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Rhythm Box


Hands up, all woodworkers who save woodworking magazines, or other interesting project ideas.

That's what I thought.

This "Musical Tone Box" project is reproduced from a Wood Magazine project book article that I've had stashed away in my ideas binder for almost ten years. Packrats of the world, we stand vindicated.

This project is, essentially, a sort of wooden drum.

There's not much to say about the construction details. It's just a hardwood box, 16" long, 5.5" tall, and 6.5" deep. I chose 3/4" thick walnut for the carcass. The base is a piece of 1/2" poplar plywood (baltic birch would be a good choice). There are decorative cuts in the front, to let sound to escape.

The top is the key. There are six "fingers" of differring lengths and widths cut into the wood of the top. Striking these with the drumsticks will give different sounds. The pattern for those fingers was provided with the original article.

This project was a bit nervewracking to build, because I had no idea what it would sound like once completed. Even with the box assembled, rapping on the top with my knuckles only gave a hint of the sounds locked up inside. It wasn't until the first drumstick was completed that I could hear the sounds that the box would produce.

I'd like to reassure parents everywhere that it is safe to give this to your children. It isn't that loud. This box produced a very nice muted drum sound. Tapping away with the drumsticks is certainly quieter than the average video game.

The instructions advised an oil finish, rather than a film finish. The reason is that the fingers are going to move a bit, so we want something here with some give to it. I used some Circa 1850 Tung-n-Teak oil that I had handy in the shop. Three coats were wiped on, soaked in, and the excess wiped off. A bit of buffing with a 3m pad (equivalent to #0000 wool) inbetween coats helped ensure a smooth finish.

If you've looked at the photo's by now, you've probably wondered about the weird looking drumsticks. Each is constructed from a one-inch diameter "superball" mounted onto a 1/4" dowel. Drill a hole approximately 1/2" into the ball and force in the dowel. The original plans suggested wrapping the balls in leather. I looked into that, but couldn't figure an easy way to do so without it ending up looking rather bunched and messy. (Perhaps thinner leather, or larger superballs?) I think the bare superballs look fine, and work fine. And the kids like it as is!

Boom thumpa boom bang.


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