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Cutting the arch for a marimba bar - (discussions with Gavin Paddock)

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-----Original Message-----
From: Gavin Paddock
Sent: Thursday, 20 May 2004 9:09 AM
Subject: Q- Cutting the arch for a marimba bar...?
Dear Jim,

My name is Gavin Paddock, I'm from the North-eastern region of the United States, and came upon your site looking for resources on Marimba construction. I found a lot of good information on your site, and GREATLY appreciate your willingness to help others. I'm in the planning stages of building a 4.something octave Marimba, and have one major question. How do I cut out the initial arch from the base of the bar? I've seen several methods on the 'net, including using the rounded edge of a belt sander, using a draw knife/chisel, and setting up a mitre with a table saw to remove single blade widths of wood at a time! I was interested in your method of "digging the arch." Thanks a lot, I hope to hear from you soon!

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Hi Gavin - glad you are finding the info helpful...

I have also heard about quite a few different techniques of removing timber from the arch. I suspect what is best varies quite a bit depending on the size and pitch of your bar. I have primarily concentrated on big bars for low instruments so a "coarser" method is suitable. I have primarily used a coarse sanding disc on a power drill. On the bigger bars, when I knew I had to remove lots of timber, I started by making a series of shallow cuts across the bar then using a mallet/chisel to get rid of larger chunks.

In general - I like sanding as a technique as it creates a smooth finish, and removes timber gradually and in an even fashion. I suspect that on more normal size bars - particularly middle C and up - one would do the finer tuning pretty much with sandpaper in hand or similar. I have found that as the arch gets deeper, smaller adjustments create exponentially bigger tuning differences, so you have to be careful not to go too far in the last stages.

Hope this helps.. Jim McCarthy

Jim Reccomends for comprehensive blueprints and building guides to make your own marimbas.

answers by Jim MCCarthy - 20/05/2004

For more help on instrument building you can email Jim.

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