Here are a few examples of drums I’ve made, showing the styles I can offer and something of the process of birthing a drum.
This is Billy, the first drum I ever made some 20-odd years ago. I don’t make them like this any more – Billy was a one-off from the start! The drum head and lacing are goat hide, and the frame is an old copper preserving pan – so he’s not a frame drum, he is, literally, a kettle drum. He likes to get in on things, though, and still plays very well.
Here’s the start of a drum – a bare wooden hoop, a dry rawhide (half a red deer stag), some ochre and beeswax, all sitting on one of my drums (I find my other drums like to be involved in birthing a new drum). At this stage the hide is as stiff as wood and needs to spend hours soaking in clean water to soften it before it can be used for anything.
Soaked hide and lacing cut from it, with holes punched around the edge, ready to be laced to the frame. The hide is now soft, stretchy and pliable – in fact the lacing always reminds me of cooked pasta that’s gone cold! You can see the marks on the hide – these are all evidence of the stag’s life, caused by healed cuts, insect bites and the like, and each hide’s markings are unique.
Here’s the completed drum – 16” red deer stag hide on an ash frame, showing the front and back of the drum. This one is made with a secondary metal hoop (for clients I usually bind the hoop in ribbon before lacing) and then the handle is braided in after the hide has been tensioned. The lacing runs around the rim of the drum, from rim to metal hoop and back to the next hole around the rim, so it finishes where it starts. This drum is now ready to sit quietly in a cool place out of direct light until it finishes drying.
Here’s the same drum some time later, now decorated front, edge and back! Exactly how a drum is decorated is up to the drum and its final owner – I prefer to leave this time-consuming process to be settled between them, and it helps form a strong spirit bond between you and your drum to spend all those hours together! You can still see the marks on the drum head from the life of the stag – and that dark line is the line of his backbone, the skin’s always a different shade just there.
This is a drum I’ve just birthed – horsehide on an 18” ash hoop – showing the other style of lacing I use. In this style, the lacing runs across the full diameter of the hoop at each pass and is then bound into the cross-shaped handle as part of the tensioning/finishing process.
Once the drum’s made, it needs to be birthed – enlivened with an in-dwelling spirit, the spirit of the drum. I can provide guidance on how to do this for those who prefer to enliven their own drum – it’s usually at this time that the drum’s name comes to the new owner and it helps build that vital spiritual bond between you and your drum – or, if you prefer, I can enliven your drum for you.
The First Croft Drum
This beautiful 18″ reindeer hide on ash frame Native American style drum was the first to be birthed in my new home, Cairnorchies Croft, as shown on the blog. She’s now been enlivened by my good friend and colleague, Elen Sentier, on a visit to the Croft and you can hear her in action in Ardnamurchan here. This drum has a lovely resonance, working between fresh and salt water, between land and sea and river and in an area where red deer often graze near the mouth of the beautiful Allt Innis nam Feorag, the Stream of the Island of the Squirrels, on the shores of Loch Sunart. The beater I’m using in the video is my own, sheep rib bone wrapped in sheep wool with a chamois leather cover, This drum is now in Romania and I hope will bring joy to and share many journeys with her new owner!