Even if your youngster is too little for a real hand saw, our xylophone saw toy
is safe for tool lovers of all ages. Build one for the little one... and one for
Note: This project features an octave of metal sound bars. They're available as a kit from Rockler (part number 34149; www.rockler.com). A two page PDF pattern for the saw-shaped base is attached to this project. Simply download and print it out, then tape the two pages together (as indicated on pattern) to create the complete saw shape of 15 3/4 in. long.
Step 1: Cut out the paper pattern and trace it onto a 6-in.-wide piece of 1x hardwood
about 17 in. long. We used maple here. Mark locations on your workpiece for the
two 3/8 x 3/8-in. dadoes that will hold a pair of mallets (see Photo 1).
Step 2: Install a dado blade in your table saw and cut the two dadoes, with the
workpiece backed up against a miter gauge. A scrap block clamped to your rip fence
can serve as a helpful way to index each of these cuts. Position it on your fence
so the workpiece clears the block before it contacts the blade (see Photo 2).
Step 3: Use a scroll saw and sharp blade to cut the saw base to shape. Remove the
handle cutout now, too (see Photo 3).
Step 4: Break the sharp edges of the saw base with a trim router or Dremel Rotary
Tool and 1/8-radius roundover bit. Sand the base and all the contours thoroughly
(see Photo 4).
Step 5: Now is a good time to make the mallets; they're simply wooden balls attached
to dowels. Craft stores sell wooden balls in various sizes as well as ball-shaped
dowel end caps with pre-drilled holes. Buy 1-in.-diameter balls or dowel caps for
these mallets. If you need to drill the dowel holes, here's an easy and safe method
for holding the balls securely during drilling: Clamp a piece of scrap to your drill
press table, and lock the table securely so it can't shift position. Drill a 5/8-in.-diameter
hole about 1/8 in. deep to form a "seat" for the wooden ball. Fix the ball in its
seat with a dab of hot-melt glue (see Photo 5).
Step 6: Now, switch to a 3/8-diameter Forstner bit and drill slowly down into the
ball (see Photo 6). You'll create a perfectly centered hole. Withdraw the bit frequently
to prevent chips from binding it and breaking the glue bond. Drill these holes approximately
1/2 in. deep into four wooden balls. Tap the balls loose with a soft-faced mallet
or a piece of scrap wood, and peel off the glue residue.
Step 7: Cut two 9-in. lengths of 3/8-in.-diameter maple or birch dowel rod. Spread
glue on the ends of the dowels and into the ball holes, and assemble the mallets.
Step 8: While the mallets dry, you can begin the installation process for the metal
sound bars. In order to resonate properly, the bars must "float" without restriction
on felt pads. Adhesive-backed 3/4-in.-diameter felt tabs, sold as floor protectors
for furniture, work nicely for this purpose. A home center or hardware store will
carry them. Drill a 1/4-in.-diameter hole through 16 felt tabs (see Photo 7). Use
a sharp Forstner bit for this operation, drilling through the paper backing side.
It will help prevent fraying. To keep your hands safe, drill the holes before breaking
the tabs free from one another.
Step 9: Use your paper pattern and a scratch awl to make a prick mark for each of
the 16 screw locations on the saw base. Drill a 1/8-in.-diameter hole, 1/2-in. deep,
for each screw. Use a drill press to ensure the screws will be square to the base
Step 10: To mount the metal sound bars, stick felt tabs over the screw pilot holes.
Slip a #00 flat rubber faucet washer onto each screw, up to the screw head, and
install the bars. Drive the screws until the washers nearly make contact with the
metal bars but do not touch them (see Photo 8).
Step 11: Next, make a 3/4-in.-wide, 1 1/2-in.-long turnbuckle from 1/2-in.-thick
scrap. Soften the sharp edges with a file. Center the turnbuckle between the mallet
dadoes, and secure it with a #6 x 1 1/4-in. flathead wood screw driven into a countersunk
pilot hole. Tighten the screw just enough so the turnbuckle moves easily but isn't
Step 12: Finish the xylophone and mallets with your topcoat of choice. You may want
to add four small screw-on rubber chair feet to keep the toy from scratching floors
or furniture. Then, slip the mallets into their holders and present this new "tool"
to your favorite youngster. Get ready for that next impromptu saw symphony!