While I provide this information at
no charge, donations are greatly appreciated. Thank You !
Say it with CHIMES
By Lee Hite
Design and Build
Tubular Bells from
Tubes, Pipes or Rods
you with easy options for making good choices when
designing and building tubular-bell wind chimes from
tubes, pipes, or rods, is our number one goal.
You can build according to a set of plans detailed below or you can design a
chime set specific to your personality and style.
A variety of best practices, patterns and
calculators are provided to accommodate your
particular skill level, construction resources and
budget. Avoid the common mistakes often found in
commercial chimes and you can easily construct a great sounding set of tubular bell chimes.
If you know what you want and just
need dimensions and patterns, see Quick-Start below.
If you're curious about some of the design
considerations, read on further.
To help simplify your visit, the menu has been
organized specific to each section of the chime set
design. You can anticipate just a few decisions before you’re ready to
There is a lot of information here, but don’t let it overwhelm
you. Most of the information provides choices for making a
design decision. You can build your first set just by using the
DIY Plans below.
How To Make Tubular Bell Wind
Chimes (Step by Step)
NOTE: To view 3D-PDF files, you
must enable playing of 3D content in
Adobe Reader's preferences. Go to
Edit->Preferences and in the section "3D & Multimedia", check the box
"enable playing of 3D content."
Videos, Files & How to Handbook DIY
Tubular Bell Chime
Handbook 5.2 Meg, PDF The Handbook duplicates
the web site. Take it with you as a reference when you build the
chime set, also included in the combo pack below.
Chime Build Combo Pack
Zip, 12 Meg, Includes the Handbook, 13-calculators, support disk
patterns, sail patterns and chime emulation software.
How to Build Wind Chimes – DIY
Wind Chime Plans1.5 Meg, PDF, A great
sounding set of wind chimes can be built for about $15 to $40
depending on the chime set size you select. Choose from four
height selections ranging from 36 to 75 inches (900-1900 mm).
Add your creative touch by altering the material and style used
for the top support disk, striker and wind sail.
Happy Birthday or A Tune You Select - Chime Set 1.5 Meg, PDF, Surprise that special person
or occasion with a song played on
a set of chimes you've built. For about $30, materials are available
from your local home improvement store.
Keep the chime set for the next party/occasion or convert
them into a set of hanging wind chimes.
require one of the following programs to view and execute:
For PC's, MS Excel TM Viewer
Get it Here (Free)
I use the free version of Docs to Go for mobile work: Androids
Docs To Go
Docs To Go in the Apple store
Calculators are for: Aluminum, Brass, Copper,
Cast Iron, Steel (EMT), Stainless Steel and Titanium
DIY Support, Striker & Sail
Patterns Wind Chime
Support Disk & Striker Patterns 5.8Meg PDF,
includes location markers for single point or dual point chime
hang, 3-point or 4-point support disk hang, tube sizes from 1/2"
to 2", size for both a circular and a star striker, and
Calculates length and hang point for tubes or rods unrestricted at both ends.
> A ratio calculator to predict chime length form a known chime dimension and
frequency. > Look-up tables for standard size tubing
> Look-up table for material properties
> Standard Music Scale
> All dimensions calculated are based on OD, ID in inches or mm and specific material
> OD = outside dimension of tubing (inches or mm), ID = inside dimension of tubing
(inches or mm)
> Material type = aluminum, brass, cast iron, copper, steel (EMT thin-wall conduit),
stainless steel, titanium
> Note selection by frequency in Hz
> The calculator uses nominal values for material properties. However, if you
know the exact material density and the exact
> Read about cautions
Caution, these values allow you to get very
close to the desired note (typically within 1%) but if you desire an exact note,
cut slightly long and grind to the final length, but not usually required for wind
chimes. Manufacturing dimensional tolerances may cause slight inaccuracies in the
actual results, not to mention the effects of poor material handling along with
slight variations in material properties and impurities. If in doubt, cut
slightly long and grind to final values. You can measure the frequency for
note verification using any number of
software programs listed
here.Additional Must Read
Do not use these calculations for an orchestra or a musical setting
unless you are certain they use A=440 Hz. An orchestra or symphony may brighten
slightly and will typically tune for A=442, 43 or 44 The above chart uses A =
440 Hz. Most symphony grade instruments are shipped with A=442 Hz. While orchestra grade chimes typically do not go below the C5 octave,
they are not tuned for the fundamental frequency, which is the basis for all the
calculators on this website. Instead, they tune for the overtones
and depend on the brain's fuzzy logic to perceive the correct note. An orchestra
chime that is tuned for C5 will typically be cut for a length around C2 and then
hand tuned to become a perceived note of C5.
What's the difference between a
pipe and a tube; the way it’s measured and its
applied use. Pipes are passageways, tubes are for structural builds. For the purpose of tubular bell chimes, we consider them the same. The important
parameters are the outside diameter, the inside diameter and the type of metal.
On the other hand, a rod is a solid metal cylinder that can produce a very
different sound compared to a tube. The DIY calculators on this web site can predict the resonant frequency for a tube or a circular rod and their hang
point location. If you want to design and build a chime set using rods rather
than tubes all you have to do is set the inside diameter to zero and enter the
outside diameter and type of metal into the DIY calculator.
If you are trying to decide between using a tube or a rod as the chime element,
one important difference is the sustain time of the musical note. Typically, a
rod will have a much longer sustain time, and in some environments, this maybe
desirable but annoying in others.
Another difference between
tubes and rods is their length for a given note. A rod is shorter than a tube to
strike the same note, for the same metal. For example, a 1" steel rod for
middle C, (C4) is 26 1/4" while it is 32 7/8" for a 1" steel EMT tube. In
addition to smooth surface metal rods, I have tested
steel rebar and the sound was awesome. Because of the hardness, rebar exhibited
a wonderful sustain time which helped to hold on to the overtones. I did not test
the accuracy of the DIY calculator but I suspect it will be close. I would
suggest selecting your notes based on steel, and while the notes probably will
not be completely accurate, the ratio among the notes should remain the same.
issue to consider among various metals is the weight difference. The longer sustain time from using a rod
may offset the increased support weight requirement caused by the rod.
Select the number of chimes (typically 3 to 8) for your set
musical notes. It is
helpful to understand the limitations for effective note selection as
discussed in the section on
the bell-like chime.
Keep in mind the physical size for the set. Whether you use Pre-calculated
dimensions or one of the DIY calculators, observe the length for the longest
chime as a guide for overall size. Remember to include extra length for the
wind sail that hangs below the chimes.
Cut each chime to the length provided by the Pre-calculated
table or the DIY calculator. Best to cut slightly long (about 1/8”) to allow
for smoothing and de-burring the ends to final dimensions.
you're new to cutting metal and looking for an easy method, I use an
abrasive metal cutting saw blade in a radial arm saw and it works equally
well with a cut-off saw aka chop-saw. The blade pictured right is under
$5.00 at Home Depot. Make certain to use a cutting disk designed for
the type of metal you plan to use. Using the wrong type of abrasive disk can
cause a dangerous explosion The traditional tubing cutter or hacksaw works well
Smooth the ends to remove sharp edges and to provide a
professional appearance. Place an old towel or cloth on a table to protect
the chime from scratches. Roll the chime back & forth as you file or sand
the ends smooth. Slightly chamfer or round the outer edge.
a V-block, center the block before drilling by lowering the drill bit to
the bottom of the vee and then clamp the block to the drill table.
How to drill the
support holes without a drill press or V-block: Using card stock or
a manila folder cut a strip about ½” by 8” or so, wrap it around the tube and tape
it so that you now have what looks like a “Cigar Band”. Remove the band and
lay it on a table. Flatten the band so a crease forms at both ends. Example: say that the
instructions ask for a hole 10 ½” from the end of the tube. Slide the “Creased Cigar
Band” down the tube to the 10 ½”.Position one crease at your mark and then
rotate the tube over to the second crease and mark that location.
The two holes will be opposing.
De-burring: Depending on where the support line exits the chime, from
the inside or outside, one or the other sharp edges of the thru hole
require de-burring. First, first remove the burr using a long round file
or sandpaper on a stick. Finish the task by using a section of coat
hanger wire with a small bend at the far end. Place the wire in a drill
and insert the bent end thru the hole. As you rotate the wire, lightly
pull back on the drill and the bent wire will bend over any inside burr.
Coat hanger wire may be too soft. Instead, use a modified small Allen
wrench. Cut off most of the shorter length with a grinder and bend the
wrench slightly so the angle is increased from 90 degrees to
approximately 105 degrees.
Select the method or style for the
top support disk or ring and select the material to be used.
For a long time my favorite was treated lumber used for decking, although it
did needs a weatherproofing sealer. Also, white or red cedar works well and
coat with a weather proof sealer. The engineered wood for decks makes an
excellent support plate and striker. If you know of someone installing a new
deck using engineered wood, perhaps you can get a few scraps. One board is
expensive and may not be worth the cost, but scraps are useful. Also, a
half-inch thick nylon cutting board (old or new) works well. Some people
will shop flea markets for that special circular disk made of most anything
from metal to plastic plates, etc. In addition, wandering the aisles of Home
Depot, Lowe's, Target, Mendelssohn's and your local drugstore have produced
some surprising circular disk that can be drilled and are long lasting in
top support disk cutout
pattern for your specific tubing size and number of chimes in the set.
Download the support disk & striker patterns from the web site and just
print the page specific to your tubing size and number of chimes in the set.
You may need to print two copies one for the support pattern and hole
locations, and one for the striker.
style for hanging the chime
tubes, i.e. top aligned, center aligned or bottom aligned. Bottom
aligned is best because it allows the striker to easily contact the end edge
of all chimes, the ideal strike location. Top aligned may have a more
aesthetic appeal and on occasion some like center alignment. All three
locations work okay when you keep the striker away from the exact center dead
zone for the first overtone, but, don't worry much about killing the first
overtone with center placement. The first overtone dead zone is very narrow
and easily overcome with a slightly off-center strike.
Attach the support line or chain to the chime using a
simple jig you can make.
. Utilized an appropriately sized darning needle for threading line through
the top support holes and tubes during assembly.
Hang the striker according to the alignment diagram and
avoid striking exact dead center for any chime. All three locations work
well when you keep the striker away from the center dead zone for the first
overtone. Don't worry about killing the first overtone with center
placement. The first overtone dead zone is very narrow and easily overcome
with a slightly off-center strike.
Always try your local building
supply store. In addition to visiting the hardware section in these
stores investigate tubing used for closet hanging poles, shower
curtain poles, chain link fence rails and post. Yard or garage sales
can yield surprising results, look for a discarded metal swing set,
tubular shelving, etc. With permission look for discarded materials
on constructions sites. Try your local metal recycler; they can
yield very economical rod and tubing.
Amazon, eBay and the like can surprise you at
times, offering small orders at good prices.
Speedy Metals accepts
orders for small quantities of tubes or rods. (Aluminum, Brass, Cast
Iron, Copper, Steel and Stainless)
(Tubing) Titanium is a silver color, low density and high
strength metal that is highly resistant to corrosion in sea water, aqua regia and
You can use either grade 2 being pure titanium, which is softer and
less popular, or grade 9 (3AL-2.5V), which is the more popular high strength.
The grade 9 numbers represent the percentage of Aluminum and
The DIY Calculators work equally well for both grades.
Metals is a small metals distributor supplying pipe, tubing and
other misc. materials. Stocking stainless, aluminum and carbon steel
from 1/8" diameter up thru 12" diameter with various wall thickness'
from very light to very heavy. No minimum orders, offering material
custom cut to length at no additional charge.
267-583-3772 or email@example.com
Tanks bells can be crafted from out-of-service
compressed gas/air tanks, scuba diving tanks or fire extinguishers.
A most likely source can be your local testing facility for each
type of tank. Ask your local fire department, welding shop and scuba
diving shop for their recommendation for a testing company. You may
be required to provide a letter to the testing company stating that
you will cut the tank in pieces and render it unable to hold
compressed air or gas.
Metal Hoops & Rings
Try hobby stores for rings or
hoops often used for dream catchers, mandelas or macrame. Some are
chrome plated steel and others may require paint. Support rings can
be cut from an out of service aluminum fire extinguisher using an
abrasive metal cutting saw blade in a radial arm saw, a chop saw or
a table saw as described in step 3 above.
Eyelets & Grommets
Small eyelets can often be
located at your local hobby store in the sewing department or a shoe
repair store. You can also use the outer shell of a 1/8 inch or 3/16
inch aluminum pop rivet. Remove the nail-like center and use the
rivet. Heat shrink tubing can be found at Radio Shack®.
Thin braided wire or 1/32 to
1/16 inch stainless steel cable, or decorative chain that is
zinc plated, brass plated, or painted can be located in hardware and
home improvement stores. Try a hobby store for small aircraft
control line cable.
Make sure the line is UV
resistant. Choices include fishing line (both 80 pound (35 Kg) braided or 30-50
pound (12-22 Kg)
monofilament), braided nylon line, braided plumb line, braided
Dacron kite line, venetian blind chord, string trimmer weed eater
line (.065 inch), awning chord, and braided electrical conduit pull
A hockey puck, redwood, red cedar, red oak, treated lumber or a 1/4" nylon
cutting board work well for large diameter chimes. Smaller diameter,
higher frequency chimes benefit from a harder wood such as white
oak, teak or Osage-orange (aka hedge-apple). Be sure to coat the
striker with a UV resistant coating.
you need to select musical notes? Not necessarily, unless you are looking for a
specific sound. All you really need to do is support the chime tube at the
correct location (22.4% from the end) to allow for the best possible sound from that tube
Say for example, you want a 5-chime set about 24 inches tall not
including the sail. The best thing to do is test a 24-inch tube for a pleasing
sound. First, look at the
Pre-calculated tube length
for your specific metal and chime size to learn where a 24-inch tube is
positioned in the overall scale. As long as the note is above C2 and well below
C5, you should be okay. Tie a slipknot in a string and position
it at exactly 22.4% from one end. Multiply the tube length by .224 to locate the
support location. Hold the chime with the string at the 22.4% point, strike the
chime on the edge of the end with something that is medium-hard like a wood
mallet, a wood cooking spoon or the hard rubber heel of a shoe. If you’re happy
with the sound, then remove 2-inches from each succeeding chime, 22”, 20”, 18”,
16” and proceed to step 4 above. I arbitrarily used a 2-inch removal measurement and suggest not
more than 3-inches between any two chimes. You can lengthen rather than shorten
each successive chime for an overall increase in height as long as you remain in
the suggested range from C2 to C5.
On the other hand, if you want a more coordinated sound (which I highly
safe choice by many wind chime suppliers has been the pentatonic
scale (C D E G A). An enhancement to that scale can be the C9 Chord (C E G Bb
& D) which has a wider note separation for a good sound both close in and at a
distance from the chime.
With that in mind, we have DIY calculators for
all musical notes or for specific scales such as the pentatonic or the C9 Chord.
You select the metal and the tubing
size (ID and OD) and the calculator will provide the correct length and hang point for each
note. The longer the chime the lower the notes will sound. So if a specific
tuning like Westminster traditionally begins in the C3 octave, like
B3-E4-F#4-G#4, feel free to begin an octave lower, like C2, which would look
like this, B2-E3-F#3-G#3.
Note Selection Table
C-E-G Bb- D
Winchester (or Wynchestre)
If you're not sure what notes to select and want to experiment,
use the Wind Chime Emulation Designer software below. Caution,
the loudspeaker connected to your computer has the ability to play the low notes
from C2 to C4, but a chime will not reproduce those sounds..
Another resource to hear how a certain chime note may sound is presented by site
visitor, Kyle Casey, at
Casey Music Service. This is not an exact replica of what a chime
would sound like, but will give a fairly good idea.
Another Must Read
Ending your project with a successful and pleasing sound is
important and setting the right expectations will allow that to happen.
Selecting musical notes for a chime is NOT like selecting notes on a
piano or other string instrument, or reed instrument. When you strike C2 on a
piano that is indeed what you hear but Not true for a chime cut for C2.
exactness and exact tuning cannot happen when you do not hear the
fundamental note for the chime. When a piano key for C2 (65.4
Hz) is struck, you will indeed hear that note, 65.4 Hz. When a C2 chime is struck you
will NOT hear 65.2 Hz. In fact. you will not hear the first overtone at 180
Hz and can barely hear the second overtone at 352 Hz. Most prominent will be the
third overtone at 582 Hz which, on a piano, sounds like D5, but isn't D5 because
the mixing for all the overtones produces a completely new sound. The new sound
is melodious, it sounds wonderful, but what note is it? Tuning charts on
this site list dimensions for notes ranging from C1 to C9, that imply exactness,
which you now understand can not happen with a chime when you can't hear the
fundamental note. Read more about the
missing fundamental here.
happens is discussed in the section "The Science of Chiming".
For example, an orchestra grade chime that is physically cut for
C2 will actually sound about like C5. To see a visual representation for what a
chime is apt to sound like, see this
chart. On the
other hand, will the strike note for a chime sound pleasing and bell-like? Yes,
absolutely, because of the large complement of overtones, even though the
fundamental is missing. Selections from about C2 to C4 sound the most bell-like
but will not adequately radiate the fundamental tone.
Unfortunately this effect complicates note selection if you are trying to strike
exact notes below about C5. Above C5 the strike
note will actually be the fundamental and you can expect to hear the selected note,
but less bell-like than the C2 to C4 range. In fact, for that reason, orchestra grade chimes
typically only cover 1 ½ octaves beginning at C5 and
extend to about G6.
Thanks to a site visitor for providing this excellent emulation
program from 1996 by Syntrillium. They are now defunct and we believe the
software is considered "freeware". The zip file contains the main program, the
registration codes and a help file. Unzip the download and run the
wind_chimes_1.01_syntrillium.exe file. The program is quite intuitive, full
featured and should be easy to operate. To begin I would suggest you set-up the
program as follows: Number of Chimes "5", Transpose to "0", Scale to "New
Pentatonic", Base Note "C-4", "Center Pendulum". Remember, the loudspeaker connected to your
computer has the ability to play the low notes from C2 to C4 but a chime may not
radiate those sounds. The program was originally designed to run on DOS 6 using
Windows 95, and also runs with Windows NT, W2000, W XP and W7 thru W10.
Chime Emulation Software
A well designed freeware called Wind Chime Designer V2.0,
1997-2006, by Greg Phillips will emulate a chime for notes between A2 (110
Hz) thru B8 (7,902 Hz) in many different scales (82 in all). It will help you
determine what notes sound pleasant on a chime and what scale to use.
Wind Chime Designer
Instructions PDF Remember, the
loudspeaker connected to your computer has the ability to play the low notes
from C2 to C4 but a chime may not radiate those sounds.
Download the Zip file here Wind Chime Designer
Zip, 370Kb by Greg Phillips (software + Instructions)
Using right mouse, save
to a folder of your choice Internet Explorer, select Save Target As Google Chrome, select Save Link As FireFox, select Save Link As Safari, select Download Linked File
Click on "wind_chime_designer.zip" to unzip the folder.
(contains Chime32A.exe, TUNING.DAT, and Wind Chime Designer Instructions)
If you have trouble unzipping Greg's new version here are the two
files you need.
TUNING.DAT Using right mouse, select Save Target As and save to a folder of
your choice. Place both files in the same folder
and run the .exe file.
Strike a note or strike a chord? Over the years much effort, by many well-intentioned people, has
been placed on exactly what is the best chord for a set of wind chimes? While a
musical chord can be pleasing to the ear, the effort to simultaneously strike
all the notes in a chord using the traditional circular shaped striker/clapper
has been mostly a waste of time. The striker only contacts one, maybe two
chimes simultaneously. The good news is that with some of our innovative striker
designs we can now strike a chord. More on this in the
striker section. Also, if you dedicate a striker to each chime tube
(internal or external to the chime) that configuration can ring several chimes
at nearly the same time and approximate a chord.
When using the traditional round striker it is much better to
select notes that have a fair amount of separation allowing the ear to easily
discern a variety of notes. Often a traditional choice has been the pentatonic
scale (C D E G & A.) This choice can sound pleasant close to the chime set but
not so good at a distance. The C9 chord (C E G Bb & D) can be used to
widen the note separations for a five-chime set. The problem at a distance is the ear has difficulty discerning the closely spaced notes of the pentatonic
Caution at a distance
I often hear the comment, "I have a set of chimes on my deck and they sound
great. However, I was over to my neighbor’s the other day and the chimes did not
sound so good. In fact, they sounded out of tune. Why is this? The answer lies
in the conditions that make up the notes for the chime. As mentioned in the
science section, a chime note is a combination of the fundamental strike
frequency and the many overtones. Some of the overtones attenuate more rapidly
than others at a distance. The original combination of strike frequency and
overtones are not the same at a distance. Remember, not always does the
fundamental frequency contribute to the note and not always are there many
overtones for a given note.
The actual note depends on exactly where in the musical scale the
chime is operating. When you have a chime that contains a larger number of
overtones that are located in the higher frequencies, and mostly missing the
fundamental, you can get this distance effect. High frequency sounds attenuate
more quickly in the atmosphere than do the lower frequencies. At a distance you
are not hearing the same sound you hear close in. Some of the high frequency
sounds can be greatly attenuated or missing. The chime can sound completely
different under these conditions. Typically this occurs when you select notes in
the lower part of the scale.
If your interest is making the chimes sound good at a distance of
say 80-100 feet or more, consider increasing the diameter of the tubing from the
traditional sizes ranging from half inch thru two inches, up to at least 3 inch
or more; 4 to 6 inches are better. A set of chimes designed for the C2 to the C3
octave have good acoustic radiation properties close to the set but not so good
far away because of this distance effect. Additional information later on this
Quieting the chime set: Chimes can easily become annoying and maintaining
a subtle sound is important, particularly in high winds. Softening the striker
often helps in addition the use of the keeper-striker. Typical striker materials
are a rubber hockey puck or other soft rubber coverings found in the plumbing
section of the local hardware store. Here are a couple examples. The
first example uses plastic aquarium tubing to cover the inside diameter of the
keeper striker. The second uses a 3 inch and a 4 inch section cut from of a PVC
plug for 3 or 4 inch PVC pipe.
Big! Whether you want a set of large chimes used in the sound
healing and therapy arts, or you because of the
anticipated lower frequency sounds, similar to a large diameter gong, or because
you have a commission for an artistic display in a public location, building
big may not accomplish all of your goals. Certainly, a set of long, large
diameter chimes, as shown to the right (built by Chris from Wisconsin) will
sound awesome, but a few words of caution before you head in that direction.
Since you read the caution statement above about the missing fundamental and the
issues with the small radiation surface area for a chime tube, you can
better understand how the insensitivity of the human ear at low frequencies
contributes to our inability to adequately hear the low notes, mostly below
about C4. I am contacted often from the website when someone wants to Build
Big. After completion of their large chime set they write to say, "My
new chime set sounds wonderful, but not as low as I expected." Beginning
with the right expectations will help you move successfully along the
design path. Large diameter long chime sets are definitely worth the effort. Be
mindful of annoying nearby neighbors since this sound travels far.
Below is an attempt to demonstrate loudness and note selection at a distance.
Most often the chime designer considers cost, weight and aesthetics. Your budget
may not approve the cost of copper and aluminum may be more favorable than steel
because of weight. Chimes from EMT (electrical conduit) are galvanized and
resist rust but not the support hole or the ends. Rust could be an issue long
term for EMT. For the purposes of chime design use the steel selection in the
calculator if you're EMT (thin wall conduit)..
Good source for tubing: Speedy Metalsby the inch
and no minimums for Aluminum, Brass, Copper, Cast Iron, Steel, and
orTitanium Joefor titanium by the foot.
What metal sounds best?
After the issues above are properly considered we can move to the
question of what metal sounds best for a tubular chime? The short answer is the
thicker the wall and the larger the diameter, the better they sound, not
necessarily the type of metal. However, what sounds best is a personal choice
and I have not found a good answer for everyone. Some like a deep rich sound and
other like the tinkle tinkle sound. Copper chimes have a different timbre than
steel chimes. The best I can advise is to visit a chime shop and test-drive a
few chimes of different metals and different sizes.
When selecting tubing size, if you’re on the fence between two sets of chimes, and one
set has either a thicker wall or a larger diameter, select the tube with more
mass, i.e. thicker wall and/or larger diameter. On small diameter chimes (1/2 to
1 1/4 inch) do not use a
You may hear someone say they like aluminum best or copper best. To better
understand the difference in metals let’s properly build two 5-tube sets of
chimes using the C9 chord beginning with the C2 octave. One set from aluminum,
2” OD with a 1/8” wall thickness, and the other set from steel, 2” OD with a
1/8” wall thickness. While each set will have different calculated lengths, they
will both strike the same fundamental note, but sound completely differently. Why is
Contrary to intuition there are
only two variables that control the sound of a chime, i.e. the
density and elasticity of the metal. Those two variables control
the specific length dimensions to achieve a desired note for a given
tubing size and wall thickness. From the chart at the right
you can see that aluminum has the lowest density and the lowest
modulus of elasticity (deforms easier than the others) , while
copper has the highest density but is only midrange for elasticity.
What does all of this have to do with what metal sounds best? The
differences among metals cause a difference in timbre for the same
Modulus of Elasticity
Lbm / in3
On occasion you may hear someone say they like aluminum chimes
best. That likely occurs because the lower modulus of elasticity for aluminum
requires less strike energy for resonant activation and for a given input of
strike energy. The aluminum chime can be louder and have an increased sustain
time. However, the difference among metals does not make one metal good and
another bad. There are no bad sounding chimes when the notes are properly
selected, tubes are properly tuned and properly mounted. It's impossible to have a set of chimes for the
same note range made from aluminum sound the same as a set made from steel or
any other metal, because of their difference in density and elasticity.
If you want the smallest possible chime set for a given note range use brass.
Opposite to brass, EMT will provide the largest physical set for a given note
range. For example, see the table below organized smallest to largest for
middle C (C4).
Length for a one inch
diameter chime at middle C (C4) , smallest to largest.
Brass .065 wall
Titanium .065 wall
Aluminum .065 wall
Aluminum .035 wall
Not all tubing is created equal:
Be aware that some tubing may produce a beating effect when struck (the wah-wah
Two closely spaced frequencies will interact to produce a third frequency. This is often due to variations in the cross section of the tubing
variations and inconsistencies in the manufacturing process. The elasticity and
the density of the tubing will be different, depending on where the tube is
struck. The tube can produce two closely spaced frequencies and these two
frequencies will produce the beating effect. Some people enjoy this
effect and others may find it annoying. If you want to avoid this wah-wah
effect, make sure you acquire high quality tubing – or test a small piece before
buying in bulk. While some tubing may be considered poor quality for musical
requirements, it may be just fine for structural needs. The problem with tubing
that exhibits this effect is that it makes precise tuning more difficult.. Listen HERE (mp3) to
the beating sound for the tube shown to the right.
If you know the exact material density and
modulus of elasticity, enter those parameters into the DIY Calculator on the
data page, when using the DIY calculator.
I want to emphasize that good tuning will certainly help to
accurately produce the appropriate overtones for the selected note, particularly
for the higher note ranges.
About Tubing Dimensions:
Aluminum and brass tubing tend to exactly follow their stated ID and OD
dimensions while copper tubing does not.
Wall thickness for copper pipe varies with the pipe schedule. The four common
schedules are named K (thick-walled), L (medium-walled), M (thin-wall), and DWV
(drain/waste/vent - non-pressurized). The printing on the pipe is color coded
K is Green,
L is Blue, M is Red,
DWV is Yellow. Both type M& type
can be found in the plumbing section of home improvement stores like Home Depot
Caution,these values allow you to get very
close to the desired note (typically within 1%) but if you desire an
exact note, cut slightly long and grind to the final length, but not
required for wind chimes. Do not use these calculations for an
orchestra or a musical setting unless you are certain they use A=440
Hz. An orchestra or symphony may brighten slightly and will
typically tune for A=442, 43 or 44 The above chart uses A = 440 Hz.
Most symphony grade instruments are shipped with A=442 Hz. Also,
orchestra grade chimes typically do not go below the C5 octave.
There are manufacturing dimensional tolerances that may cause slight
inaccuracies in the actual results not to mention the effects of
poor material handling, along with slight variations in material
properties and impurities. If in doubt, cut slightly long and grind
to final values. You can measure frequency for verification using
any number of
software programs listed
Below are actual dimensions for Type L & M Copper Tubing along with EMT
Values can vary slightly because of manufacturing
tolerances for diameter, roundness, elasticity, density and poor
A 45° cut at the bottom or top of the tube can add a nice
aesthetic touch; however, the tuning for each chime tube
will change considerably from the 90° cut value. The shorter the chime the more the tuning will
change. For example, here are the changes for a 5-chime set made from
2 inch OD aluminum with a wall of .115 inch. The set was originally cut for the
pentatonic scale (CDEGA) beginning at C6 using 90°
cut tubing. After a 45° cut at the bottom end of each tube,
the tuning increased from about 5% to 9% depending on length. Unfortunately, the
rate of change was not linear, but a value
specific to each length of tubing. Tuning increase was C6 =+5.5%, D =+6.6%, E
=+7.5%, G =+7.6% and A=+8.8%. Your notes may change more or less than these.
Additional testing was performed for a number of
different diameters and different lengths using aluminum, copper and steel
tubing. The results were very consistent. Short thin-walled tubing of any
diameter changed the most and long thick-walled tubing of any diameter changed
the least. Short tubing (around 20 inches) could increase the tuning by as much
as 9 to 10%. Long tubing (35 to 40 inches or more) could change as little
as 2%. It was impossible to predict the change other than the trend stated above
for short vs. long. This was not surprising because shorting a tube will
naturally increase the note frequency.
If you want to maintain exact tuning using a
45° cut, cut the
tube longer than the value suggested by the DIY calculator or the pre-calculated
tables, and trim to final value using your favorite tuning method. If exact tuning is not required or important, cut the
tubing to the suggested length by the calculator to pre-calculated chart, and trim the end at 45°.
If you are attempting to create exact notes for an orchestra setting, exact
tuning is required and the use of an electronic tuning device or a good tuning
ear is necessary. On the other hand, if you desire a good sounding set of chimes
but do not need orchestra accuracy, then carefully cut and finish to the
length suggested by the
the DIY calculators
Measuring the exact frequency and musical note of the chime is challenging at
best. Read the caution about chromatic tuners below!
There are a host of apps for Chromatic Tuners available for an iPhone,
iPad or Android. Site visitor Mathew George uses “gStrings” on his Android,
I use the $.99 app “insTuner” on an iPad that includes an FFT spectrum analyzer
in addition to freeware Audacity® on a Laptop described below.. A few scrap
pieces of wood to make two U-brackets, rubber bands and you're in business. Mark
the support nodes 22.4% from each end for locating the rubber bands.
If you have just a few measurements to make a quick and easy support suggestion
positioned at the 22.4% node, pictured right with the iPad.
Caution: It can be
challenging and often impossible for a chromatic tuner to measure a chime note correctly.
Non linearity of the human ear and a chime's non-harmonic overtones are two
Chromatic tuners listen and display sound as it is being produced on a linear
basis for both amplitude and frequency, but our brain process the same
information using fuzzy logic. Why is this a problem?
Unfortunately, the human ear is
no doubt the most non-linear and narrowband
sound listening device we know of. Similar to other percussion instruments,
chimes do not produce fundamental frequencies and pure harmonic
frequencies like string instruments, wind tubes and reed instruments, for which
chromatic tuners are intended.
Instead, there are numerous non-harmonic overtones present which (depending on
their individual frequency and amplitude) can be predominant to a tuner or
analyzer, but make little or no difference to the human ear. A chromatic tuner
may display the predominant amplitude and frequency, but that may not be what
the ear actually perceives. Because of the brain's "fuzzy logic" characteristic,
the many overtones associated with a particular chime fundamental frequency,
combine to produce a musical note the brain recognizes, but may not be
recognized by a chromatic tuner.
It is difficult to provide an exact recommendation when to use the tuner to
measure a chime's note, but in general, I find most any note below C4 difficult
to measure and on occasion below C5. Long, low frequencies tubes, mostly measure
incorrectly because of the "missing fundamental effect" and the preponderance of
high amplitude overtones. Thick-walled tank chimes/bells can measure with
surprising accuracy because of a single pure tone above C4 that is not cluttered
with unimportant sidebands. However, thin-walled tank chimes/bells seem not to
do as well and they may be impossible to measure accurately.
In addition, poor quality tubing exhibiting dual fundamentals, will
cause the chromatic tuner to constantly switch between the two fundamentals,
both of which are incorrect. If you are not displaying the note you expected,
try moving the chime further away from the tuner to help minimize unimportant
If you get a good steady
reading that is not what you expected, the tuner is
listening to a predominant overtone, so just ignore that measurement. Using the
values for length provided by the tables and DIY calculators on this page will
get you very close to the exact note. If the tuner cannot make a believable
measurement, use the calculated length for the chime.
good software solution for FFT spectrum analysis measurement is the freeware
program Audacity® used on a Laptop pictured right. A few additional software
sources are listed below. Most any computer microphone will work. In fact, I
have used the microphone on a headset used for Skype and it works quite well.
To eliminate the annoying background noise when using a microphone, use an
accelerometer. I have good success supporting the chime horizontally at one node
by a rubber band and at the other node by a thin wire looped around the chime
and attached to an accelerometer.
freeware, open source, cross-platform software for recording and editing sounds.
Good for fundamental and overtone frequency measurements.
Tune Lab Pro version 4
Laptop freeware good for fundamental and overtone frequency measurements. At a
cost, available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, Windows laptops, Windows
Mobile Pocket PCs, Smartphones, and the Android.
The ideal chime support location to allow for a lengthy sustain time is
positioned at either of two locations; at the fundamental frequency node located
22.42% from either end, or at the very end using a string or cable threaded
through an end cap.
If sustain time is not a requirement (which makes a tubular chime, a bell
sounding chime) such as for orchestra chimes pictured to
the right, then support can be through horizontal holes near the end of the
tube. A chime supported in this manner reduces most of the sustain
time. I do NOT recommend this method of support to achieve a great sounding set
You may see commercial wind chimes supported in this manner, but they
cannot support the tradition bell-like sound that you may be expecting.
Incorrect support ranks as the number one mistake made by some commercial chimes
sets for sale, both on the internet and in stores. They will produce a strike
note but lack the rich resonant bell-like sound that results from proper
method for a bell-like sustain time uses the traditional fundamental
frequency node which is 22.42% from either end. See the Transverse vibration
mode diagram at the right.
An important objective for a bell-like chime is to preserve the resonance of the
chime as long as possible. Accurate placement for the support holes helps to
assure the high quality (Q) or hang-time, or sustain time for the chime. A hole
size of 1/16 inch can be drilled directly on the location mark but for larger
holes, try to place the top of the hole so it aligns with the location mark.
If you're curious about other support locations, it is possible to support the
chime at the first, second or third overtone node, but not recommended. All
charts and calculations on this page are for the support line to be located at
the fundamental frequency node which is 22.42 % from either end.
If you happen to have a background in both mechanical vibration
and acoustic vibration, it is easy to confuse overtones and harmonics. Overtones
= Harmonics -1, or Harmonics = Overtones + 1. This acoustic harmonic
relationship has no connection to the radio frequency definition of harmonics.
1st Fundamental Frequency
1st Overtone, 2nd Harmonic
2nd Overtone, 3rd Harmonic
Animations courtesy of Dr. Daniel A. Russell, Professor of
Acoustics at Penn State University
The 1/2 Wrap
Both ends feed from the outside to inside
Method 4 When the knot can be concealed inside the tube or placed above
Method 4 The 1/2 Wrap is a convenient connection for a chain mount using
either a cord or 80 pound braided fishing line
Method 4 Slide the knot out of view for the chain connection
Method 5 1/8" metal rod flush cut and deburred. Held with super glue or flair
the ends with a ball-peen hammer.
Method 5 1/16" or 1/8" metal rod
with a small rubber grommet on outside of the chime for each side
Method 5 Can be used to support the concealed striker
Horizontal cable mount provides a new look
Method 6 1/32" or 1/16" steel cable threads thru each hole
Method 6 Small plastic beads assure even spacing among tubes
Method 6 Even without the beads the tubes have a tendency to space
End cap support for copper tubing
Rigid mount using 1/8" bolt or larger
Method 8 Securing nut not
Method 8 4-point rigid mount allows maximum support vertically or
Method 8 4-point rigid mount resist abuse in a park or playground
Method 9 Horizontal support
using a noninvasive soft chord or line
Forming the inverted V wire pin
This example uses a number 12 copper wire but you can use
aluminum, brass or whatever works best.
Sharpen and fit a pusher board to the ID of
Insert wire thru both holes leaving
sufficient wire to form decorative loops
Form a decorative loop on one side only.
Adjust the loops to not touch the chime below the hole
Position the pusher board perpendicular to
Use moderate pressure to form the inverted
A slip knot works well to secure the line
Form the second decorative loop. Adjust the
loops to not touch the chime below the hole
An inverted V is not absolutely necessary.
A solid 1/8" brass pin epoxy in place works well for aluminum.
For copper or brass tubing , fit a
1/8" brass pin into a 1/8" hole and file smooth
Solder or epoxy the pin in place
File smooth and finish
Steel tubing, fit a 1/8" steel or brass pin
into a 1/8" hole and file smooth
Solder or epoxy the pin in place
File smooth and finish
Finish with a smooth or hammered paint
An alternate inverted “V” support can be the wire arm from a binder clip shown
on the right. Remove the wire arms from the clip, stretch them out a little, and
position in place using needle nose pliers, wiggle the arm until the tips pop
out of the holes. Be sure to attach your hanger line first. The arms tend to be
self centering. The binder clips are available in different sizes so you can
match the clip to the diameter of the pipe. The wire diameter increases with the
size of the clip so make sure to check before you drill the pipes. (Submitted by
site visitor Tom, Thanks)
Another alternate support was
submitted by Bud (Thanks):
I place a copper wire into a copper pipe and threaded it thru one of the hanging
holes, then solder it to the pipe (then cut and grind the excess flat with the
tube), and the same for the other hanging hole. Now I have 2 copper wires coming
out the inside top of the pipe. I chuck them up to a drill motor and twist,
being careful not to kink the wire. Twisting will center the wires in the tube
and leave a good looking single wire coming out the center of the pipe. This
also would work with steel tubing. This seems to work okay and it looks
cool with the twisted wire.
End Cap, the second support location
is when the chime tube is supported by a cable or cord through a hole in an end
cap. It is important to understand that the end cap lowers the fundamental
frequency and some associated overtones from values calculated by the DIY
calculator or Pre-calculated charts. For 1/2" copper tubing type L, the
fundamental is lowered by about 3% to 6% from calculated values on this page.
For 3/4" type L copper tubing the fundamental is lowered by about 11% to 12%.
The good news is that the end cap noticeably increases the duration for the
first overtone and the chime has a much more bell-like sound. Look at these two
spectral waterfall displays and specifically compare the hang time of the 1st
overtone for each. You will notice a considerable increase in sustain time for
the end cap supported tube.
Caution: be certain to solder the end caps
in place. An unsoldered or loose fitting end cap will completely kill the
resonance. An end cap must contact the entire circumference at the end of the
chime to function properly.
Waterfall display for a chime tube
supported by a hole in the end cap. Similar to the traditional
Waterfall display for a chime tube
supported at the traditional fundamental frequency node.
1/2" Type M Copper Tubing
support for Rods: It is possible to support a rod at the
end. You might be tempted to inset a
screw eye at the end, but I can assure you that will completely kill the
resonance. Resonance for a tube or rod can easily be killed by touching the
end. The end cap is a special case that allows resonance to exist without
seriously reducing the sustain time. But adding a screw eye or any amount of
mass to the end can kill the sustain time for a rod. The easy solution that
works very well is to drill a small hole in the end of the rod and epoxy a
50 pound (22 Kg) woven fishing line into the hole. First tie a knot at the end prior to
inserting the line into the hole. This low mass and flexible connection does
not impact the resonance and provides an easy method for connection.
Chimes Support: Pictured right is a set of playground chimes for a full octave (CDEFGABC)
from anodized aluminum as depicted on the website
External Works. This fun and easy DIY project has a couple of important
requirements. First, mounting follows the same requirement as above,
i.e. locate the support holes 22.4% from both ends. Rubber grommets help to
minimize the reduction of sustain time caused by a firm mounting, but are
not absolutely necessary for this application. Rubber has a tendency to
deteriorate over time and the use of a nylon or plastic sleeve would be a
good alternate. Firm and strong mounting is definitely a requirement for the
playground environment, but we need to prevent squeezing the tube at the
mounting location. Careful adjustment, when tightening bolts, can prevent
this squeeze. Keep the mounting somewhat firm to prevent the undesirable
BUZZ caused by loose mounting. Flexible grommets allow a firm mounting that
will prevent the buzz.
Longevity for a chime is important and careful attention to
the support lines and thru holes should be considered. Rapid wind changes
and UV light can quickly deteriorate support lines, not to mention the many
Non metallic support line: Make sure the line is UV
resistant. Choices include fishing line (either 80 pound braided or 30-50
monofilament), braided nylon line, braided plumb line, braided Dacron kite
line, Venetian blind chord, string trimmer/weed eater line (.065 inch),
awning chord, and braided electrical conduit pull line.
Metallic support line: thin wire, decorative chain
(zinc plated, brass plated, or painted), 1/32 or /16 inch stainless steel cable (rust
resistant), small aircraft control line cable.
De-burring: depending on where the support line exits the
chime, from the inside or outside, one or the other sharp edges
of the thru hole require de-burring. An easy method to de-burr the outside
edges of the thru hole is to use a larger drill bit to slightly chamfer the
outer edges. If the inside edge of the thru hole is of concern, first remove
the burr using a long round file or sandpaper on a stick.
By hand, insert the smooth shaft end of the drill bit or other
hardened steel rod into the hole and rotate in a circular motion, careful
not to break the drill bit. This motion will tend to further chamfer the
outside edge and help to burnish the inner edge of the hole.
Grommets/Eyelets: are mostly for protecting the outside edge of the thru
hole. Rubber, plastic or metal (grommets or eyelets) are encouraged,
but small sizes can be a challenge to locate. Small eyelets can often be
located at your local hobby store in the sewing department or at shoe repair
store. You can also use the outer shell of an 1/8 inch or 3/16 inch aluminum
pop rivet. Remove the nail-like center and just use the rivet.
Additional Protection: use a small section of heat shrink
tubing over a non metallic support line, where it exits the thru hole from
the inside, and it is often difficult to de-burr or chamfer.
include Home Depot or Lowes for heat shrink tubing, eyelets from the hobby store in
the sewing department or a shoe repair store. Grommets can be from a
hardware store, the model airplane store or the hobby store.
The knot in the support line or wire can be mostly hidden
by use of a countersink hole when using thru holes to anchor the line to the
support disk. Pictured below are a few examples for anchoring the line.
Jigs to position the chime for
attaching support line or chain
After you have selected the alignment configuration, top, center or bottom,
a simple jig can assist the installation of the support line. Below are
three possible jigs, a square-grove jig and a v-grove jig, both with red
adjustable stops for alignment. A third jig made from a section of cardboard
or wood strip works well. Scribe a mark for the bottom, center, or top
alignment on the jig. Begin with the longest chime and select an appropriate
length for the attachment line from the chime to the support point on the
support disk or ring and locate a nail, a pencil mark, or the adjustable
post at that location on the jig. Place the longest chime on the template
and secure with tape, a clamp or maybe lay a book on it. Stretch the line up
to the reference post and tie a loop or a knot or mark with a felt tip pen.
Repeat with the remainder of the chime set using the scribed reference mark.
For center aligned chimes attach a small section of masking tape to the
center of the chime and scribe the chime center location on the tape.
Support Line Suggestions
Deburr inside hole
using stick & sandpaper
Chamfer outside hole using an
oversized drill bit
1/8" & 3/16" aluminum eyelets and a
Outside hole with aluminum eyelet
Eyelets do not protect the line
from the inside edge
1/8" & 3/16" eyelets using the top
hat from a pop rivet. Use only for thru line.
Heat shrink tubing can protect the
line from the sharp inside edge of the hole
Shrinkable tubing in place and operational
Good place to use heat shrink
Eyelets required for the outside
Number 12 copper wire bends easily to
form an inverted V
Double support line for an unusually heavy
Half wrap hides the knot inside the
chime. 80 pound braided fishing line works well.
A solid pin with single line
support eliminates wear & tear on the connection
Support Disk & Striker PatternsPDF are available in the document to the left. The patterns are for tubing
sizes from ½” to 2” in ¼” increments, and for chime sets for 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, & 8
chimes. Generic layout patterns are also included
You may wish to calculate you own
dimensions for the top support disk using the support disk calculator. You
decide the chime diameter (CD), the
striker diameter (SD) and the clearance between the striker and the chime
(D). The calculator provides the correct location for placing the chimes on
radius (R) and the spacing between the chimes (CS), and the
diameter of the support disk (PD).
Instructions for use are included with the calculator.
included is a location calculator for points on a circle. Uses include automatic
calculations for locating chimes on a radius, and points used to draw a
multisided polygon such as a star striker or support disk arranged as a star, a
pentagon, a hexagon or an octagon etc. An easy lookup table is provided for
locating 3 to 8 points
Rather than using a protractor to layout the angles for the shape of your
polygon, select the number of points and the radius (R) for those points,
and the calculator provides you with the distance between points. Adjust a
compass to the distance (L) and walk the compass around the circle
to locate the points.
If you want to avoid using the above calculator, an easy work-around is to select
an appropriate generic pattern from the
Support disk & striker
patterns document and scribe the accurate location for support holes using
Suggested locations for a circular
A circular striker will typically strike one
chime at a time but can simultaneously strike two chimes. When this
happens you can enhance the overall sound by placing widely
separated notes next to each other For example, below are
location suggestions with chime number 1 as the shortest and moving
upwards in length as the location numbers increase.
1 - 3 - 5 - 2 - 4
1 - 4 - 2 - 5 - 3 - 6
1 - 5 - 2 - 6 -3 - 7 - 4
1 - 5 - 2 - 6 -3 - 7 - 4 - 8
Chime-Set Support Suggestions
A circular ring or
hoop provides an open air and see thru appearance.
Support rings can be cut from an
out of service aluminum fire extinguisher. Strip paint and brush
with a wire wheel.
Use an abrasive metal cutting saw
blade in a radial arm saw, a chop saw or a table saw.
Height of 3/8” to 3/4 “works well.
Chain, decorative cord, or braided
fishing line can be used with this top support hoop.
Use the generic patterns
document to mark the 3-point mount location holes and a generic
pattern matching your number of chimes.
Chrome plated steel rings and hoops
in a variety of sizes from hobby stores and online
Look in hobby stores for rings or
hoops often used for dream catchers, mandellas or macramé
Support disk cut from .075"
aluminum with a 3/6" x 3" eye bolt used with the striker-keeper
Chain or UV resistant cord can be
configured for a
3-point or 4-point mount on a solid wood disk
A single screw eye is an easy
connection but more difficult to balance level
Screw eyes or thru hoes support the
chain or chord.
If the star pattern is used for the
striker it can be duplicated for the top support
You can also use the chime set as a
Pets, sports logo or a favorite
hobby can adorn the top of the chime disk.
A decorative hand painted funnel or
pan lid adds uniqueness to the set
chimes, of course, need a human to strike the chime and a rawhide-covered rubber
mallet works well. A rawhide-covered baseball or softball can work well for wind
chimes, but only in a very high wind environment where there is ample strike
energy from the sail. An orchestra chime is struck with gusto but a
wind chime often has little strike energy. Typically there is little
strike energy from normal winds so preserving and applying that energy is the
challenge. Design considerations below include single or multiple strikers, the
shape, weight, material, suspension, motion, and strike
An important consideration for a bell-like chime is the
location for the Strike Zone. The optimum location is at the very end of the tubular chime because this
location will assure that all possible overtones are energized to the maximum.
This should not be surprising since orchestra chimes are struck at the end. An
easy solution to assuring the strike occurs at the very end of the chime is to
use bottom alignment and a tapered striker as shown in
Often you will see the center selected as the strike location for a tubular bell
wind chime, perhaps for aesthetic reasons. When the exact center of the chime is
struck the odd numbered overtones can fail to energize, and the resulting sound
can be very clunky even though the even numbered overtones were well energized.
While I recommend striking the end of the chime, there are good aesthetic
reasons to align the chimes for a center alignment or a top alignment. The ideal
strike zone is about 1 inch from the end, or about an inch below the center,
line as pictured below. All three locations work okay when you keep the striker
away from dead center, which is a dead
zone for the first overtone. Don't worry much about killing the first overtone
with center placement. The first overtone dead zone is very narrow and easily
overcome with a slightly off-center strike.
Strike zone for top, bottom or center alignment
Top Aligned chimes
Find the center line for the longest chime and position the striker
at least an inch or more below that center line. Anywhere in the
green section above.
Bottom Aligned chimes
Find the center line for the shortest chime and position the striker
at least an inch or more below that center line. Anywhere in the
green section above.
Center Aligned chimes
Find the center line for all chimes and position the striker at
least an inch or more below the center line. Anywhere in the green
The Striker Shapeis most often
circular because the chimes are located in circle. An alternate shape is the
circular traveling radial striker which can be effective for striking a musical
chord. The radial striker most often takes the shape of an open star or a closed
star, like the keeper-striker pictured here. The striker has a tendency to rotate CW & CCW as it bounces to and from each chime. A circular striker will typically
contact one or maybe two chimes simultaneously. However, the star shaped striker
can synchronously contact most all of the chimes. The loudness of the chimes
struck with a star striker is somewhat reduced compared to the circular striker
because the strike energy has been distributed among the various chimes.
Closed Star Keeper-Striker: Site visitor and chime set builder, Dennis
Wagner, devised a nifty method to gain the advantage of a keeper-striker, yet
maintain a clean and transparent look. Dennis drilled 3/64 inch holes at
the star tips and threaded 50# test monofilament fishing line (1/32 inch) thru each hole to
form a firm but transparent circular keeper.
Striker Weight: A heavy striker for large chimes and a
lighter weight striker for smaller chimes, is mostly true. Depending on your
typical wind there may be occasions when you need a light weight
striker for large chimes. Near the seashore, winds can be rather strong and you
may need to soften the strike with a light weight striker or switch to a
rawhide-covered baseball or softball. Considerable strike energy can be achieved
by using an oak disk machined to a knife-edge and loaded with a 1oz weight. See
Striker Material: The choice of material depends somewhat on the note
selection. If there is good movement from the wind sail, then a circular disk
striker (soft sided but heavy) can be used for the larger diameter chimes (say
above 2 inches), particularly for lower frequency
chimes. Some choices are a hockey puck, redwood, red cedar, treated lumber or a
1/4" nylon cutting board.
Note: when drilling a center hole in the hockey
puck, the drill bit wants to grab and jam its way through the rubber and may
drill off-center. My experience is to slow down the drill and secure the puck to
a surface so it can’t move, then drill very slowly. A drill press woks best but
again, secure the puck.
If the wind is quite strong and gusty, you may need to soften the striker even
further by using a rawhide-covered baseball/softball. The rawhide helps to
produce a very mellow strike in a strong wind. Smaller diameter higher frequency
chimes benefit from a harder wood like white oak, teak or Osage-orange aka
hedge-apple. Be sure to coat the striker with a UV resistant coating.
On the other hand, a well performing star-striker should be from
a relatively hard material, yet light weight, allowing for a quick response to
circular movements. The loudness of chimes struck with a star striker is
reduced, compared to the circular striker, because the strike energy has been
distributed among the various chimes, and a harder material is required for a
strong strike. 1/8 inch soft aluminum, sheet plastic or a 1/4 inch nylon cutting
board works well to accomplish
Keep it Clean:
A dirty strike can energize a host of
unwanted spurious sideband frequencies as demonstrated by the steel striker in
the blue spectrum display below. A most melodious bell sound is achieved with a
softer strike that energizes overtones without spurious sidebands, as shown in
the purple spectrum display below.
produced equal loudness for the fundamental while the steel striker did a better
job of energizing overtones (louder) but at the expense of unwanted dirty
sidebands. The wood striker (hard maple) produced a most melodious bell sound
while the metal strike was harsh and annoying.
The Conceal & Carry Chime
hides a lead or steel striker on the inside the chime for large diameters chimes, mostly
above two inches as pictured left and right. This technique is seldom used
unless the chime set is large or becomes annoying, caused by the traditional disk
striker in high winds. Because the distance is insufficient for the striker to
gain momentum and strike with gusto, the inside striker could be a good solution
to quieting chimes in high winds. If you're looking for a muted sound from a
large set, maybe 4 inches and above, this technique is useful. The striker can
be a steel ball or a lead weight, normally
used as a sinker for fishing, and can be any of the following: a cannon ball
sinker, a bell sinker, a bank sinker or an egg sinker. Wrap the sinker
with about two layers of black electrical tape to prevent the harsh sound from a
metal strike yet still provide a strong but muted strike. Support for the
striker string or line from can be from the same point you use to support the
Striker Suspension: A small 1/16-inch brass tube about 5
inches long thru the center of the striker allows for the suspension line to be
threaded and used as an axle for the disk. This helps keep the disk
horizontal during rapid and sudden movements from high winds. A stiff wire, like
coat hanger wire, can be used as an axle as shown below in
Striker Motion: I happen to live in
a wooded area with little wind and have struggled to achieve good strike energy
from low winds. With that in mind,
I set out to improve the low wind performance of the striker.
The objective is to maximize striker movement with little input
energy from the sail. The easy solution was to resonant the support line that
supports both the striker and the sail using the second mode bending principle.
This resonance will help to amplify and sustain the motion of the striker with
little input energy from the sail. Even though the sail moves in the wind,
it will act as an anchor for the resonant movement of the striker.
You can easily recognize this movement by using both hands to
hold a string vertically and have a second person pluck the center of the
string. The natural resonance of the string will cause the center to vibrate. If
you position the striker at the exact center between the top and the sail you
can achieve this resonance.
It is difficult to provide an exact ratio between the weight of
the striker and the weight of the sail. Depending on the actual weight for both
the ratios can be quite different. In general, when you attempt to resonant the
striker line, I suggest the striker not exceed the weight of the sail and
ideally the striker should be about 1/2 the weight of the sail. I realize that
if you use a CD as the sail a lighter weight striker can be difficult to
achieve. A heavy striker is difficult to resonant regardless of the weight
for the sail. Once you have a striker you like then a little experimenting with
the sail maybe required to achieve good resonance.
On the other hand, for medium to high winds and for a
non-resonant mounting, the wind catcher/sail should have a weight less than 25%
of the striker.
When resonance is working well you will notice as the sail comes
to rest, the striker will continue to bounce off the chimes for a few more
strikes, an indication the striker is dissipating the stored energy from
resonance. See this
Resonant Striker VIDEO
WMV, for a demo. Notice the large movement of the striker compared with little
movement from the sail.
Wind Sails /
Catchers: The pessimist complains about the wind, the
optimist expects it to change, the realist adjusts the sails. by William Arthur
The objective of the wind sail/catcher is to cause the striker to randomly
contact all the chime tubes. Traditional wind sails generally work well and can
be configured with a variety of materials, sizes and shapes as shown in the
document on the right.
Patterns for Wind
Sails/Catchers 1.5 Meg, PDF
My dissatisfaction with the traditional wind sail is that
single-direction winds have a tendency to cause the sail to swing like a
pendulum. That arrangement will swing the sail both to and from the direction of the wind, not allowing the striker to
contact adjacent chimes. That affect sounds much like
a dingdong, dingdong as the striker hits only two chimes.
As you may know, wind close to the ground can behave differently
than winds aloft, and often does not blow horizontally as intuition would
suggest. Instead, it is a multidirectional force with an ample amount of wind
better understand wind turbulence mixed with single-direction winds watch this
60 second video,
Bi-Directional Wind Vane VIDEO
(WMV, 3.2Meg) showing a bi-directional wind vane mounted on my deck. You
probably noticed the swirling motion mixed with single-direction winds and the
random uphill and downhill movement (pitch & yaw). Perhaps we can exploit this
force to make a better wind sail. Let's take advantage of this turbulence to
create a striker movement that is somewhat rotational in nature and does a
better job of striking all the chimes.
first of several solutions to better capture wind turbulence can be quite
simple. Mount the sail at 45° to the horizontal so as
to catch the pitch and yaw forces, as pictured on the right. Thread the support
line through two small holes next to the center of an old CD disk and tie the
knot slightly off-center to create the 45° slope. You
may need to glue the line in place for the long term.
A second solution is to hang the sail perfectly horizontal.
Counter intuitive, I agree, but depending on your particular type of wind it can
work surprising well, particularly if the chime set is hung from a high deck or
beyond the first story of the building and the wind is particularly turbulent.
visitor (David) writes to offer an alternate method for tilting the sail. Place
the support line in the hole of the CD and tie to the line an object larger than
the hole such as a shot piece of dowel rod or colorful section of cloth. Now you
have a tilted sail and a sun sail, all-in-one. See picture at left. Thanks
third solution is to make sure the top support disk can easily rotate in a
circular direction. Hang the top support disk not from a fixed ring or hook but
from a single support line as pictured to the right. The very nature of the wind
will catch enough of the chimes to rotate the entire set allowing the pendulum
motion of the sail to strike more of the chimes.
A fourth solution can be the
radial traveling star striker
described above. The very nature of the star striker is to quickly rotate CW &
CCW from any input motion of the sail, even from straight line winds, and this
motion will easily avoid the dingdong sound.
Need More Dingdong? At
this point you are most likely saying “WHAT” more dingdong? We just got done
solving the dingdong and now you want more! Yes, there is a condition when
excessive pendulum movement of the sail is useful and not sufficiently supplied
by the tradition wind sail. With the development of the keeper-striker or the
radial-striker, both of which are very effective in striking a musical chord,
there is a need for a robust movement of the striker. The radial striker
produces a more muted sound because the strike energy is simultaneously
distributed among all the chimes by moving in a circular motion. Thus the need
for a more robust strike.
Jerk, Jolt, Surge & Lurch:
We often describe the motion of an object in terms of displacement, velocity, or
acceleration. However, an additional motion description is the rate
of change of acceleration, although seldom used. The unit of measurement is often termed jerk but is
also known as jolt, surge, or lurch . Jerk supplies the sudden and rapid motion
from the wind sail to the rotary keeper-striker.
Introducing Orthogonal Sailing: We have developed a special wind sail to solve the need for more
jerk. As mention above, a normal wind sail will mostly swing to and from the
direction of the wind; however, the orthogonal sail has the unique ability to
fly aggressively at right angles to the wind direction. If the wind is from the
North the sail will fly East and West. Construction details are in the
The orthogonal sail can be dangerous. We do not recommend
hanging the chime set where the sail can contact children, adults, or
animals. The sail makes no noise and can swing a full 180 degrees in a
half circle motion. This quiet operation and wide swing can cause people
to be unaware of the danger. The sail is flat thin metal and can
possibly cut the skin or damage an eye as it swings. BE CAREFUL !
No Sailing Today:
Long and large diameter chimes present a considerable surface area to the wind
and can move sufficiently to cause a good strike without the need for a wind
sail. In addition, the large diameter striker, often associated with a large
chime set, can capture adequate wind for a good strike. Depending on the distance
between the striker and the chime tube, not all chime sets require a sail.
Pictured right are closely spaced chimes that easily contact the striker with
low to moderate winds. Because of the short distance between the striker and the
chime tube, the strike is not robust but adequate.
The best solution for you will depend on your type of wind. You
may need to try a few different sails for success.
Windless Chimes On occasion
there may be times when you want a set of chimes in a windless environment, or
even outdoors in a low wind environment like a heavily wood area. Using an
electromagnet to repel a high intensity magnet at the end of the striker rod can
provide you with endless possibilities. Typically named chaos engine,
this arrangement can produce a random movement for the striker. Powered by
either 120 VAC or a 12 VDC solar charged battery, the electromagnet is
controlled by a circuit board with an adjustable strike rate. You can design
your individual set of windless chimes using components purchased from
Creations formerly Newton's
Flying Magnets. Below is a short video demonstrating some of the
Out of service compressed gas/air cylinders, scuba diving tanks
or fire extinguishers are often cut and used as a chime or bell. Based on
physical measurements can we pre-determine a musical note for these tanks? To
the best of my research I do not find a mathematical method for calculating a
musical note for these tanks. Both the neck-end and the base-end seriously alter
the vibration performance of the cylinder rendering existing formulas useless.
However, once the tank has been cut to your desired length it is
easy work to determine the fundamental frequency using an analysis program like
Audacity®, a free, open
source, cross-platform software for recording and editing sounds.
Do not use any formula, table or chart on this
web site to predict a tanks musical performance.
The frequency spectrum does not always follow the traditional overtone
pattern for a chime tube and can include a host of additional overtones normally
associated with the bell-like sound. See the spectrum diagram to the right.
Energizing all the overtones and avoiding the harsh sound when
using a metal striker can be a challenge. A golf ball or baseball can work well
but requires a robust strike to properly energize the overtones. I have
not had good success using a wood striker unless it's a really robust strike not
typically possible with a normal wind sail
Tank Length Matters or Maybe Not? A most perplexing situation
can exist for some tank lengths. We tested five sets of tank chimes, sets A, B,
C, D, & E pictured to the right. All chimes for sets D and E sounded distinctly
different and each had a different height, and a different fundamental frequency
and overtone structure; however, not true for sets A, B, and C.
In comparison, each chime in set A sounded exactly the same and
had nearly identical fundamental frequencies and nearly identical overtones, but
represented three different lengths. The same was true for sets B and C. There
was a slight difference in timbre among the bells, but a considerable difference in length for each
has both a neck-end and a base-end chime from a compressed-gas cylinder. While
both chimes strike almost exactly the same fundamental frequency (295 Hz vs. 290
Hz), they are of different lengths and have a slightly different timbre but
sound mostly the same. Tank B was more melodious than tank A but not a lot The difference in overtone structure is pictured to the right.
I investigated circular mode resonance which is a function of
just material type, OD and wall thickness, and not length, as a possible
explanation for this effect. Unfortunately the circular mode resonance was
considerably lower than the observed resonance and offered no correlation to the
actual measurements. The calculated vs. observed resonances were as follows:
Calculated circular mode resonance were Set A = 35.4 Hz vs. 133 Hz; Set B= 29.7
Hz vs. 290 Hz; Set C= 71.7 Hz vs. 354 Hz. The formula was provided by
Chuck from Chuck's Chimes and is: F =
(T/(2*D^2))*SQRT(E/Density) where F = frequency, E = modulus of elasticity, D =
mean diameter, and T = wall thickness.
I remain a bit perplexed on exactly why length appears to have
little effect on the fundamental frequency and the overtones structure above
some critical length point. Clearly this was not a rigorous scientific test, but
enough to cause concern and points to need for further investigation.
Pictured below are a couple of tank chime examples from site visitor Grey Yahn from Pennsylvania.
you're new to cutting metal and looking for an easy method, I use an
abrasive metal cutting saw blade in a radial arm saw and it works equally
well with a cut-off saw, aka chop-saw.
The blade pictured left is under
$5.00 at Home Depot. Make certain to use a cutting disk designed for
the type of metal you plan to use. Using the wrong type of abrasive disk can
cause a dangerous explosion The traditional tubing cutter or hacksaw works well
also. Definitely use safety glasses.
Caution: All of these tanks are highly regulated by the US Department
of Transportation (DOT), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), by
Transport Canada (TC) and others. Make certain the tank is safe for handling, is
completely empty (fill with water and empty to assure all gases are exhausted),
and is safe for cutting. Wear all recommended safety equipment including eye
protection, hearing protection and respiratory protection. The
tanks are heavy and can be dangerous when handling, use extreme caution.
tube can be stained, dyed, anodized or painted. A light weight
coating of spray lacquer, spray polyurethane, spray paint, a powder
coat or a crackle/hammered/textured finish (pictured right) can be
used without a noticeable reduction in the sustain time. However,
avoid thick heavy coats of latex as they seriously reduce the
sustain time and can kill the resonance.
The Aged Copper Patina Look
: a site visitor sent me a procedure to artificially age copper to provide
the patina appearance. The procedure works well and pictured to the left are the
satisfactory results. I have included the procedure here for your reference. Be
patient with this procedure , it can take several days to complete but the
results are terrific.
You will need two commonly available chemicals to complete this
process. The first is a rust remover that contains phosphoric acid. A couple of
sources are Naval Jelly® or Rust Killer™. Secondly, a toilet bowl cleaner that
contains either hydrochloric or sulfuric acid. Some choices are Zep® Inc. Toilet
Bowl Cleaner, The Works® Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Misty® Bolex 23 Percent
Hydrochloric Acid Bowl Cleaner and LIME-A-WAY® Toilet Bowl Cleaner. Read the
content labels carefully and look for any brand of rust remover that contains
phosphoric acid and a toilet bowl cleaner that has either hydrochloric or
sulfuric acid in your local store.
These are dangerous
chemicals. Wear safety glasses, old clothes, rubber gloves and
follow all manufactures safety recommendations. If the chemical gets
on your skin wash immediately with a liberal amount of water. Use in
a well ventilated area.
Begin by cutting your chime tubes to length and make any
length adjustments necessary for tuning. De-burr and remove any sharp edges
from both ends and the support hole.
Decide how you are going to support the chime, using either
end caps or a support line at the 22.42% location. Attach a temporary line
to support the chime vertically. This temporary line will get messy and can
be discarded at the end of this procedure.
Clean the chime using a soapy solution of dish washing
detergent like Dawn™ or equivalent. I also used a fine grade steel wool to
lightly scrub the surface. Dry completely.
Hang the chime vertically.
Soak a small soft paint brush or dry rag with the rust
remover and completely coat the chime. Allow to drip-dry. This could take
from a few hours to three days depending on your local humidity. This step
slightly etches the surface of the copper in preparation for the next
When the chime is completely dry remove the dried rust
remover from the chime using a dry cloth. Do not use water.
Soak a small soft paint brush or dry rag with the toilet bowl
cleaner and completely coat the chime. This could take from a few hours to a
few days depending on your local humidity. A second coat will help to
improve the patina look. This step causes the bluish green patina to develop
in the etched surface and will darken the smooth surfaces.
Allow a few days to dry and the chime should ready for
handling to install the final support lines.
The finished chime may not look like the picture above when
newly completed. It can take a few weeks to completely darken and turn green
in spots. Re-application of the toilet bowl cleaner may be necessary
I have had this patina set of chimes for several years and
the patina look gets better every year and holds up well in all kinds of
Artificial aging copper for the patina appearance
Cleaned and ready
for the process. Tube on the left sanded with 150 grit sand
paper, the right tube cleaned with steel wool.
First coat of rust remover applied
Rust remover dried
Excess rust remover wiped with a
First coat of toilet bowel cleaner
containing hydrochloric acid applied
First coat of toilet bowel cleaner
Second coat of toilet bowel cleaner
dried. At this stage it doesn't look like much happened but be
patient, it gets better with time and weather.
After a few weeks in the weather
After several months in the weather
Reapplied the toilet bowel cleaner
Copper: An easy way to obtain the sparkling copper look is to sand the
surface of the copper chime using an orbital sander with about 150 grit sand
paper. This will completely expose fresh copper and leave behind orbital
scratches on the surface. Coat the sanded chime with a clear spray lacquer or a
spray polyurethane to preserve the new copper look. See picture to the right.
What is a Tubular Bell Chime?
Tubular chimes date to prehistoric times for a number of cultures, back
nearly 5,000 years. Tubular bells chimes were developed in the
1880's when using regular bells in an orchestra setting became
impractical. Tubular bells closely imitate church bells and the
practice of using a resonant tube as a bell soon flourished and
became the traditional orchestra bell.
Traditional church bells or tubular bells can be characterized by their strike note.
That bell-like strike note can be expanded to include the overtone structure, sustain time and
loudness. That sounds
simple enough, but imbedded in that explanation are two definitions.
The first definition is when a chime, properly designed and constructed, can imitate a bell, and the
second definition is that a chime may
not imitate a bell. Our objectives is to
assist you to achieve the most bell-like sound as possible.
Compared to a string or brass musical instrument, designing a tubular bell
chime presents a unique challenge not experienced elsewhere. Although unique,
building a great set of tubular bells can be easily understood and implemented.
Ending your project with a successful and pleasing sound is important and
setting the right expectations will allow that to happen. The information below
may help you to better set realistic expectations.
One of the largest differences between a chime and other
musical instruments is loudness. Loudness depends on the physical size of
the chime i.e. the radiating surface area. Compared to a string
instrument where a sounding board is used to amplify the vibration
of the string, or compared to a brass instrument that is fitted with
a flared tube to amplify the loudness, a chime has no amplifying
assistance, other than the inherent surface area of the chime tube.
Overall, this loudness
limitation for a typically sized chime-set will provide serious
limitations for the available range of effective note selection.
On the other hand, if you move up from a typical
chime-set, into the really large mega chimes, then good loudness is easily
achieved. For example, shown left is a large chime-set from
Bilotto. See another large sets
An exception is when the resonant frequency of the
tube matches the air column resonance for the tube, as described by
Chuck from Chuck's Chimes.
Assistance from the energized air column adds a small amount of
The second limitation for loudness from a tubular chime depends
on the location of the selected note compared to the natural sensitivity of the
human ear. You can view the loudness sensitivity range vs. frequency of the ear
by viewing the Fletcher/Munson Equal Loudness Curves.
The ear has more sensitivity in the range from about 300 Hz to about 4 KHz, than
at other frequencies and helps to explain why we can not always hear all the
overtones, even if they are present. This loudness limitation will have a direct
affect on what notes work best for a chime.
Increasing the chime diameter increases the radiating surface area
and contributes to a louder chime but at a cost. The increased
diameter greatly increases the length requirement for a specific
note, which is not necessarily bad; it just makes the chime set
longer as the chime diameter is increased. See the graph to the
right for musical note C4
other hand, increasing the wall thickness has the opposite effect as
an increase in diameter. As the wall thickness increases there is a
small decrease in the length requirement for any specific note. In
addition there will be an increase in the sustain time from the
increased mass. See the graph to the right.
Increasing the outside diameter while keeping the length and wall
thickness constant will cause a substantial increase in the resonant
The strike note vs. the sustaining note:
The perceived musical note from a chime, when first struck, is not
simply the fundamental chime tube frequency but the addition from a
host of overtone notes. Unfortunately, the strike note (which can
have a very pleasing sound) has a short life or a short sustain time
caused by the rapid attenuation of the overtones. The sustaining
vibration (several seconds) will be the fundamental strike frequency
that may or may not be audible. Note selection will be decided by
whether you are interested in hearing just the strike note or
perhaps more interested in hearing the sustaining note. For example,
a chime used in an orchestra setting is typically a rapid sequence
of notes with the strike note as the predominate sound, and little if
any time is allowed for the sustaining note. On the other hand, a
tubular bell wind chime is often characterized by the long sustain
time of a note.
The overtone structure
for a chime is not an integer harmonic as in string instruments but
instead, non-harmonic as in other percussion instruments. When the
chime is supported at the fundamental frequency node, see diagram at
the right, the higher partials are dampened but the fundamental
strike frequency remains. Overtones exist and in a perfect metal
where the density and the elasticity are constant, have theoretical
multiples of the fundamental multiplied by X 2.76, X 5.40, X 8.93, X
13.34, X 18.64 and X 31.87.
However, in the real world of metal tubing, when metal does not have a consistent
density or elasticity, the multiples will drift from the theoretical values
either up or down by as much as +2% to -8% or more.
If we could hear the complete compliment of all overtones for each note of a
chime tube, it would be a most wonderful bell-like sound. Unfortunately, not all
of the fundamental tones and/or all of the overtones can be adequately radiated
as an auditable sound by the chime tube for all possible lengths of a
chime. This condition also limits the available range of notes that have a
For example, a chime cut for C2 (65.4 Hz), the fundamental
frequency is audibly absent (aka the missing fundamental) along with
little audible contribution from the first overtone (180.5 Hz). The
remaining overtones combine to produce a perceived musical note. The
perceived note does not coincide with any specific overtone and is
difficult to measure without a frequency spectrum analyzer or
perhaps a good musical ear. The good news is that the brain
processes the information present in the overtones to calculate the
fundamental frequency, using fuzzy logic.
this page by
Sarah Tulga, Sound Science, on the physics of metallic tubing and chimes.
can see from the waterfall display at the right (click to expand) that a chime
cut for 272.5 Hz (near C4#), has two characteristics. The
first characteristic is the sound when the chime is first struck, the Strike
Note. It comprises both the fundamental and the first four overtones, and has
that traditional chime sound for a short period of time.
The 1st overtone contributes for about two seconds and rapidly
deteriorates. The remaining sound is solely the fundamental strike frequency.
Note the long sustain time for the fundamental, pictured to the left of the
The 2nd, 3rd and 4th overtones are present and contribute to the
strike note but attenuate quickly. They have little contribution to
the lingering perceived sound, aka sustain time or hang-time
In contrast to the above example, the sound for a chime cut at
fundamental C6 (1046.5 Hz) and above is mostly the fundamental and
the overtones are audibly absent or mostly absent.
In addition to the
many overtones that may be present for a chime, we have the difficulty of
knowing which overtones are prominent for each note, because of the ear's
sensitivity as represented by
The equal loudness curves.
As you might suspect, the loudness of a particular overtone changes as we move
up the scale. For a typical ear sensitivity range of 300 Hz to 3 KHz, see the
audible fundamental and
overtones for wind chime notes as a simple example for the range of audible
overtones. Obviously this is not the entire audible range of the ear, but is
presented as a simple example of the limited ability of the ear to hear all the
frequencies generated by the overtone structure. In particular, the range of C2
to C3 contain a large number of audible overtones while the range of C5 to C7
contains very few. The note range from C2 thru C4 produce the most melodious
sounds, most bell-like, and are easy to build. Precise tuning is not required
unless the set is for an orchestra setting.
The missing fundamental
is when the brain uses "fuzzy logic" to processes the information
present in the overtones to calculate the missing fundamental
To gain a better understanding of the perceived note, I examined a
set of orchestra grade chimes manufactured by a major UK manufacture. The set
was 1.5" chrome plated brass with a wall thickness of .0625 inches and ranged1 ½
octaves from C5 (523.30 Hz) to G6 (1568.00 Hz). The length of C5 was 62 5/8 inches. The
fundamental frequency for this length is around 65 Hz, about C2# , yet
the perceived note is C5 at 523 Hz. The fundamental strike frequency of 65 Hz
and the first overtone at 179.4 Hz (65 x 2.76 = 179.4 Hz) are audibly absent,
aka the missing fundamental. In fact, even the second overtone at 351 Hz will
not be strong in loudness. The remaining overtones (mechanical vibration modes)
combined to produce what the ear hears acoustically, which is C5 at 523 Hz, yet
there is not a specific fundamental or overtone at that exact frequency.
I spoke with the people at a major USA chime manufacture (symphony
grade) and confirmed that indeed the process of tuning an orchestra
grade chime is a complex process and understandably a closely held
trade secret. The process involves accounting for all frequencies
from the fundamental (whether present or missing) through the many
overtones, by the use of math calculations, acoustic measurements,
and the careful grinding of the chime to achieve the correct length
for the desired note.
An orchestra chime is not supported by the classical wind chime
method using a string through the chime at the first frequency node
but instead, is fitted with an end cap that contains a small top
hole through which a steel cable supports the chime. From testing I
find that the end cap not only enhances the bell-like sound, by
increasing the duration of the first overtone, but it also lowers
the fundamental frequency by about 4% to 12 % from calculated values,
depending on tube material and diameter. More on this at
Chime tube mechanical
Many researchers have spent time investigating the missing fundamental and
the perceived note' from a chime. A few good sources are:
Hyper Physics. Fuzzy logic and the subjective
pitch by Dr. John Askil (no longer available) and
Using the above characteristics for a chime, I found a limited set
of notes that will produce a bell-like sound from a tubular chime.
Using the musical scale as a reference, they fall into three
categories as follows:
The 1st chime category
(most bell-like) has a note range from about C2 to the C4 octave. The
fundamental strike frequency is present but audibly absent,
the missing fundamental,
and there are a host of well pronounced overtones. Often the first
overtone can also be inaudible. The perceived sound is not the
fundamental strike frequency and not the overtones, but an imaginary
note created by the combination of the overtones. To the ear this is
a very melodious sound and clearly a bell-like sounding chime. The
larger physical size of this chime for this note range causes the
loudness to be quite adequate, and easily supports radiation for the
many overtones. Note in the spectrum displays below, as we move up
the musical scale the overtone contribution becomes less and less.
The 2nd chime category (almost bell-like) has a note range from about C4
through to about the C6 octave. The fundamental strike frequency is
mostly audible and some overtones contribute to the perceived sound.
The perceived note is not the fundamental strike frequency and not
the overtones, but a combination of both that produce a perceived
musical note. The sound can be acceptable but may not be the sound
you are looking for. This has an almost bell-like sound and can
sound fairly good, but not particularly melodious. The loudness is
acceptable but not great.
3rd chime category
has a note range from about C6 through
the C8 octave. Not unlike other percussion instruments this category
is characterized by an audible fundamental strike frequency (a
noticeable pure tone) with overtones mostly absent. Overtones have
minimal contribution to the perceived musical note. This note range
may not be particularly pleasing to the ear but should not be
ignored as a pure tone, and is definitely a non-bell sounding chime.
In addition, the loudness is typically low caused by the short
length of the chime causing a low radiating surface for the higher
notes. The rapid attenuation of high frequencies in the environment
causes this note range to quickly diminish at a distance.
I am not aware of
calculations for a tube closed at one end. i.e. a chime with an end
This math is for a tube open at
The bending natural
frequency for a tube open at both ends is predicted by Euler's equation where:
w = (B X L)2
(E X I/(rho X l4))
w - frequency radian
per second - for frequency in cycles per second (Hz), f = w/(2
E - modulus of elasticity
I - area moment of inertia = π x d3 x
t/8 for a thin wall round tube
d - mean diameter
t - wall thickness
rho = mass per unit length = Area x mass per unit volume = π
x d x t x density
L - length of tube
x (d/I2) x √
(1/8) x √
(B x L)2
- Constants based on the boundary conditions for a wind chime (Free-Free Beam)
(B x L)2 = 22.373 for the first natural frequency.
(B x l)2 = 61.7 for the second natural frequency.
(B x L)2 = 121 for the third natural frequency.
(B x L)2 = 199.859 for the fourth natural frequency.
To get the units correct you must multiply the values inside the square root by
g = 386.4 in/sec2 for these units.
For a given material
then the frequency of a thin wall tube reduces to:
f = constant x d / l2
The reduced formula
is: Area Moment of Inertia = π
x (OD^4 - ID^4)/64
Area = π x (OD^2 - ID^2)/4
K = √((Elasticity x Moment x Gravity)/(Area x
Length (inches) =
√(22.42 x K/(2 x π x f))
If you want additional
math on the subject here is a paper by Tom Irvine
Clearly there is more to a chime than I had anticipated and I am sure I have not
learned all that there is to know about the physics of a chime. This was
originally a Christmas present for my daughters and not a focused research project. I am
convinced that it is not necessary to hand tune a set of bell-like chimes
designed for musical notes from fundamental C2 through C4 because the formula
achieved the desired frequency well within 1 Hz. Tuning to achieve an accuracy
closer than 1 Hz was a waste of time. However, for a fundamental note from C5
and up, good tuning is required. Good physical measurements are important to
achieve the calculated accuracy.
My favorite design has changed over the years and is currently an
end cap supported chime with the striker contacting the tube at the
very bottom of the chime using either a tapered striker or a star
striker, and having the wind rotate the chime set using a single
line support for the support disk. Unfortunately, I know of no
formula for calculating the length of a chime tube with an end cap.
I begin with a length from standard calculations on this page and
then tune by trimming off the length. End caps lower the frequency
by as much as 8% to 15%, which requires removal of material to raise
the tuning back to the correct vale. Yes, it's a lot of work if you
want exact tuning for a tapered end!
On occasion I have added an end cap to the calculated value
for an open end tube in order to gain a more bell-like sound, but not adjusted
the length to regain accurate tuning. For the most part, it has been difficult
to acoustically tell the difference between the un-tuned chime set with an end
caps and a set of tuned chimes without end caps. Perhaps I have been lucky or maybe
the natural shift caused by the end cap is consistent for all five
tubes, and they remain mostly in tune.
Your particular type of wind (single-direction or turbulent) and
wind speed will determine the best choice for both the wind sail and
for the chime striker. Rotating the chime-set works well to solve
the dingdong sound caused from low velocity single directions winds.
Another phenomena we observed, but did not have time to
investigate, was the simultaneous production of sound from the
natural bending mode of the chime coinciding with the resonance of
the air column for the tube. The good news is that another engineer,
has done an excellent job detailing this effect. I suggest you give
this a look-see. He has excellent information and calculations to
accomplish this special effect.
I saw some chimes on a tropical island made out of sticks of coral. (worn
staghorn coral on the beach, which was there by the millions of tons due to
hurricanes.) So I brought back a bunch of sticks of coral. But trying to get
maximum wind chime effect is hard, especially on the first try. The coral is
much heavier than metal, but it does have a sort of ceramic waterford ring to
it. I cannot find any specific plans, but I was leaning towards orienting many
of the pieces horizontally for maximum instability and strikes. I also wanted to
stick to natural material and make the top support out of maybe two longer
pieces of coral in an X configuration.
My first attempt would be to carefully measure down from each end 22.4%
(.224) and tie a monofilament fishing line or perhaps a braided line at
those points. I have no experience with coral chimes but they should follow
the basic laws of physics. They will probably need a robust striker because
of their small size.
We don't often have a lot of wind here, so a design that doesn't need
a lot of wind is important. Somebody gave me a cheap little metal commercial
set and it basically never made any sound because there is rarely a stiff
breeze. What are your thoughts about this?
The force from the wind is cube law, meaning for a doubling of wind speed, you
have nine times more force acting on the chime. So little changes in the design
can have a big effect on the sound. The best advice I can give regarding spacing
of the chime elements for low wind, high wind, etc. is experimentation. Every
special design I’ve done for myself and with other artist has never been a
standard design. As such, I continually have to build several prototypes where
we change the spacing vertically and in your case, horizontally. Most of my
discoveries about chimes have been from a large number of failures. On the
surface, chimes seems so incredibly simple, but the trick is in the
I was wondering if I wanted to make a rod based wind chime twice as big
the pre-calculated numbers could I multiply the pre-calculated numbers
by 2 (to get double the length) and still have the same tones as the
pre-calculated numbers describe (only a bit deeper)?
You're almost there but not quite. The relationship is not linear, but there is
an easy way to do this.
Say for example, you had a one inch steel rod and you want to go lower than the
attached table will allow, i.e. below 32.7 Hz.
Begin on the Metal Rod Length
Calculator sheet in the calculator and enter the type of metal the rod diameter,
one inch, steel.
From there you will notice the lowest is 32.7 Hz with a length of 74 3/16
go to the next sheet, Metal Rod Ratio Calculator. See chart to the right.
Enter what you know, i.e. 74
3/16 inches or 74.19 and the frequency 32.7 Hz
And the desired frequency (Half of the original) 16.35
The result will be a length of 104 15/16 inches long with a hang point of 23 ½
Repeat this procedure for each
note you wish to lower.
Should I start at C3 or C5,
I was fortunate in coming across a 20’ stick of 1.625OD x 1.375ID aluminum pipe.
According to your spreadsheet calculations I’ve got just enough to make the C-9
chord starting with C3. In reading your info I see that some of the lower
frequencies may not be heard more than a few inches away. Given the size of this
pipe do you think we’ll be able to hear the C3 or might we be better off making
two shorter sets starting with C5? The thought of the longer pipe set seems
As long as you have enough to
begin at C3, by all means start there. You won’t hear much of C3 but the other
notes will be much more melodious and bell like. I often start there or C2,
depending on the physical limitations for mounting and the intended application.
Can I use nickel-silver
tubing? Is there a way to calculate the hang points based on your tables? ID
on one tube is 0.5", the other 2 are 5/8". My son, in the marching band,
believes his trombone is a weapon of mass destruction. After 3 rebuilds, I have
tubing from the leftover parts that I wish to turn into a wind chime. I asked
the mechanic about the composition of the tubing (brass or ?) and he said it was
nickel-silver. Sure enough, it has a pleasant high-pitched ring despite the long
(30") length. However, the hang points don't seem to correspond to the brass or
aluminum columns in your table.
two issues effect the sound from one metal to another, density and elasticity.
So, the density of nickel-silver is 0.31 Lbm / in3 and the elasticity
is 18,500,000 psi. You can see from the chart at the right, nickel-sliver
is very close to copper. I would suggest using the copper charts for the
pre-calculated measurements or use copper in the DIY calculator. The most
important measurement is to hang the chime at the 22.4% point.
On the data page you can enter
the actual density and elasticity to produce an exact calculation
Can I mix sizes and metals? Yes you can mix sizes within a
given metal. Make sure you use the correct chart for each size and wall
thickness for a given metal. You can also mix metals but be careful here,
some combinations sound wonderful and other not so good.
Wondering why these tubes sound better when the striker is placed an
inch below center on the shortest tube with the tops all the same height?
When the striker is placed an inch below the center of the longest the short
tube has little to no sound?
We want to avoid exact dead center for any
chime and when they are center aligned that is an easy task. But when they
are top or bottom aligned the striker can inadvertently come too close to
dead center for one of the chimes. Because chime length is not a linear
relationship as we move up and down the musical scale, exact placement of
the striker for every different set is slightly different. You did the right
thing by experimenting to find the best sound. On most every set, I generally
adjust the striker higher or lower to achieve the best sound from every
I am working on a Mark Tree (bar chimes,
used by percussionists and drummers, pictured right). I checked on the
commercial ones and all of them are using the same hang point on all the bars. I
think it may be because it is cheaper and quicker making them this way, and
looks good hanging, but does it sound as equally good as the 22.4% hanging point
method? I'd like to hear your opinion about this topic!
A bar or chime can be supported at any point along its length and will ring when
struck, but not well. Good sustain time and rich contribution from the
overtones, that produce the bell-like sound, can only occur when supported at
the 22.4% location. All bars in the set pictured here will sound distinctly
different from each other, but will not yield the bell-like sound because of
As a footnote, my neighbor (a very practical engineer) built a xylophone and
did some experimenting with support points for the bars. His choice was 22% from
each end because that location provided the best sustain time and the best
sound. I completely agree with his findings (22.4%).
Is there a length where a tube of a given size will not resonant as
intended? Specifically, I cut a tube of 1.5 inch thinwall steel conduit to
1002mm, and it sounds higher in pitch than an adjacent 730 mm tube, which should
sound higher. I just can't wrap my head around this.
You discovered part of the missing fundamental phenomena. The chime tube appears not to resonant at the design frequency but it does
resonate. The 1002mm
length has a fundamental resonance of about 193Hz and that frequency is
difficult to hear because of the low sensitivity of the ear at the lower
frequencies (mostly below 300 Hz). Therefore, you will hear the second overtone
better which is 193 Hz x 2.76 = 523Hz. The fundamental for the 730mm chime is
about 384Hz which is getting more into the sensitive range of the ear and you
are much more likely to hear it's fundamental as compared to the fundamental for
the 1002mm chime.
Does a coating (powder coat, anodize or paint) affect the tone quality,
tuning, or note sustain of the pipe? Some chimes are anodized or appear to have a clear coat type finish for
weather resistance or aesthetics I assume.
In general, the answer is no. However, if you were to apply a thick latex paint
type coating, the extra mass would have a noticeable affect, perhaps to the
point of killing resonance. However, a thin powder coat or anodizing will have
no effect on the design frequency or sustain time.
Can I use anodized aluminum and is it expensive?
I recently came across your website as I researched the idea of building a set
of wind chimes for my wife for our anniversary. I spent several hours reading
your website and have found more than enough step by step info on how to do what
I want to do. You absolutely answered every question I had and several I did not
know to ask, except maybe one. Does it make a difference in sound or cost to get
powder coated or anodized aluminum?
No, there is no difference in the sound created using either power coated or
anodized metal. The only slight exception is if there is a heavy clear coat over
the power coat. A light coat is okay. A heavy coat slightly reduces the sustain
time, but not much.
Cost wise I don’t have much experience here. I have seen very reasonably
priced anodized aluminum on the internet, nearly the cost of un-anodized. If you’re
buying tubing already power coated, as opposed to having it done in a custom
shop, I would not expect it to be expensive.
The hang point is usually close but far from exact on chimes I have
measured. Should you drill the hang point hole at the center of the
calculated measurement or is the hang point where the string actually contacts
the tube (upper edge of the hole)?
The location for small holes, 1/8 inch or less, can be exactly on the mark.
However, holes larger than 1/8 inch (particularly ¼ inch and larger) should be
positioned, as you suggest, so the upper edge of the hole is where the support
line touches the chime.
Does the hole size that you drill for the hang point matter?
Yes, if the hole is large, relative to the diameter of the tube, it can affect
the design frequency, but a small hole has no effect. I personally use 1/8 inch
for many of the chimes .If you need a hole larger than 1/8 inch, position it so
upper edge of the hole in on the hang point mark.
Chimes not Chiming! I recently bought two, not cheap, wind chimes – and they do not chime in the
absence of hurricane gale winds! Is there anything we can do to get them to
catch any breeze that happens by? Would the CD section in your article be all he
needs? I have spent a long time on the internet looking for some quick fix but
can’t find anything. The power company recently cut down all of the shrubs we
have been carefully tending for years and now we have dreadful road noise. The
chimes were an optimistic detraction to that new situation.
Yes, there are several options. You describe a common condition where the
sail is either too small or too heavy to supply a good jerk to the striker. Without
seeing the set of chimes directly, I might suggest you replace the wind sail
with something larger and lighter weight. As a test, I use an old CD for a
temporary sail, just to make the point that it needs to be light weight and
fairly large in size. Often an old CD is not large enough. You can use anything
that pleases your eye that meets the size and light weight requirements from
Where do I get mounting pins, what size is recommended and how are they
held in position?
I typically use 1/8 inch brass tubing that can be found at my local hobby store
(where a person can buy model airplane parts, model trains, model cars and the
like ) and occasionally at home improvement stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s,
If you insert a1/8 inch rod or tube into a 1/8 inch hole, it can be loose. Use a
ball-peen hammer to slightly flatten each end of the pin, for a force fit, or
use a spot of glue. With copper chimes, the pin can be soldered. Then, file off
the excess, leaving little to no evidence of the pin.
How does the string stay in the middle of the pin so not to slide
off to one side?
A spot of super glue, hot glue or epoxy will do the trick. A knot works well
Is it possible to support a chime in a way that it is fixed, for example
with a nail, without losing its tune? Also is it possible to fix it in a way
that I won't need to drill a hole in it? I would like to build a music box that
uses a chime tube.
Yes, the chime can be structured for a fixed support using a number of
methods. Any method should locate the support at 22.4% from both ends.
The noninvasive method uses the traditional one wrap string method for
supporting an orchestra grade chime or bar, as shown right, courtesy of
Woodstock Chimes. Located above or below the chime, either method works equally
An invasive and more rugged mount can be from a stud on one or both sides of
the mounting location as shown left. A locking nut on the outside of the chime
will secure the stud in place and allow attachment to the supporting structure,
as often found in playground chimes. I would avoid inserting a bolt through the
chime tube, because tightening nuts on both sides will stress the tube causing
an altered tune and less sustain time.
How do I attach the support line to the support pin when the pin is down
in the tube?
I plan to make a chime set using 2 inch steel electrical conduit. The largest
chime would have a hang point of 9 5/8 inches from the top. How do I get the
line around the pin when it is 9 5/8 inches from the top?
Hold the tube horizontal with the support pin also horizontal. Tilt the tube
to be mostly vertical, but not quite. Feed the line down the tube on the bottom
side, passing one side of the pin and out the other end. You may need to attach
a small weight to the end of the line, like a pinch-on fishing line sinker, to
provide sufficient weight so the line will feed all the way through. You can
also blow on the tube or use compressed air to force the line out the other end.
Next, rotate the tube 180 degrees and starting from the other end, feed the
line back down the tube, passing the opposite side of the pin. Pull both ends of
the line up to the pin from the top end, and tie a slip knot. Pull the knot
taught around the pin as shown to the right. You may need to adjust the line to
be in the center of the pin using a coat hanger wire or other handy utensil.
It may be difficult to see inside a dark tube. Place a white paper on the
floor and hold the tube above the paper as you peer into the tube. This
generally allows enough light in to see the location for the line centered on
I want to use a tapered striker for (6) 2" chimes, and the calculated striker
size is 3.25", would that be the top or the bottom diameter?
That should be the largest diameter, i.e. bottom diameter if tapered or center diameter
if bullet nose.
Best striker shape and weight for large tubes?
My son gave me 3 stainless tubes. They have a diameter of 6 inches and between
5-6 feet long. In a way, my chimes will be similar to the ones on your site from
Craig Hewison, except he has 5 chimes where I have 3. This means the spacing for
my chimes will be greater. My plan is to line up the bottoms of the chimes. My thought is to use a circular wooden disk of either the tapered edge or
knife edge or straight edge design. I would say my home area has light to
moderate winds, for the most part. Do you have comments on these 3 designs?
preference is a bullet nose edge for large tubes. Heavy chimes need a robust
strike and a rounded edge striker last longer, and can be simple to fabricate.
Regarding the weight, I would start with a 1.5 inch thick section of treated
lumber, not any thicker, maybe ¾ inch could work. There is a close relationship
between a striker’s weight and the ability of the sail to adequately jerk the
striker. Because of that relationship, I cannot suggest an exact weight but I do
suggest experimentation. I often find myself making two or three different
strikers before I am satisfied with the overall performance form both the
striker and the sail.
Because of three tubes, I would not suggest the orthogonal sail. Once that sail
get to swinging, it can depart a lot of energy and I am concerned that would
cause the striker to escape to the outside of the set, not at all bad, but it
can be a nuisance. I often need to experiment with two or three strikers and
sails to achieve the desired sound. The good news is the sail can be larger than
normal because a large sail doesn’t look so big next to large chimes.
I want deep bass chimes that are resonate
I saw somewhere on the site a casual comment about a chime not hitting C2. Did I
misunderstand? I want to buy some 2 inch EMT and tune them in a Hirajoshi scale
at C2 E F# G and B. But, that's $75 worth of EMT I'll be hacking up. Do you
think it will work? I just want a really deep bass set of chimes and I am hoping
2 inch EMT of 66 to 9 inches (using your EMT table) will get me something deep
and resonant. Any advice?
Another excellent question and you read correctly. The chime will produce the
C2 note at 65.4 Hz, no problem, but will not hear it? To hear 65.4 Hz we need to
move a lot of air, thus the need for woofers used in sound systems. If you place
your ear about two inches from the long tube, WOW, you hear the 65.4 Hz, it’s
actually there. But, back up two feet and you won’t hear it.
What you actually hear is a chime note that is missing the
both fundamental (65.4
Hz) and the first overtone (180 Hz). You hear the remaining overtones.
So, what to do? You can still make the long tubes cut for the C2 octave. The
larger size will enhance the overtones (second overtone, 353 Hz and up) and you
will hear lower notes than without long tubes, but it will not be the actual C2
note. If you happen to have a small public address amplifier and
microphone, place the mic about an inch from the tube. Wow! C2 is actually
there, but it needs amplification to be audible.
The Sound of Bells
This site has not only informative pages on bell sounds and tuning, but offers free
software that lets you listen to the effects of overtones and allows you to
tune your bell or chime using a sound card and microphone.
About me: I am a retired electronics engineer with a passion for
investigating technical issues, occasionally surrounded with mystery and
often bridging several fields of technology. In 2001
when building chime-sets for my daughters as Christmas presents,
I asked what makes a chime a good chime. Little did I know what
I was getting into when I asked that question. While I would not
consider myself an expert by any definition, these findings can
be valued for the understanding of tubular bell chimes. My
experience with this project has evolved over time and is
presented to help you design and build a great set of tubular
bell wind chimes. Updates continue almost monthly as development
Leland Hite (Lee) K8CLI
All Rights Reserved 1996/2017