Red Octopus Drum: The build

I built this okedo style taiko drum this summer, using the Davis Makerspace facility to do much of the work on the body.  The completed drum includes a painted PVC shell, and rope tensioned cow-hide heads.  It is modeled after traditional taiko drums, and I'll be using as a practice drum as part of my work with Sacramento Taiko Dan.

The drum body started out as a 19" length of 12" diameter thinwall PVC pipe, ordered from FlexPVC out of Nevada.  Its a lighter weight segment for this size pipe and works well for a drum meant to be worn over the shoulder with strap.

DMS Member and former telescope builder, Tim Feldman, helped me get a good even base at the top and bottom, (basically by twisting it back and forth over sand paper fixed to a table top).  After some sanding I laid a base coat of white primer.

I painted the body with an octopus design using frisket, basically a resist material that I could use to mask out different sections.  Below is a bit of frisket cut out for one of the arms of the octopus.

By removing different sections of the frisket and applying different layers of paint I could get a nice consistent design.  The frisket was a bit tedious to work with, (took a lot of careful cutting and required a lot of patience to get all the layers sequenced in for all the different parts and colors), but the final product came out clean and nice.  Here I am applying one of the layers of paint.  I used spray paint, because that's how I roll.

After all the painting was done, the frisket could be removed, revealing the completed octopus design.  Total prep time for the body was about two weeks.

Once the body was done, I set to work on the drum heads.  These were built out of rawhide stretched over 14" djembe rings and fixed with stitching.  I did most of this work at home, since I need access to my bath tub to soak the rawhide.

The heads started out as a big roll of hardened rawhide.  I purchased half a hides worth of material from Hide House in Napa, half of which was used to make this drum.  After soaking the skin in water over night. I had a nice softened piece of rawhide, which I trimmed into a circle. Using a template, I cut a series of holes, and laced a long cord through as shown below.  Note the djembe ring placed below the lacing.

Then tightening up the lacing, I could begin wrapping the skin around the djembe ring.

After the cord was pulled fairly taunt, I stretched the skin further using a bucket and my own body weight.  After the skin was stretched a little further, I retensioned the cord lacing. The rest of the afternoon was a long session of this same process, (i.e. stretching, retensioning, and stretching again). Eventually, after about six hours, I had the skin pulled as far as it could go, and I was ready for stitching.

I used another template and some chalk to lay out the stitch pattern.  I used a leather sewing tool and synthetic sinew to complete the stitching work.  The outer stitch would eventually carry all the tension after the cord was removed, so that one took very tight, careful work.  It took me another 6 hours to get all the way around.  The inner stitch (shown being sewn below) was less critical and less complex, so that one only took me three hours.  I finished at three in the morning.

After the skin was fixed in place with the sinew, I punched the rope holes with a sharpened pipe.

With the rope holes cut, I was free to remove the cord lacing and trim off the excess hide.

Total prep time for this head was 18 hours, or 36 for both heads.  :)  Now it was time to lace up the drum.

I laced the drum with nylon rope dyed silver, (it was actually supposed to come out black, but since the rope was nylon, it came out this weird silver color, which ended up cooler than I had intended).  I used a traditional lacing pattern based off inspection of the Sacramento Taiko Dan drums.

Added a strap and I was done!

Some quick shout outs:

The Genki Spark folks have a great facebook album documenting their set of practice drums.  This was the original inspiration for my project.

Dan Nelson's frisket video was highly informative, not to mention somewhate mesmerizing.  Even if you don't care about frisket, this is a cool video.

I also used this ShinDaiko tutorial extensively to complete the heads.  I couldn't have completed my drum without their videos.

Of course, I owe a generous thanks to all the folks at DMS.  You guys are awesome!

And a final thanks to Sac Taiko.  More awesome people! Woot!