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Four More Tongue Drums

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Project by GnarlyErik posted 644 days ago 6161 views 24 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Four more tongue drums

I have just completed my last four drums for my grandchildren, so that will probably be it for tongue drums for awhile for me. These are three sizes, with the sounding boards being the same size. #1 is a mahogany sounding board and oak sides and ends, 3-1/2” high. #2 and #3 are identical as they are for twins. These have cherry sounding boards with cedar sides and ends, and are 7” high. #4 is a padauk sounding board with maple sides and cherry ends, and is 9-1/2” high. This one also has mahogany intarsias laid into the sides for decoration.

After building six drums, and trying various experiments, here are a few things I have learned:

1: Height or depth makes a difference in sound as may be expected, giving a deeper tone, although the shallower ones sound fine too and have the advantage of being lighter and much easier to manage and carry about. Note I have started adding carry handles for convenience;

2: Softwood sides give a more mellow sound, more pleasant to my ear, hardwoods provide a sharper more ‘percussive’ voice. Some of my drums have been made with small decorative sound holes in the sides, and some without, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference since most of the sound comes thru the openings in the sound board and via the vibrations of the instrument as a whole – which is surprisingly vigorous when you put your hand on it;

3: Here’s are my choices of soundboards in order: Cherry, padauk, Honduras mahogany. Note these are the only ones I have tried so far. I was surprised the cherry sounded better than the padauk to me;

4: I managed to ‘tune’ the flat or ‘buzz’ sounds out of any tongues by adding slugs of the same material underneath and near the fixed ends with screws and glue. The size of the slugs control the tone, and if they are fixed further out on the tongue, they aren’t as effective. The last picture in the album above shows these slugs installed on the underside of tongues of one of these drums. If I build any more drums, I will attempt to tune to a scale, which I have not done so far;

5: The most laborious part of building these is the sanding of the slits and ends of the tongues, but I found a way around this by creating sanding ‘blades’ for my scroll saw. Once I figured that out, things became much easier;

6: If I build any more of these, my material choices will be: White pine sides, cherry sound board and ends.

-- Candy is dandy and rum may be fun, but wood working is the best high for me!





14 comments so far

View ruddy's profile

ruddy

395 posts in 1541 days


#1 posted 644 days ago

A fine collection Erik. What thickness do you recommend for the sounding board.
Thanks for sharing this project, I have made one recently and although the Grandkids love it, it is a long way from being really great with the sound.

-- And my head I'd be a scratchin'

View clarkey's profile

clarkey

441 posts in 1658 days


#2 posted 644 days ago

Nice work!!!! l’m interested in building one myself . Where can l get a drawing of the tongues ? Your project notes are very helpful . Could you tell me , is the tone deeper when the sides are higher? Thanks for showing

View sras's profile

sras

3780 posts in 1731 days


#3 posted 644 days ago

Very nice results! I appreciate that you shared what you learned as well. Thanks.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View timeshare's profile

timeshare

9 posts in 1632 days


#4 posted 644 days ago

I would enjoy if you care to share your plans, althought there are several plans on different sites they are for tone bars on one side. Larry (jalar62@yahoo.com)

View Ken90712's profile

Ken90712

14821 posts in 1791 days


#5 posted 644 days ago

Ill bet they sound as good as they look. well done

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View oldnovice's profile

oldnovice

3628 posts in 1970 days


#6 posted 643 days ago

Four drums … four grandchildren … someone will be sorry unless you make some plugs. Based totally on experience of taking care of two grandchildren 5 days a week.

Other than that, I like these drums in appearance and design, not to mention your learnings/teachings in your write up. Those will come in handy when I build ONE. Thanks for posting the size. Is there pattern/template you can post for the actual cut out in the sound board?

It would be interesting to change out the sound boards while keeping the dimensions of the box constant and log the sound qualities of various woods. Obviously the cutouts of the variable sound boards must also be the same for a valid test.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View JoeinDE's profile

JoeinDE

366 posts in 1925 days


#7 posted 643 days ago

Nice builds.

I’m currently building a set – one for each of my kids and one for each of my five nieces and nephews – 6 tongue drums in all. These will be posted when I am done. Each will have a different wood for the sounding board. The woods I am using are walnut, mahogany, purpleheart, padauk, cherry and maple. All sounding boards are roughly 1” thick. So far I would rank the woods in this order padauk > cherry > walnut > maple > mahongany >> purpleheart. The paduak has an amazing level of resonance to it. The cherry produces good tone, but done not have the same level of resonance as the paduak. The purpleheart is just too rigid to vibrate well at that thickness. The mahogany provides more sound than the ph, but it doesn’t resonate very well. The folks who make these for a living use padauk and canarywood almost exclusively. Admittedly I am experimenting with with tongue shape and size so I figured I might have some duds in my set.

-- A bad craftsmen blames his cheap #$%ing tools

View Fishinbo's profile

Fishinbo

11216 posts in 778 days


#8 posted 643 days ago

All of them are enticingly pretty. Keep them coming.

View GnarlyErik's profile

GnarlyErik

179 posts in 736 days


#9 posted 643 days ago

Ruddy, I’ve made my sounding boards 3/4” thick, except for one (padauk) which is a bit proud of 7/8”. I have also tapered a couple from full at the fixed end of the tongues to about 60% of that at the free ends, though I could not tell much difference except it saves a on weight somewhat. Hope this helps.

-- Candy is dandy and rum may be fun, but wood working is the best high for me!

View GnarlyErik's profile

GnarlyErik

179 posts in 736 days


#10 posted 643 days ago

Clarkey, I will try to post my sketches and patterns when I can get back to my computer where they are filed, which should be tomorrow.

-- Candy is dandy and rum may be fun, but wood working is the best high for me!

View GnarlyErik's profile

GnarlyErik

179 posts in 736 days


#11 posted 643 days ago

Old novice, see my note to Clarkey above . . .

-- Candy is dandy and rum may be fun, but wood working is the best high for me!

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

14609 posts in 2278 days


#12 posted 643 days ago

Nice work. Thanks for the tips ;-)

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View GnarlyErik's profile

GnarlyErik

179 posts in 736 days


#13 posted 642 days ago

I promised to post my sketches for the drums I’ve built. Please note that I am NOT a musical person, so you should take my ideas and dimensions with a generous grain of salt. I only know what ‘sounds good to me.

First, a sketch of the box structure. As noted above, I have built several depths of drum, with the soundboards more or less the same. The dimensions in this sketch may be adjusted to suit the builder’s wishes in size:

Now, a full-size scan of my twelve tongue layout. The tongues are centered on the soundboard. My method was to print my pattern, then center it and glue to the sound board itself. Once the tongues were cut, the paper sketch was sanded off.

And, here is a full-sized pattern of my fourteen tongue drum – done same as above;

A note on cutting the slits: I started the straight parts of slits with a battery powered Makita panel saw because of the thin kerf. Then, the outlines of the curved ends of the tongues were cut with a scroll saw. The last cuts were made with a hand-held saber-saw with a metal-cutting blade, which followed the panel saw cuts because that gave a smoother kerf, and it provided a slightly larger kerf which made things easier to sand.

A note on sanding. The most time consuming part of building these for me was getting a nice smooth sanding job on the sides and ends of the tongues. I soldered a 1/2” x 24 gauge piece of sheet metal to an old scroll saw blade. Using contact cement, I then glued a strip of belt 60d sander belt to the sheet metal. That allowed me to use the scroll saw’s sweat to do most of the sanding of the tongues. I also cut strips of the belt sander belts in different widths which made great hand sanding tools since the fabric in the belts keep them from tearing. BELT SANDER BELTS ARE MY FRIENDS!

Keep in mind, the tongue sanding should be done before the soundboard is glued to the box!

-- Candy is dandy and rum may be fun, but wood working is the best high for me!

View mbs's profile

mbs

1422 posts in 1542 days


#14 posted 606 days ago

Thanks for sharing. I will be making two for my grands.

-- Sorry the reply is so long. I didn't have time to write a short reply.

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