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I have always loved the looks and sounds of the ethnic instruments known as hand drums. In particular, the djembe. For those of you who are not familiar, the djembe is a goblet shaped hand drum which originated in West Africa near Ghana, and has become famous around the world in Traditional African and Latin music.

While they are a simple drum in appearance, they require an immense amount of work to create from scratch. I found this out when I chose to make one for myself...
For instructables purposes, I have placed many of the instructions on the pictures as most of this will need both hands and it's easier to follow the picture than the text...

The following is not just an instructable, it is a piece of me that I would like to share with you all.

Enjoy,
Andy 

P.S. This is my first Instructable so please go easy... : )

Step 1: Gathering Supplies...

First and foremost, please be careful if you choose to try and do this on your own. The tools you will need, mainly the hatchet and chisels, need to be very sharp... I didn't need stitches, but I did go through a few band aids...

You will definitely need the following:
~An appropriate work environment consisting of a place for your block of wood, a place for you to sit, and a place for you to lay out your tools. I cannot stress how important it is to have a comfortable work area since this is a very labor intensive project.
~A standard rubber hammer
~A standard hatchet (boy scout or camping hatchet works well)
~A few sharp chisels with good tips (broken tips will damage the wood)
~You do not need one, but a half-round chisel would be quite handy for working the inside
~A chain saw (for cutting the log to length and also for hollowing the center)
~A Sharpie Marker (for drawing your pattern)
~A drill and some large, sharp bits (preferably a speed-bore)
~A metal tubing bender (Yeah, I know, but it will make sense when we get to that part)
~A sharp punch or awl (for making holes in the head)
~Either upholstery thread or quilting thread (for cinching the head around the ring)
~a large piece of paper and a sharpie (this will make sense in a few more steps...)
~A large piece of hard wood (oak, maple, cherry, poplar... with a diameter of about 13"-16" and a length of approximately 22" -24")
~A lot of patience
~A first aid kit (just in case...)
~Some sand paper in various grades from 60 to 180 grit
~A quart of stain (any color, preference)
~A quart of Polycrylic Selaer
~A drum head, rings, and rope(and more patience)
~(Info on getting the drum head, rope, and rings will be listed on the page with those steps...)~

Step 2: Picking the Wood..

Make sure when you choose your wood, you look for a nice tight grain and a piece with no worm holes.

I chose oak since it is very dense and I am not an experienced carver which means oak would be a little more forgiving than a softer wood like Ash or Cherry. The only problem with oak is that it's like carving concrete and weighs a ton...

I recommend a medium density wood like Ash, Poplar, or Cherry if you can find a nice piece big enough.

The first thing to do with the wood is strip the bark.

This will give you an idea of how much of the log you can use (i.e., if there are no worm holes or rotten spots, you can used the whole log... etc.)

The next thing is to mark your center and make the outline for the inside and outside diameter.

I used a drywall screw in the very center and tied a piece of string to the screw and the other end of the string around a sharpie giving me a nice circle...

Now you're ready to start roughing...

Step 3: Roughing the Outside...

As you will see from the pictures, there is a great deal of work ahead but the end result will be well worth it...
~
~Pic 1: As you can see, the end grain of this piece of white oak is tight and that means hard as a rock... The holes to the outside are where I was trying to figure out how to get the bulk of the excess wood off... Also, as you will find out... chiseling into the center of a chunk of oak is a ridiculous amount of work...
~Pic 2: I used the 3/4" bit to start hollowing the top and used a hand saw to start shaping the outside...
~Pic 3: Just an overhead view of the top and my messy drill work...
~Pic 4: My thumb... the hand saw was sharp too...
~Pic 5: After drilling out as much as I could, I chiseled out the excess giving a better view of the inside and just how hard this project was going to be...
~Pic 6: As you can see, I am only about 6 inches into a 26" log and this is day 4... God I wish I had a lathe...
~Pic 7: After drilling the outside diameter, I used the hand saw to remove the excess
~Pic 8: Another view of the bottom...
~Pic 9: Another view of the bottom...
~Pic 10: A nice view of the side showing the difference so far...
~Pic 11: You can start to see the top taking shape...
~Pic 12: I know this is nuts, but this was taken about 10 days into the process... Apparently, carving oak is hard to do... who knew? lol

Step 4: Time for the Big Guns...

Ok, so after working on this thing for what seemed to be forever, I realized that the wood was drying too fast causing it to crack...

With the hours and blood spent on this already, I had to figure out a way to finish fast...

So, I am off to mom and dad's place for a date with the chainsaw...
 I used a 16" Poulan since that's what was available and using the part of the outside I had carved with the chisel, I used the chainsaw to finish roughing the outside shape.

Then, I laid the log down on an old metal fireplace rack and began to hollow the center. 
(I had sincerely planned to do this entirely by hand but when I broke the tip off of the half round trying to carve out the center, I figured I should try something different...)

Once I had roughed out the inside, I used the shavings from the saw and burned out the inside. This was done in an attempt to finish drying the wood rapidly to prevent any further cracking.

Once the fire was put out, I was able to finally see through this thing...

In the last pic, you will see me holding what used to be a 300 lb. block of oak on my shoulder... This may not seem impressive or relevant, but since it took two grown men and an appliance dolly to get this thing to my apartment, I am proud to be able to pick it up...

Step 5: Finish Work...

Well, now that we have a rough shell, it's time to make it pretty (or at least presentable...)

Using the half-round, I started shaving off the excess around the outside little by little until I had a nice, smooth, uniform shape all the way around.

Once the bowl had a nice shape, I flipped over my log and began doing the same to the bottom.

Once the inside and outside were smoothed over, it was time for stain.

~NOTE: Since there are instructions on the stain and clear coating, I will not be including them here as everyone lives in different climates they will have to follow instructions based on their location...~

Now, those of you who are familiar with the djembe will notice that the shell of mine is considerably thicker than those from Africa... this is for a very simple reason, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into and chose to finish early... lol

The first pic shows the top of the bowl...
I chose to leave the chisel marks in the bowl for aesthetics and used the half-round to round over the top edge. After that, I used 80 grit to get the rough edges and 120 to smooth it over.

The next pic shows the entire shell sanded and ready for stain...

The next two pics show the carving on the base... It's not that impressive, but it's better than leaving it plain... Besides, I am a computer repair technician, not a wood carver...

I forgot to mention this in the required materials section, but Johnson's Paste Wax in the yellow can works great for sealing the inside...

Next you will see the inside of the top, coated with paste wax...

Then, the inside of the bottom also coated with paste wax...

In the following pic, you can see the entire shell stained and ready for clear coating...

Next there is a close up of the top...

And then the bottom...

I didn't take pics of the clear coat process... really self explanatory... 
~TIP: I used an old t-shirt cut into squares to apply the stain and clear coat. I found it works better than brushing and you don't get brush strokes...~






Step 6: The Not-so-Hard Part...

Ok, for the following steps, you will need to order a few things...
 I got my skin, rope, and rings from a guy named Shorty Palmer.
His site explains everything about him but the great part about this guy is that he worked with me and made sure I not only got what I needed, but helped make sure that I knew what I was doing.
  here is the site...
http://www.goatskins.com

You will need to get the circumference of the top of the shell for the top rings, and the size skin you will need. (A simple fabric tape measure will do the trick)

The rope needed will depend on how many vertical loops you choose... I have 16 verticals and only needed about 75 feet... the more verticals, the more rope... Ask Shorty how much he thinks you'll need, he's really good at estimating...

You will receive your skin dry and hard, this is normal. You will want to either use a large plastic bin or fill your bathtub with hot water. Submerge the entire skin in the water and place something on it to hold it under the water. You are rehydrating the skin to make it flexible and prevent it from tearing when you stretch it over your drum.

While your skin is soaking, you will need to prepare your rings.

I unfortunately did not take pictures of the ring, rope, and skin process however, I will be walking through this with you step by step on a smaller drum I am re-heading for my daughter.

You will receive two steel rings very close in size, but one will be just a tiny bit bigger than the other. Set the LARGER ring aside for now.

Take the SMALLER ring and grab a piece of steel wool or fine sandpaper (200 grit or more), and lightly sand the ring all the way around to make sure there is nothing stuck to it that could harm the skin. (Shorty makes great rings, so you shouldn't have any issues but just in case...)

Next, you will need to wrap your ring in a fabric of your choice. Pick something that you like and cut it into strips about 1.5 to 2 inches wide. Take one end of the fabric and apply a small drop of superglue to the ring at the weld, then hold the end of the fabric to the glue until it sticks.
Then proceed to wrap the fabric around the ring at a slight angle until you have completely covered the ring and no metal shows. (This not only improves the look, but protects the head if the ring rusts) Once you have completely covered the ring, apply another small drop of superglue to the ring and hold the fabric to the ring until it sticks. Cut off any excess. Set the WRAPPED ring aside.

Now, You will need to measure your rope and cut a piece to make the knots for the top ring.
As a rule of thumb, wrap rope around the circumference of the ring 4 times and that should be plenty to wrap the ring knots. Remember, the amount of rope you need will depend on the number of knots you plan to tie. Again, Shorty can help you with this information.
~NOTE: The rope needs to be 4 times the length of the circumference of the ring. For example, if your ring is 12 inches in diameter, do the math to find the circumference, in this case C=2piR, or C=2*pi*6 = 37.7", you would multiply that by 4, =150.8" and that's how much rope you would need for the top ring. (This rule of thumb works well for 16 -20 knots, any more than that and you will probably want a little more rope...)

For the process of wrapping the ring with the knots, I relied on youtube to find the method as I had never even held a djembe in my hands prior to this project.

so, moving right along... follow the pics through wrapping your ring and preparing your skin...

Step 7: Tying the Knots.... a Lot of Them...

OK, I will be using the pics to guide you through this more than text so follow along one step at a time and you'll be fine...

so, since I had to take pics for the instructable, these are not the actual pics of the drum ring. I used some spare rope and a coat hanger for illustration purposes...

Read the pics....

sorry some of them are a little blurry, I was trying to keep the rope still and take the pic at the same time...
 
The last pic on this step shows what your knotted ring should look like...

Once you have knotted your top ring, you are ready to move on to the bottom ring...

Step 8: Making the Bottom Ring...

this part is a little tricky and doesn't have to be done the exact way shown here, but this is how I did it and it works well for me...

First you will need about 5-6 times the circumference of the base since you will actually be making the ring out of the rope PLUS the rope for your verticals...

There again, read the pics...

Once you have made and knotted your bottom ring, you will need to seat it at the collar since this will be the critical piece for making sure you can tighten and tune your drum...

Now onto lacing the verticals...

Step 9: Lacing the Verticals...

This is time consuming and tedious but you're so close now it's all worth the hassle.

The top and bottom are the same for this part so I am only including one view...

Follow the pics...



Step 10: Heading the Djembe...

as I mentioned in the last step, I will be explaining this part using a smaller djembe that I am re-heading for my baby girl who will be here in Jan 2011 (everyone should have a drum...)

The process is the same regardless of the size of the drum so if you follow these steps, you should have no problems.

It's not that complicated to make this happen, it's just time consuming and tedious at points so patience is a must!

~NOTE: While tightening the head, make sure to not allow the skin to slip through the rings... you will have to start all over... 

~NOTE: Make sure to use blunt tip scissors when trimming the excess skin to prevent damaging the head...

~NOTE: BE SURE TO ONLY TIGHTEN THE HEAD TO THE SHAPE YOU WANT IT WHILE IT IS WET... THE HEAD SHRINKS WHEN IT DRIES...

Once the head is completely dry, you can continue to tighten the verticals until you have the tone you want. DO NOT CUT THE EXCESS ROPE!!!
Over time, the skin will stretch and lose tone and you will need to lace 'diamonds' to re-tighten the head...

Step 11: Now Make Some Noise...

once you have completed all the necessary steps to complete the drum, now you wanna give it a whack or two to see how it sounds...

~Note: Your neighbors may not be as cool as mine so practice at a decent hour...

have fun with this and be careful not to hurt yourself with the tools...

I hope you have enjoyed this project as much as did.

Now, I am not a musician by any definition of the word, but here's a little clip of me and my djembe...
GREAT INSTRUCTABLE!!!!!!! In the middle of a modified version of it right now. How much rope do you need for this step? Roughly.
it really depends. I was told to have 4~5 times the length of the circumference of the rings but I didn't actually need that much.<br>You might want to just start off by wrapping the rope around the drom head 4 times and try that length. When it comes to running the verticals, it will all depend on the number of loops.<br><br>Best of luck, it's a tough task.
Clearly stated in the instructable on a different page. I'm doing a modified style made from tapered, angled pine slats. Using everything from your section on skin preparation and roping, though. I'll try to post a pic when I'm done. You don't know how grateful to you I am for this. Hopefully I'll be doing it with a bunch of 12-14 year-olds over the next year.
I was actually going to try one like that using staves (tapered and mitered slats).<br>I want to do one with ash and walnut alternating though... kinda black and white all at the same time... Can't wait to see yours though.
Here arwe some pics of mine. Trouble with the uploader, so sorry if I upload twice.
<p>what were the dimensions of the slats if you don't mind me asking?. and the ring sizes you used.</p>
Turned out pretty well. Pics anon. Some cautions I found out the hard way: 1, when you have seated your skin properly and secured it a bit, snip the string holding it up in the centre, or you'll be fighting the string instead of the skin when tensioning the verticals 2, don't reef on the verticals. That way you can do an extra set of over-and-unders and it looks beautiful. 3, when pulling string, WEAR GLOVES!!!!! I not only have a brand new home made drum, but also a nice new set of hand made blisters to go along with it! Pics probably tomorrow. I repeat, GREAT INSTRUCTABLE!!!!!
<p>Great instructable!</p><p>Especially the section of the knots.</p><p>I will favorite this instructable, if i want to replace my heads from my collection of djembe's i can see how it has to be done!</p>
everyone should have a drum, im of the same camp brother. thats a beautiful djembe. i plan on making a djembe and a ngoma from pieces of a very large mesquite tree that fell in my neighbors yard. and if i understand you, you started carving this fresh, without drying it? that seems like a good idea if you cant control the drying of the log, but you gotta work quick. i started drying without being able to control it, and i have cracks in my stumps already, i should get to work. thanks for posting this project, i feel so lucky to have found this site with so many awesome people making great food, instruments, and other things.
Next time, use a wood product called &quot;sanding sealer,&quot; on the ends, which stops the wood from drying inconsistently. No cracks.<br>
I will, thanks! Ive tried using paraffin wax, and still got cracks, but it did take a lot longer
yeah, I learned a valuable lesson about drying beforehand...<br><br>I actually regret rushing through this but hey, what's done is done and the sound is what's important. <br><br>when you finish, make sure you use a really good sealant so the wood won't split itself...<br><br>Good luck to you on yours! Hope to see it up here soon!
ok, so I just saw that I am a finalist!<br><br>God Bless you all for the votes! It means more than you know!
VOTED!
thanks!!
Can you <strong><a href="https://www.instructables.com/member/rimar2000/">vote my two projects</a></strong>, please? Today is the last day!!<br>
done!<br>gracias y denada!
Great!
Wow, that is something I might dream of doing, but to actually carve the whole drum, starting with a log, AND achieve that level of finish. Awesome. <br> <br>I know, our ancestors did this kind of thing regularly, but they didn't have TV, let alone www to distract them...Congratulations on a job well done! <br> <br>I have ONE small tip for you, straight from Roy &quot;The Woodwright's Shop&quot; Underhill. If you start the process by drilling a center hole all the way through any hollow work, you can buy time from the grain splitting. It allows the wood to relieve some of the shrinkage pressure. I believe he recommended something like a 1&quot; hole, but I am sure any drill size close to that would work.
Yeah...<br>I learned a lot about how not to do things while working on this...<br><br>The next drum will actually be done in pieces (staves) kinda like a wooden bucket...<br><br>I have many more things to take care of before then though...
Wow!! I wish I had the patience to do something like this. :)
Thanks much. It was a long process as this was not only my first instrument but this was also the first time I have ever carved anything. It took about 4 1/2 weeks to finish and was probably the most physically demanding project I have ever done.<br><br>
Awesome. I love djembes, they sound so cool. This looks like it took a lot of work. (As mentioned above, you might want to put one of the pictures in the intro section so it doesn't just show that instructables hand there. Almost didn't click on it)
You did a great job, congratulations!
That looks really amazing! I recommend putting a picture of the finished drum in the intro step before the video so that it appears as the thumbnail image.

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Bio: Hello all! My name is Andy and I am a certified electronics technician and am currently working as a database administrator for a local government ... More »
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