Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Crafting Your Marimba, Fall 2014 edition

The Fall edition of Crafting Your Marimba is set for the weekend of October 31 through Nov 2.

Weekend class with marimba builder Tom Bourne

Where: Bourne Marimbas in Bellingham, Washington USA

Cost: STILL only $250, plus your accommodation and food

Learn everything you need to know about building marimbas for your local school or marimba band. Since 1995, Tom Bourne has built around 1500 marimbas of all sizes for schools and invites you to his shop to share his knowledge.

We will focus on the fabrication and tuning of marimba bars, since that is the single most challenging aspect of making a marimba.

Also in the workshop we will explore the acoustics of marimba bars and resonators, along with ways of constructing and outfitting frames of all sizes. Discussions will include wood selection and various practical matters for builders, with plenty of time to address special concerns and gain experience with various woodworking tools. We can also discuss the possibilities for your marimba project, focusing on how to plan and design your instrument.

Bellingham, Washington is located just south of the Canadian border between Seattle and Vancouver B.C. It is near all kinds of great activities on the water and in the mountains. Bellingham has a modern airport with direct flights to Denver, Las Vegas and other cities in the western USA.

This class is suitable for adults and teens who can use, or are willing to learn to use, a few basic power tools and hand tools safely.  Helpful also is the ability to distinguish musicals pitches relative to one another (which of two tones is higher or lower, for instance). If you have any concerns regarding your qualifications, let me know and we can figure it out.

I can provide suggestions in procuring lodging in Bellingham, many options available.

Class limited to 6.

To sign up or for further questions, contact Tom at:

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Re-designed Minne M

Here's a look at my updated Minne M. First one shipped today.

The most obvious change is that the bars curve, a bit like a balafon or gyil. With a new way of suspending the bars on rubber grommets instead of metal eyebolts, the ringiness and clarity of the notes is improved. Weeellll, I can't say that scientifically for sure yet, but the first two of these I've made sound better in that regard than my "classic" Minnie Ms.

My goal was to design this instrument so that there are NO metal parts. Success! There are NO metal parts in it! The five plywood components interlock with ears that insert through slots, held together with a few pins - not unlike the Amish style tressle dining table I build for us many years ago. 

If you look close you may see a couple of the rubber grommets I am using to suspend the bars, in place of the traditional eyebolts. The new Minnie M stacks one on top of the other, and stands upright with a small footprint for storage - just like the old ones.

Like all of my instruments, the bars are removable, so you can swap out F# and Bb bars. Or order your own scale and tuning. Now if I can just figure out how to make these instruments buzz....

Builder Boards

Yesterday I visited The Foundry, a "Makerspace" in Bellingham that provides access to hi-tech resources (like 3D printers) to entrepreneurs:

There I met Jack McKee, the maker of Builder Boards:

He was showing off his invention which is a set of interlocking boards kids use their IMAGINATIONS to make stuff out of. Yes, that's right, he wants kids to be creative! In school even! At 70 years old he seems young at heart, and before long he and one of the Foundry staff guys were on the floor, playing like tykes.

These are basically great big plywood Lincoln Logs and as a kid I would have LOVED to get my hands on these, just like I would have LOVED playing big marimbas.

I think Jack must be my professional doppelganger as we share identical phraseology regarding the kid-appeal of our respective products. I told Jack we are in the same business of building stuff for active, imaginative, collaborative and result-oriented kids.