The next step is to soak rawhide in cold water. Soak for about two days. I
like to add one half ounce per gallon of Clorox bleach to the water to insure
that no bacteria start growing in the water or attack the leather.
The leather is soaking in a 33 gallon plastic trash can. When adequately
soaked, it will be fairly soft and pliable.
When soaked, lay out a circle on the wet leather. I use a circle that is 5 to 6
inches larger than the pipe I am using. Cut out the head.
Now you need to lay out the 8 sets of slits in the edge of the leather, these
are used for the large stretching pins. For pins, I use 8 inch long heavy
The easiest way to locate the eight locations for slits is by folding and
marking the leather. Fold the round piece of leather in half. Mark the inside
of the fold in the leather - just at the ends of the fold. Now refold the
leather so the two marks you just made are together. Now mark the inside of the
two ends of the fold again.
You should have the head neatly marked off into quarters. Now place two of the
marks on top of the other two. Mark the inside ends of the fold. You now have
six marks. Fold the three marks on one side onto the three marks on the other.
Mark the ends of the inside of the fold for the last time. You should have the
head neatly divided into eights.
What I am trying to show here is how I cut the slits in the edge of the head
leather. About one inch in from the edge, cut four slits. I use a 3/4 inch
sharp wood chisel and a hammer to cut them. Place eight sets of four slits
around the edge of the head. The slit spacing is one inch, two inches and one
inch. This gives you two slits that are one inch apart, a two inch wide space
of leather and then two more slits that are an inch apart.
The placement of the pins should be obvious in the next photo.
Here I have woven the pins through the four slits at 8 locations on the head. I
have then used four 4X4 timbers to make a tic-tac-toe grid. I then placed four
4 ton hydraulic jacks on the timbers and several layers of heavy plywood on top
of the jacks. Don't have the plywood much larger than the drum body or the rope
pull angle will be bad. Look at the rope angle here - not too good!
I then string a 25 footlong 1/2 inch polypropyline rope around the timbers and
over the pins. Make sure that you do a better job that I did in getting the
slack out of the ropes while keeping the head centered on the body.
Two Stage Stretching Procedure.
Head stretching must be done in two stages. The first is usually called the
'Pre-Stretch" and the second the "Final Stretch". The reason that this is done is
that the stretching edge (mimi) of the head is wet on the pre-stretch and thus
will not stand much of a pull without ripping out at the nail slots. In the
pre-stretch, only tighten the heads with the jacks until the edges of the nail
slots start showing "distress". Don't tighten to the ripping point!
If you wish to neatly tuck the mimi edge under for a finished Taiko look, it
must be done during the last of the pre-stretch.
After completing the pre-stretch and optional fold under, let the head dry under
tension until it is good and hard again, like it was before soaking.
After a good drying, let off the jack tension and remove the pre-stretched head.
Do not remove the nails. Lay the head on a flat and level surface ( playing
surface down) and carefully pour in enough water to cover the inside of only the
playing surface in 1/4 inch of water. Do NOT get the side skirts wet. They must
remain stiff and hard to withstand the final stretch.
Soak until the playing surface is soft enough to stretch well. Usually 2 or 3
hours. When soft, carefully dump the water and wipe out the inside with a towel.
Place back on the drum body and relace the rope around the nails and 4X4's.
Now, jack up the jacks until you get the head tight enough that it is starting
to sound like a drum. It takes experience to know how tight is right.
Watch the slits with the pins in them. If they start to tear out, it's
getting too tight.
Now drill a pilot hole every 1 1/2 inches around the head, 2 inches down from
the edge of the body. Screw in a #8 by 3/4 inch pan head sheet metal screw,
with a flat washer, into every pilot hole. Let off the jacks and remove the
If you did not fold the mimi under, now take a sharp knife and trim off the
excess leather 1 inch or so below the screws. Don't play the drum for 3 days to
allow the leather to dry well.
Now repeat this process ten or so more times!
Not all pipe drums are cheap or drab. Here is a shot of a beautiful 19 inch diameter, 24 inch tall PVC Taiko that I made for a client. The tone is delightful, the design is authentic and the client was pleased!
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