Kids Crafts: How to Make an Elastic Band Harp
- A good strong cardboard box
- A piece of stiff cardboard
- Clear glue suitable for cardboard
- A craft knife (even the kitchen scissors will do)
- A ruler
- A pen or pencil
- Elastic bands
The Elastic Band Harp
This can be a fun craft activity for the kids and it only takes about a maximum of an hour to make.
The instrument does not require a huge number of materials - and the resultant sounds that can be created are gentle on the adults' ears as well!
In fact, if the box is wide enough to allow seven or eight elastic bands and they're stretched to a similar tension, the kids will soon be serenading you with some of their favourite tunes, if those tunes are simple enough. Maybe they'll even compose their own!
Making the harp can also be an impromptu science lesson - the tighter the elastic, the higher the note produced.
Choosing a Box
The size of the box you choose may depend on the size of the elastic bands you have, as they may only stretch so far. I chose a pretty gift box I had been given.
It's probably easier for the box to be not too big and best if it is fairly strong. Mine was the kind with a lid, so I was able to put the lid upside down and put the base into it as reinforcement.
If your has flaps, glue the undersides of the flaps and press them to the inside walls of the box and that will help to make it stronger, too.
Making the Bridge
Like a violin, the elastic band harp needs a bridge. For this you use the sheet of strong cardboard.
It needs to be about half an inch or around one and a half centimetres wider than the width of your box. Score this that distance in from the edge on one side, and bend it at right angles, so that it is just the width of the box. You can do the scoring with the back of the knife. The extra width that is bent will be glued to the box.
- The bridge will be on an angle, so flatten out the flap for a moment and measure from the base of the cardboard to the tallest height you will need (mine was five inches) and then rule on an angle down to the lowest height the bridge is to be. It needs to be higher than the edge of your box (mine was two and a half inches).
- Measure up above the highest point the shorter distance (my two and a half inches) and rule straight across.
- Cut along this straight line (as my cardboard was quite stiff, the kitchen scissors were better than the craft knife for this).
- Cut along the angled line.
You should now have two matching pieces.
Have you ever made one of these before?
Bridge: Step 1
- Place the two parts of the bridge back to back so that one flap is on the right side and the other on the left.
- Glue the bridge pieces (but not the flaps yet) and hold in place for a moment until they are stuck together. If this is difficult, clamp together or put something heavy on top until they are stuck.
Bridge: Step 2
- Measure along the angled edge of the bridge so that small Vs may be cut into it at equal distances.
- The number of cuts you make will depend on the width of your bridge.
If you can make seven or eight cuts about an inch (4-5 cm) apart, that will allow for around an octave of notes and the opportunity for playing a good tune on the harp. If your box is narrow and you can only have about four elastic bands, it's surprising what little tunes can be made with these.
Bridge: Step 3
- Making sure that the flaps are bent at right angles, one towards the front of the box and the other towards the back.
- Run some glue along the flaps to the height of the box sides.
- Push them gently into place across the width of the box and towards the back.
Hold the bridge for a moment as the flaps dry (or clip together with a clothes peg or strong paper clip).
To Complete the Harp
Make sure that the glue is dry and the bridge is firm and upright.
- Stretch an elastic band around the box and secure it in a V.
- Repeat with the bands until all the Vs have a band.
They need to be quite taut to get a good sound.
You may need to adjust the bands at the back of the bridge to get the notes as you want them to sound.
Note: I used different thickness of bands to see how this would work. It is not recommended. The harp works best if the bands are all the same.
© 2014 Bronwen Scott-Branagan