This section is from the book "Amateur Work Magazine Vol6". Also available from Amazon: Amateur Work.
The xylophone and harmonica are musical instruments that have been in use, probably, for thousands of years. The xylophone, known also as the gigelire (pronounced je-je-le-ra, Italian for fiddle-lyre), sticoccasionally aplied to an arrangement of upright wooden resined sticks from which musical notes are produced by rubbing with a resined glove; a convenient name for this instrument is the "wood harp." cada, and straw-fiddle, is a wooden dulcimer, while the ordinary harmonica is a metal or glass dulcimer. A set of wine glasses played by rubbing the fingers round the rims, is also called the glass harmonica, musical glasses, or glass orchestra. The name "xylophone" is
The wood dulcimer xylophone consists of a number of pieces of rosewood, arranged in the manner shown in Fig. 1; these pieces form the notes, and are slung together with whipcord. They are laid on three straw ropes to insulate them, the straw ropes being fixed on a frame. The notes are played by two boxwood beaters, the player standing in front of the naturals, and playing the air with the right hand and the bass with the left hand. The xylophone may be played as a solo instrument, or with piano or other accompaniments; and in the hands of a skilful player some very good effects may be got from it. The rosewood notes are 11/8 in. wide and 5/8 in. thick, rounded on the top side as shown in section by Fig. 2. The middle C will be approximately 5 3 .'4 in. long. The addition of five notes at the lower or left-hand end down to C, and five at the top end up to 1), is recommended. This will give it a compass of two and a quarter octaves, making the lower notes correspondingly longer and the top ones shorter. If rosewood cannot be procured, oak or pitch pine may be substituted, and to make the tone more even they should all be cut from the same plank; they should also be free from knots. A hollow 1/2 in. wide and 1/8 deep is cut across the under side of each note in the center. Bore holes 1 1/2 in. from the ends of the longest notes, and 1 in. from the ends of the shortest notes, for the cords to pass through, as shown by the doted lines in Fig. 1.
Three pieces of whipcord are passed through the holes, and the center one may have knots made between each note, to keep them apart. The ends of the cords are put through a small washer or button, and knotted.
The straw ropes are about 7/8 in. in diameter, and are made in the following manner. A quantity of good clean long straw is procured and the heads cut off; then draw it through the hands to straighten it, and take out the short straws. Then bore a 7/8-in. hole in a piece of wood, and till it tightly with the drawn straw; push it through for 3 in. or 4 in., and wrap it with narrow red tape (as shown in Fig. 3), winding the tape on as the straw is drawn through the hole, and tie the ends as shown. If the straw cannot be got in long lengths, the ends -may be cut angular and the pieces joined together.
The frame is made as shown in Fig. 4, the joints being mortised or half-lapped together; the wood may be 2 in. wide and 3/4 in. thick. The straw ropes are fixed on the top by small wire nails or staples, the heads of which should be below the top of the ropes. The frame is not absolutely necessary,, as the straw ropes can be laid on a table or box; but it is better, especially if the straws are in two pieces, the instrument being then always ready for use.
A case may be made to hold the instrument. The case should be 3 in. deep inside, and the width of the lowest notes; it may be made narrower at the top end. Half-inch pine would do for the case, and it may be hinged on at side, and fastened by two hasp. or a lock. In playing, the frame may be laid on the case, which will improve the tone.
Two half-size views of the beater are shown by Fig. 5. They are made of boxwood, or, if this cannot be procured, lancewood may he used, which can be got from a broken gig-shaft. They are shaped as shown, with chisel and rasp, and smoothed with glasspaper.
The notes are tuned to a tuning fork or piano. They should be cut rather, longer than they will untimately be, and raised in pitch by cutting a piece off the ends; but this must be carefully done, as if too much is cut off the note will be too high in pitch. It will be best to tune them before fastening them together, and, if one is made too high, it can be moved a note upward. The rounded tops of the notes are varnished, to improve their appearance.
The glass harmonica (Fig. 6) consists of strips of plain glass, which are played by being struck with a beater. Take a piece of 3/8in. pine of the shape and size shown in Fig. 7. Proceed to make a box of this by gluing to it on each side a piece 23 1/2 in. long by 1 3/4 in. wide and 1/4 in. thick. For the wide end a piece of 1/2 in. stuff, 1 3/4 in. wide by 6 1/2 in. long, will be required; and for the narrow end a piece 4 in. by 1 3/4 in. by 1/2 in. These must have two slots cut in them, as shown by Figs. 8 and 9. These slots are 3/8 in. deep, and are 2 in. from each side at the wide end and 1 1/4 in. at the narrow one. Glue across the center of the box a piece of wood to act as a bridge. The top of this must be 3/8 in. below the top of the sides, and must not touch the bottom of the box. In Figs. 8 and 9 E shows the slots, and F two small panel-pins, one of which is in-serted at a distance of 1/2 in. below each slot. Take some trong fine silk or chochet cotten and tie one end securely to one of the pins. Bring the end through the slot immediately above the pin, carry it over the bridge and though the opposite slot, wind it around both panel-pins at that end, take it back again through the slots, and fasten it off securely. These strings must be stretched as tight as possible. Cut the glass into strips, 1 in. in width, and attach them to the strings by drops of sealing-wax. The box will hold eighteen strips, which should be in the key of C, and range from B to E.