XyloVan build

XyloVan is just this crazy idea we had one day:

Cover the outside of a van with amplified xylophone keys and gongs, give creative souls a pair of mallets each and see what happens.

This is a step-by-step breakdown of how XyloVan came together for Burning Man 2010 – and many adventures beyond.


  2. Scrawl some concept sketches
  3. Replace valve-cover gaskets
  4. Junkyard-crawl for new seats
  5. Junkyard crawl again for new seats
  6. Destroy the van door at a gas station
  7. Junkyard crawl once more – find and install the new door
  8. Replace windows in the new door
  9. Make over the vehicle – first steps
  10. Strip off the ’80s

  11. Buy enormous roof rack
  12. Bleed. A lot.
  13. Sandblast enormous roof rack
  14. Re-mount enormous roof rack
  15. Install new carpet
  16. Strip, mask and paint the van “oregano”
  17. Apply branding
  18. Final junkyard crawl for body-trim clips and headliner
  19. Design/install “maps” headliner, wiring and lights


  1. How to build a xylophone (overview)
  2. Start cutting aluminum bars into xylophone keys
  3. Grind and polish the raw keys
  4. Cut more xylophone keys
  5. Buff xylophone keys
  6. Xylophone key sound check (video)
  7. Disk gong (video)
  8. Cut even more xylophone keys
  9. Experiment with amplification
  10. Full 2.5-octave sound check (video)
  11. Tubular bells sound check (video)
  12. View of the xylophone factory

  13. Find “nodes” to drill holes in the xylophone keys
  14. Drill holes for mounting the keys

  15. Roughing out the frame for Keyboard 1
  16. Re-jigger the mounting strategy for Keyboards 1 and 2
  17. Laying out frame for Keyboard 2
  18. Machine the frame for Keyboard 2
  19. Status report (photo)
  20. Roadblock!
  21. Wear earplugs
  22. Snap another drill bit
  23. Get advice from an actual machinist
  24. Follow said advice – and make major progress on frame building
  25. Build Keyboard 1’s frame
  26. Assemble parts for Keyboards 2 and 3
  27. Finish Keyboards 1,2 and 3
  28. Cut keys for Keyboard 4
  29. Rough out Keyboard 4’s frame for XyloVan’s hood
  30. Assemble Keyboard 4
  31. Admire the loudest piece of metal on the van (video)
  32. Test the sound


  1. Deflower the sheet metal
  2. Install Keyboards 1, 2 and 3 on the van
  3. Mount the disk gongs
  4. Install Keyboard 4 on the hood
  5. Install mounting stanchions
  6. Install outriggers for light/sound/shade
  7. Attempt to make roof-canopy frame out of PVC pipe. Fail. Sew like a maniac.
  8. Continue sewing

  9. Set up roof canopy
  10. Install cheap Chinese-made LED floods and strobes
  11. Marker lights, door pockets and more blood
  12. Teardown | Pack up and go


  1. Wire up the auxiliary battery
  2. Install amplifier and mixer
  3. Fabricate a control pod for sound/light panels
  4. Debug line buzz


  1. How to make xylophone mallets
  2. How to make xylophone mallets that do not snap within minutes
  3. How to make a fancy playable nameplate
  4. About that hood ornament


  1. Apply for Department of Mutant Vehicles driving permit
  2. DENIED – Now what?
  3. Calm down, fall back, regroup
  4. Resolve to enjoy being stationary


  1. Maker Faire Day 1 | Day 2
  2. Topanga Days Memorial Day Parade
  3. Handmade Music LA

  4. Burning Man 2010
  5. Repair time in Kidsville

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misadventures in resonant metal