StewMac tools

New idea for a unique chime.

New idea for a unique chime.

Postby John Smotherson » Mon Jun 22, 2015 7:19 pm

I am industrial design student currently designing a desk sculpture that is inspired by the forms of bamboo. I want it to create beautiful noises when activated.

I hope the pictures are self explanatory, but essentially what it is is three pieces, all consisting of thin metal tubes. The bottom (silver) one isn't to move, as it is weighted down by a solid block of the metal.

The way the sculpture makes noise is the top handle, just by tapping it, activates the pivot points of the two top pieces, causing them to hit each other along with hitting the silver one, to cause vibrations in the material, essentially creating some nice noises.

For the pivots, think of them as the head of a flathead screwdriver, resting on essentially two angled walls meant to keep the pieces in place, but allow them to move back and forth when activated.

I hope this isn't too confusing.

My questions go as follows:

1. What material or metal should I make them out of? I think I am leaning towards anodized aluminum, since I could color them without painting them, but not sure which metal will provide the best sound.

2. Will this instrument work? I am going to get it manufactured at a metal fabrication facility if you guys have confidence in it.

3. How can I guarantee great sound? Any obvious flaws that you guys see? I don't want to make it sound like two pop cans hitting each other or something, I want it to give off wind chime-like sound.

Any and all suggestions are appreciated, I will post the progress and models once they are made! Thanks!
John Smotherson
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2015 12:59 pm

Re: New idea for a unique chime.

Postby Dave Weir » Mon Jun 22, 2015 7:58 pm

I like the look of it, and the idea behind it.
It seems like experimental things like this are usually made by someone who has the resources to do most of it themselves, so if it doesn't work they've really only invested time, and maybe they learn something. Hiring out to have this machined seems pretty risky.
I would be concerned with the balance of the pieces. A lot of wind chimes have the pivot point a bit from the top. I think it allows it to swing and ring more freely. Also the strikers are usually near the center of the tubes. I'm sure that gets it ringing louder and longer. Also, you need to make sure they don't want to tilt and touch each other at rest, or they won't ring.
You don't have a whole lot off room for them to move. With wind chimes they kind of bump quickly and then ring for a while before they bump again.
I think different metals could be used and in general the harder metal will ring longer. A hardened steel wheel bearing race hung by a thread will ring for an incredibly long time.
I'd probably get some copper tubing at home depot to experiment with.

Good Luck!
User avatar
Dave Weir
Posts: 104
Joined: Tue Jul 02, 2013 8:48 pm
Location: Escondido, CA

Re: New idea for a unique chime.

Postby John Smotherson » Tue Jun 23, 2015 4:30 pm

I appreciate your feedback. Perhaps would this work better, where the gray is stationary and the black and red are suspended by some sort of string?

Thank you very much thus far.

And one more question, do chimes sound better if the striker is solid, or would it sound good if it is hollow like the rest of the tubes (in this case, the red piece)?
John Smotherson
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2015 12:59 pm

Re: New idea for a unique chime.

Postby John Smotherson » Tue Jun 23, 2015 7:49 pm

Hey all,

just designed something new as well. Continuing to develop the design.

With this iteration, there are many metal "bars" that hang from strings.

This might make the most beautiful sound of them all. What do you guys think?

What metal makes the best sound when tapped against the same metal? aluminum? steel?
John Smotherson
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2015 12:59 pm

Re: New idea for a unique chime.

Postby Dan Hill » Wed Jun 24, 2015 1:45 pm

Take a look at some commercial wind chimes. You'll find that they're suspended at about 22% of the way from the end. This is where a node, or point of little or no vibration occurs. Suspending it elsewhere will damp the vibrations. Vibraphone and xylophone bars are usually aluminum, and are suspended at nodes for the same reason. Find some tubing and experiment by dangling it loosely from your fingers at different places and tapping it near the center or ends to see where it rings the best. Those places are antinodes. Tapping at a node just produces a "clack". Have you considered taking a course in musical acoustics? if you learn what sorts of things promote vibration, you've also learned how to inhibit vibration, which might come in handy sometime. I really like your designs, especially #3.
Dan Hill
Posts: 15
Joined: Sat Feb 04, 2012 2:57 am

Re: New idea for a unique chime.

Postby John Smotherson » Wed Jun 24, 2015 8:53 pm

Hey, thanks! The 22% suggestion was really helpful. Really had no idea where to suspend them, was going to just suspend them from the direct top. I'm making a model tomorrow and will post some pictures... maybe a short youtube video.

How about wall thickness? I want the noise to be very high pitched, soft, and long lasting, not loud, bassy, and low.

Just want to post some resources for people in the future that are researching chimes or something from either google or this forum.

According to this website,, the thicker the wall, the higher the note? Never would have guessed that.

Also, another great resource for people I've found was:

Thanks guys!
John Smotherson
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2015 12:59 pm

Return to Wind, Percussion, and Miscellaneous and Experimental Instruments

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

Your purchase from these sites helps support the MIMForum, but only if you start at the links below!!!
Amazon music     Amazon books     Amazon tools     Rockler tools     Office Depot    

The MIMF is a member-supported forum, please consider supporting us with a donation, thanks!
 • Book store • Tool store • Links •