Motor Rhythms

Motor Rhythms

October 26, 2010

Pulley Bells

This is the idea that started the entire Motor Rhythms project. A couple of years ago at work, I knocked a wrench into a water pump pulley only to discover that it had a great tone. Ever since then I have been saving water pump, idler, and belt tensioner pulleys. Once I had collected a couple dozen pulleys it seemed possible to create a full set of 'bells'. Soon after I started to make the pulley bells, I also began saving other car parts that I thought could potentially make good instruments, and Motor Rhythms was born.

Here are a few pulleys still on the car.

The pulleys range in size from a 2" diameter up to a 6" diameter. I only use smooth pulleys, not pulleys with ribs, or v-belt pulleys. Each pulley has a different tone. I have several duplicate pulleys from the same type of car, and even those have slightly different pitches.

Once the pulleys were removed from the different vehicles I knocked the bearings out of them. Then I welded a large washer in the middle of each pulley to help mount them. Using old rubber bushings from shock absorbers I mounted all the pulleys on two threaded rods.

Eventually I would like to set the pulleys up more like a piano or mallet instrument would be, with the sharps/flats separated from the other notes. The pulleys can be tuned as well. One of my co-workers has a metal lathe and he has trimmed a couple of the pulleys for me. Cutting off 1/8" from the edge of a pulley changes the pitch by about half a step.


  1. Jordan,
    This is great stuff--most creative! Others need to learn about your imaginative project. Stay with it, who knows what might develop.

  2. My favorite part is Frank Zappa in the background checking out what you're up to. He'd be impressed!