Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Drum Build

I have wanted to build a Native American drum for several years; one that I could drum alone or take to the drum circle here in town. I thought about building one from scratch but in the end decided to build one from a kit. After looking around on the internet I settled on an 18 inch drum from Grey Wolf (www.greywolfdrums.com). The drum that I ordered arrived promptly and in good condition. The instructions that accompanied the kit were sparse but provided sufficient guidance.

The kit included the octagonal drum frame made from Western Red Cedar (six sides) and pine (two sides), the drum skin with pre-punched holes, a rawhide circle, and three lengths of rawhide lacing. The first step was to soak the rawhide for 48 hours. This was the hardest part of the build because I didn’t want to wait.

Photo 1 shows the components after the soak, all laid out on a table ready to start.

The drum frame is sitting on the drum skin. The rawhide circle is top left. Two lengths of rawhide lacing are to the right. The third length of rawhide lacing is bottom left. It needs to be spliced onto the double length of lacing. The rawhide slips when knotted so splicing works better. The following photo shows one of the splices. Grey Wolf’s instructions explain how to splice . . . it is really easy.

Rawhide Splice

I suspended the rawhide circle inside the drum frame with four lengths of wire and began to lace the drum. I doubled the three lengths of rawhide lacing, now joined with splices, to find the middle and threaded the lacing through two holes in the drum skin, making sure that the lacings on either side of the starting position were the same length. That way I would thread the lacing in both directions and when they met at the other side of the drum the remaining lacing from each side would be about the same length. I kept the lacing loose so that I could make sure that the rawhide circle was centered inside the drum frame. The following picture shows the rawhide circle suspended by the last wire and the lacing as it was progressing.

Partially Laced Drum

When the drum was completely laced up I began the process of tightening the lacings. I started in the middle opposite the side of the drum where the lacings ended. This was a rather slow process because I wanted to make sure that the tension on the lacings was consistent all the way around the drum, and that the rawhide circle stayed centered. This process resulted in a substantial increase in the lengths of “free” rawhide. The following photo shows the result after going around the drum one time tightening the lacings.

Drum After First Tightening

Notice how long the “free” ends of the lacing have become. Before the first round of tightening the lacings the “free” ends were about three inches long. After the first round of tightening I went around the drum to make sure that the triangles formed by the lacing were symmetrical and then tightened the lacing a second time. After adjusting the triangles again I went around the drum and pulled hard on the rawhide circle to tighten the lacings a third time. Grey Wolf recommends really tight lacings, guitar string tight, so that was my goal.

When I was sure that I couldn’t get the rawhide lacings any tighter then I tied the “free” lengths of rawhide to the circle and then, without cutting the rawhide lacings, I used one of the lengths of rawhide lacing to make a five-pointed star on the inside of the rawhide circle. I used what was left of that rawhide lace to wrap the arms of the star. I then used the other length of rawhide lacing to wrap the other arms of the star.

Drum with Star Wrapped

Notice in this picture how much closer the rawhide circle is to the drum frame. It is much closer than it was after the initial lacing and the first tightening.

At this point the drum looked great but it sounded dead. I worried all evening that I had built a dud. Not so. The drum had dried and tightened substantially by the next morning and it had a wonderful sound. Here is what the semi-dry drum looked like.

Finished Drum Drying

While the drum was drying I put together one of the drum beater kits that I had purchased with the drum.

Finished Drum with Beater

I have a great sounding drum, one that I can’t wait to show off at the drum circle in June.

Would I do it again?   You bet, in a second.

Would I buy another kit from Grey Wolf?   Absolutely! Grey Wolf’s kit was excellent, his service is outstanding, and best of all, the kit is very fairly priced.

I'll record the drum on my YouTube channel so you can hear how it sounds.


Anonymous said...

Grey Wolf is a great guy and a good friend.
Maybe one day you will gather a large enough group together so he can visit with you and teach a drum making class. I've made "13" Grey Wolf drums and the classes are always wonderful.
Blessings, Ariana Houle

Clifford Latta said...


This is VERY, VERY nice and a wonderful compliment to me and my drum making kits. Thanks. Others, I am sure, will be making comments; I forwarded your e-mail with the blog link to all the people on my contact list. I hope that was okay. Also, my web master, a wonderfl lady, wants to put a link to the blog on my web site. Is that okay. Again, thank you!

Jeanne Marie Troge said...

I teach drum making classes and have used Grey Wolf's drum kits and they are wonderful! The students always love their drums and are surprised at how easily the drums do go together (with a little elbow grease in tightening those laces). Drum making is such an incredible experience! Thanks for sharing this!

Lynnet said...

I received a Grey Wolf drum over a decade ago and am still happy with its beauty and durability.
I have also seen other people with Grey Wolf drums they had built in a drum making class. There drums stand out as unique and extra special even in a group of drummers.


Cryss BlackWolf said...

My life was forever changed after making my first Drum from one of GW's kits. It started a unique path that I have been blessed with, in bringing others to Spirit of the Drum. His kits are easy to use, and just the unique experience of stepping into an ancient art alone is worth investing the meager amount. Drum has been healing for me, and an ever present Teacher. I am grateful for Grey Wolf for his Wisdom, and his most unique Gift of Spirit which goes into each and every Drum and every kit he sends out. These are the highest quality kits you can find, and the most reasonably priced, so it really allows accessablity for those Called to a lifetime partnership with the Spirit of the Drum.

Anonymous said...

So Cliff, I think over the years I have easily ordered over a dozen kits from you to build and to gift to my friends. They are always impressed with the beautiful voice that comes from each drum. This past July I counted 8 of the drums I have made being used at the Sun Dance I was in. It made me realize how far each drum travels over the course of the years. I hope to order an other dozen over the next several years and I hope you are well my friend.


Bill Koehler

“Low Thunder”

East Amherst, New York

Anonymous said...

Hello Grey Wolf
Thank you for all the drums that have flowed through our lives. Vince has made them for all our children, grandchildren and now great grandchilren.
They will remain after we leave this path. Hopefully the drums will remind all generations that they were made in love and peace. Drum softly for
quiet times. Drum with your energy level high when it’s time to party together. We leave you with the gift of love.
Vince and Beverly Shutt, Seal Rock

Anonymous said...

Hello Brother... I will commit to commenting, as my life forever was changed after making a Drum... It may be once dust settles, as we have been working 6 days a week 10 hrs a day for the software giant who employs me... The internet and laptop is the last thing I want to turn on when I get home =) However, this is important and I know everyone on this thread feels the awesome power of Drum in our lives. As such I will be happy and honored to share my thoughts... Might be when I get back from an out of state travel, but it will happen.



Sent from my Windows Phone

Anonymous said...

Dear Grey Wolf,

I would be happy to do a testimonial of your fine work and the classes you have conducted since that first class at Unity Church in Coos Bay, Oregon more than 8 years ago. As I recall there were forty happy drum makers in your class that day!

When my husband Bob and I moved from there and started attending the Center for Spiritual Living here in Medford I sorta brought you with me, so to speak. We set up the same sort of drum making classes, and through the years here you've done one every year of your wonderful classes in our social hall, all with happy students who carried away the product of their three hours spent in Spiritual bonding and a very focused lacing of their drums, then tightening and more tightening, under your loving tutelage, until each individual drum was perfect in every way. I have personally made eight myself.

I am artist and since that time I have become known as the "drum painter" and have painted over forty drums made by the students of your classes here. It is such a joy to connect with the Spirit of each drum as I have painted the motifs desired by their owners.

I have quoted you so many times when you have said the Native Americans consider their drums as their telephones to God. That is truly how I feel about my drums.

Thank you and I bless you in your work.

Betty Bangs
The Drum Painter

Anonymous said...

Brother, I tried severa times to poat a comment on the blog but no luck.

Anway here is what wanted to post:

David, what great way to honor my brother Grey Wolf, nice posting here!!
Grey Wolfs craftsmanhip is of the finest quality out there on the market today. A long time customer and friend I have been very pleased with the finished prodcut and with the excitement and anticipation in building one of Grey Wolf's drums.

With much respect and gratitude for our brother G.W. Aho!!

Anonymous said...

Having a "Grey Wolf Drum Table' welcome all who enter my home... creates an atmosphere of balance and harmony. The benefits of building a "Grey Wolf Drum Kit" are immeasurable and highly recommended for anyone looking to expand thier spritual path. The drums I have built, and enjoyed for years,'Certainly have a positve benefit on my life and most certainly would benefit anyone who is looking for peace within.
Harry Plujker

jessielatta769 said...

I have the honor of being Greywolf's daughter. I have to say that If I could pick anyone on this earth or outside it to be my father, I would not change a thing. He holds my heart and the hearts of so many people that know him. He is an amazing person and I thank the almighty for him everyday. Everyone of his drums is made with such love, spirit, and the highest quality. To have one of his drums means you also have a piece of him and the legacy he will leave behind one day.

Much love,

Anonymous said...

How I love that daughter of mine. Thank you, dear Jessica, for your love and respect. One day you may be Lady Wolf (or some such moniker) and you will be keeping Grey Wolf Drums alive...providing exceptional drum making kits, at a very reasonable price, to those who will need them. If not you then, perhaps, your son, Christian Young Wolf (or some such moniker) will continue the tradition of providing the best materials laced with true thanksgiving and humble graditude. Namaste. Grey Wolf