- Drum body
- Tape measure
- Large bowl
- Carpenter's glue
- Hose clamp
Modern kit drums use synthetic plastic skins.These skins are tough, immune to moisture and temperature changes, and free of the irregularities of natural skins. They are also mounted with precision adjustable lugs which make them very easy to tune. Natural, homemade drum heads are comparatively temperamental and not easy to tune, but they do have some advantages. They are easy to make and have a rich and complex tone that synthetic skins simply cannot approach.
Select a good piece of rawhide. Cowhide and goatskin are both popular and fairly affordable, but many other animal skins can be used. See the link below for a discussion of the merits of different skins.
Measure the diameter of the drum with a tape measure or ruler. If your drum shell tapers, measure the distance at the top where you are going to stretch the skin.
Cut out a skin at least 4 inches larger in diameter than the drum. You can use a compass to trace it in pencil on the skin, then cut it out with scissors. Alternately, you can trace something bigger than the drum, such as a large bowl.
Soak the skin in room-temperature water. Recommendations for how long to soak the skin vary from 1 hour for thin goat or fish skins to 24 hours or more for thicker buffalo skins. Since you can't harm your skin by soaking it for too long, leave it at least overnight.
Mix carpenter's glue and a small bit of sawdust and apply it to the rim of the drum. Then, carefully place the drum on the rim so that there are no wrinkles or creases in it. Gently rub the rim to make sure that there are no air bubbles or bulges of glue and to make the skin stick to the top and sides of the rim.
Screw a hose clamp around the drum head until it is snug but not tight. Pull the drum skin tight a little tighter, and keel the tension evenly all the way around. Tighten the clamp a little more and pull the drum skin a bit tighter. Finally, tighten the clamp enough to hold the skin firmly in place.
Let the drum head dry for 48 hours, then remove the clamp and play it.
To raise the pitch of the drum, hold the skin over a fire or other heat source and move it around, being careful not to burn it. Then, remove it and let it cool down until the pitch raises. This effect is only temporary, and moisture or playing will gradually loosen the drum head again.