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
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.