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.
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.