Our ancestors learned how to hand carve a drum thousands of years ago. The drum helped shape music and was used in many different wars. It’s a sacred item to all cultures and symbolizes the synergy between man and nature. One of the most famous groups that perfected the art of drum making was the Native Americans.
To hand carve a drum, you will need:
- A knife
- A log
- Rawhide (2 square feet)
- Two branches
- A kettle with boiling water
- A flower pot
- A weight
- Headless nails
- A leather punch
- Hand carve out the log to create the shell of the drum. The ideal thickness is one and a half to two inches. Simply take the knife and cut out the center of the log. It’s extremely important to clean the log out after carving as it eliminates loose wood and rot which can affect the sound of the drum.
- The next step is to create the hoop frame. Cut two branches that are the thickness of your thumb and approximately 36 inches in length. The ideal trees are ash, birch, cedar, hazel, sycamore, rose runners or willows.
- Fill a kettle with water until it boils.
- Slide the first branch through the steam created by the boiling water for around five minutes. This will help loosen the wood up to form it in a circle. Carefully bend the branch into a circular form for about one minute. Repeat with the second branch.
- Once the branches are in the correct shape, tie the two ends together creating an overlap. To check the shape of the hoop, place them over a round flower pot of the correct diameter. If these do not conform, continue steaming and bending until desired results are achieved.
- Cut another section of the branch into twelve pieces, two inches in length.
- Nail and glue the pieces between the two hoops approximately two inches apart.
- At the drum head, push the nails below the surface of the wood to ensure they will not tear the rawhide during application or cause unnecessary wear during use.
- Place the drum in a well circulated, warm area. As it dries, place a weight on top of the drum to prevent warping.
- If dry, put the rawhide in a bucket of water for 24 hours to soften the material and make it more flexible to stretch across the drum head.
- Cut the rawhide with scissors into a circle two inches larger than the diameter of the drum.
- Cut the remaining rawhide pieces into a long strip that’s half of an inch wide. Due to the thinning of the material during lacing, this will make it easier to perform this task. Start with the inner edge and go around the circle until the rawhide ends. Cut off three sections of about a foot and braid them to form a circle that has a two inch diameter. The remaining tails need to be weaved to the beginning of the braid. The final pieces are to be cut into four strips.
- Take the leather punch and create holes.
- Fold the head into quarters and place one strip through the head at each fold. Completing one loop at a time, weave the ends from the bottom to the ring of braided material at a half inch apart. Bring this back to the head and over each side of the initial stitch, approximately two inches apart. Repeat this with the other strips and pull tight to ensure the rawhide is attached to the frame with no wrinkles. The material does not need to be excessively tight or the result will be a dull sounding drum.
This is a procedure that has been used for thousands of years by many generations. Hand carving a drum is a skill that is acquired through many years of practice.
- The thicker the drum shell, the lower the pitch
- When creating the hoop frame, if you feel cracking stop bending
- If the rawhide strips aren’t cut narrow enough; they can break during the stretching process