Bear, Buffalo, Elk, Horse and Moose Drums and Rattles

Steven Kauder

I have retired after 20 creative years of drum making. Click here to see drums from my personal collection.

Drum-Making Instructions

Things Needed:
...rawhide drum skin with 16 evenly spaced holes around it
...rawhide lacing 20 times the width of the drum frame
...drum frame
...water spray bottle
...a couple of old towels
...strip of cloth 3 in./8 cm wide and 60 in./152 cm long
...razor tool or sharp scissors
...and a drum mallet

Lacing Diagram for You to Follow
Round Drum Making Lacing Diagram

1. Preparation
Soak the hide and lacing overnight until pliable. Leave them wet. If you wish to sign and date your drum, now is the time! Use a ballpoint pen (not a felt-tip pen) on the inside of the drum frame. Place the hide rough side up on the old towels. Center the drum frame on top of the hide.
Lacing is pulled through each hole starting from the rough side of the hide - that is, the part facing up - and pulled through toward the smooth side. You want to pull the lacing sideways from the drum frame. Do not pull the lacing upward from the drum frame, because that increases the risk of tearing a lacing hole.

2. Begin Lacing
Refer to the diagram above. Pull the lacing through hole #1 in the hide. Pull enough through to equal three lengths of the diameter of the drum. Tie a slipknot in the part you have pulled through - on the bottom, smooth side, of the hide. Take the other end of the lacing and pull it through hole #2.
If you have trouble visualizing the diagram with your drum frame, you might number small pieces of tape and place them around the drum frame.

3. Finish Lacing
Continue lacing through holes #3-#16 in sequence (3, 4, 5, 6, ...). Keep the drum frame centered as you lace the hide. From time to time, spray the hide and lacing with the water bottle to keep them wet and easy to work with. When you have finished all the lacing, go back to the start of the lacing and start pulling it tighter.
Continue tightening the lacing until you have pulled all of it tight. Wait a few minutes, then spray and tighten all the lacing again. It is important to have good tension when the drum dries because that keeps the drum sounding good through nearly any temperature and humidity changes.

4. First Handle - Part 1
With the lacing you pulled through hole #16, take the end and run it under the mass-of-lacing in the middle of the drum frame to between holes #2 and #15. Pull it tightly back over the mass-of-lacing toward hole #16. Pull tightly enough on it so that the mass-of-lacing is centered. Pull the end of the lacing between #16 and #1 and then under the mass-of-lacing again to the place between holes #2 and #15. Maintain tight tension on the lacing.

5. First Handle - Part 2
Pull the end of the lacing tightly over the four strands of lacing for holes #15-#9. Wrapping the lacing around those four strands several times to make the first handle. Each time you wrap, wrap more toward the outside edge drum frame so that you are not covering a part you have already wrapped.

6. First Handle - Part 3
Continue until you have wrapped about 2-1/2 inches (6-7 cm) of the first handle. Then wrap over only two of the four strands (#15 and #13) - pull the lacing down between strands #13 and #11 - then wrap under the other two strands (#11 and #9). Start wrapping inward toward the center over the wrapping you just did. Just a couple of widely spaced strands will do. When you have wrapped back to the center, congratulations, you have finished the first handle! Maintain tight tension on the lacing.

7. Second Handle
Pull the lacing over the mass-of-lacing in the middle of the drum frame and start wrapping over and around strands #16-#10 as you did their opposites. As you did before, complete the 2-1/2 inches (6-7 cm) of wrapping outward and begin wrapping toward the center. Make the two last inward wraps very loosely. Slip the end of the lacing back inside these last two wraps underneath the handle. Then pull the lacing tight so that it ends around in the backside. Congratulations, you have finished the second handle!

8. Third Handle
Now you work with the other end of the lacing. Pull the slipknot you tied on the lacing at hole #1. Pull the end of the lacing under the mass-of-lacing in the middle of the drum frame to between holes #2 and #15. Maintain tight tension on the lacing. Pull the end of the lacing tightly over the four strands that cover holes #2-#8. Complete the third handle as you did the first one. Congratulations, you have finished the third handle! Whew!

9. Fourth Handle
Finish the fourth handle as you did the second one. When the handle is complete, use the razor tool or sharp scissors to carefully cut the loose ends of the lacing on the second and fourth handles. Almost done!

10. Finish the Drum
Wrap your strip of cloth tightly around the drum and knot it so that it stays tight. Do it so that the fabric covers any potential bulges and pushes on them as the drum dries.

11. Drying the Drum
Let nature take its course. Place the drum where it can dry slowly. That is a place not too close to either a warm or cold spot and away from heater vents. Put an old towel underneath the drum as you lean it against something so that it can breathe as it dries. The drum can be beaten the next day. The handle will take 2-3 days to fully dry.

12. Celebrate
Beat the drum and thank the spirit of the animal who provided the hide and the spirits of the trees who provided the drum frame and drum mallet.

Making Your Drum: Step by Step Images
Making Your Rattle: Step by Step Images
Rattle Making Instructions
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Bear, Buffalo, Elk, Horse, Moose and Wolf Rawhide Drums and Rattles
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Steven Kauder

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