How To Carve Hand Drum

Once you learn how to carve a hand drum like those in the days of old, you will join the ranks of drum makers that have perpetuated the tradition for centuries. Hand drums create a deep, resonating sound.  These drums have been handmade for centuries. 

This is not a project you can complete overnight. You should plan on several weeks or months for the drum to come together.

Things you'll need:

  • Tree trunk or fallen log
  • Lathe or hand carving tool
  • Ax
  • Chisel
  • Wood plane
  • Natural wax
  • Deer hide or other animal skin
  • Leather lashes
  • Large darning needle
  1. Choose the tree stump you wish to use to make the drum. Look for a good type of wood. An oak tree is a great place to start. If you are working with wood for the first time, oak can be a hard wood to carve. Pine is another good choice.
  2. Choose the size of the drum and cut the trunk to the right height. If you want the drum to be very big, you will need to find an adequately sized piece of wood. You will be cutting the wood down. Leave enough room to work with.
  3. Let the wood dry out. You need to give the wood up to three months to dry out. This is where patience comes in. Keep the drum in a cool, dry place. You do not want to encourage mold or mildew on the wood to set in during the months the wood is supposed to dry.
  4. As the wood dries, use a tool to hollow out the inner wood. As the wood begins to dry, use the chisel to carefully remove the moist inner parts. This will encourage the outer drum shell to dry without cracking.
  5. Once the inner wood is removed, you can begin carving the outside of the drum. With a light touch, begin shaping the outside wood into a bowl shape.  Be patient as you carve. This process takes time and a steady hand. As you carve, get the wood bowl as thin as you can; usually an inch or thinner will work.  Work carefully with the grain.
  6. Once the drum bowl is carved, apply a simple wax to seal the wood. Use a wax similar to the wax coopers use to seal barrels. Work the wax into the grooves inside and outside the drum shell. 
  7. Stretch the deer skin to cover the drum shell. Make sure the skin is the proper size to fit the head. Begin making holes around the bottom of the hide with the darning needle. You will use these to stretch the leather lashed through. 
  8. Pull the leather lashes through the holes. Pull the lashes halfway through. You will begin on one side of the drum and tie the lashes to the opposite side.  Continue until you have stretched the skin securely over the top of the drum.

Allow the skin time to stretch. You can tighten the lashes as the hide relaxes. Decorate the outside of the drum with a wood burning kit if you would like the drum to look more authentic.

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