…a Goatskin drum (Bodhrán)

by Stephen Hobley on March 4, 2013

Ever since I saw Mike Oldfield remix the Blue Peter theme back in the 80′s I was fascinated with the strange looking drum be played half way through…

It was only recently that I found out it was called a ‘Bodhrán’ [Bo-rawn] (which I’m told might mean ‘deaf’ but that was probably a joke, or wishful thinking…).

For my birthday I ordered a cheap drum from Amazon, and after getting the knack of whacking it with the double-ended ‘tipper’ (or stick, as some people call it) I decided to have a go at making my own. I found some bendable plywood at the local wood stockist, and ordered a couple of goatskin ‘vellum’ drum heads via Amazon (As much as I love DIY, the prospect of making my own from scratch didn’t really appeal). Photo quality not so hot – these were taken with my phone.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I tried to make it using some cow rawhide, but that was too thick, the goatskin is better. I could probably re-use the cowhide to make one of those Japanese drums that they whack with big mallets. [That'd be a 'Taiko' drum - Ed]

Now I just have to learn how to play it properly – like this guy…

UPDATE: Having finished one, and about to start another, here are my ‘lessons learned’

1. Make the tuner parts from Oak, not plywood – plywood can’t take the stress of the drum head,
2. When you tie the wet goatskin, don’t make it too tight, when it dries it can crack the shell,
3. Edge-load the skin with Super-88 electrical tape, to kill the higher harmonics,
4. Pre-treat the birch ply with pre-stain conditioner,
5. Evenly staining super-hard Oak in the winter time is next to impossible,
6. Sand the drum head with 320+ grit both front and back to reduce the scratching sound.
7. Don’t use wood veneer (especially walnut) as a band – it tends to crack
8. Use stainless steel staples to anchor the skin, not galvanized.

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