Instructables

Leather Didgeridoo

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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.
 
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CProkopp1 year ago
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!
JesusFreke (author)  CProkopp1 year ago
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.

I would love to see one with the typical leaf/branch/flower embossed leather decorations.

Do you have any pics by chance? I would love to see how it turned out!
Here you go.
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.
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.
Once again, thanks for the info!
Charles D. Prokopp
Leather didge 1.jpgLeather didge bell.jpgLeather didge curve.jpgLeather didge mouthpiece.jpg
liontroll1 year ago
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?
JesusFreke (author)  liontroll1 year ago
Thanks! If I remember correctly, I think I gave this particularly didgeridoo to my tabla instructor :)

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.

I have two didges that I usually play. 1 is a "split and hollow" maple log, made by tyler spencer, and the other is one of my leather didges.
ajdi1231 year ago
Very cool!!
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!
JesusFreke (author)  ajdi1231 year ago
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.

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!

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.

Thanks for the comments!
builderkidj3 years ago
Whats a didgerodoo?
Aboriginal wind instrument. Like a trombone without all the bends.
superb dude

How do you use the didjImp program, I cant figure it out

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

All numbers should be entered in meters

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

keep on didgin

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!
JesusFreke (author)  Vintiquities5 years ago
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.
JesusFreke (author)  chariotmaker5 years ago
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?
JesusFreke (author)  chariotmaker5 years ago
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
JesusFreke (author)  FunkNattidelic6 years ago
What's the error? :). My guess is that you need to install the .NET 2.0 framework

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=0856eacb-4362-4b0d-8edd-aab15c5e04f5&displaylang=en
Maybe thats the problem, = P. ill comment back on whether it works or not.
Awesome, but I prefer a PVC pipe with a straight fitting on the end. Ghetto 4 instruments 4 life.
JesusFreke (author)  FreshPineSent6 years ago
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?
JesusFreke (author)  FunkNattidelic6 years ago
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. = )
alexsolex6 years ago
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
JesusFreke (author)  alexsolex6 years ago
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.

My next didge project will involve heavy cloth, latex and epoxy. (I got the idea from this instructable :))
pure awesomness
JesusFreke (author)  masterochicken6 years ago
Woohoo. I got awesomenessed :)