How To Make A Wind Chime
These classic garden elements can grace the branch of a tree or decorate your deck. They can be made of wood, brass, steel, plastic or aluminum and include other decorative or sound making materials like glass and ceramics. The location of the chimes, their size and complexity, and the materials they're made from will have a lot to do with the way they sound.
Getting the Wind to Talk
Ever wondered how long people have been assembling sound devices to catch the movement of the wind and turn it into song? Well, historians believe the first wind chimes were created about 5,000 years ago in South East Asia. They weren't decorative in nature, though. The first wind chimes were probably used for religious purposes. After that, they were likely used to frighten birds like crows away from crops, like auditory scarecrows chasing away feathered marauders looking for a free meal.
Wind chimes were adopted for use in and around dwellings over 1,000 years ago. They've been popular s art, as music and as calming influences, too. No one knows why wind chimes have the power to lower blood pressure and relax jangled nerves after a hectic day, but they can. It's interesting to note that metal wind chimes are popular, but so are bell chimes and prism chimes that have a high pitched tinkle and reflect the sun's rays in rainbows across the landscape. Different sounds and looks appeal to different people. Themed chimes (like ceramic varieties that list the phases of the moon, or contain images of the seven dwarfs) are common, as are chimes in the shapes of birds, fish and all manner of other animals. If you have a garden, patio, deck, or even just a window near which you can install a hook, you can give nature a human voice with wind chimes.
Wind Chime Construction and Materials
The beauty of wind chimes is that they can be made of up lots of materials, and the density, shape and position of those materials will affect their sound. Mixed media chimes can create a number of different sounds interacting at one time, too. The effects they create can seem eerily like real animal sounds or like far off flutes playing. The jangled rhythms of specialty chimes can also sound discordant and nightmarish. How do you create the perfect sound for a set of handcrafted chimes? The key is to understand the fundamental structure of wind chimes and be willing to experiment with different materials until you find the right mix for you.
There are six basic elements to a set of wind chimes:
- Crown knot - The very top piece to which all the separate strings are tied.
- Cordage - The lengths of string or chain from which the individual chimes are suspended
- Ring - The mechanism that holds the strings apart so they can move independently
- Tubes - These are the sound makers. The can be made of tubing, metal disks, glass or some other material. They're affixed to the end of each cord and are usually different lengths.
- Clapper - Hits the tubes to produce music.
- Sail (or wind catcher) - This is a single, longer cord that has a weight affixed to the end of it. It swings with the wind and moves the clapper into contact with the tubes. A sail isn't absolutely necessary when making wind chimes, but you'll have a more active set of chimes if you install one.
Here are some ideas for wind chime tubes:
- Spoons (and other silverware)
- Bamboo tubes
- Copper and other metal pipe (Different pipe diameters and materials make different tones.)
- Tin cups
- Small pot lids
- Ceramic tiles
- Hard plastic glasses, coasters or decorative discs
Tubes should be affixed to their strings by tying them in place, gluing them or drilling a hole in each tube and threading the string through the hole. You can use regular twine, but metal chain and fishing line also work well.
Putting it All Together
Let's make a very simple set of chimes so you can get the idea.
Cupcake Wind Chimes
For this project you'll need:
- 4 lengths of twine (8", 10", 12" and 14" long)
- 4 Cupcake cups (the paper variety)
- 4 small bells (like the kind you see on Christmas ornaments)
- Tie a bell to one end of each piece of string
- Poke a small hole in the center of each cupcake cup.
- Thread a length of string through the hole in one of the cupcake cups.
- Slide the cup along the string until it's just above the bell.
- Repeat with the other cups and strings.
- Tie the four string ends together and hang them on a hook in your backyard.
When the wind blows, the strings will move, and the bells will ring. The cups will keep the strings from getting tangled together just the way a standard wind chime ring holds the strings apart on a larger wind chime. This is a great project to make with your child. After completing it, you'll be ready to move on to bigger wind chime projects.
You can also make a very nice set of wind chimes out of shells:
Shell Wind Chimes
For this project you'll be tying the cordage (strings) along a length of tree branch. They'll still knock together when the wind blows, but there'll be less chance of their tangling even though they don't have a separating ring. Here's what you'll need:
- 14 inch tree branch (about the diameter of your finger)
- 5 assorted shells
- Cut five pieces of string different lengths.
- Affix a shell the end of each piece of string. You can tie or glue them in place.
- Tie the other end of each piece of string to the branch at about 2 inch intervals.
- Hang your shell chimes from a nearby tree and enjoy the music when the wind blows.