Senegalese Style Drums




About: Interdisciplinary Artist

How to make an original drum - Senegalese Style

I visited a local drum factory in Dakar, Senegal. I made this instructable of the process that I saw.

However, this is not a step by step instructable but it will give you a general idea and almost all the steps to make a drum as they do in Senegal.

carving tools
some welding required
wood sanding tools
varnish ( lighter and darker preferred)

Step 1: Cut a Piece of Wood

this should not be done without supervision of an adult.

Step 2: Carving in the Center

getting the wood and shape

Step 3: Example

you carve in the center of the wood piece, calculating the size that you want your drum to be.

Step 4: Lots of Sanding

Sanding lots of sanding

Step 5: Sanding the Shape

After all the sanding, the drum should look like this.

Very smooth and the circular edges are well made.

Step 6: Varnish

it is recommended that you use two varnishes one that is lighter and one that is darker, ( first you apply one and after you apply the other one) however it is fun to experiment and to make it your own style.

Step 7: Paint and Then Sand It Again


sometimes you can paint it and then sand it again to make your desired color.

Step 8: Drawings

You can get inspiration from magazines, or you can make your very own drawings to put in your drum

Step 9: Making the Drawings

With ink or acryclic you can apply the drawings to the wood or you can also carve first the designs and then you can paint on top of them.

Step 10: The Leather

After leaving the leather in water for a while, you should remove it ( be careful it smells) hang it for a little bit to remove the water.

Step 11: Removing the Leather's Hair

Use a razor to remove the hair.

it is totally up to you if you want to leave hair on the edges for decoration, however it will affect the sounds of your drums.

Step 12: Removing the Hair

start moving the racer from the top to bottom to take the hair out.

You don't have to remove all the hair, it is up to you if you want to give it another style, but this will affect the sounds of your drum.

This side should be facing up when you place it on the drum. That makes it sound better.

Step 13: Measuring the Diameter

Measure the circle's diameter to know how much leather and how big the metal circles (needed to attach the leather to the drum) are going to be.

Step 14: Metal Circles

Make sure you do at least three metal circles to attach the ropes and the leather to the drum.

All of them are covered with fabric.

One will go with the leather and two will go with the rope.

Step 15: Ropes and Circles

First start by attaching the rope to one of the "metal circles"

Step 16: Start Attaching the Rope

After placing the metal circle with the rope to the drum you can start attaching the rest of the rope to the drum.
2 goes on the outside and one goes in the inside.

Step 17: The Metal Inside the Circle

Then, you should place the first metal circle inside the leather so that the leather is firmly installed on the drum.

This metal circle goes on the inside of the drum.

Step 18: Installing the Ropes to the Drum

the you should attach the other metal circle on top of the drum.

Step 19: The Rope

Continue attaching the ropes to the drum, making it really tense, if it is not tense your drum will not sound good.

remember that leather should be placed facing up... the side that you cut the hair from.

That makes it sound better or different

Once the leather is firmly attached to the drum cut the rest of the leather.

Step 20: Rope Detail

rope detail

Step 21: More Details

Step 22: Detail / Attaching

Step 23: Your Drum

Step 24: Other Types of Attachments

you can mix colors and make your own way to attach it all together



    • Woodworking Contest

      Woodworking Contest
    • IoT Challenge

      IoT Challenge
    • Colors of the Rainbow Contest

      Colors of the Rainbow Contest

    15 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

     woah a djembe.. i have been playing these drums a lot.. well if i am not mistaken natives use goatskin.. the side where the fur used to be must be facing up, however you can find sinthetic leather to put on but you need to put it on using bolts and stuff much like a drum.

    if i may add, there is a type of weaving of the chord that augments the tension of the leather wich i do not see in the pictures, it's about using another piece of chord to cross the others and make them overlap, i cannot explain it further without  images but you may find something on the net.. also warming the skin on a flame ( froma  distance, you do not want to set your djembe on fire ) can improve the sound significantly..
    sorry i was a bit lenghty but i love the drum.. thought it would be useful to some of you..


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Just a couple things. Don't use leather, use rawhide. Leather has been cured in some way, adding chemicals and such. Rawhide is exactly what it sounds like, uncured hide. And if you live in the U.S. you could use deer hide. The natives have been using it forever. it gives a nice light sound.


    9 years ago on Introduction

     very nice instructable  have been searching for this for quite some time. I have one thing to add to the question about skin to use, many African drums (not djembes though) uses cowskin but that gives pretty much just one sound not the two or three you can get from a djembe. If you live up in the north (like Finland or Sweden) it is hard to come across fresh goatskin, if that is the case i have been recommended reindeer skin, it gives pretty much the same sound as goatskin and in some places it is much easier to get.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I wonder if anyone's made a taiko drum: that would be amazing

    Clayton H.

    10 years ago on Introduction

    My brother got one of these for christmas this year and they sound nice and low.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Sweet ible. These are called "djembes". I have 2 that were made in Africa, and 1 that I made myself.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    These are a lot of work, but very satisfying when complete. I've made several and use these instructions as a reference.

    BTW the hair side ends up facing up. You don't want to play the inside of the skin - it's a little yucky (fat and veins - ugh!) ... smells great when wet - kind of like a dog's rawhide chew toy (pretty much the same material).

    Were you on a holiday when you took the photos? In Senegal, perhaps? Cool stuff!

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Those are nice instructions. Thank you. and yes skin side faces up! oops, but remember that if you are brave enough you can still play around with it to get different sounds. My sister lives there so it makes it easy to wonder around.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    That's neat that you got to tour a factory. What kind of wood and skins were used to get the best sound?

    1 reply

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Maybe you can could it with his real name "Djembé", instead of Senegalese-Style Drum :) However, assembling a Djembé is one of the worse jobs ever though by a human being! :D It's takes forever, is dirty (skin cleaning) and fu*ing tiring (carving and roping). Good job anyway! Very detailed!

    1 reply

    10 years ago on Introduction

    excellent detail .. very nice work indeed .


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Nice photos. Like you said, it's not a complete insructable, but I love seeing how things are made, even if the descriptions aren't fleshed out completely. One comment: "razor," not "racer." Nice work!