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Eight-sided drum

For this year’s secret santa I had to find a present for a friend of mine who plays the drums. So I decided to make him a drum and put the present in there. I wanted to try and make a drum that could actually be played.

I am not a good woodworker, and I have no idea how to make a round drum, so I came up with the idea of making an eight-sided drum. I figured that should be possible using the limited tools I have available.

The main tools I used were a jig saw, a cordless drill, an electric sander and a table saw. I could have done without the last two, but I don’t like manual sanding, and the angled rip cut was a lot easier with the table saw than it would have been with the jig saw. As for materials, except for the wooden plank, I had everything I needed lying around the my house (or shed).

I started with a 300cm x 14.3cm x 1.8cm plank that I cut to 4 pieces of 70cm each. After that I used my table saw rip the plank to 12cm wide pieces that have a 22.5 degree angle on each side. The result looked like this:

4 boards of 70cm ripped with 22.5 degree angles

I have a very cheap table saw and I knew it would not be accurate. So I tested the cut on a piece of scrap wood first. By cutting a piece of wood, flipping one half over and putting the angled sides together I should end up with a 135 degree angle on the inside or 225 degrees on the outside. This outside angle is easy to measure on a flat table (180 degrees) with a set square (45 degrees).

I actually had to set my table saw to 24 degrees to get a 22.5 degree cut. And in the end I should have gone a bit further: if the angle is off then the seams between the sides of the drum with not close entirely. With a larger angle the gap would have been on the inside of the drum, instead of the outside. In my case I was close enough to hide the small gap with some paint, but next time I will err on the safe side.

Now, I was going to make an eight-sided drum, why do I have only 4 pieces? That is because I wanted the drum not to sit flat on a floor or table. From what I read the sound has to have a way of getting out of the drum. So I wanted to give the drum feet to stand on, but giving all the 8 sides the same shape was a bit of a problem. The easiest way that I could think of to get a consistent shape on all sides of the drum was to use my 2.5cm drill bit first and then cut them in half, making the 8 sides of the drum from these 4 pieces. So first I drilled the holes:

4 boards with holes in them to make the feet of the drum

That took a while, since my cordless drill had to recharge several times in between (also I cut extra holes in a jig to ensure that the holes would be at the same spot on each of the boards).

After that I cut the boards in half. Note that I knew I would not be able to drill the holes dead-center in each of the boards, but by using a jig I ensured that they would all be in the same position. So I now have 4 boards that have a slightly smaller part of the 2.5cm hole than the other 4 boards. This is okay, by keeping track of this I can ensure that we get an alternating pattern of large and small holes when I glue the drum together. This is the result:

The boards that will form the eight sides of the drum

I also pre-drilled 3 small holes in each board. These will later hold the screws to which I will attach the thread that tightens the drum skin.

After that it is just a matter of glueing the boards together using wood glue. To hold everything in place while the glue dried I used a band clamp (“lijstklem”). I would have liked to use two (one at the top and one at the bottom), but I only have one.

Gluing the pieces of the drum together

While the glue was drying I worked on the drum head. I wrapped a piece of brown electrical wire around the wooden drum, and then cut a piece of cloth that was slightly larger.

Components of the drum skin

The cloth is ordinary canvas from a bag that I once got. It was the only material I had lying around that had the proper color and it seemed strong enough.
So, after a bit of sewing I had the cloth attached to the electrical wire:

The drum skin

In the meanwhile, the glue had dried, and I proceeded to sand the whole drum. Especially the sharp edges at the top, because these would be in contact with the drum head.

The drum glued and sanded

Then, of course, painting. Everytime you see a drum in a drawing it is red, so I wanted my drum to be red as well.

The drum painted red

I then screwed some brass screws in the pre-drilled holes and started attaching the drum head.

I did not put the drum head around the drum immediately. I left it loosely on top so I could easily add another thread (rope actually) between the screws and the drum head with a thick needle.
Once that was done I could start to slowly tighten this rope until the drum head was taut. It was a bit finicky but eventually I got it done. I tightened the rope a bit more each day over the course of three days. The drum sounded pretty OK, but I was worried that the cloth I used was stretching a little bit each day and that if I kept tightening it, it would rip before I could give it as a present.

So, this was the end result:

Finished drum

It sounds pretty OK when the head is tightened:

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