BL Workshop

Make a Native-American Drum

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


  • 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



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.

Comments about “Make a Native-American Drum”

  1. RL says:

    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. siuoxclan says:

    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 says:

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

  4. Anonymous says:

    is it as hard to make as it sounds?

  5. shackalacka says:

    love doing these projects

  6. stella says:

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

  7. momo123 says:

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

  8. Cheeseboy TO DA MAX says:

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

  9. Anonymous says:

    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. rouge says:

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

  11. The Man with the Banjo says:

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

  12. Someone else says:

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

  13. so confused! says:

    what are the tabs you are talking about??

  14. udghruigpy says:

    So cool

  15. Anonymous says:


  16. singingotter says:

    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 says:

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

  18. bunnyboo says:

    where do i get the wood

  19. has says:


  20. jw says:

    were do u get raw hide?

  21. flippy says:


  22. ntrog8r says:


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

  23. sonshine says:

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

  24. cros79 says:

    that is so cool

  25. LEFTY says:


  26. NiGhTfYtEr says:

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

  27. Star Wars Clone says:

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

  28. geoguy says:

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

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