spoke to file a groove in the center of one of the 1/4" square bridge pieces as shown in the picture below.

Glue the spoke into the groove with a spot or two of superglue but leave some wire overhanging either end so we can trim it off flush later.

You may well have noticed the three holes drilled in the block of wood that will make up the body of the kalimba. I got carried away and drilled them a bit early for the photos, but you'll need to drill 3 1/8 of an inch holes 3/4 of an inch down from the top, one in the middle and two a 1/4 of an inch in from either side. These will be used to hold down the tines but more of that next time.

To prepare for next week, get a hold of some strong sewing thread or dental floss and a couple of round metal tent pegs.