While built with objects easily found in a craft store, this project is a bit of a time investment (couple of hours), particularly when prepping all the wood pieces (think: sawing, sanding, and some drilling). But my kids were amazed when everything came together in the form of bright, colorful instruments. Aside from the steps involving power tools and sharp blades, kids can easily get involved in this project with sanding, painting, and assembly.
Here’s what you need to get started (all my wood pieces were found at the craft store, by the way):
Scrap wood or wood kit
1/4″ wide x 1/8″ thick, flat wooden dowel
1/2″ diameter wooden dowel
3/8″ diameter wooden dowel
Mini embroidery hoops (mine were ~4 3/8″ and ~5 5/8″ diameter)
Large jingle bells
Minwax Polycrylic finish
Hacksaw (though you may prefer to use an electric or jigsaw)
Power drill with 1/16″ drillbit
Rough grit (80) sandpaper/block
To make percussion block:
Step 1: Saw your wooden block down. I made mine small enough to fit in the palm of my kids’ hand, about 4″ x 2″.
Step 2: Saw flat wooden dowel down into tiny slats that are the same width as your wooden block. Using the rough grit sandpaper, sand any rough areas on the block down, then finish with the fine sandpaper. Also with the fine sandpaper, lightly sand away any jagged edges on the wood slats you just cut down.
Step 3: Paint the flat wooden pieces. To make it easier for my kids to paint, I affixed each slat to a paper bag (taped down to our work surface) using a small piece of double-sided tape. I squeezed a bit of paint out for each piece. Let dry.
Make a drumstick:
Step 4: While waiting on the slats to dry, saw off an 8″ long piece from the thinner, 3/8″ diameter dowel. Lightly sand, wipe down, and brush on a layer of Polycrylic Finish.
Step 5: After the wooden slats have dried, glue them to the block using wood glue applied with the end of a toothpick or wooden skewer. Let dry and brush on a coat of Polycrylic Finish.
Step 6 (optional): After the wood glue has dried and set, carve out a hole in the back of the block using a large, 5/8″ drill bit. Not the most pro job, but hollowing out the back will make the block reverberate a tad bet ter when struck.
To make bell shakers:
Step 1: Saw off a couple 9″ long pieces from your (larger) 1/2″ diameter dowel.
Step 2: With a pencil, make three aligned marks in the top 1/3 of each dowel. Drill a hole in these three spots (see example, two photos above). Make sure each hole is drilled clean by pulling the drill in and out while boring the hole. We’ll be threading pipe cleaners through these holes later on and want them to pass through the opening without bending.
Step 3: Paint the handle of the dowels, let dry, then brush on a coat of Polycrylic Finish.
Step 4: To complete the bell shakers, thread a piece of pipe cleaner through the hole on the dowel. Attach a bell, then twist the end of the pipe cleaner around itself. Attach a second bell to the other side, cut off the excess pipe cleaner, then wrap it around itself. Repeat for the other two holes.
To make mini mandolins:
Step 1: Separate embroidery hoops and lightly sand. Paint the outermost rim of the embroidery hoop. Let dry, then apply a second coat of paint.
Step 2: With a foam brush, apply a layer of Polycrylic finish.
Step 3: Finally, wrap rubber bands around the inner circle of the embroidery hoop. Nest inside the outside hoop so that the rubber bands are perpendicular to the screw. Tighten the screw.
We found that the “guitar” works best when laying flat on a surface and plucking upward. The bell shakers work pretty much anyway you hold them. Enjoy!