– plywood, 2
pieces, size 150*10 cm, thickness 3 mm
– drumskin (reindeer skin from Kemin
Nahkatarvike; Irish drums usually have goatskin)
– tacks, ~130 pcs
(any PVAc glue will do)
– wood finishing oil
– clamps, ~40 pcs
I’m going to
produce the shell by bending a piece of plywood around and gluing the ends
together. Then I’ll glue another piece of plywood around the first one. This
will make a reasonably thick shell (6 mm) that I think will be sturdy enough.
It’s not advisable to try to make the shell out of just one 6 mm thick plywood
because a plywood that thick won’t bend easily without breaking.
I sanded the
ends of one piece of ply to an angle in order to make a scarf joint. Then I
spreaded glue on both ends and clamped them together firmly. Kuula had a way of
moistening the ply with water in order to make it more pliable. I found that 3
mm thick ply is pliable enough even when dry.
I put pieces of
wood between the clamps and the shell. They will even out the pressureon the
joint and shield the plywood from nasty marks that the clamps could otherwise
I had already sawed
three similar pieces of round crossbar, all 42 cm long. I put them inside the
shell in the shape of an asterisk. This will keep the shell round. Hopefully.
Then I left the glue to dry until the next day.
I relieved the
clamps in the morning. The joint was good. There was a small threshold in the
scarf joint, which I sanded out.
The next layer of
ply can be attached in several ways. You can make another scarf joint or just
cut the ply to exact length so that the ends will come exactly together. In both
cases you can glue the second layer either on the inside or on the outside of
the first layer. (The option of gluing it to the inside came to my mind just
after I had already glued it to the outside. Seems like a good idea, because
then the second ply will naturally press itself against the first one and
probably make a better joint. I’ll try that with my next drum.)
I measured and
sawed the second ply to exact length and started gluing and clamping
When I’d already
clamped the first quadrant of the shell I realized that I didn’t have
enough clamps. I had 20 and I would need at least 40. I decided to glue only
half of the second layer now, let it dry and glue the second half in the
evening. Maybe it’ll come out OK. Certainly I would not leave more space between
the clamps to save them, because that would leave nasty crevasses between the
layers and make the shell weak.
It requires some
attention to make the second layer go straight. If it slants just half a
millimetre in the beginning, the slant will grow to a couple of centimetres when
you get to the end. By that time the glue will have already dried so much that
you can’t take the second layer off and try again. It has to go right the first
time. For me, it didn’t. I didn’t mind since there was nothing I could do once I
noticed my mistake.
Then I put the
crossbar asterisk back in the shell, left the glue to dry and went off to
In the evening I
relieved the clamps, glued and clamped the other half of the second layer and
put the crossbars back in the shell again. Looks like it doesn’t make much
difference that I didn’t glue it all at one go.
I spent the morning
fixing my mistake with the second layer. All is not lost. The ugliness resulting
from my mistake will be hidden under the skin once the drum is
The shell feels
sturdy enough. If I squeeze it hard between my hands, it gives in a little but
not too much.
With my next drum
I’m going to try a shell of three layers. This will make a 9 millimetre shell.
it’ll be sturdier and a little heavier.
The shell is still
round (or roundish). Good.
Next I will be
sanding and oiling the shell.
I sanded the shell
in the morning. I filed and sanded the inside of the upper rim to an angle. This
is important. If I left it straight the skin would rattle against the rim and
not sound good. So it’s necessary to file it to an angle but of course not too
sharp. A rim too sharp could cut the skin.
The shell looks
and feels nice. I like it. Of course, if I showed this to a carpenter, he or she
would quickly glance and say: "Crude excercise work of an amateur." That would
I first started
this project in the spirit of using only what I can readily find in my tool
cupboard and not buy any tools or materials other than what is absolutely
necessary. I want to know if I can make a usable instrument without special
tools or previous knowledge. Today I found a bottle of "Liberon Floor Sealer"
wood finishing oil from my tool cupboard. It’s meant for oiling wooden floors,
hence the name. Well, I guess a floor sealer will give a nice and long-lasting
finish to my drumshell!
I spread oil on the
shell with a brush, let the wood absorb it for ten minutes and wiped excess oil
away with a clean cloth. Tonight when I return from work I will add another
layer of oil. I’ll keep adding layers as long as my patience gives in. That’ll
probably mean two layers. The drying time for the oil is five hours.
I opened the roll
of reindeer skin and cut a suitable piece for my drum. The piece must have a
diameter of approximately 10 centimeters more than the diameter of the drum.
This will leave enough slack for attaching the skin to the shell.
After cutting the
skin I noticed that I was left with enough skin for two more drums of this size!
(Or maybe one double-skin drum. This reindeer skin is quite thin.)
Today I will mount
the skin. I went to a local shoemaker and got a leather band, length 150 cm. I’m
going to wrap it around the drum and nail the tacks through it. The purpose is
partly to shield the skin from the tacks (and my hammering) and partly
I doused the skin
in lukewarm water. The skin should be wet thoroughly and feel limp like a wet
rag. After about 20 minutes I lay the wet skin on the rim as evenly as I could.
Note: flesh-side down, fur-side up. I left the skin loose so that the center of
the skin sagged about two centimeters below the level of the rim. Then I wrapped the leather band around the shell and the skin and began
hammering the tacks.
I have never before
mounted a skin to a drum, so tomorrow will tell if I got it right. If I left it
too tight while it was wet, it can tear apart when it dries. If I left it too
loose, it won’t sound. The tightness should also be even on the whole area of
Don’t save the
tacks. Use them plenty. It’s easier to make the tightness even if you begin
hammering the tacks in this order: think of the drum as a compass and hammer the
first eight tacks north, south, west, east, n-e, s-w, n-w and s-e. Some drum
makers use a staple gun. I don’t. Staples are super cheap, of course, but they
also look and feel super cheap. (About a quarter of the cost of materials for
this drum went to the tacks. 11 euros. There are also more expensive and more
ornamental tacks in the market if I ever want to make a fancy and expensive
When I had hammered
so many tacks on the rim that I couldn’t fit one more, I left the drum to dry.
Once again, for the last time, I put the three crossbars back in the drum.
The weather is
warm. I believe the skin has dried completely by tomorrow. Then I can begin to
practise playing it. Before that I need to make a tipper.
The skin had dried
completely by the morning. I cut the excess pieces of skin away with a sharp
knife. The drum is almost ready. I’ll attach a crossbar inside the shell and
that’ll be it. I will make no ornamentation at all, but I did write "mo
chuisle" with small block letters inside the shell.
The skin has
mounted finely. Tapping on the dry drum lightly with fingertips gives a long
tone that is a little higher in pitch than what I expected, but the skin is not
too tight. It still gives in a little so it’s not over-stretched.
I wiped the skin
with a wet rag (water, not Guinness, mind you) to tune it down for playing.
I played around the skin with my knuckles since I hadn’t made a tipper yet. I
think the drum sounds beautiful. I will take it with me to the session at
O’Malley’s tonight even though I can’t play it. I hope that Oskari or some other
good bodhrán player comes by so I can get an opinion from a real
Just got back from
work. Made a couple of tippers. The first one I sawed from a drumstick and the
other I made by gluing barbecue skewers together! Both ideas came from the
delightful web pages of bodojo. A tipper is
usually made from hardwood and is around 17-25 centimetres long.
Off to session I
Feedback from other
players: nice drum, not bad, works okay. The skin is much thinner than with many
Irish goatskin drums, which led to a suggestion that I make a double-skin drum.
I even had the
nerve to play it publicly. I could keep up a steady beat and follow the melody
players (fiddle and uilleann pipes) but I did scrape a lot.
Super job Mii, I’m
very impressed with your drum especially given this has been your first
foray into drum building.
hope to hear the drum one day