How to make your marimba
Michael Chwe, February 2011
My son plays a Musser M250 marimba,
which is beautiful but too low for his playing comfort, since he is 6 feet and 3 inches (191 cm) tall. We used to raise the marimba on
wooden blocks, but blocks have limitations: blocks cannot raise the
marimba more than 1 or 2 inches without being unstable, moving the
marimba is inconvenient (you have to lift it off the blocks, move the
instrument, and then put it up on the blocks again), and they are not
To make his marimba height-adjustable, at low cost and without altering
the instrument (i.e. drilling holes into it), I came up with the idea
in the picture above. I used four trailer
jacks (which each cost $20 and are available from Northern Tool), one on each
corner of the marimba. The jacks are bolted onto wood boards
which are clamped around the side supports of the marimba. The
marimba is held in place between the two boards by friction. I
used foam tape, which is often used for weatherstripping or this,
to increase the friction between the boards and the marimba.
The design is pretty self-explanatory and more details are shown in the
pictures below. Notice the gray foam tape between the boards and
the marimba side supports.
As you can see in the side view below, each trailer jack is attached
with four bolts. I used two 5 inch 3/8" hex bolts (the silver
bolts on the left side) and two 1.5 inch 3/8" plow bolts (the black
bolts on the right side) for each trailer jack. The 5 inch bolts
also clamp the two boards to the marimba leg. It looks like the
black plow bolts on the right are going straight through the marimba,
but they go through only the board; plow bolts
have flat heads so the head of the plow bolt is flush with the side of
the board which touches the marimba.
Here is a view from above, which shows how the four long (5 inch) bolts
clamp the two boards around the marimba side support.
The design is very simple, can be
easily removed, and can be adapted for any keyboard mallet
instrument. If you remove the original wheels, you can even make
the marimba go lower than was originally designed. The result is
kind of bulky and heavy, however. Each trailer jack (which can
support 1000 pounds!) weighs around 15 pounds, and roughly six inches
of clearance are necessary on both sides of the marimba. Four
cranks are also a bit inconvenient, but I suppose one could say that
four-wheel "independent suspension" might be useful on uneven
floors. The total budget was around $180: $80 for the four jacks,
$90 for the wood (I used walnut, which is a bit expensive), and $10 for
bolts and nuts.
If you have any questions or other suggestions about how to make a
marimba height-adjustable (other than buying a new one which is already
height-adjustable!), please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!