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Supplies: CA glue (cyanoacrylate common name “Crazy glue”) Wood glue Sand paper

Tools:

Clamps

Allen key 3/32”

1:  Assemble frame by matching numbers with the numbers to the inside

2:  Square the frame by placing it on top of the back and making sure that the corners for 90 degree angles.

3:  Inspect all the corners to make sure there are no gaps, Inspect all corners

4:  Apply a drop of CA glue to each corner to hold it in place.  

5:  Run a bead of CA glue into all of the inside corners.

6:  Run some glue all around the outside of the corners, just enough to get in the cracks.

In the first step we glue the frame together with CA (Cyanoacrylate) glue.  This glue can be dangerous if it contacts skin or eyes, so use precautions such as safety glasses.  This glue generates heat in the curing process and my get hot enough to set paper on fire.  The glue process should occur quickly, When all the glue is applied be sure to double check that it is still square to the bottom and adjust as needed.  A clamp may be used to hold it square to the bottom, be sure not to glue it to the bottom by accident.  

The next step is critical to a good glue joint for the top and bottom plates.  Attach a sheet of 100 grit sand paper to a flat board, this can be done with spray glue or strong tape.  We are leveling the edges so the surfaces are coplanar.  You will see the color from the glue excess in step one disappear.  Use a variety of motion from back and forth to small circles, but keep the work flat to the board.  Do both sides.  

Install the inserts into the top.  The inserts will live inside, so choose the less attractive side. The inserts may be tapped in with hammer or pressed in with a clamp.  Either way make sure they are perfectly flat or the tension bolts won’t go in properly.  When you are satisfied they are flat, lock them down with some CA glue on the edges.  Do not skip this step, later. during assembly and finishing, the inserts may accidentally be dislodged into the closed box if the glue is not holding the inserts in place.  

Apply wood glue to the frame and spread evenly with a brush.  Start with front or back, it does not matter.  Lightly apply pressure to first two clamps on the ends while aligning the top or back to the frame.  Use plenty of clamps to make sure it is flat, snug, but not too tight on the clamps.  Wait 20-30 minutes then remove clamps, clean glue, then glue the other side.  

While the glue is drying, there is some other work that may be done.  

The bridge pieces may be hand sanded with slight round overs on the edges.  

The edges of the tension bar may be beveled or rounded to taste.  

Grind tine tips on a sander, grinding wheel or stone.  They will get hot and spark.  Keep only a slight bevel and turn the tine in your hand.  If available a stiff buffing wheel with rouge will polish the tips nicely.  By hand some 600 or finer grit emery will smooth the tips

Tine tips bent for comfort.  Grab the tine with some pliers leaving about 1/4” extended, bend tip slightly down.  A piece of tape on the adjustable wrench can help mark the distance to bend. Only a very slight bend is necessary.  

After removing the clamps the edges of the top and back need to be flush with the frame. This process may be done many ways including using a file, coarse sandpaper wrapped around a stick, stationary belt sander, or with a random orbital sander.  Be careful with a random orbital sander as it is very easy to round the surfaces.  An easy way is to use a table saw and chop saw removing just a little at a time, however this process does require quality tools and an understanding of their use, any circular saw is a very dangerous tool.

Round over all the edges, a small router or a router table will work, 1/4” roundover is ideal. This may be done by hand with a file or sandpaper.  

Start by sanding the inside of the sound hole.  This is done first since there are usually some inadvertent scratching occurring to the top which will sand out easily later.   Sand the frame until satisfied, Careful not to round the surface where the tines go or the bridge will not sit flat.  

Tip:  When brushing a finish, start in the hole then work the rest.  

Assembly begins by laying out the remaining parts.  First we attach the ½ round dowel to the back of the box by the inserts.  Use only 2 tiny drops of glue, we are only holding it in place, not trying to make a permanent attachment with glue.  (Change: We have replaced the ½ round dowel with a second grooved piece of wood and brass rod)

Carefully align the brass rod to be just at the edge of the holes.  Small drops of glue by the wood just to hold it in place during assembly.  The drop shown is a bit big, but can be spread out a bit.  Careful not to get the CA glue on your fingers.  

Arrange tines by height.

Careful with this step, if you push the inserts through, you cannot replace them.  

Place washers on bolts and insert into tension bar.  Carefully thread them into the inserts without pushing down.  Just catch one thread to start.  

The bridge is located 50 mm* from the center of the ½ round dowel measuring center to center. The 4 x 7 kits with the thinner wider tines works better at 45 mm.  The bridge should be a little closer to the tension bar then the tine rest.  To start, every thing will be inserted loose, then straightened as the tension bar bolts are snugged up.  Insert the longest tine into the center, the next goes to the left, the third tine goes to the right of the first, continue back and forth until the first seven are in between the bolts.  Snug the bolts turning them each a little at a time to keep them even, make them just tight enough to hold everything in place.  Check bridge placement on both edges to make sure they are at 50mm or a less.   Arrange tines evenly by pushing the outside ones close to the bolts, get the center one centered over the hole, then space the others, the spacing between tines comes out to be just under 5mm.

*50mm is standard, by moving the bridge closer, like 45 mm, the kalimba may be re-tuned to a lower register.   

Tightening the bolts:  Tighten the bolts alternating between the two sides about a quarter turn each.  Pluck the tines as you tighten, you will hear the sound become musical.  Pluck the tines hard enough to get some buzzing, tighten until most of the buzzing goes away, sometimes a buzz will indicate that one side is not tight enough.  Pictured below is an 8 note arrangement.  

Tuning the kalimba:  This process requires some patience and a good tuner.  Start by writing out the notes of the scale as they pertain to the kalimba.  Tuning to the wrong notes is an easy mistake, frustrating and easily avoided.  Also make sure your understand your tuner, sometimes it is easy to see the note but not notice that you tuned to a sharp or flat instead of the intended note.  To tune the kalimba, push the tines in or out.  Shortening the tine makes the pitch go higher or sharp, longer is lower or flat.  Small movements are needed to get the pitch correct.  

Raising the pitch.  

Lowering the pitch.  

Preparing and installing the inserts into the top.   In an effort to keep as much space as possible between the bolts, the inserts extend into the sides.  We need to create a little extra space for the inserts.  There are two ways to do this, one is to grind the side of the insert before it is installed, the other method is to use a chisel or utility knife to make a small notch in the side to create the clearance for the insert, or a little of both.  The other tip is to nip the tips of the inserts with diagonal cutters.  The existing are almost as thick as the top, which creates a risk of splitting.  The resulting cut is sharper then the original.  To grind the side of the insert flat use a sander or file, hold it with some needle nose, it will get hot.

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