Buy sheets of zinc? Erm... Hmmm... Maybe somebody that make batteries could point you at a source? Aside from that, I can't think of anybody that makes zinc sheets. Zinc isn't (to my knowledge) all that frequently used for standalone metalwork, except where galvanized stock is being used. But in that case, it's not *realy* zinc being used to begin with, since the zinc is just a coating on the base metal (probably iron) either as color or for corrosion protection.
I'm betting that you'd be a WHOLE LOT better off going with iron or tin, like the old-time units were actually made of. Zinc is likely gonna be "dead" sounding and muffled. Tin or iron would be a lot more "crispy", I would think.
The first thing you have to understand is that most of these guys either take odd questions to literally i.e. the zinc sheets or roast them.
Washboards are made of corrugated sheet steel that is hot dip galvanized AFTER forming. The machine that makes the corrugations is a fairly impressive chunk of industrial equipment and hot dip galvanizing is a industry in itself. Unless you are in a position to invest a few hundred grand in experimenting, I would look to what is available.
My knowledge of washboard acoustics is limited but in an earlier life I spent a year as Doctor John's (Mac Rebennack) I met a number of Zydeco musicians and heard a little. (Yes, Zydeco and Second Liners to talk to each other.) The thing that makes the Zinc King Lingerie sound is the size and corrugation spacing. From what I understand they are very rare but you may have lucked up. There is one on eBay right now with a starting price of $9.99 and no bids.
As Glenn sez they are stamped out in a custom die in a huge press that forms it all at once. That probably has a lot to do with the sound on account of the metal shaping and stretching being so uniform, the thickness is uniform as are the stresses.
A blacksmith or an auto body sheet metal artist could knock out something that looked just like a corrugated washboard, probably using a custom-formed metal or hardwood swedge block to form a single rib at a time, but it would probably sound somewhere between different and completely dead on account of every rib being a little different.
I don't know if it would be better to form it cold or hot, and whether it would help to anneal it when done.
James wrote: (clip) I need to make numnerous sheets with different size ripples st see which makes the best sound. ^^^^^^^^^^^ I have observed that most Dixieland players use the old-fashioned washboards with the corougated "zinc". However, Zydeco players use something made of unframed corougated (looks like) stainless. It has a neck hole, and hangs over the shoulders. My guess is they went to that material and construction to get better sound. Unless you are trying for the authentic old look, I suggest you look at Zydeco rub boards.
I don't know whether washboards are made of zinc or not, but I have seen some that have been played so much that the corougations are actually stretched downward in the two areas where the thimbles hit. I doubt if this would ever happen to stainless.
Bob Englehardt told you where to buy zinc sheet. I could describe a relatively cheap, adjustable tool to corrugate the zinc. But as other posters noted, zinc isn't what you are looking for. Zinc is soft, erodes easily, and will not hold its shape under the battering you plan to give it as a musical instrument. Zinc also was and is too expensive to have ever been used as the primary metal in a washboard. By any manufacturer. It would not hold up to one month's washing.
You may be the world's greatest washboard player, for whatever that's worth, but you're in the process of getting off on the wrong foot here. Those who answered (except, maybe, Gunner) were trying to help, not trying to question your credentials. You didn't tell us in your first post how expert a washboard player you were.
Glen Ashmore told you that industrial-size equipment will be very expensive. If you have lots of money, I can hook you up with a supplier. If you're on a budget, visit a HVAC sheet metal shop and tell them your story. Some of those guys are quite good at anything related to galvanized steel.
If you must have your own equipment, visit a local machine shop. They can build a simple roller, much like a slip roller, to do what you want. A couple of stout CRS bars, LARGE washers, smaller washers for spacers, a little threading on each end to clamp everything up tight, a couple of sturdy plates to hold the rollers, with holes and slots as needed. Maybe 500 to 1000 bucks. Once you find a pattern you like, they can turn out custom rollers and you can make thousands of washboards. If that's what you want.
Then you'll need to find someone to hot-dip your corrugated steel in molten zinc to get the soft sound you want.
Yeah, I can tell you. It's done with a die in a large punch press. You can probably get one built for something like $15,000, and if it's not tuned to your requirements then maybe you can pay for another one that is. That's probably not too much to pay for something as important as a rhythm instrument.
When Susan and I took a cruise to the Caribbean in '78, we were greeted by a steel drum band on the island of Granada that included a guy playing an old brake drum. Not sure if it was tuned perfectly, though, but it was the highlight of our trip to have them play for us.
For someone that is looking for assistance, I'd think you'd be a little more appreciative of the effort others put forth to try to help you. They, for the most part, are the ones that have a clue, not you. This is a damned good bunch of people that demand more respect for their efforts than you appear to be willing to offer.
That's a very nice response, Dale. The entire process could be short changed by the use of a press brake, though, with no investment for tooling of any kind. My little 24" DiAcro could do the job easily. That way the spacing, angle, and depth of the corrugations could be varied until the right combination of sound and appearance desired was achieved. It could even be made with various pitches with no effort, unlike hard tooling. Metals of various composition and thickness could be tried, with no change to tooling . The hard part would be finding a shop that was willing to screw around with the project. .
That's super cool, Glenn. While my first love is jazz, Dr. John is a favorite of ours. His CD "Goin' Back To New Orleans" has one cut that is outstanding, a real work of art. It's the first cut --- Litanie Des Saints. Couldn't believe my ears the first time I heard it.
You must have had some very enjoyable experiences working with him.