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How to Repair Old Barred Instruments

Just recently, I went to VanderCook College of Music in Chicago, IL and attended a two day course called, Orff Instrument Repair and Maintenance lead by Gary Everett. It was a great class. I highly recommend the class to anyone with a classroom of barred instruments.

Gary's class is a two day class. (8:00 a.m. -5:00 p.m. on day 1 and 8:00 a.m.- 1:30 p.m. on day 2.) I brought 9 barred instruments to the class to fix. I wasn't sure how many I would be able to fix but I planned to do as many as I could in the two days. Some of the instruments I brought were very old and needed a lot of help! I learned that with many hands and plenty of supplies, there was time to get to everyone's repair needs. Bring as many instruments as you can. There will be time.

So, here's how to get started. Gary set up shop for us in an air conditioned classroom and he brought a variety of tools to help move the process along.


Materials Needed:

1. Using an air compressor, clean out the inside of the xylophone.

2. Next, straighten the nails using pliers. Take note of pins that need attention like a new nail or pins that need a new rubber cover.

3. If a nail is snapped off, you will need to use a new nail and place it very close to the snapped nail. If a nail won’t straighten and you need a new nail, take out the old one and put a new nail in it’s place.

4. Then it’s time to cover the nail using Heat Shrink.

5. Place a 1/8” heat shrink tube over the nail and using scissors or a razor blade, cut slightly above the nail leaving a little extra heat shrink.

6. Use a Heat Gun to shrink the tube. It should shrink right on to the nail. Be careful, the nail and Heat Gun will be hot to touch.

7. After the nail has had 30 seconds to cool, place a 3/16” piece of Heat Shrink over the same nail.

8. Just as before, use a razor blade or scissors to cut the heat shrink just above the nail head.

8. Use the heat gun to shrink the material.

9. Once the nail is cooled, cut off any extra material on top of the nail. Some people like the entire nail covered while others don’t mind the nail head showing. Cut to your preference.

Suspension Cord

Materials Needed:

1. Often times the Suspension Cord breaks or needs to be replaced. Once the pins of the instrument are in good shape, you can work on the suspension cord. Gary suggests using Parachute Cord (Also called Paracord).

2. Place a thumb tack through the Parachute Cord and press the tack into the far inside end of the barred instrument. Hammer into place if needed.

3. Weave the cord in and out of the pins making 2 or 3 layers of cord. (Gary suggested two layers of cord for smaller barred instruments and three layers for the Bass Xylophones). He also said the parachute cord doesn't work well on Metalophones and suggests finding the proper cording from West Music.

4. Push a tack into the end of the cord and press it into the end of the barred instrument. You may need to use a hammer to push the thumb tack in securely.

5. Cord the other side the exact same way.

6. Place are the bars on the instrument and test your repair work.

Cheek Blocks

Materials Needed:

Optional but nice to have:

  • Nail Gun and nails

1. Sometimes the cheek blocks fall off the side of the instrument. If this happens, it's a pretty easy fix. Use sand paper to sand down the cheek block in an effort to take off the old glue.

2. Sand down the end frame of the barred instrument as well to eliminate any glue or debris. Also, remove old nails if needed.

3. Place a little gorilla glue on the end frame of the barred instrument. (Tip: A little bit of gorilla glue goes a long way.)

4. Place the cheek block on the end frame.

5. Using a nail gun or hammer, place a few nails in the cheek block to hold it in place.

It was amazing to learn with a few supplies from the craft store and hardware store, and a willingness to tinker a little bit, you can repair your barred instruments in a matter of a few hours.

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