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Make a Native-American Drum

You can create your own Native-American drum.  Here’s how:

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • Drill with 1/8- and 1/4-inch bits
  • Tin snips or shears
  • Awl or nail
  • Sandpaper
  • Source of heat (hair dryer or heat gun)
  • Section of very thin plywood (1/88 inch, like veneer) 4 inches wide by 4 feet long
  • 1 sheet of rawhide about 24 inches square
  • 12-inch leather lace
  • 4 to 6 feet of stout cord such as artificial sinew or masonry cord
  • Oil-based paint

WHAT YOU’LL DO:

drum_1.jpg

STEP 1: Sand plywood until the edges are smooth. Soak the plywood in water overnight or until it bends easily without splitting or breaking (this might take longer than one night).

drum_2.jpgSTEP 2: Gently bend plywood into a circle about 14 inches in diameter (heating the wood with a hair dryer will help it bend). The edges will overlap several inches. Tie the circle together around the overlaps with string or rope — anything that will keep it together. Set aside to dry about two days in a warm, dry area out of the sun. This is the body of the drum.

drum_3.jpgSTEP 3: With the 1/8-inch bit, drill a series of holes where there is an overlap. Two holes near the beginning of the overlap and two near the end will work. Thread cordage through the holes three times and tie them on the inside with square knots. This holds the drum’s shape. Now you can remove the material you used to tie the wood together.

drum_45.jpgSTEP 4: Lay the drum on the rawhide and draw a pencil outline two inches wider than the diameter of the circle. Draw four tabs about two inches long, equally spaced around the perimeter. Cut around outlined rawhide, including the four tabs, and soak in water overnight.

STEP 5: Cut as many 1/4-inch-wide strips as the remaining rawhide allows. You might need all of them, but probably not. Make these “rawhide thongs” as long as you can. Soak them in water. Once the thin rawhide bends easily, it’s time to use the thongs for tying. Pierce two holes in each of the four tabs about one-third of an inch from the edge. Then punch holes around the edge of the rawhide the same distance from the edge.

drum_6.jpgSTEP 6: Take a thong and feed it through the holes in the tab; then go to the opposite tab and feed the thong through those holes. Slowly pull as tightly as you can and tie securely. Repeat with the other tabs. It should now look like an “X” on the underside of the drum.

drum_7.jpgSTEP 7: Start at one of the tabs and thread a thong through a hole, then the next hole and tie a knot. Continually thread thongs through the holes and pull as tightly as possible until you complete the circle of the drumhead and arrive at the tab you started from. Then wrap the cords of the underside as tightly as you can.

drum_89.jpgSTEP 8: Let the drum dry. It will shrink. Do not play until it is hard. If you try to play it too early, the tone will be dull. When it’s dry, add a handle. Drill two holes with the 1/4-inch bit on the side, spaced about four inches from each other. Use soft leather lace and tie on the inside.

STEP 9: Paint a design. Let dry. Use a soft-headed drumstick for playing.

35 Comments on Make a Native-American Drum

  1. I just helped my son make this for a school project. The drum turned out great. Two tips about the wood. The instructions have a typo – it should say 1/8″ thick plywood. You also need to purchase bendable plywood – commonly called wiggle wood. Unlikely to find at Home Depot or Lowes – call a lumber yard in your area. Have fun!

  2. While reading this my family went to the Kwahadi Museum of the American Indian in Amarillo and they had a HUGE collection of drums and rattles. They’re really cheap and easy to make.

  3. coolman360 // July 13, 2012 at 5:31 pm // Reply

    Once the rawhide is on the drum don’t touch it because the oil on your hands can make it rot faster.

  4. is it as hard to make as it sounds?

  5. love doing these projects

  6. Pacific Leather has drum kits- comes with ring, leather, and lacing. They are fabulous – cost about $100

  7. coolio! i`m using this for my indian artifact in social studies!

  8. Cheeseboy TO DA MAX // March 22, 2011 at 2:39 pm // Reply

    This. Is. AWESOME!!!! I am sooo making it. It’ll match my tomahawk and arrow :P

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