Chiming In! (Not a House Post)

“How’s the Bathroom going?”

Well, thanks for asking. It’s May – month of concerts and parades and awards programs and graduation prep and beginning band testing and exam prep…. it’s non-stop (EVERY May)! But a good non-stop. The bathroom is not halted, but is moving slowly. I’m hoping so much that we can kick it into high gear very soon!

This is more of a band director post, but definitely one that was a fun project for me. Doug and I met in college through Kappa Kappa Psi, the National Honorary Band Fraternity, and we’ve both continued our involvement and support of the organization since then. This past April, I coordinated the Intercollegiate Band for the North Central District of Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma. Basically, 7 hours of rehearsals and a concert for 84 college band students from 28 universities. It is SUCH a great event! The conductor this year, Dr. Scott Jones from the Ohio State University, programmed some beautiful pieces. As I was working on lists of percussion instruments to gather, I was excited by the piece “Only Light,” by composer Aaron Perrine. The score calls for Bolt Chimes and Key Chimes. On his site, Mr. Perrine says:

Over the last few years, I’ve received MANY questions about carriage bolt and key chimes. They are essential homemade instruments, which I first encountered during my time at the University of Iowa.

He has some examples of Bolt Chimes and Key Chimes here. OF COURSE, my plan was to build a set! I don’t often get to use my handy house skills for band work. I thought I would do a rare non-house blog post about it, because it might be helpful to someone else who might program the piece, and is looking for some guidance.

I just used some scrap 1×4 for the structure. The top board is for the key chimes, and just has one center hole to mount it onto the stand. The bottom board is for the bolt chimes. One larger center hole for the mount, and 12 smaller holes drilled for each bolt to hang independently. I chose to stain the wood, but you really don’t have to be that fancy. Or you could paint it. Both sets of chimes attach to a standard percussion stand – like one you would use for a set of wind chimes / mark tree.

Initially, I used fishing line to hold the bolts on, but the bolts were way too heavy (or, my knots were way too terrible). The knots kept sliding out, and when one bolt fell and hit my foot while I was putting another one on, I was DONE. Using the jute twine was absolutely because it’s the first thing I found looking around the house for something else. But it worked well (and looks pretty rustic).

I hung the bolts close enough that they could easily hit each other when played.

I chose to use 12″ carriage bolts. I bought some in several sizes, and thought at first that I might use a few different sizes, but it sounded great with the 12″ bolts.


But how do they sound? Because yes, they are pretty. But if they don’t sound good, then they’re useless. I really like how it sounds!

The key chimes, I used the picture on Mr. Perrine’s site as the inspiration. Step one was asking my school staff who had extra keys laying around. I used a lot of different sizes.

I attached hooks on the underside of the wood, and then attached a spring to connect between the two hooks. The spring came from the hardware section of Lowe’s – just a screen door spring.

I attached the keys with fishing line. The spring acts as a spacer, and keeps the keys from sliding and bunching together.

I had a bunch more keys, but I just used enough until I got the depth of sound that I wanted.

This really sounds fantastic. It was pretty addictive when it was sitting in my house waiting to be packed. It’s super fun to play!

You can check out a recording of Aaron Perrine’s “Only Light” HERE!

I plan to program this piece with my top ensemble next year. It’s got a lot for us to work on – I’m pretty excited!



  1. Wow those are lovely! I especially love the keys. Coincidentally I took video of the bats at my son’s little league game serving as wind chimes today as they hung in the dug out. It was super windy and they clinked against the fence. It was awesome!

  2. You are so creative! Both of those make me think of “one horse open sleigh”😍😍😍😍

  3. I found you through that recent Country Living article and I’ve really enjoyed seeing your approach to restoration and the whole journey as I’ve been reading through some of your blog. But even better when I saw you were a band director and a KPsi! I was in TBS. There are band kids and old house lovers everywhere!

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