A didgeridoo made out of leather and sealed with epoxy.

Leather is a great material for first-time didgeridoo builders, because it's relatively easy to obtain, not too expensive (especially if you keep an eye out for sales) and doesn't require any expensive tools or prior knowledge.

You should expect to spend around 10-12 hours on this project, although it can be done in 6-8 hours after you have already made a couple.

The initial cost for all of the materials and tools is around $200 and you'll have enough materials to make at least 2 didgeridoos, maybe 3. The cost per didgeridoo, excluding tools and re-usable materials, is around $50 - $75.

I got started crafting didgeridoos out of leather because I don't have the know-how, tools or space needed to make "split and hollow" didges out of dried logs, and I don't live somewhere with a ready supply of yucca or agave stalks. After some brain-storming and searching, I found a guy that makes leather didgeridoos ( Marko Johnson ) which inspired me to try my hand at it.

I've made a variety of styles of leather didgeridoos. Hand stiched, "triangle", "triangle spiral", sectional, and the simple "wrap and epoxy" style which I will describe in this instructable. I've added some pictures of some of the other styles of leather didges that I've made, if you're interested.

After a while of building leather didgeridoos, I got interested in the physics of didgeridoos, especially in the area of how the bore shape affects the playability and sound of the didge. I did some reading in some acoustic journals, and eventually made a program to calculate what is called the "acoustic impedance" of a didgeridoo with an arbitrary circular bore shape. I've recently created a user-friendly interface and released the code as open source. You can get it here.

One of the great things about this method of making didgeridoos is that it is relatively easy to construct the didgeridoo so that it has specific bore dimensions. This appeals to me because it allows me to design a didgeridoo before hand, using my DidjImp program, and then build the didge and see how it sounds. This allows me to experiment with different designs and learn more about how to make a didgeridoo with specific playing characteristics.

I hope you find this instructable useful. If you do make a leather didge using these instructions, I would love to hear about it! And I would love to hear any feedback you have.

Note: Some of the images are hard to see at the small size shown on the page. I've uploaded full size images, so you can click on the "i" buttton at the top left of the image and choose to view the original image which will be a lot larger.

Step 1: Tools and materials

Here are the tools needed:

Razor/Utility knife - $4-$9
For cutting out the leather. My favorite is this
Yard stick - $5
The metal ones are the best. The cheap wooden ones tend to be not very straight. Ideally it should have millimeter markings (1/32in works too, if you prefer the "English" system.)
"2 yard" yard stick (optional) - $15
Again the metal ones are best. The markings aren't important. This is only used in the first step, to draw a long straight line. You can use the "1 yard" yard stick instead, or anything else with a long, straight edge.
Carpenter's square or similar - $5
It's best if it has millimeter or 1/32in markings. If not, you can use the yard stick to measure instead.
Hack saw or PVC pipe cutter (optional) - $4
This is needed if you are going to build a PVC frame

And the materials that that are needed:

1 Leather hide - $90
You want a thick vegetable tanned hide, at least 12oz or so. Tandy's cheap 13-15oz saddle skirting works well. This will be enough leather for at least 2 didges, possibly 3.
Epoxy (at least 12-14oz) - $20
You can buy 64oz of the "Klear Koat" epoxy here for $20 (not including shipping), or you can find a 16oz kit of Envirotex Lite in some local hardware stores for around $20. Other types/brands of "tabletop/bartop epoxy" would probably work too. You'll use around 12-14oz of epoxy per didge, so if you buy the Klear Koat you should have enough for several didges.
Fumed Silica (Optional) - $3.50
Used to thicken the epoxy for the final outside coat.
Latex gloves - $10
For working with epoxy
Pencil - $1
Ye olde wooden pencil
Pencil sharpener - $1
Any cheap pencil sharpener will do
Elastic Medical Bandages - $10
You have a couple of options here. You can get a regular "ACE" type bandages, either the self-stick kind, or the kind with the little metal fastener things. You can reuse this type of bandage, assuming you don't get much epoxy on them. These are $2 a piece for a 2" wide bandage, which is an easy size to work with. You can get a wider bandage, but it's a bit harder to keep "flat" while you wrap it on the didge. You'll need around 5 2" bandages or possibly fewer if you use a wider bandage.
You can also buy woven cotton bandages in bulk for pretty cheap, but they're not as re-usable. They tend to get stretched out after a couple of uses.
String - $3 (or $25)
Used to draw the curve at the wide end, and also to hang the didgeridoo from the PVC frame while epoxying. You can probably use cheap cotton string which you should be able to find at walmart on the cheap (froogle.com says $3 or so). However, I like to use a type of string called "lacing tape", which comes in either nylon or polyester (among other materials). It is a flat, braided string, is quite strong, and holds a knot very well. I use this stuff for *everything*. It's around $25 for a 500 yard spool, but it's a bit hard to find. The good thing is that 1 spool will last a long long time. The place I got it from last time isn't selling it any more unfortunately. After a bit of a search, it looks like you might be able to get it here. Either nylon or polyester is fine. You want size 3, with the synthetic rubber finish. White is cheaper, but you can get black if you want :)
Masking Tape - $4
Used to hold the string in place while drawing the curve at the wide end, and also to help seal the mouthpiece end of the didge when epoxying the inside. You don't want to use duct tape or packaging tape, because the tape will stick to the leather too much and damage the leather when you peel it off. I use 3M's blue masking tape.
Plastic Drop Cloth - $3
This is used while working with epoxy, to prevent it from getting on the floor.
3 Plastic graduated mixing container - $1.50 total ($.50 each)
To mix the epoxy
1 package of mixing sticks - $2
To mix the epoxy
Silly Putty - $1
To help seal the end of the didge when epoxying the inside
1 plastic grocery bag - $0
Used to seal the end of the didge when epoxying the inside

Optional - if you want to build a PVC frame to help hold the didge while you
epoxy the inside and outside.
4 10' long 1-1/4" Schedule 40 PVC pipe - $4 each, $16 total
8 'T' connectors to fit above pipe - $1.50 each, $12 total
4 90 degree elbows to fit above pipe - $1 each, $4 total

Note: if you buy the Klear Kote epoxy from U.S. composites, you can order some fumed silica (aka aerosil-cabosil), graduated plastic tubs, wooding mixing sticks, and latex gloves from them at the same time.

Total Cost: $220 - Assuming that you have to buy everything that is listed. There's a good chance you will have some/most of the tools and materials already, and you can leave off some of the optional items to save a bit more. Most of the stuff can be re-used if/when you make more leather didges in the future.
<p>Most interesting and informative -thank you! I have never worked with leather but I have tried making didgeridoos before using other materials. My dream is to achieve a didge with a &quot;singing harmonic&quot;, and your name came up when I did a search to see what other people have been able to do. I tried to follow a link of yours to find the dimensions for a singing harmonic didgeridoo but the link didn&acute;t work for me. Is there any way you could let me know the exact bore shape required? I would LOVE to have a singing didge in the key of either C or D. Thanks for your inspiring work!!</p>
<p>Thanks! I'm glad to hear this inspired you.</p><p>iirc, I think the dimensions in this screenshot of didjimp are for my singing harmonic didge. <a href="http://sourceforge.net/p/didjimp/screenshot/175974.jpg" rel="nofollow">http://sourceforge.net/p/didjimp/screenshot/175974...</a></p>
<p>REALLY appreciate the fast reply, thank you!! So, just to confirm I am understanding what I see... The dimensions are in meters? The didge is 1.96 meters long; has a radius of 14.3mm at the mouthpiece; narrows as the bore progresses to a minimum radius of 11mm at a distance of 220mm from the mouthpiece, then flares out again to finally reach a 50mm radius at the bell?</p><p>Also, somewhere in my searching I seem to remember you commented to someone that you made 2 didges to this pattern but only one had the singing harmonic due to bore diameter differences caused by differing wall thickness? So if I use the dimensions as written in the screenshot -things should be sweet?</p><p>Thanks once again! </p>
<p>Oh, one thing I should point out with those dimensions though - you'll need to reinforce the didge somehow. The narrow part near the top is too narrow to be structurally sound. If you don't reinforce it somehow, it will be too flexible, and the seam will likely break. I recommend using a composite biaxial sleeve. e.g. fiberglass, basalt, carbon fiber, etc. I used a biaxial basalt sleeve for this. e.g. http://www.coastrocketry.com/composites.htm. Once epoxied, it turns almost completely black.</p>
<p>That is correct.</p><p>It's difficult to do very precise construction with leather, due to the natural variations in the leather. The variation in thickness, the slightly rough inner surface, etc. So, no guarantees on a singing harmonic didge :) (it's a bit overrated anyway, imo. But it's a fun goal, at least.)</p>
I can't believe I stumbled upon this 'Ible! I have been meaning to make a leather didge for over a year now. It's so weird that I just happened to find this Ible...I think you must be a member of my karass and our sinookas are interwoven! I've talked to Marko the man himself several times about leather didges, AND I also own a beautiful Ty Spencer... I now feel obligated by karma to make this, it's obviously part of my destiny lol. Can you tell me a little more about specifics on the leather? I get a bit lost looking at leather, and I want to get the right stuff. My only other question right now is- Can I use your numbers from the Ible instead of trying to calculate my own? I like the size and shape of yours, so I guess I'm just wondering if you would have done anything differently, if you were happy with those numbers,etc. And hey, a BIG THANK YOU... This is an awesome project and I'm grateful that you shared it. Color me inspired!
Nice! I have a spencer didge as well. It's actually my all-time favorite didge. One of those where I start playing it, and I'm just like &quot;yeah, that's my didge now.&quot;<br><br>For the leather, you want nice and thick veg-tan leather. A thick saddle skirting should do the trick. You'll want something that's around 3/16&quot; to 1/4&quot; thick. It doesn't really need to be a high quality leather, as long as it doesn't have lots of holes or anything.<br><br>I was happy with the dimensions of this particular didge. If I remember right, I ended up giving this one to my tabla instructor (I don't consider most of my didges &quot;worthy&quot; of giving away/selling/whatever).<br><br>For the epoxy, I would still recommend the u.s. composites epoxy. The Klear Kote stuff is relatively cheap and works well.<br><br>
Oh, one other quick q- Do you have a favorite brand of epoxy that you recommend? I figured it's years later, you may have found one to be superior to others. Thanks again!
I've been a leather worker for years, so I was intrigued when I saw your method of making my favorite instrument out of my favorite medium. The only change I did was to stitch the seam closed while wet-molding the hide. At first I was bit concerned about tone...in the early stages the only sound the didge-to-be would produce was a muffled flatulation. Not to be discouraged, I carried on, using epoxy formulated for table and counter tops. Once the inside had set, I gave the didge a tentative honk. Man, I thought it was going to blow the walls out of my shop! The tone got even crisper and louder with the final coats of epoxy. Of all my didgeridoos, this one is the best. Thanks for a really great project and addition to my leather business!
<p>Awesome! I'm glad you had such great success with it. And yeah, you can get a bit of sound out of it before the epoxy, but it really clears up once you get that nice epoxy surface on the inside.</p>
<p>Oops, I just realized that I had already responded to your comment. lol. that's what I get for not paying attention :)</p>
Nice! I glad to hear yours turned out well. I've done some stitched seams too, which definitely give it that nice authentic leather look - but it's a bit of a pain having to pull *all* that lacing through each hole, especially at the first.<br><br>I would love to see one with the typical leaf/branch/flower embossed leather decorations.<br><br>Do you have any pics by chance? I would love to see how it turned out!<br>
Here you go.<br>A little tip on stitching and lacing: you don't need to start out with enough cordage to do the whole job. Just cut off a span (Two arm's lengths) of thread or lace if you're doing a two-needle saddle stitch or whip stitch. When you reach the end of the line, tie it off and start another span.<br>When I tool these, I'll just do interlocking curves or geometric shapes, as well as aboriginal tribal patterns. I rarely do the Western-style tooling that most folks are familiar with.<br>Once again, thanks for the info!<br>Charles D. Prokopp
<p>I did it and it sounds amazing. It took a while to work out the maths and I wanted something a little smaller. In the end I was hoping for a D but the end product is a D#. What I learnt here is that accuracy of measurements is critical. Also I punched way to many holes for the stitching and it took a very long time to stitch and I think the stitching changed the geometry. Amazing and now I have work out the maths for my next one in the key of E and this one I am going to carve and engrave using both my Australian and African heritage to come up with something really special for me. Will be playing my D# at a concert on the weekend. Thank you</p>
<p>That is awesome, thanks for sharing the pictures!</p>
AWESOME PROJECT. Thanks man. Some day I will make one (or more) of these. So... Are you still playing this bad-boy 4 years later? Any changes you would do, given the perspective of time?
Thanks! If I remember correctly, I think I gave this particularly didgeridoo to my tabla instructor :) <br> <br>I was pretty happy with this particular didgeridoo. The construction technique itself is solid. It's just about the particulars of the shape of the bore that you choose. <br> <br>I have two didges that I usually play. 1 is a &quot;split and hollow&quot; maple log, made by tyler spencer, and the other is one of my leather didges.
Very cool!! <br>One thing Id' recommend would be to use bee's wax instead of silly putty at the end of the didge. It'll give it a nicer tone and a better seal on the lips. If you have eucalyptus ash, i'd suggest mixing that into the bee's wax before attaching it to the didge :D otherwise... Nice!
I only use silly putty for sealing the plastic wrap/bag around the mouthpiece , while epoxying the inside. Wax wouldn't work well for this, because it's not soft enough or tacky enough.<br><br>Also, there's no way silly putty could work as a mouthpiece anyway - it's too soft and wouldn't hold it's shape at all!<br><br>And I can't use beeswax mouthpieces anymore :( I had used beeswax for a few years, but my lips got sensitized to the beeswax (or more likely, the residual pollen in the beeswax), and they break out in a rash now if I try to use beeswax.<br><br>Thanks for the comments!
Whats a didgerodoo?
Aboriginal wind instrument. Like a trombone without all the bends.
somthing an abo can practis its b.js for money lol
superb dude<br><br>How do you use the didjImp program, I cant figure it out<br><br>thnx
You just enter a list of (position, radius) pairs on the left side and hit calculate. See: http://sourceforge.net/dbimage.php?id=175974<br><br>All numbers should be entered in meters<br><br>If you click on the bore tab, you'll see a cross-section of the bore that you entered at the top.
Nice one dude, many thanks<br><br>keep on didgin<br><br>TOOT
I love this Instructable. Great job. I have a nephew that would love to have one of these. He learned how to play in elementary school and has kept going with it. He will be in High school soon. I think it will make a great present for him. Thanks so much!
Awesome! Glad you liked it :). Let me know how it turns out if you make one!
Was able to make four didges from the hide from Tandy. Laced two and glued two before the epoxy. One doesn't have a good tone so am starting it over. Overall great instructions. My first one turned ot to be the best, the tone is incredible. Looks as good as any I've found on the internet sites. Also made one from a tree limb (I am a carpenter and furniture maker by trade) and it is too cool as well. Now making an ashiko drum. Thanks for your awsome instructions. Applause here. The Chariotmaker.
Sweet! I'm glad you ended up getting a great one out of the bunch :). I've had my share of good and not so good as well. Got any pics? Or a sound clip? I'd love to see/hear what you came up with :)
downloaded some pics of didges and boxes. Where they are is beyond me. Where do downloaded pics go?
When you create a comment on here, there is an "add images" button right above the text box where you enter the comment. When you click it, it should display an "Attach Images" box where you can attach an image that you have already uploaded to the site, or upload a new image.
I will take some pics soon and send them in along with some "boxes" I make on a bandsaw. They are pretty amazing. Thanks again. Dennis.
hey JesusFreke, your DidjImp program wont download properly to my computer. every time i download it and try to open the file, there is an error report. Is there anything i can do about this? Thanks
What's the error? :). My guess is that you need to install the .NET 2.0 framework<br/><br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=0856eacb-4362-4b0d-8edd-aab15c5e04f5&amp;displaylang=en">http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=0856eacb-4362-4b0d-8edd-aab15c5e04f5&amp;displaylang=en</a><br/>
Maybe thats the problem, = P. ill comment back on whether it works or not.<br/>
Awesome, but I prefer a PVC pipe with a straight fitting on the end. Ghetto 4 instruments 4 life.
Yes, everyone knows that PVC makes the best didges :D
is there any other adhesive that i could use? i have a large bottle of wood glue in " the lair " ( my good friend benny101 calls my basement the lair) and i was wondering if it would work. Also, i have some stuff that looks like leather left over from my Bagpipes, but it is actually Naugahyde, also known as upholstery vinyl. would that be okay to use?
I don't think wood glue would work very well. The epoxy soaks into the leather and makes it rigid. I doubt the wood glue would add much rigidity at all, so the didge would be very "floppy", which would tend to put a lot of stress on the seam, probably making it fail quickly. The naugahide would almost definitely not work, at least with this construction method. The leather I use is quite thick - almost a quarter inch thick, so it is very firm and can hold a tube shape. Anything that is made for upholstery has to be able to drape well, which means that you wouldn't be able to get it to stay in a tube shape - it would just collapse in on itself.
ahh ok. thanks for the info. = )<br/>
Hi I bought my first didgeridoo in an ugly shop (a stupid not dried bamboo tube that broke a couple of days after I got it...) Then I saw it was only a "tube", so I made some of my own using PVC pipes and making some shapes by heating some places on the tube. Then I bought a real one, made of eucalyptus and traditionnaly curved out by termites. Then I had the awesome chance to build my own when I went to Australia with an aboriginal man. (went to the forest, check for the good tree, cut it, and finishing it by hand) I made my mind how to build my own here in France with no termites and no eucas... I thought to many ways but never ever thought about making it using leather and epoxy ! Very interesting way ! I wish I could see one of yours to check the sound ! Good job
Yeah, not a lot of people think of making a didge from leather :). I do have some sound files in the last few steps, so you can see what it sounds like.<br/><br/>My next didge project will involve heavy cloth, latex and epoxy. (I got the idea from <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.instructables.com/id/Coating-Fabric-with-Liquid-Latex/">this instructable</a> :))<br/>
pure awesomness
Woohoo. I got awesomenessed :)

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