Melodic Tuned Wind Chimes by Grace Note

Shopping for Grace Note Chimes at their factory sale.
Shopping for Grace Note Chimes at their factory sale. | Source

A business of some note -- or actually several notes in the key of C -- operates at full speed to turn out hundreds of sets of musically tuned wind chimes each month at the Grace Note Chimes factory in the Bootjack region of Mariposa County, California.

From the open door of the production area, a deafening roar of heavy machinery emerges as metal tubes are cut, polished and drilled.

Source

A Pipe Dream?

At first glance you might think that this operation has something to do with plumbing.

Racks and stacks of thousands of silvery pipes in various lengths and diameter, are sorted into carrels and categorized by notes of the musical scale.

Orchestrated by machine operators wearing ear protection, a squall of saws, and the strident whining of drills combine in a discordant cacophony, as 20 foot sections of extruded aluminum are transformed into polished musical "notes".

"We know what lengths to cut for each particular note," shouts operations manager, John Samples over the unmusical din, "variations in the density of the material can affect the tuning, but each piece is cut close to the final length. "

Perfect Pitch

Finishing operations smooth the cut surfaces and removes a fraction of an inch more material from each end of each pipe as it is checked against an electronic piano tuner for it's final tone.

"Once we get our setting, we check about every 15th piece to make sure we are maintaining the correct tuning," he says.

Each precisely machined cylinder will emerge from this place of acoustic chaos as part of a tuned instrument whose calming melodies are played by the gentlest breeze.

Earthsong

Words for the Music

In fact, the clamor that marks the start of the process is in stark contrast to the musicality of the finished product which ranges from the melodious jingle of the petite "Treasure of Heaven" to the sonorous and euphonic tones of the 6 foot "Earthsong" whose mellow sounds evoke imagines of giant bells tolling in the misty distance.

Other models are named "Himalayan Echo", "Sunrise Serenade" or "Island Melody".

"My wife and I named them one night, " says co-owner Jeff Kile, "It was really her idea. I thought it was fine just to call them A minor, or whatever chord, but people seem to like the names." he admits.

Many of the letters received from customers are from musicians who appreciate not only the names, but also the precise intonation of Grace Note Chimes. Some go so far as to say that they find the atonality and "noise" of other chimes annoying.

Its no surprise that Kile the originator of Grace Note Chimes, is himself a musician who understands the physics of sound. Instead of attaching the suspending string to a hole cut in the upper end of the hollow tube, as is commonly done in other wind chimes, an aluminum pin inserted inside each tube at the point of least vibration provides the suspension point. This innovation gives each note a clearer, more sustained resonance.

Hear the Chimes

The Inspiration Goes Forward

Armed with inspiration and a sample he made by hand in 1982,
Kile convinced his brother, Mike Kile, to invest his $300.
tax refund and join him in producing wind chimes in their
parents' barn in Hunters Valley, CA. They took their products to
craft fairs and festivals, personally marketing their
melodious creations one by one.

After a short time they developed a loyal customer base,
outgrew the barn and moved to their present spacious
facility. Today most of their business is wholesale, selling
to dealers who supply nurseries and garden suppliers. Their
busiest season is spring , according to Samples, when buyers
are supplying the garden centers.

Source

"A Good Place to Work"

Production worker Eddie Lemire, emerges from the fabrication area for a break. "I've seen a few people come and go during the five years I've worked here, but good workers stay a long time. It's a good place to work," he says.

After the tubes or "notes" are finished, they are taken in sets of six to the assembly area where each chime is put together by hand. Workers cut white dacron cords to length, seal the ends of each, and tie the knots which assembler Audre Reed compares to a "a secret handshake".

"No one but us knows how to do this." Reed says with a smile. "and you can't make us reveal the secret."


Kile, standing nearby, takes a length of the braided cord and deftly loops it around his finger. "It's just a Boy Scout slipknot," he counters, "See, pulling down on it only makes it tighter."

The Knot Trick

Reed knows the knot trick well after twelve years of employment with the company. She and the others in this department seem to work with a harmony and rhythm appropriate to the products they put together.

The slender sturdy cords attach each brushed aluminum tube, to an aluminum ring which places them in an equally spaced circular arrangement. The notes are set at varying levels, allowing the striker, a softly rounded redwood disk, to contact each tube at its center where it radiates the purest tone.

A flat " wind paddle" trails below the disk, catching breezes and sending the striker toward one note or another in varied succession while creating an endless musical composition.
At the top, all of the cords are brought together on a chrome plated brass ring, ready for hanging.

Individual Assembly

Each set of chimes is fashioned by an individual assembler. Francille Jouett finished a set she was working on by putting her personal initials on the informational tag, as all assemblers do, before the chimes are packed into custom designed cartons.

"All of the notes are tuned in relation to middle C, " Samples explains, "If you have two or three sets of chimes in your yard, their sounds will all work together. In fact, some people have as may as seven or eight sets, set up in various places."

In one of the many rooms of the complex , Travis Baars glances at his computer screens checks the FAX for incoming internet orders. A display of custom etched wind paddles on the the walls shows some of the made-to-order work the company does to personalize special requests.

Packaged chimes on the warehouse floor, headed for Germany.
Packaged chimes on the warehouse floor, headed for Germany. | Source

Personalized Paddles

Each chime has an engraved aluminum wind paddle which indicates the chord and notes of the set. Special designs, reflecting business logos, graphics, or personalized inscriptions to commemorate birthdays, weddings, or other specific events can be ordered.

Baars will even create special motif for a client. "Generally, after they give me an idea, I will create the design and send it back for their approval." Often, he says with a satisfied grin, the customer gets back to him with a response of ,"That's Perfect!"

"In the early days, Jeff and his brother scratched the letters into the paddles by hand with an awl." says. Baars. In contrast, today's method is automated. A diamond tipped engraver transfers the computer created design and graphics onto eight aluminum plates at a time.

From a Tiny Town-- A World Full of Customers

Currently the factory in Bootjack, with more than a dozen employees from the local area, ships Grace Note Chimes all over the world.

Wholesalers buy most of their output, selling them to nurseries and garden shops all over the US as well as to England, Canada and Guam among other places. Through sales on their internet site, the musical tones of their chimes can literally be heard around the world constantly creating new melodies according to the rhythm and inclination of the wind.

The UPS truck comes daily, and is often totally filled with outgoing sets of chimes.
"We get a lot of individual orders from Germany," says Samples. A giant custom model with three inch diameter tubes and an overall length of over 6 feet, hangs by itself in one part of the shipping area.

"We get orders for about two dozen of these extra large custom sets a year." He explains that giant models like this cost over $1000. "You can see that the notes are hung from thin stainless steel cables instead of strings. This one's going to Sweden. For some reason, Sweden seems to be a good market for these."

Twice a year, just before Mother's Day and near Thanksgiving the factory opens it's back room for special sales, which save the buyer 40% off the retail price. Local folks look for the sales to buy gifts for the holidays or other special occasions, or just to add to their own collections.

Proud new owners of a set of Grace Notes Chimes understand
the company slogan "Let the Good Chimes Toll."

More by this Author


30 comments

DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 4 years ago from Central North Carolina

I love reading stories about folks starting a successful home-business into the big time. And I love wind-chimes. Good hub!


T. R. Brown profile image

T. R. Brown 4 years ago from Nashville, TN

Interesting, there is a music recognition company called Grace Notes that did pretty well selling to Sony as well. They power a lot of the music recognition we are seeing in electronic devices like car stereos.


DeniseClarke profile image

DeniseClarke 4 years ago from Florida

I love wind chimes. This is fun information. Thanks for the great lens!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Small businesses that employ 10 or 12 people are really appreciated in rural communities. Thanks, DonnaCSmith.


Glenn Frank profile image

Glenn Frank 4 years ago from Southern California

Great chimes. We have a set and we have sent them as gifts. Is the link to their website on this page? Looked for it and can't find it.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks Denise, they are the best ones I ever heard. (This is a hub.)


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I put a link in the first paragraph (after you suggested it) but the chimes can also be found on Amazon and eBay through the ad links.


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

It's true, Rochelle, about the chimes being very popular in Sweden. I found, I mean heard, them everywhere I went in Stockholm and Gotenberg. Thanks for this informative hub.


samadaslam profile image

samadaslam 4 years ago

I must say WOW for such a well researched hub about chime bells. I never even thought that I will ever read such a detailed information about chime bells. I used to love this chime bell but Now I don't. Well voted up for this great hub!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you, samadaslam. My research was not really extensive, but I did visit the factory and talk to the people who worked there.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Interesting. I wonder why. Thanks for commenting, drbj.


Healthy Pursuits profile image

Healthy Pursuits 4 years ago from Oregon

Thanks, Rochelle. I have two sets of these and have given them as gifts to people who love their yards and are difficult to buy for. They are well worth the money! After I bought my first Grace Note chime, I took most of my other wind chimes down, because they sounded terrible by comparison.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you, Healthy Pursuits. I think anyone who has them will never want another kind. I appreciate your comment.


Woody Marx profile image

Woody Marx 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Well-made wind chimes are always a lift to the life of the audio-atmosphere in which they are placed. I recall a lady who lived next door to us had a small chime in her kitchen window, and on quiet, summer nights I could hear them tinkling on the gentle breeze lulling me into dreamland. I never got tired of hearing them.

Right now in Guelph they are jack-hammering down the street and I was thinking, 'why can't they make a jack-hammer that sounds like a wind-chime?' Perhaps some inventor out there will get inspired....:)


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I live in a very quiet area of the woods. My chimes, in a protected corner, play beautiful tunes when there is a little wind. At night, when I hear their melody, I know there is a weather change coming through.

I don't miss the city noise-- but when visiting this factory, I was surprised at how noisy the manufacturing process was.

The soothing melodies of the finished product is the the opposite of the jarring noise from it's birthplace.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Wnat great sounds! We love wind chimes here in Arizona.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

Wow, this sounds like a great place to get the chimes. I appreciate hearing them for myself. Voting this Up and Useful.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks, WillStarr. They are always best if you live in a quiet place, like the desert or foothills.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Hellow, alocsin. They are a little pricey, but very durable. I've had a set for at least 10 years, and they look like they will last a long time. If you get some, you'll never want another kind.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

Wow...very informative hub. I love wind chimes. The sound of the wind chimes so relaxing. I really enjoy all videos above, including giant wind chimes. Thanks for share with us. Good job and rated up!

Prasetio


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you, prasetio. I had never thought too much about wind

chimes until I heard these. I think musicians could be inspired by the simple melodies they create.


Lita C. Malicdem profile image

Lita C. Malicdem 4 years ago from Philippines

I love wind chimes. I hang one each atop my bedroom doors where my head touches them whenever I go in and out and I love the music each produces. I have a bigger one outside my house in front of my main door, too. It makes sound when the wind blows stronger, then I know I must check out my hanging laundry, or close windows. I enjoyed your hub for all the new information I learned about chimes manufacturing business. The more I appreciate those chimes.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you, Lita-- I also like that chimes are a memory jogger for you.

When I hear my outdoor ones at night, I know the weather is changing.


VibrantViews profile image

VibrantViews 4 years ago

Neat, thanks for the demonstration!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country Author

You're welcome-- thanks for commenting.


seanorjohn profile image

seanorjohn 3 years ago

Very informative. I have always been fascinated by a neighbours windchimes but never really understood the mechanics of it. Really well explained. You are still in the teaching business. Voted up.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 3 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you, seanorjohn. It was an interesting experience to see the manufacturing process.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 3 years ago from California Gold Country Author

You are welcome, Vibrant Views. It is an interesting process.


Mike 2 years ago

This is outdated.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 2 years ago from California Gold Country Author

It was written a long time ago. I understand the company has been sold, but it still retains the name and continues the same product line.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working