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Monday, 27 November 2017

Making playground instruments for St Werburghs Community Centre in Bristol, using locally grown timber and some reclaimed materials

Recently, one idea that has interested me is making sculptures that can be played as instruments. This linked nicely into a recent commission. A community centre in Bristol wanted instruments to go in their new garden next to the M32 motorway.

playground instruments bristol

The spaces where the instruments were to be installed weren't big, being between already existing planters. This limited the amount of keys, chime bars etc. that could be used in each one . After chatting with the director of the centre I designed and made them some playable structures that we felt also looked good.



The reddish-coloured woods, used for the xylophone keys amongst other things, are sepele and utile. These are both timbers from trees that grow in West Africa. I tend to only use reclaimed tropical woods in my work and these were no exception, having been bearers for timber deliveries to a local company which are usually destined for burning. The posts and other timbers are European Larch; a durable locally-grown timber. 


metallophone and xylophone

One particularly enjoyable part of making these was turning the 'rattle poles' on my Myford lathe, for the last instrument played in the video.


wooden playground instruments

They are quite big pieces and it was a fun challenge to turn them evenly and for both of them to be as similar as possible.


wood turning on a Myford Lathe

I had help from volunteers during the installation, which made the job a lot easier! Everyone was very happy with the new instruments, including me (as you can probably tell by the big smile at the end of the video).