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Want to learn the marimba but don’t have a spare $2k+ to buy the instrument? TM reader and Wisconsin music teacher Paul Okray managed to put five together for no more than $200. Granted, he did his homework finding a local jewelery box maker who cut him an incredible deal on the African padauk wood he used for the bars. But even without his contacts you should be able to turn out a playable instrument for under $250 with a little time and effort.

Paul says he didn’t need any far-out tools to finish the job, just normal shop fare like a miter saw, drill, random-orbit sander (for finishing), drum sander (for tuning), and various hand tools. His website details most of the process — except the resonator pipes, which he makes from cost-effective PVC — and I’d be willing to bet that Paul would offer some free advice if you ask nicely. Lessons, however, might set you back a few bucks.

Personally, this is on my winter project list.

Paul Okray’s Marimba Site [Personal]


8 Responses to Paul Okray’s Low-Buck Homebuilt Marimbas

  1. Joel Wires says:

    Absolutely awesome! I’ve wanted to try to make something like this for a long time. I just wish that there was a video of him playing to sample the quality of the sound. I’m sure it is pretty good.

    Hmm… I wonder if I’ve god enough scrap cherry sitting around to make a small one… hmm…

  2. BC says:

    OK, this guy lives less than 5 miles from me and I’ve never heard of him or anyone around here who works with that wood…

  3. Paul says:

    Hey BC,

    You can find me at the Marinette Middle School. Mikutowski Woodworking in Menominee works with padauk and dozens of woods for their jewelry boxes and other items.

  4. eschoendorff says:

    Perfect timing! I was thinking of somehow making several of these for an upcoming elementary music class I will be teaching.

  5. David Bryan says:

    To Paul and eschoendorff–
    I’m a musician myself, sort of– or I get called one a lot, with a cussword in front of it. At least I get to hang out with real ones a lot. Helping people to realize that they can participate and be included in making music is something I believe in very strongly. Commercial influences try to show people that it has to be done in certain ways and people need to know that there are lots of ways to experience music and be successful at it. Many thanks to both of you for helping to put music into the hands of the people where it belongs. And thanks to Chuck Cage for writing this post. I hope a lot more folks are out there making music more accessible.

  6. BC says:

    @Paul: No kidding! I know Mike – my family owned the building he’s in before he did.

  7. TODD OKRAY says:

    Hey bro! Great job with the Marimbas! I just listened to you and the gang playing on Whadda Know when you were in Madison. Great job! We’ll be seeing you later. Todd

  8. Mispah says:

    Hey Todd I love these pieces of music. I am in the UK and would love to buy if posible. What the shipping like. Even if you put on Ebay I will go for them. Let me know please.


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