DIY percussion

Make your own sandpaper blocks

An inexpensive method of making these useful instruments

IMG_4291 Wood needed: thin but wide plank of wood (not composite or laminate) about 38cm long or 2 X 19cm (to be able to stretch the sandpaper over) and a squarer piece of wood for the handles (test size for a comfortable grip) approximately 22cm or 2 X 11cm.

Use offcuts of wood if possible to cut down on costs and as a guide to the best size of block to make sandpaper comes in approximately 23cm lengths.

IMG_4293 Always take care when using saws, files and drills and if you are not comfortable using the tools ask someone else to help.

Cut the wood to size with the thin wood in two 19cm (approx.) pieces and the squarer pieces at least 8 to 10 cm shorter. File down the wood on all sides so there are no sharp edges or corners, do not want any injuries during a performance.

IMG_4295 Mark lines in the centre of both the thin pieces ready for drilling.

Drill two holes in both the thin wood pieces and countersink the drill holes on one side so the surface below the sandpaper will be smooth.

Centre the handles on the thinner pieces allowing space at each end and screw together with appropriate size screws that will not split the handle (not too long).

 IMG_4297 Optional – paint or varnish the two blocks at this point
 IMG_4298 Cut sandpaper to fit the width of the thin wood and allow approximately 4cm extra on the length so that the sandpaper will fold over and can be pinned to the wood.
IMG_4299 Use drawing pins to attach the sandpaper to one end of the block and pin at the centre, stretch it over to the other end and pin the opposite centre. Place a few more pins at each end to make the paper secure. Repeat with the other block and you are now ready to play.

Tools used: measure or ruler, pencil, saw, wood file, drill (with wood bit and countersink attachment), 4 screws, 1 square of sandpaper cut in half, 16 drawing pins, (paint or varnish optional).

Costs as of August 2015 at UK prices.


Wood                         free (offcuts)

Screws                        0.10p

Sandpaper                 0.80p

Drawing pins            0.10p

Total                            1.00

Without painting the process of making the blocks takes about 30 minutes.

I prefer these blocks with the rectangular handles that offers a secure grip rather that the versions that have a circular door knob type fitting although this fitting can be more appropriate for spinning one block over another for a continuous sound. Try different grades of sandpaper for a change of sound quality and test the ease or difficulty of performance with these different materials as the rougher papers can be harder to control than the finer ones.

Enjoy your new instruments and why not get two more percussionists to play through Sand and scrape with you? Download at

© P.R.Birkby 2015


About derangeddrums

Composer, percussionist, musical director, teacher and educator. My music has been written for audiences in palaces and in the street. Music is my vocation and my passion and I hope you enjoy it too.
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