Winter Project: Make your own wind chimes

Those lovely sounding wind chimes hanging on front and back porches the world over got their start in India during the second-century B.C. as vessels used to ward off evil spirits and pesky birds (the latter a tradition continued today with tin pie plates and plastic owl decoys). These "wind bells" later found their way to China's temples, palaces, and homes. Their expansion through Asia brought with them a promise of good luck. And let's not forget their purpose in the States...

"Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings."

Below are instructions for creating your own wind chimes (and, by extension, supplying countless angels with lovely wings). But before we begin, here are a few considerations:

  • Tonality          More important even than how your chimes look is how they sound. Extra-long aluminum wind chimes produce some of the lowest, metallic tones you can find (one of my personal favorites).  Take a moment to consider whether you prefer the sounds of seashells clicking, hollow pieces of bamboo fluttering in the breeze, glass tinkling, or metal tapping on metal, a la rain on a tin roof.
  • Size/Weight   Consider how much noise you want your wind chime to make, how far apart each chime will be spaced, and build accordingly. Six hundred shells hanging from a thin branch will probably make big noise but tangle easily and potentially fall fast.
  • Location         A wind chime placed in your yard will need to be weather-proofed; making certain mediums less desireable than others.     
  • Appearance     Bamboo wind chimes have a totally different look from, say, a wind chime made from old car or house keys. Consider your audience, decor, and above variables when picking out what kind of chime to create. 
Now that we've done some brainstorming, here are a few simple ways to turn your home into a cacophany of sound (roommates and family members, enjoy your final moments of silence!)


Material List
You can make your wind chimes from just about anything, including:
  •  seashells
  • broken glass, sea glass
  • bamboo
  • silverware
  • wood
  • stones
  • keys
  • old, broken jewelry
Depending on the weight of the items you choose, select corresponding twine, rope, or floss. In general I recommend a high-quality fishing line to hang everything.

Create Your Platform
Everything dangling on a wind chime should be adhered to a common platform or ring at the top (see image at right). This could be an old 45, a plastic plate, a wheel of an old toy, whatever you like. If you're making a flat wind chime (see images at top), then you can really get creative and use anything you like (even bust out those welding, pottery, or carpentry skills!).

Hang Your Pieces
Depending on what materials you've decided to use, you'll either have to drill holes in the top of each piece or do some wire-wrapping. Then, attach each piece to the platform. In most wind chimes, the center dangling piece also has a weight at the bottom, called a "windcatcher." If you're hanging sea shells, the windcatcher would be at the bottom center and would be the biggest shell. This will be what really gets the music going.

Secure Your Work and Put the Chimes on Display

It's not a bad idea to secure any knots you've made with a drop of glue (I'm majorly into Gorilla Glue, but use your own judgment). Now it's time to find a secure place to hang your wind chimes (be sure the spot you choose gets a nice breeze!). If you're living in a place like Redwood that's currently being snowed on, try hanging your windchime over a heating vent or in a doorway.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.