The material list was simple. I set out to find...
a) things to act as chimes that had good sound quality and
b) something clever to hang the chimes from.
The following are the results of my efforts.
In creating many of these wind chimes I
tried to incorporate my junk jewelry
since I have quite a collection of it after
all these years. The mesh to which
these chimes are attached is an old hair
barrette. It hangs from a chain bracelet.
The chimes I found are metal table or
chair leg tips that were in my junk box.
Between each tip is a steel chain link
which adds to the tone. Not surprising
from the look of this chime it has an
interesting cow bell sound quality.
These next chimes are hung from an
upside down fancy feast cat food can
covered with gold holographic ribbon. I
love anything holographic. Its rainbow of
reflected colors mesmerize me so I use it
where and when I can. The chimes are
brass rings left over from macramé
projects. The thing that is important
about these rings is that they have a
wonderful pure striking tone. The
clappers seen here are more of my
excess jewelry collection and are for the
purpose of catching the wind and hitting
the ring chimes. Clappers are essential
since the rings are too thin and open to
catch the wind on their own.
A problem I found with many of my handmade wind chimes
is that their weight is excessive and it takes more than a
mild breeze to move them into actually ringing. There is
only one side of my balcony that is open so only those wind
objects sitting near the edge ever catch any wind. That's
OK though because I find wind chimes that are too loud
and ringing constantly are annoying after a very short time
and I'm sure most neighbors would agree.
This leaded glass bird chime is an example of the too
heavy to ring design that I mentioned. Here, two of the
three musical rings are heavy steel belt loops or
buckles from canvas strap belts. The third is a craft
hoop of a lighter gauge metal. The combination of the
three make the purest ringing tone of any other wind
chime in this collection. That it rings at all comes from
the fact that the leaded glass blue bird is built on and
hangs from a bent steel wire that actually works like a
spring. When it is hit by a healthy gust of wind the whole
unit bounces, moving the heavy rings into striking one
another making the sweetest concussion idiophone
music you can imagine. The sound It makes is as pure
as the triangle instrument from a symphony orchestra.
This next wind chime is the oldest in my collection. The chimes are
enameled copper pieces with inlaid copper wire. The pieces were
made during my college career when my studio art concentration was
copper enameling. It is obvious to me today that I was more interested
in enameling than wind chimes and didn't know much about them back
then. Now I know that glass pieces make good wind chimes as may
copper pieces but glass glazed copper chimes makes a very peculiar
sound when striking against one another. It is a distinct and rather
unattractive clanking sound. I improved upon the sound quality by
interspersing steel chain links in between each chime proving once
again that you can always count on steel for good sound quality.
Wind chimes date back almost 5000 years. The
earliest were made from bones, shells, rocks,
wood and bamboo. Here are my creations from
bamboo and wood. I find the sound these
materials make to be particularly soothing. The
chime on the left, with no real esthetic value,
was made simply for the clackity sound the
bamboo makes when striking itself. It is a
welcome contrast to all the different ringing and
tinkling sounds of glass or metal.
Before leaving the topic of rust and corrosion
we can take a look at this tiny wind chime. It is
made from an old chain belt that was gilded with
a nice silver color before I took it apart to make
this chime. A few seasons in the heat and
humidity and the shiny silver finish dissolved
into some kind of white powdery substance. I
could try scrubbing each hanging link with steel
wool or using a metal polish but it is much easier
to say that the metal has developed a patina and
leave it as is since this odd little chime still
makes a pleasant, soothing little tinkling sound.
The metal is light enough for it to make noise in
just a light breeze while only an on-coming storm
brings many of the other's to life. The armature
is a metal filigree medallion hanging from light
weight chain and the hook is from scrap
I made the wind chime to the left just for fun. It is a
small novelty metal watering can hovering over a tiny
bucket of artificial violets. The chimes are steel belt
buckles meant for canvas strap belts. They make a
lovely light tinkling sound when the wind is strong
enough to move the entire unit.
My balcony floral color pallet is light pinks to dark
purple so in keeping with that scheme I made this
chandelier type wind chime with plastic and crystal
beads of pale lavender and hung all from a violet
crystal bracelet. I incorporated some of the
aluminum tube chimes that are so overused
because the sound quality they produce is
dependable, which is no doubt why we see them
used so often.
The pink plastic wind chime on the right was a gift too and
meant to go with my floral color pallet of pink, violet and
lavender. It incorporates the aluminum tubes that are so
common in store-bought chimes. While the metal tubes
used are boring and ordinary they have a good clear
dependable ring tone to them. Also this wind chime is so
light weight that it is one of my best and easiest ringers.
To the right is one of the few intact owl chimes
remaining. Several had been glued together from
previous breaks. Please note how the artist
pressed plant impressions into the surface of the
owl to add interesting texture to the design.
The spiral glass chandelier wind chime to the left is also a
spinner. I bought this chime because glass has a very
special sound quality and thought it quite an elegant peice.
Still I felt I could improve upon it. Though it was quite a
project I restrung the whole chime to incorporate pale
lavender crystal beads from my jewelry collection. I added
one to the top of each prism. Besides blending better with
the color pallet being used on the porch, it added a
decorative element and further sophistication to the design.
I don't feel that an exploration of wind
chimes would be complete without
talking about wind bells. Some times
the two terms are even used
interchangeably. I think you will see
that wind bells produce a much
different look and sound from wind
chimes. With a single bell and a single
clapper you get a lonely tolling on a
windy day... no light tinkling melodies
Somewhere along the way some clever craftsman
came up with using a helix as a fascinating wind
spinner. Mine, on the left, is 61 slats making it only
12" in length where the spinning one is obvious much
longer and accounts for the additional twists.
These next spinners are helices of a different type. They
are made from fixed twisted metal strips. The one on the
left is a single and the one on the right is a double helix or
has one helix inside the other. While it may be hard to see
in this animated illustration the inside helix spins in one
direction and the outside helix in the opposite direction.
They are truly fascinating to watch.
Generally these wind spinners are made from
redwood or cedar. Mine is made of alternating
slats which provide an interesting color
contrast. The slats are splayed out around a
central axis rod that is threaded on both top and
bottom. There is a fixed nut on the bottom to
hold all slats on to the rod and then a nut that
tightens at the top so that all slats remain in
position once they've been spread.
The earliest wind chimes were found at archeological
sites in South East Asia dating back to about 3000 BC.
One of the materials used in making those first wind
chimes were seashells. In my collection are the
vintage shell wind chime on the left. I use the term
vintage as in old but not antique. It is made from tiny
1/2 inch bivalve shell halves. The shells are drilled and
threaded with nylon string back to back in pairs. There
are 3 - 5 pair per string spaced at approximately 1 inch
The positive sounds of wind chimes are thought to promote relaxation and
reduce anger and tension. While this may be true for some, wind chimes are
not enjoyed by all. There are a portion of your neighbors who are throughly
annoyed by wind chimes. For managers of multiple dwellings the two
opposing camps can pose a bit of a dilemma. When I managed a senior
apartment complex, I reached a compromise by disallowing wind chimes that
produced sounds too loud or disruptive.
The terracotta chime to the left is the loudest chime I own. Terracotta is any
clay-based, unglazed ceramic with a brownish orange color. .This chime is
made from a very hard ceramic as opposed to the soft bisque of the common
clay garden pot. It was given to me years ago by my sister-in-law and I think
the nicest of my collection. It makes the most noise when I'm hanging it up or
taking it down but otherwise requires a near gale force wind to make it ring as
loudly. The sound the geometric chimes make is as clear and boisterous as
I am looking forward to making this second
amusing bell. Some clever person thought
I have to break for a moment in my examination of wind objects to discuss an important
technical element. The most important part of your spinners is the swivel that allows it to spin.
A swivel is a hardware device that consists of two end parts which turn independently. It allows
the thing fastened to it to turn around freely in a full circle in either direction. Swivels come in a
variety of sizes and strengths but finding them is not that easy. To find a good variety of swivels
you have to find a place that sells fishing tackle. If you do an on-line search for fishing swivels
you will find more sources and information about them than you can imagine. Learn all you can
and then head to your box store's sporting department or a sporting goods store.
When choosing a swivel you have to consider the weight of the
helix or spinner you will be hanging from it and make sure it is
sturdy enough. I prefer a ball bearing swivel such as the one
seen here. It is durable and unlikely to come apart. I have
included a cross section of how a ball bearing swivel is made and
works. These may be a bit more expensive than a simple barrel
swivel and may jam and refuse to turn after a while but I have
never had one come apart.
This is a barrel swivel. As you can see by my crude cross section
diagram this type of swivel is merely two eyes made from a wire
nail. The nail heads are encased in a small sleeve or barrel. I
used just such a swivel to spin my wooden wind helix for several
seasons until one day the swivel came apart and three of the
bottom slats broke off when it went crashing to the porch floor.
I'm lucky it didn't fall down three stories to the ground below
leaving me with a pile of toothpicks, or worse, hitting some poor
unsuspecting neighbor in the head.
Swivels come in all sizes and capacities.
can find hooks
that come with
swivels though it
is more likely
you will have to
If you only have a few wind objects, displaying them is
not an issue. Just hang them in a place where they
can catch a passing breeze and enjoy. But when you
are a collector you are always faced with how best to
display your collection regardless of what it is you
collect. On the left is a branch I use to hang a portion
of my wind chimes. Because my porch is only open on
one side only a strong direct wind from the South will
move these chimes, but even when silent they are
The Chinese developed the wind bell called feng-ling which directly translated means wind bell.
They would hang them from the eaves of shrines, temples, pagodas and in caves and
considered them religious talismans. Wind bells were believed to repel demons and ghosts
while attracting benevolent spirits.
Remember there is an upkeep and maintenance
factor with wind ornaments. One advantage to
yearly storage is that cleaning and repairs can be
made each year when bringing your collection in
or out for the season. Most of my chimes are hung
with fishing line which is used for its durability but
even it gets dry and brittle after years in heat and
sun. Sometimes string or twine is used for its
esthetic quality. While it lends a natural look to
the chime it tends to deteriorate in as little as one
season depending upon its exposure.
Regardless of what is used to string a wind chime
Some people leave their wind chimes, bells and
spinners up the year round. This is easy to do in mild
climates but in Northern Ohio weather is a problem.
Glass, pottery, jute and cotton string do not hold up
well in subzero temperatures. Also, to me, wind
chimes are a summer thing so I wrap, box up and
store all my balcony bangles throughout the winter
months. Usually I do this in late September at the
same time I bring in my house plants and those
plants I plan to winter-over. The seed companies list
frost dates for the Cleveland area to be 5/18 for the
last frost and 10/5 for the first frost which means
balcony living in this part of Ohio is only 4 to 5
months long so I can't waste a precious day.
The bells to the left are the four in my
collection. As you will notice the top
two are actual bells while the bottom
two are made from inverted pots with
There is evidence that wind chimes had a more practical use. Archaeological digs in Bali,
Indonesia show that farmers used the sound and movement of wind chimes and wind clappers
to scare birds and other animals from their cultivated fields. I don't know how well this worked
for the ancient Balinese farmers but none of my wind objects seem to work for this purpose.
While there may be an initial period of wariness, once the wild animals are used to seeing and
hearing wind objects they either ignore them entirely or enjoy them immensely. I have seen
visiting birds actually riding my wooden wind helix like a merry-go-round put out for their
Originally wind objects that made noise or moved were said to ward off evil spirits and became
common adornments in the home as a way to protect against supernatural influences. Other
early people simply considered these objects to be good luck.
A few summers ago, while getting my balcony ready for the
season, my interest in wind chimes was reawakened.
Wind chimes have been popular with many for their beauty
and the pleasant melodies they play.
I wanted to add to my collection but all the manufactured
chimes I could purchase from the store or online were very
much the same. Most incorporated the same hollow metal
tubes so looked and sounded the same. That's when I
decided to make my own wind chimes, using a different type
of chime having its own distinctive look and sound for each
The framework from which all the pieces are hung is constructed from
old lamp parts. The problem, as can be seen with this wind chime, is
that often the material you may find to use can rust or corrode when
exposed to the weather. Here, what originally appeared to be brass,
was obviously only a coating of something over some type of iron that
The shells and particularly colliding urchin spines have a wonderful sound
that is light and inoffensive to anyone within hearing range.
intervals by knots. At the end of each string is an urchin spine that has
some type of tip affixed to the end to which the string is tied. Each string,
15 in all, is hung from a woven rattan bell shaped structure.
The multi-tiered terracotta pot bell is an idea for that clay
pot collections most of us still have. Can you imagine
the wind it would take to ring this 7 pot bell?
of a way to use those tiny garden tools that most indoor gardener got as gifts years
ago when they were popular. My set came sticking out of a cute little wooden
wheelbarrow. It looked cute sitting as a novelty among the potted plants but more
cute than they were useful.
The clay owl wind chime to the left is just a bit of
whimsy I found years ago. Clay has a nice ring to it
but can also be quite brittle. One of the owls fell
off and broke into small bits so I made a
replacement owl from my Sculpy Poly-clay. It made
for an identical match in all but sound quality. The
rest of the owl chimes have to do the ringing for
the replacement is totally silent.
When you buy your wind spinner it will come with a swivel but after
a few years all of them tend to freeze up through the simple wear
and tear of use. This happens even more quickly if your spinning
piece is exposed to constant weather. The point is you need to
have standby or replacement swivels on hand.
The word helix comes from a Greek word meaning
"twisted or curved". There is a very complex
geometrical definition of a helix that you may wish to
look up if you are a science or math type. What I know
is that a helix is a type of curve in three-dimensional
space. Examples of helixes or helices are coil springs,
the handrails of spiral staircases and we have all seen
pictures of a DNA double helix in books or on TV.
I found a single helix exactly like the one at the left. It was simple and
interesting enough on its own but it moved wonderfully and was perfect for
using in the next spinner project seen here. Once, a long time ago, I
bought a brass carousel music box with a brass canopy from which four
Also on the practical side wind chimes were once used for weather forecasting.
In this I might agree since most of my wind objects don't come to life at all until
the weather is truly threatening.
horses hung. I used the turning
musical mechanism to make a
miniature carousel and had the
horses and brass canopy left
over. I thought it would be a
natural as a wind spinner but
here's a flash. Not everything
hung in the wind spins around
unless it has a motor turning it.
For wind to provide the power
you must do some elementary
research into aerodynamic
principles. There is a reason
that fan, propeller and whirligig
blades are twisted. It is the twist of the blade and how the
wind hits the exposed surface that turns it and determines the
direction it turns. As you can see in my finished carousel wind
spinner on the left, I hung the horses to the helix and covered
all with the brass canopy. The wind easily provides enough
power to make it go around and turns it only counter clockwise
in the correct direction for American carousels and in the
direction the horses are facing.
Since my collection has grown so large and my
space so limited I rotate some in and out from year
to year. To the right is another branch I hung
horizontally from the ceiling, perfect for hanging
Besides giving your wind chimes a bit of a respite,
there is also the thrill of getting them back out
after a long absence. For me it is the spring
equivalence of unwrapping Christmas tree
ornaments with much of the same anticipation.
or hang a bell or spinner, they will and do fall on occasion causing breakage that will require
repair or component replacement. Also any swivels being used should be checked to make sure
they are turning freely and replaced as needed.
From uses in pagodas to ward of evil spirits to their employ by ancient Celtic tribes as a means
of tricking their enemies into thinking the woods were haunted, the wind chime has played a
long and diverse role throughout history. In its modern incarnation the wind chime is a
wonderful decorative accent that produces interesting background sounds to any home or
garden. Perhaps my collection has grown a bit too large but not large at all considering the
Buddhists. They attached thousands of elegantly decorated, cast, or carved wind chimes and
wind bells to the eaves of sacred religious structures which created an almost deafening
sound in the wind.
Considered one of the earliest musical instruments, wind chimes are loved for their pleasant
melodies. Their soothing tones echo the music of the breeze and accompany the sound of the
While this wind chime may be esthetically pleasing it is the
highest maintenance chime I own. It must be wrapped and
stored carefully to avoid breakage and it tangles easily.
Also the weight of the prisms keeps it from ringing or
The coconut planter on the right seemed an
interesting base from which to hang bigger
bamboo chimes. As when using metal pipes the
length and diameter of the bamboo chimes effect
the sound that they make. These have a lower,
The next wind chime is made from hollow wooden
dowels. These were, back many years ago,
handles for shopping packages. Back then, the
department stores used to pack your clothing
purchase in a box and tie it up with a string. Then
these handles were hooked onto the string with a
bent piece of wire that ran through the hollow
dowel handles. I took the wire out, strung them
on jute string and attached them from small metal
eyes to an artsy piece of driftwood.
Arts and Crafts
Painted Ceramic Bisque