Now that summer is in full swing and the baby is nearly 4 months old we have found ourselves with some spare time. It has been a real treat. We’ve been trying to fill that spare time with some projects that will make life better for our family and teach us something along the way. This weekend our focus project was an outdoor xylophone made out of two 8 foot pine 2x3s, some 3/8 inch clothesline, and assisted by some deck stain. Tools were limited to a drill and a hand saw (and an optional sander). We thought that our 2 year old would really enjoy something new to play with now that vacation is over and we’re home again. The fall weather in Southern Maryland is so mild (aside from the hurricanes) that we hope to be able to use the xylophone until the winter months drive us indoors.
Step 1: We drove to Lowe’s armed with our $50 gift card which happened to be a referral gift from our dentist. Right on- free project! We picked out two non-treated pine 2x3s that were each 8 ft ($7 total). In order to get them in our car we got them cut at the store into 4 4 foot pieces. They were willing to do all the cutting for us there so if you don’t have a saw or the desire to spend time on this step you might not have to. We also picked up some new sand paper for our power sander in order to reduce the splinter risk for our kids. If you have older kids you might not bother with this step. In order to protect the xylophone from the elements we also invested in a gallon of deck stain. It is well worth inquiring at the paint counter before buying anything new because sometimes people never come back to pick up their orders. These “leftovers” are then sold cheaply- we got our gallon of deck stain for $5.
Step 2: We did some math to figure out the range of board lengths to be used. We finally decided to start with a 16 inch piece and then increase it by 2 inches each time to use up our 16 feet of wood. So that turned out to be 8 cut boards in the following lengths; 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30.
Step 3: We used a drill press (a drill would work fine) with a 7/16 drill bit to make holes that are 2/9 of the way down the board from each end. This is the optimal place to put your holes as it provides the best sound.
Step 4: We used our electric sander to smooth out the boards with 80 grit sandpaper and then fine-tuned it with 120 grit.
Step 5: After waiting a day for some better weather we stained our 8 board pieces, front, ends, and back as well as inside the drill holes.
Step 6: Using the clothesline we strung all the boards together and tied knots between all the pieces so they could not slide around. We left lots of extra rope on both ends so that we could hang it between our crepe myrtle tree and a fence post. We wanted to have the freedom to move it somewhere else eventually and therefore did not opt for a more permanent structure.
Step 7: We snuck outside and hung it up after our daughter fell asleep so that she could discover it on her own in the morning. We made sure to leave a couple of wooden spoons nearby.
Since we already had the necessary tools the only cost to us was the materials. $5 for deck stain, $7 for the wood, and around $5 for the clothesline only ran us $17 total for the xylophone. The deck stain also stretched to cover 2 bat houses though and there was clothesline leftover. So far we have found that wooden spoons are the best banging tools. Let us know if you have found something better!
We got the idea for the project from the following site and then did several internet searches to fine tune the project: http://www.instructables.com/id/2×4-xylophone/