Musical Instrument Making Parts and Materials: Where to get What

Last modified 2-28-2011

This is a where-to-get-what list for parts and materials used in musical instrument making. The emphasis is on hard-to-find materials (items that you could get from the local hardware store are not included). We’ve placed a special focus on natural materials such as horn, gourd and bamboo.

If you know of good sources that should be added to the list, please send us a message with the relevant web site addresses. This list is limited to businesses with a presence on the World Wide Web.

The list is alphabetical by category, and it’s short enough that you could easily skim through the whole thing. If you don’t see what you want, try a word search using the “find” function on your browser (usually in the “edit” menu) — the key word you’re after may be buried in the text somewhere.


ANIMAL BONE

Boone Trading Company: http://www.boonetrading.com/. Follow the “Misc Raw Materials” link on the their web site for deer and buffalo bones.

We have been unable to locate a steady source for cattle bones.

BAMBOO

Tradewinds Bamboo Nursery: http://www.bamboodirect.com. Bamboo poles up to 4″ in diameter.

For general information on bamboo, including resource lists, a good place to start is the American Bamboo Society at http://www.americanbamboo.org.

BRASS AND WOODWIND PARTS AND SUPPLIES

The Woodwind and Brasswind: http://www.woodwindbrasswind.com. Corks, pads and so forth.

OEM Keycups: http://www.saers.com/~craig/KeyCups.html. brass woodwind key mechanisms for specialty or small-scale wind instrument makers.

DRUM HEADS (Natural Skin)

(For synthetic drumheads, see Percussion Supplies below.)

Mid-East Manufacturing, AKA Ethnic Musical Instrument Company: http://www.mid-east.com. Goatskin and calf skin heads in a range of sizes. They also carry a wide variety of non-western musical instruments.

Columbia Products International, Inc.: http://columbiamusic.homestead.com/skin.html. Goat and calf skin drum heads.

EGG SHELL

For Ostrich eggs go to Boone Trading Company: http://www.boonetrading.com. Follow the “Unclassified Misc” link on their web site.

We have not found a source for other large eggs such as emu.

ELECTRONIC PARTS

Experimental Musical Instruments: http://www.windworld.com. Yes, we carry a variety of small electronic parts useful for pickup wiring and other audio purposes here.

Digi-key Corporation: http://www.digikey.com.

Mouser Electronics: http://www.mouser.com.

Radio Shack: http://www.radioshack.com.

GOURDS AND CALABASH

Gourdfarmer: http://www.gourdfarmer.com

Amish Gourds: http://www.amishgourds.com

Welburn Gourd Farms: http://www.welburngourdfarm.com

We have been unable to find a commercial source for true calabash from the tropical calabash tree, which is heavier and stronger than gourd.

HARDWARE

McMaster Carr & Company. http://www.mcmaster.com. This outlet has a depth of selection in all facets of hardware vastly exceeding any local hardware store.

HORN AND TUSK

Boone Trading Company: http://www.boonetrading.com. Follow the “Misc Raw Materials” link on the their web site for horns and tusks from a wide variety of animals and in a wide range of sizes. Most of these tusks, horns and bones, but not all, appear to come from domesticated animals. Boone Trading Company states that all of their merchandise is legal.

KELP (Bull kelp; macro cystis)

Bull kelp is a very long, tubular form of seaweed which dries to form of a curvy conical tube, suitable for making a variety of wind instruments. We have not found a commercial source for dried kelp. If you live on the U.S. west coast, you can go to the beach to gather it yourself.

LUTHERIE SUPPLIES

Supplies for string instrument making, including tuning machines and pegs, fret wire, etc. (but see the separate listing below for strings).

Experimental Musical Instruments: http://www.windworld.com. We have tuning gears, fret wire, fret slotting saws, zither pins and zither pin wrenches.

Stewart MacDonald’s Guitar Shop Supply: http://www.stewmac.com

Luthiers Mercantile, Inc.: http://www.lmii.com

Lief L. Luscome, Luthier: http://www.violins.on.ca

David Van Zandt: http://www.vanzandtviolins.com

MAGNETS (for making magnetic pickups)

You can find a limited selection of magnets at hardware stores, electronics stores and surplus outlets. For a wider selection, try:

Master Magnets: http://www.magnetsource.com.

Dura Magnetics: http://www.duramag.com.

MAGNET WIRE (For winding magnetic pickups)

Electronics stores don’t always carry a good selection of magnet wire in the finest gauges. For a complete selection, try:

MWS Wire Industries: http://www.mwswire.com.

Ross Adams: http://www.gladecastle.com/magnetwire.htm

PERCUSSION INSTRUMENT SUPPLIES AND HARDWARE

The Woodwind and Brasswind: http://www.woodwindbrasswind.com. Though it’s not reflected in the name, this outlet also has a division devoted to percussion instruments.

PIANO AND ORGAN SUPPLIES

A piano supply may be your best bet for specialized items relating not only to pianos, but to other keyboard instruments and zithers as well, including tuning pins and wrenches, music wire, etc.

International Piano Supply: http://www.pianoparts.com.

Organ Supply Industries: http://www.organsupply.com/

PICKUPS AND PARTS FOR PICKUP MAKING

Experimental Musical Instruments: http://www.windworld.com. We carry piezo films in various sizes as well as piezo cable, not to mention ready-to-use piezo pickups; also oversized magnetic pickups and minature magnetic pickups. We also have miniature preamps, and small electronic parts useful for pickup making.

K&K Sound: http://www.kksound.com/

Fishman Transducers: http://www.fishman.com/

See also listings above under magnets, magnet wire, and electronic parts.

SEA SHELL, including conch shell

Seashell World: http://www.seashellworld.com. These people even have conch shells ready-cut into conch trumpets at a very low price.

Sanibel Seashell Industries: http://www.seashells.com.

STRINGS

Brass, bronze and steel

Piano supply houses stock steel strings in a finely graduated range of sizes, and the best of them stock brass as well.

International Piano Supply: http://www.pianoparts.com.

San Francisco Piano Supply: http://www.sfpiano.com

Gut

Damian Dlugolecki, Stringmaker: http://www.damianstrings.com

Aquila: http://www.aquilausa.com

Purr’ll Gut Strings: No web site at this time. Email gourdbanjo@aol.com

Nylon and general

La Bella: http://www.labella.com. As one of the leading manufacturers, La Bella produces strings for unusual and exotic instruments as well as the standard ones for which they are well known:

Just Strings: http://www.juststrings.com. These people carry string sets for a wide variety of unusual instruments.

Markwood Strings: http://www.markwoodstrings.com/. People who specialize in harp strings, such as Markwood’s Mark Bolles, need to have broad expertise in string scaling, and often carry a wide variety of different sorts of string.

Zayaruzo Strings: now available through http://www.lautenwerk.com/lute_and_guitar_strings_for_sale.htm A wide variety of strings including hard-to-find varieties, in customizable lengths.

SURPLUS (military and industrial)

Some surplus places specialize in electronics; others carry a wide, quirky and unpredictable range of different sorts of items at low prices — and who knows which of those items may come in handy in instrument making?

All Electronics. http://www.allelectronics.com.

American Science and Surplus: http://www.sciplus.com.

WOOD

I admit that I haven’t thoroughly researched the question of where to get instrument-making woods, but this site has recently come to my attention:

North American Wood Products. http://nawpi.com/musicwd2.html

WOODWIND REEDS

As with woods, I haven’t thoroughly researched the question of where-to-get, but this site has recently come to my attention:

Discount Reeds. http://www.discountreed.com. Reeds for all standard woodwinds.

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