DIY Gifts | Build a Wind Chime
Make a windchime as a gift... or keep it for yourself!
This is a windchime that was made as a gift to the old folks. Turned out, they moved to an apartment so I it never changed owners, and I am happy it stayed with me.
Sometimes when I give Dad a call he will hear it say hello in the background.
Every now and then when I hear this home-made wind chime play a tune it makes me smile. Why? It isn't my best work and actually a pretty ugly piece of DIY handcraft. Maybe just as well it was never offered as a gift, haha.
What do I know, it works and that is what counts!
What's it sound like? See it in action below.
Tools to make a garden chime
You only need two tools to make one of these. A drill to make holes in holding plate and the tubing to run string through so you can hang them.
If you don't have a drill, you could experiment with simply tying the string on. Wind it a couple of times around a tube and figure out how to get the string to extend from two sides so the tube can hang in a balanced way.
Or.. just wind it around and have a single string hold the tube. It will hang lopsided which could make a pretty interesting wind mobile :) The other tool you need is a metal saw. That's it!
You might also want to rummage around for a flat metal file or something similar with which to tune your tubes (see below).
This chime is not too big, and not too small
It looks bigger than it is because the bell tubes have been suspended at different heights. The longest tube is about a foot long (30cm) and the shortest just under 9 inches (22cm).
The construction of a wind chime is super simple. You need something to keep everything together, like a wood block, you need some form of string and of course something that makes a sound when tapped. This can metal tubes, metal bits, wood blocks, or hollow wood like bamboo, or maybe even a wood metal combo. Since they are easy to make - experiment!
All metals have different sounds and properties. If you are doing a metal chime like this one, mixing tube diameters and materials is not recommended (very hard to tune and harmonize the whole set). My example is made of cheap aluminum pipe which has a nice mix between hard surface but yielding sort of a soft resonance.
What is the best tube dimension for a wind chime?
It all depends on what you want. Long tubes can produce deeper sounds but then they also have to be wider. Add that up and you have heavier tubes which is not always beneficial.
My chime here has foot long aluminum tubes which have a diameter of a little under an inch (3/4 or 7/8 would be about the same). You can scroll down and see the wall thickness.
I live on a hill and we get some wind or breeze all the time. The trick to enjoying a windchime is to NOT have it bang out a ring every other second. Take a look at the image above, see? no middle tapper.
If you buy a chime I have a tip that will keep you and your neighbors enjoying the magic notes for a long time: change the sail that tends to hang in the middle of one of these to smaller one - or best of all Get Rid Of It Completely.
Just let the wind sway the tubes and you will only get a rare but enjoyable sound once in a while. On days without wind, i sometimes just tap a tube as I walk by
Materials needed to build a windchime
You only need 3 things to build your own sound making mobile: metal to make a sound, string to hang it with and something to hold it all together, like a piece of wood.
The example on this page is made with aluminum tube. Hard surface but soft material and very easy to work with. You need two of these to make 6 bells.
Stainless steel is a common material used for windchime tubing
If I made another one, I would want to try brass and see what it sounds like. This here is a 6 pack of 12 inch lengths. Perfect!
I can't find any thick round wood material on amazon. You could use just this one, or buy a couple and glue them together. A single one will do the job just fine though.
Cutting and Tuning the chime tubes
Aluminum is a material that is pretty easy to work with. Any type of metal saw will do. The material, and thickness of a tube will affect the character of the sound such as high, low, long or short, hard or soft, etc. The wall thickness also makes a difference.
The length of a tube is what will affect what tone it makes. You can use almost any type of material and dimension, but cutting proper lengths is what matters to have them make pleasant sounds instead of disturbing noises.
How to tune a windchime tube.
Tuning a tubular bell is pretty easy. I find the simple approach is to start with the deepest tone. For this material (aluminum 7/8 inch tube, 0.5-0.7" wall thickness) cut a length of about a foot. This will be slightly too long but lets us cut some off to tune it. Hang it up in the string. Tap it and decide on if you are close or far from a whole tune that sounds good to your ears.
If you know your music or have a audio tuner at hand you can decide on tuning to a true scale.
The tube we have is probably a bit too log so now you cut, chip or file off material by and by until it sounds right. Keep tapping and checking as you go. If you cut off too much, then use that tube for the next sound and start over with a fresh 12 inch piece. The shorter the tube, the higher the note. To fine-tune you will probably want to use just a metal file and brush off small amounts of material as you go.
I cut mine diagonally just because I like the look but you will get somewhat better acoustics if you just leave the cut straight.
Drill some holes for the string
The tubing in this example are 2 centimeters in diameter, or about 7/8" and as you can see the thickness of the wall is not much, probably about 1.5 millimeters or about 0.06".
Hanging is easy. Just drill right through the tube and insert a fishing line or whatever.
Since the line is nylon and gets cut easily you can soften the edge with a wider drill bit. This provides an angled indentation, much like you do when you want to sink screw-heads flush into wood.
IMPORTANT Where you drill the hole affects the volume and style of the sound. Before you drill, simply hold the tube lightly between thumb and forefinger and tap it. Move your hold position and keep tapping until it makes the best ring. Mark the spot. That's where you drill and hang it from.
Something to hold the tubes
You can probably tell that this one has spent the winter outside. I like the way wood weathers but you could also go for surfacing the wood block and apply varnish, or oil it.
Drill 2 holes for each tube. Make sure you space them evenly to avoid a single tone ringing all the time because it is too close to another. I ran a single length of line through and let everything arrange itself in height as it likes. You could also make small knots to set the height of each tube.
If you have a keen eye you will notice that I don't have any line in the middle holes. More about that here.
What does my DIY windchime sound like? - Check it out - maybe not perfect but close enough :)
Mini demo making tunes... but this short video does not fully do it justice. It sounds a bit too harsh when tapped a screwdriver handle like in this video :)
When the wind makes it gong, it sounds more mellow. Get enough tubes making sound and they start to harmonize and sort of create a pulsing wave of their own. I like it - seems like the bee does too!
You can buy a nice metal windchime for cheap!
If you don't want to build one you can always buy. A windchime is cheap (even the large ones) but is the perfect gift for several reasons: they make interesting sounds, they last a long time, and they are beautiful to look at. Of all those for sale, I would suggest one of these three for the first-timer.
Bestselling Amazing Grace chime
Healing chime with 9 tones
Large Bells of Bronze, Mellow Chime
Give Dad a New Hobby
Father's day tip: making wind chimes and garden mobiles is a good hobby.
Instead of making one, you could ignite a lifelong passion by just gifting all the materials needed: tubing, string, holding block and whatever tools needed.