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Scariest Instrument Restoration

Scariest Instrument Restoration

Last fall we asked for your scariest Studio 49 instruments, and boy did you frighten us! We saw ghoulish glockenspiels, creepy chromatics, and mysterious metallophones. You unearthed many hair-raising relics from your instrument graveyards. But it was this vintage xylophone from Ridge Ranch Elementary School in Paramus, NJ that really made us shriek!

scary instrument winner

2016 Scary Instrument Contest Winner
Reita Powell, Ridge Ranch Elementary School


After years of neglect and exposure to the elements, this xylophone’s bars were seemingly damaged beyond repair. But Teaching With Orff’s own “Doctor Lissa” was ready at her Instrument Repair Hospital to resuscitate this critical patient. Below she shares her renovation process in the hopes that you can revitalize some of your own relics and return them to beautiful classroom condition!

Part One: The Resonator Box

resonator box before

Resonator Box Before

1. Remove old tubing.

2. Straighten bent pins gently with a pair of pliers.

3. Vacuum out the inside of the resonator box.

4. Clean the inside of the box with mild soap and water.

5. Polish the outside of the resonator box with Scott’s Liquid Gold furniture polish. It cleans the wood and minimizes any scratches.

6. Replace the old rubber tubing with new. Gently slide it over the pins.

resonator box after

Resonator Box After

Part 2: The Tone Bars

This poor instrument was kept in a closet that had a leak. Water damaged the finish on the bars. This was very unfortunate.

1. After consulting a furniture maker, a tiny bit of Lacquer Thinner was tested on the side of one bars. It seemed to remove the finish without raising the grain of the wood.  Each bar was treated with Lacquer Thinner very sparingly and the damaged finish was removed.

lacquer thinner

Lacquer Thinner to remove the damaged finish

2. Next Old English Scratch Cover for Light Wood was used to treat the bars. Normally, Old English Scratch Cover for Dark Wood can be used for these bars. But since the finish was removed it would have made the bars very, very dark. The lighter color helped to restore the bars. Next a coat of Tung Oil was applied. This helps to seal the wood.

3. Finally, use a fine tipped gold metallic Sharpie to redefine the letters.

gold sharpie

4. TA DA! This instrument is no longer scary.  It looks and sounds great. Make sure you store your instruments is a safe, dry, place out of the sunlight and dripping water.

"Doctor Lissa" and her patient

“Doctor Lissa” and her patient


The instrument has been returned to the classroom where it belongs, and Reita tells us her refurbished Studio 49 xylophone “is really lovely, and it is so great to have another instrument to add to the collection! We use it every day! Thank you so much for the time and effort that went in to repairing this instrument.”

Ridge Ranch Elementary School

Photo courtesy of Reita Powell, Ridge Ranch Elementary School


Lissa Ray

Lissa taught general music in a suburb of Cincinnati. Lissa currently teaches Pre-K - 6 in at a Montessori school in Northern Kentucky. She is President of the Board of Directors of the Cincinnati Children's Choir and has served on the American Orff-Schulwerk National Board of Trustees. Lissa presents Orff-Schulwerk workshops and classes for teachers and children.

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  1. Kathy on April 13, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    Wow! I am inspired to work on my instruments over the summer! I have some that I was sure were too far gone to repair. I’ll send in my photos after the makeover…and 20 lb weight loss of the technician!!
    Thank you for sharing this project.

    • Teaching With Orff on April 15, 2017 at 8:06 am

      Hi Kathy! We are delighted that you are inspired to work on your own instruments! If you need help along the way, check out our Instrument Repair Hospital videos and feel free to contact us with any questions. And please share your before and after photos with us when you’re finished. We’d love to see them! – Your friends at Teaching With Orff.

  2. Valerie Junttila on April 13, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    Hi Lissa,
    I inherited a couple of glockenspiel that having pitted, weathered bars. I didn’t want to mess with them in case they would be irreparably damaged. They sound pretty good, and still ring. Can I do anything for the bars to make them pretty and shiny once more? Thanks!

    • Lissa Ray on April 15, 2017 at 8:23 am

      Hi Valerie,
      There is nothing you can do to make the glockenspiel bars shiny again. If they are rusty, you can remove the rust with Naval jelly, found at the hardware store. It’s used to remove rust from ships. If the bars are simply grungy and dirty you can clean them with bore oil, the type of oil used for cleaning guns.
      Although they might not be pretty, glock bars that have issues with the finish usually sound just fine.

      “Dr.” Lissa

  3. Julie on April 13, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    That is an awesome repair, Lissa! This is an example of why teachers should buy nice instruments, such as Studio 49. Since they can be repaired, they can last forever!

    • Teaching With Orff on April 15, 2017 at 8:06 am

      We couldn’t agree more Julie! – Your friends at Teaching With Orff

  4. Sarah Reetz Jensen on April 13, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    Wow! This is amazing! What a beautiful gift to give a fellow teacher! I personally love the older instruments in my classroom. They have such a beautiful mellow sound to them but they are falling apart. I’m inspired to get them in tip top shape again!

    • Teaching With Orff on April 15, 2017 at 8:09 am

      We’re so pleased that we provided some inspiration to give those vintage instruments some TLC. Good luck with your restorations, and let us know if you have any questions along the way! – Your friends at Teaching With Orff

  5. jennifer boyer on April 13, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    Where did you get the rubber tubing for the pins? What about the rubber that weaves between pegs?

    • Teaching With Orff on April 14, 2017 at 10:45 am

      Hi Jennifer! Replacement parts for all of your Studio 49 instruments can be purchased through your favorite retail partner. Need help finding one? Check out – Your friends at Teaching With Orff

  6. Allison Webb on April 13, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    Wow- You have inspired me to give my instruments a makeover and some TLC!!! Great work and thank you for posting:)

    • Teaching With Orff on April 15, 2017 at 8:13 am

      We’re so pleased that we provided some inspiration to give your instruments some TLC. Good luck with your makeovers, and let us know if you have any questions along the way! – Your friends at Teaching With Orff

  7. Shirley on April 14, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    How about scratched metallophone bars?

  8. Carol Webb Martinez on April 14, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    I have a bass metalophone that buzzes on certain bars and is dead sounding in places. What can do for that? I’ve replaced the tubing that is woven underneath the bars and some of the rubber tubing around the pins. But it seems that if I have all the pins covered with rubber, then it deadens the sound completely.

    • Lissa Ray on April 15, 2017 at 8:31 am

      You can fix a buzzing box with clear silicone caulk and wood glue. You’ll need a caulking gun. Watch my repair video to see how its done. Most likely the glue has dried out in one of the seams or there is a crack in the wood. This is a pretty easy and miraculous fix.
      “Dr.” Lissa

  9. Kathi Ledford on April 16, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    Several of my instruments have come loose from the wood on the top where they get picked up. The tiny nails that hold them in place simply can’t hold the instrument’s weight. Can I use a larger nail or do I use liquid nails or WHAT do you suggest. Every time the instruments get moved the parts come off.

    • Lissa Ray on April 17, 2017 at 4:35 pm

      This can happen when the glue dries out. Since the instruments are often carried by those pieces on the ends a more secure way of fastening them back on is called for. Although it won’t look pretty, four wood screws carefully placed in addition to wood glue should do the trick. Make sure they line up with the resonator box.
      “Dr.” Lissa

  10. John Buschiazzo on April 17, 2017 at 8:06 am

    I love Lissa Ray’s instrument repair ideas. I have one suggestion to add on to her barred instrument plan.

    Over the years I have made several repairs on barred instruments, where the pin had broken through the wall of the instrument. Some were glued back together. Others required more serious “surgery” to replace the damaged section of the box wall. So here’s my tip to prevent damage to the box:

    When straightening the pins first protect the box around the pin by clamping the box. I use a very inexpensive pair ($4-$5) of locking pliers that have swivel pads. You could also use a small clamp The goal is not to squeeze really tight. But to provide a firm support to the wood, so the leverage you are applying to the pin does not cause the box material to crack. The locking pliers make for a quick grip and are easy to put on and take off with one hand.

  11. Tina on June 15, 2017 at 11:57 am

    I have the rubber plugs that keep getting pulled out. Any recommendations on the type of glue I could use to keep the plugs/pegs in the studio 49 xylophones?

    • Lissa Ray on July 10, 2017 at 3:45 pm

      Wood glue should do the trick. You’ll still be able to remove them if you ever need to replace them.

    • Lissa Ray on July 11, 2017 at 10:03 am

      One drop of wood glue should do it. They will still be removable if you ever need to replace them due to damage. Thanks for asking and good luck. You students and instruments will love that you are taking care of them!

  12. Susie Hayer on June 27, 2017 at 8:15 am

    Do you have any suggestions for replacing MEG nails and tubing.

  13. Lissa Ray on July 11, 2017 at 10:07 am

    If you post a picture I might be better able to help you. If the MEG nails are the jagged ones there is a product electricians use that you can buy a PT a hardware store. It’s called heat shrink tubing. Toy can cut a small piece and then put it over the nail. Use a hairdryer or heat gun(be careful) to shrink it. It will mold to the shape of the nail. Use Studio 49 tubing for glocks or xylophones. That should work. Thanks for asking and good luck.

  14. Jessica Gautier on October 20, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    I have xylophones that have no label no serial number and are in serious need of repairing. Is the tubing you suggest universal? Also if the wood has split on the inside where the nails are attached at the bass of the nail is there any way to repair it? Also wondering if there is a way to help so they don’t get so dusty… (are their covers you can buy)

    • Larry Shudra on February 24, 2019 at 9:02 pm

      Jessica, if you did not get an answer to the question about the wood splitting, it can be repaired. You will need wood glue, clamps and some small flat pieces of wood. Apply glue into the cracked wood. Clamp a block on each side of the broken area. Squeeze the clamps down tight. Wipe up the excess glue with a damp rag. Let it sit overnight. Here is a picture to see what I did with a Bergerault metalophone resonator box.

  15. KARIN MCCARTNEY on January 25, 2019 at 5:31 pm

    Love these suggestions!
    I have had real success with repairing the rubber with screen spline that I purchase at local hardware store…under $5 will repair a few! Wast to do and IT WORKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Karen McBrine on August 16, 2019 at 12:53 pm

    Hi there,
    I just bought a used Lyons bass xylophone from an individual and when it arrived I discovered that the low C is horribly flat. I had read that it is possible to raise the pitch by sanding down the ends of the bars. Do you recommend that I try?

  17. Tom on November 7, 2019 at 3:16 pm

    We had a substitute music teacher take the bars off to clean inside the boxes right before summer break. A temporary summer custodian threw out 17 resonator boxes for xylophones, metalophones and glockenspiels………We still have the bars, but not the boxes. I’m going to start the long woodworking task of designing and building new boxes.

    • Lissa Ray on November 10, 2019 at 1:25 pm

      Oh, Tom, that is awful. So sorry to hear about this. You can purchase boxes without bars should you decide not to build them all. I’ve done it before. You’d have to call to get prices but I’m sure it is possible.
      All the best,
      “Dr.” Lissa

  18. Stephanie Huss on November 28, 2019 at 9:28 am

    Hello Dr. Lissa! Thanks for your continued diagnoses and healing in our community! I teach at a school abroad and the brand of xylophones we use are Lyons. I can’t seem to find any repair kits for this brand in the US (let alone overseas). Can you point me in the direction of connected rubber tubing for basses, altos and soprano xylos?

  19. Jana F on July 18, 2020 at 6:29 am

    What type of disinfectant can be safely used on xylophones and glockenspiels when we go back to school?

  20. Lissa Ray on July 23, 2020 at 6:54 pm

    Hi Jana,
    I’m suggesting isopropyl alcohol for disinfecting xylophones and glockenspiels. It can be purchased in a spray bottle. I’ve tired it on a rosewood xylophone and it did not damage the finish. If you end up having to disinfect several times a day you might consider applying a thin coat of lemon oil to the wood bars so they don’t dry out. Everybody is wondering the same thing so I tried it out last March before school shut down.
    The same thing will work on your mallet handles.
    Good luck!
    “Dr.” Lissa

  21. Amy Fenton on October 1, 2021 at 11:43 am

    Hi Lissa! was wondering if you know what size of heat shrink tubing I should use for BX, AX and SX pegs. The pins are still in good shape, but I need to replace the covering because they are disintegrating. I have these brands: Studio 49, golden bridge (GB), and Kid stuff.

  22. Shannon on October 16, 2021 at 1:55 am

    Hi Lissa!
    I have a Soprano xylophone with missing bar. How can I go about replacing it?
    This year has been so helpful!

    • Teaching With Orff on October 20, 2021 at 11:24 am

      Hi Shannon,

      Replacement bars and parts for your Studio 49 Orff instruments can be purchased through your favorite music retailer. If you need help locating an authorized dealer, please visit our website

      Your friends at Teaching With Orff

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