I've noticed web sites such as makeamarimba.com that give instructions on making all sorts of mallet instruments. I've long considered trying to make a set of orchestra bells for example, but didn't want to take the time to figure out the correct measurements, etc. Has anyone had any experience with making reasonably good quality instruments? I'm sure there's more to it, but on the surface it does seem possible, as opposed to trying to make a trumpet or whatever.
Kent. . . I have tried this personally. . . and have gone as far as calculating the measurements, purchasing the tools and the rosewood here at a local exotic woods supplier here in Houston. . . and believe me. . . I gained a new found respect for the craftsmanship and attention to detail of Ron Samuels and other builders. The sound of the first bar I cut was pretty demoralizing. . . . :) LOL! However, if you are the woody craftsman type of person. . . I say go for it! There is also a website on the acoustics of bar percussion that was VERY helpful for me when I was doing my calculations and figuring out bar lengths and what tools I needed. Good luck! If you get a working instrument together post up some pictures!
There are sound samples for each kind if you click through the links. By far the best one I've heard (and seen) is the La Favre marimba. The following page of his is LOADED with useful tuning and construction info!
I built a bass marimba in college and that experience was enough to teach me that while it's fun to shave the bars at first, I'm so picky about my sound that I'd never leave the tuning to myself :)
I think you can buy the bars only from many manufacturers, then make your own frame and resonators. I half looked into it 4 years ago and I think the bars for a 5 octave are around 4-5 thousand bucks. You could probably build a frame for 2k.