How to Build Your Own Buckskin Drum

by Kim Blakesley Google
Make a buckskin drum from elk or deer hide.

Make a buckskin drum from elk or deer hide.

Hemera Technologies/ Images

A homemade buckskin drum requires a round frame tall and thick enough to withstand the pressure from the stretched rawhide covering. For this reason, a homemade buckskin drum should ideally be less than 12 inches in diameter and at least 3 inches tall. A wooden ring at least 1/8-inch thick provides adequate framing for a buckskin drum; the ring choice is important so the drum does not break or implode during the assembly process.

Items you will need

  • 18-by-36-inch piece of .75 to 1.5 mm elk or deer hide
  • Water
  • Plastic tub
  • Large kitchen trash bag
  • 5-inch-tall-by-12-inch-wide wooden hoop, 1/8-to-1/4-inch thick
  • Water-soluble pencil
  • Scissors
  • Sharp knife
  • Awl
  • Rawhide lacing (must be one continuous piece), 20 feet long
Step 1

Place the elk or deer hide in the plastic tub. Cover the hide completely with water. Push the hide to remove any air. Allow the hide to soak for 30 to 60 minutes. The soaking time depends on the thickness of the leather -- the hide must be soft and pliable.

Step 2

Cover a flat work surface with a tall kitchen trash bag. Remove the elk or deer hide from the water. Place the wet hide on the plastic tarp so the back of the hide is facing up. Smooth the surface to remove all wrinkles and bumps.

Step 3

Place the wooden hoop 1 1/2 inches from one 18-inch edge. Draw a circle or desired drum head shape approximately 2 inches from the outside edge of the hoop, using a water-soluble pencil. Cut the circle or shape from the hide. Place the cut circle on the hide and trace around the outside edge. Cut the second circle from the hide.

Step 4

Place the hide circles in water for 10 to 15 minutes. Place the 20 feet of rawhide lacing in the water at this point to soak.

Step 5

Remove one drum head from the water. Place it on the plastic-covered work surface so the front side of the leather is facing up. Mark the hole positions on the hide to attach it to the hoop. There should be an uneven number of holes -- an odd number of holes in the drum head is required for proper lacing -- and the same number of holes made on both drum heads. Place a mark on the hide 1 inch from the edge and every 1 1/2 inches. Punch a hole through each mark with an awl. Place the drum head in the water. Repeat with the second drum head.

Step 6

Turn the drum head over so the front side of the hide is facing down. Center the wooden hoop in the middle of the drum head. Make sure the excess hide that extends past the hoop is evenly distributed around the outer edge. Center the second drum head over the top of the hoop so the front of the hide is facing out. Make sure the punched hole marks line up.

Step 7

Remove the rawhide lacing from the water. Insert the end of the lacing through a hole on the bottom drum head. Pull the lacing through the hole to the top drum head. Locate the hole on the top drum head directly above the bottom lacing. Insert the rawhide lacing through the next hole to the right to create a zigzag pattern. Pull up the slack as you go. Leave a tail approximately 18 inches long at the end of the lacing. Repeat the process around the drum, alternating from the top to bottom drum head and in every other hole. The finished lacing will look like crossed "X"s when complete.

Step 8

Pull the lacing in the manner it was put in the drum a second time to remove slack. Do not be afraid to pull hard. It is very important to remove as much slack as possible. Repeat the process until you feel there is no slack left.

Step 9

Pull the two ends of the rawhide lacing together and tie into a knot as close as possible to the surface of the hoop. Tie a second knot in the rawhide ends approximately 12 inches from the hoop to create a handle. Cut off any excess rawhide.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images