I’ve been making more and more drums over the winter – I have 7 or 8 now under my belt. I’m making them because I want to become great at making them – tone, playability, looks, pitch, toughness, beauty, record-ability – all of that – but also because I am doing R&D for Hexagon Craftworks, trying to ramp up to being able to sell a very nice set of items that people will love having in their set of instruments. I also enjoy the creative process of doing it. I have made a few improvements with these two, and every time I do one, it gets better.
P I N E D E C A G O N D R U M
First, I made a pine-based decagon with 10 sides. It’s about 10″ wide by 11″ deep. I have always loved the knots and grain of pine, and it’s look when it’s stained dark. Before stain, the drum shell was almost white! Very light. Pine gets “fluffy”, too – it takes stain deeply and I had to sand the hell out of it, with 60, 150, up to 400, and it came out great! The reddish stain sank in and gave it a super-awesome look after the clear.
The tone of this drum has the best tone from any drum I have made so far! And, it’s light. Maybe the shell resonates more? I don’t know. An oak drum that has half the dimensions still weighs twice as much as this (roughly). The oak ones have their own kind of tone, but this one just came out great with a thicker goat skin.
As I said, the wood is softer, and that comes with advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that it’s easy to sculpt, and part of the disadvantage is that… it’s easy to sculpt! Make one mistake trying to carve that logo in there and it’s very hard to overcome, so I had to be extremely careful carving detail this wood. But, using the router and sanders to shape it was a great experience.
C E D A R D E C A G O N D R U M
I made another 10-sided drum from cedar, but this time I went crazy and made the width 4″ and gave it a foot height. This thing “pops”! I love this drum, too! An added benefit with this one is that it just matches my arm length with my fingers on the head, so I can get my upper arm behind the drum and use it to bend the pitch when I need to without using an extra hand – nice advantage.
The wood is of course darker in color so the added stain on top makes it darker than the reference. I used a charcoal-like stain on this one and it came out great! I did the straps differently on this one and I really like it. It’s a better “system” for keeping the skin tight, plus managing the exposed strap. I will do this more.
Now I know what seems to be the limit of a medium-thickness head – I’d say about a 4-inch diameter. I think it would have been better to use a lighter gauge head on it as the tone is a bit muted, but still has some good overtones – actually probably pretty useful for mic’ing it up, but I do enjoy a small drum that is rather spilling out with higher harmonics. I also made the bearing edge more rounded, so that affects it. It still sounds really good and unique and I love playing it.
I N T H E E N D
After it’s all said and done, these drums are my favorites, and they’ve gotten great response from the initial groups I have shown them to – from both players and collectors, and including general art and music enthusiasts. I try to get the most honest feedback from people as possible to help me identify what people are liking and what they would like to see better. That’s for the market research, but I also just take them to jam sessions to actually play and have fun, as well. 🙂
I have a few more drums I’ll do in March, one with more exotic wood, one with a thinner oak, and another with pine. And, I’d love to do one with birch! I’ll do some lighter tints and experiment with mixing paint with some of the stain to get a vingette effect around the borders. Also, I will do at least one with more carving detail around the sides, like a plant sprouting out or hanging from the top. And, there’s even the idea of making a drum from a geometric platonic solid – that would be super awesome cool! Still working on that one… Lots of ideas, I just gotta keep on making and making!