Introduction: Making a Log Drum With a Laser Cutter

About: We're a group of educators and musicians interested in exploring the territory where STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) meets the arts and design.

A log drum consists of a resonant box with a top striking surface with two different sized tabs. The two tabs produce two different notes when struck. This log drum was designed as a set of interlocking plates in Inkscape and then cut on a laser cutter.

This log drum was designed as part of the WAVES project, a collaboration designed to explore the common ground between STEM education and the Arts (sometimes called STEAM). Here's a link to an Instructable on WAVES.

Explore in the model in Fusion360.

Step 1: Making Music With a Log Drum

Peter Martin of Third Coast Percussion explains making music with a log drum.

Step 2: Installing Inkscape

Inkscape is a great free 2D drawing program that has much of the functionality of Adobe Illustrator. Inkscape runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It can be found at

Installing Inkscape on Windows

On Windows, you can install Inkscape just like any other application. Go to the Downlads page at to get the installer.

Installing Inkscape on a Mac

On the Mac, Inkscape runs under a graphics environment called "X". Prior to Mac OS X Mountain Lion (version 10.8), X was installed by default. Beginning with Mountain Lion, and then Maverick, if you want to run X programs like Inkscape, you'll need to install a version of "X" first. The following notes were taken from this link:

  1. Install Inkscape (if haven't done so already) from
  2. Install XQuartz from
  3. Run Inkscape
  4. When asked for "Where is X11?", click "browse ..." and select /Applications/Utilities/ (or just /Applications/Utilities/XQuartz)
  5. Note that if XQuartz starts up when launching Inkscape, but Inkscape doesn't launch the first time along with XQuartz, (or the Inkscape window doesn't show up), you can try to quit both Inkscape and XQuartz, then launch Inkscape once more (which should also launch XQuartz). This bug occurred on the system that the above fix was tested on, and the workaround seems to have worked. Your mileage might vary.

Step 3: Using Inkscape to Design a Tabbed Box

Our log drum is designed as a tabbed box that is glued together. We use 1/4" thick Baltic birch plywood, available from most "big box" home supply or hardware stores. The video shows the basic methodology for designing a box that will line up properly.

The best source of information on using inkscape is the online manual

Before you do anything (unless you're the type that doesn't read manuals), go through the first three Quick Start sections in the manual

Laser cutters require that lines have certain properties (color and thickness) so that they can be recognized for cutting. We use an Epilog 36EXT laser cutter in our shop, which requires that cut lines be pure red and have a thickness of 0.001". The second video shows how to set these line properties in Inkscape.

Step 4: PDF of Completed Design

This PDF file contains a completed design for a pair of log drums, that fits nicely on a 2' x 2' sheet of 1/4" Baltic birch plywood.