Post 783 Making Native Drums

After cutting a hollow tree to size, it’s inner core is chiseled out and the bark removed. The drums are then shaped and sanded so that the hide drum head will lay flat and smooth.

I found that using a small bungee cord wrapped tightly around the hollow tree slab helps prevent splitting. If splitting does occur, which it will, simply glue it with carpenters wood glue and re-install the bungee cord to keep pressure on the drum so that the glue will set properly.

The drums are then laid out on the hide (cow in this case) and the hide is marked with a pencil about 1 ½ inches oversize and then cut.

Once cut, holes are spaced equally around the edge of the hide about 2 1/2 inches apart and about ½ inch from the edge to avoid tearing when stretched. Drum lacing is cut from the hide in about ¼ inch strips, about 20 feet long or longer

The hide and lacing is then soaked in lukewarm water for a good 7 hours. The drum shell is positioned on the hide and you begin the lacing process

Grouping sets of three lacing's and then wrapping them together not only provides extra tension, but also provides for a comfortable hand grip with which to hold the drum

Duct tape was used to hold any “puckered” hide flat against the drum shell. This happens more when the drum shelll is small.

The drum beaters were made from natural saplings like dog wood, and a small piece of soaked rawhide was wound around the end and allowed to dry. A circular piece of tanned leather was used for the beater head and the seed pod of a Milkweed or bull rush plant was used as filler. Once packed, it was bundled and tied around teh rawhide with artificial sinew.

The drums were naturally dried and it doesn't hurt to have then dry in the sunlight. Just make sure to keep turning them as they dry. Too much sun may cause the rawhide to dry and shrink too quickly and the pressure may damage the wood or snap the lacing. In 24 hours, they should be dry enough to play.

Sound tone will vary from drum to drum, depending on size, hide thickness and tension. Another KEY factor in the quality of the sound of the drum is in the beater, and how it is made, the wood for the handle, the amount of rawhide and stuffing, and even the leather used for the head, all affect the sound.

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