How to make wooden musical instruments

Updated April 25, 2018

Many rhythm instruments are made of wood, including the kokoriko, sand blocks, guiro tone blocks and rain sticks. Each has a distinct sound, and all can be made with materials that are available in any well-equipped hardware store. Keep your handmade wooden musical instruments and other band-in-a-box instruments together, ready to enjoy at your next bonfire or family gathering.

Drill holes in each of the ash wood blocks for the kokoriko, centred on the 2-inch side about one inch in from the edge of the block. Sand all the blocks using medium, fine and extra fine sandpaper in that order. Thread all the blocks onto a length of cotton rope, at least 6mm thick. Tie a wooden bead at each end of the rope. Play by holding the rope level, then sliding one end up or down slowly, making the wooden tiles clack together. Vary the sound by varying the speed.

Drill 1/8-inch-diameter pilot holes in both wood blocks to make your sand blocks. Countersink the holes. Insert a 1-inch-long, 1/8-inch-diameter brass wood screw through each hole. Screw knobs onto each block. Sand all the blocks using medium, fine and extra fine sandpaper in that order.

Coat the flat side of each block with carpenter's glue. Start wrapping the sandpaper two inches from the left side of the knob, around the flat side and back to the other side of the knob. Allow the glue to dry before using your sand blocks. To play, rub the blocks together in time with the music.

Make your guiro tone block next. Use a power drill with a 1-inch-diameter bit to drill a 4-inch-long hole into the exact centre of one end of the 6-inch-long, 2-inch-diameter dowel rod. Use a 1/2-inch-diameter bit to drill a 1-inch-long hole into the exact centre of the other end of the same dowel rod.

Use a jig saw to cut across the diameter of the end of the tone block with the 1-inch diameter hole, making a slit about 3 inches deep. Put a few drops of instant adhesive into the 1/2-inch-diameter hole and insert the 4-inch-long, 1/2-inch-diameter dowel rod. Wipe away any excess adhesive.

Use instant adhesive to attach a 1/2-inch-diameter wooden bead with a 1/4-inch hole onto the end of a 12-inch-long, 1/4-inch-diameter piece of dowel rod. This is your striker. Sand your guiro and striker using medium, fine and extra fine sandpaper in that order.

Use instant adhesive to cap one end of the 2-inch-diameter, 24-inch-long hollow wooden tube with a 2-inch-diameter, 1/2-inch-thick circle of wood. Fill the tube with the rice, beans, river pebbles and aquarium gems. Cap the other end of the tube with instant adhesive as well. Allow the adhesive to set before playing your rain stick. Sand your entire rain stick using medium, fine and extra fine sandpaper in that order.

To play the rain stick, hold the centre of the stick in your fist. Tilt your wrist slowly to one side, allowing the contents of the stick to run to the other end. Tilt your wrist slowly back. Vary the speed and angle to change the sound.

Things You'll Need

  • For the kokoriko:
  • Twenty 2-by-6-by-1/2-inch blocks of ash wood
  • Two large 1-inch-diameter wooden beads
  • 20 inches of 6mm or thicker cotton rope
  • For the sand blocks:
  • Two 3-by-3-by-1/2-inch wood blocks
  • Two 6-by-3-inch strips of fine sandpaper
  • Two 1-inch long, 1/8-inch-diameter brass wood screws
  • Two solid wooden drawer knobs with 1/2-inch long, 1/8-inch-diameter holes
  • Power drill with 1/8-inch-diameter drill bit
  • Countersink bit
  • Carpenter's glue
  • For the guiro tone blocks:
  • 12-inch piece of 1/4-inch-diameter dowel rod
  • 1/2-inch-diameter wooden bead with 1/4-inch hole
  • Instant adhesive
  • 6-inch-long, 2-inch-diameter dowel rod
  • 4-inch-long, 1/2-inch-diameter dowel rod
  • 1/2-inch-diameter drill bit
  • 1-inch-diameter drill bit
  • Jig saw
  • For the rain sticks:
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rice
  • 1/2 cup uncooked dried beans
  • 1/2 cup of aquarium gems
  • 1/2 cup river pebbles
  • 24-inch-long, 2-inch-diameter hollow wooden tube
  • Two 2-inch-diameter, 1/2-inch-thick wooden circles
  • Instant adhesive
  • For finishing all the instruments:
  • Medium, fine and extra fine sandpaper
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About the Author

Jane Smith has provided educational support, served people with multiple challenges, managed up to nine employees and 86 independent contractors at a time, rescued animals, designed and repaired household items and completed a three-year metalworking apprenticeship. Smith's book, "Giving Him the Blues," was published in 2008. Smith received a Bachelor of Science in education from Kent State University in 1995.