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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

  9. How much does the the rawhide shrink while drying? I tied everything as tight as I could but the drum head was still loose (no sound at all). Will the drum become playable after drying?

  10. where cane i get the rawhide that is 24 ”.allso to get the ply wood

  11. The Man with the Banjo // August 16, 2010 at 5:48 pm // Reply

    does it sound like a real drum or just look cool? :/

  12. Someone else // June 8, 2009 at 10:03 am // Reply

    Oil-based paint on rawhide? It will rot! And you’d be messing with toxic thinners. Wouldn’t acrylic work better?

  13. so confused! // March 18, 2009 at 5:12 pm // Reply

    what are the tabs you are talking about??

  14. So cool

  15. nice

  16. singingotter // August 18, 2008 at 12:21 am // Reply

    You can acquire a nice piece of deer rawhide for around $30 from your local Powwow. Look for the fur & hide vendors. The frame can be made from a green slab of white cedar (commonly called arbor vitea). Make a plywood mold so you can steam bend several for as many as you want to make. A steam bender can be made from a down spout and a teapot. If you are going to use plywood for the frame, make small cuts half way through the plywood back to help the bending and keep it from splitting. Make the cuts about every 1/4″. Another place to find materials is ebay. They sell frames, rawhide and the rawhide lacing.

  17. tenderfoot3 // March 20, 2008 at 4:23 pm // Reply

    this is cool, You could try it with a bigger peice of plywood to make it more of a colonial drum.

  18. where do i get the wood

  19. exelentrific

  20. were do u get raw hide?

  21. awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. GeoGuy,

    You can find rawhide at craft and fabric stores, leather craft shops (if there’s one where you live), and online (www.tandyleatherfactory.com). Good luck in your search!

  23. Looks cool. I’ll try it and notify you if it’s good.

  24. that is so cool

  25. THIS IS SO COOL

  26. This pretty cool i’ll probably ask my troop leader if we can do that some time.

  27. Star Wars Clone // October 19, 2007 at 7:43 pm // Reply

    Whoa COOL !!!! I’m going to try it SOON!:)

  28. Where can I get the rawhide that is 24″ square?

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