Making A Shime-Daiko Drum
A project by:
Gabriel B. Soares
In August two friends, Ben and Ingrid (whom I've known throughout college and have played many years of taiko with), tied the knot and invited me to celebrate their wedding along with family and (mainly taiko) friends. Since such a large part of Ingrid and Ben's relationship and life together has revolved around taiko, I thought it would be fitting to gift them with their own drum.
Since graduating college Ingrid and Ben have continued to play in different groups and have been very active in the taiko community. Earlier in the year I therefore decided that I was going to build a custom Shime drum for them which they could hopefully use to practice or perform on. I wanted to build something that would be unique, and preferably using materials and techniques that I hadn't used in the past. The contents of this page are the result of that work.
I decided to build a stave-construction 10-inch diameter Shime out of Ash and Purple Heart wood. Although I also built the rings for the shime heads, I did not skin the heads with rawhide, and instead left that task to another friend who was going to attend the wedding. The result would be a joint wedding gift, where I would be gifting the drum body, and my friend would be gifting the drum heads.
Making the rings for the heads:
The first step in the process was to determine the dimensions of the drum and the heads. After doing some research I decided to make a 10" diameter drum body (8" tall) and 14" diameter heads. Since this was going to be a joint gift and Andy was going to be skinning the heads, I started by building the rings so that I could ship them to him and he would have enough time to work on the heads.
I decided to build the rings out of solid-core aluminum as a good tradeoff between strength and weight. This was also a good opportunity for me to practice welding aluminum on the TIG. So I began by buying 1/2" aluminum round stock and taking it to the roller (see first .gif below). Once I reached the right diameter, I cut the excess aluminum and took it to the welding station.
Welding the aluminum was tricky, but with the right clamp setup and tweaked TIG settings, everything went smoothly. I finished by sand-blasting the rings and shipping them to Andy in San Francisco.
Making the ash rings:
Now started the fun part: figuring out how I wanted to build this drum. I knew that I wanted to use a stave construction for the body and that I wanted to use both Ash and Purple Heart woods, so the first thing I did was draw up a "top" view on CAD so that I could determine how much material to buy and would have a reference to base all my cuts from. I decided to alternate three layers of ash wood with two layers of purple heart.
With all the plans set, it was time to start cutting and glueing. The methods I used to build the rings is inspired from watching many Youtube videos of Frank Howarth where he builds bowls (among a myriad of other woodworking projects) using stacked rings. The main trick is to build each "loop" as two separate halves, then sanding each half flat before gluing them into a single loop. This ensures that there aren't gaps between the staves.
Making the purple heart rings:
The construction of the purple heart rings was very much the same as the process to build the ash rings. The only main difference is that I had to use two ring clamps to hold everything together while the glue set (since the strap of the band clamp was wider than the 3/4" thickness of the purple heart).
Another difference from the ash rings was that I performed a cross-cut on the purple heart whereas I rip-cut the ash. This was mainly just due to the shape of the boards that I was able to obtain from the shop.
Once I had a rough (and heavy!) drum shape all glued up, it was time to turn it on the lathe and bring it down to the size and shape that I needed. The first step was to turn the outside of the drum (about 3/4"). To mount the piece, I used t a Cole Jaw which just holds the piece by friction against rubber pegs. This worked just fine for this drum since I wasn't spinning it at fast speeds.
I took my time and made sure to use sharp chisels so that I could round the body of the drum. It took a while get used to the differences between cutting ash and the purple heart (the different grain orientation didn't make things easier). Another interesting thing I learned during the turning process was that purple heart has a tendency to turn into a brown color when you cut/sand it (it will regain its purple color as it gets some exposure to UV light, but over time will settle back to a brown unless you seal it with a UV resistant coating when it has its purple hue).
Once I was happy with the outside of the drum, I had to start tackling the (more difficult) inside. I soon realized that it was going to take me a REALLY long time to turn all the inside material. If I were to redo this project, I would make the staves a lot thinner so that I wouldn't have to remove so much from the inside. So in order to speed up the process, I decided to sharpen my bench-top chisels and carve out the bulk of the inside material before mounting it on the lathe. This was a tedious task, but saved me a ton of time down the line.
Routing the edges:
With the dimensions and shape of the drum complete, I could start working on routing the edges (this is to minimize surface area of the wood in contact with the head). The outer edge of the rim I rounded over, and put a 45˚ chamfer on the inside rim edge. This is a relatively straightforward process and as long as you have the right router bits, it is pretty difficult to mess up.
Staining & finish:
The last step of the build process was to figure out how to stain and finish the piece. After all the hours that went into building the drum I wanted to make sure that I wouldn't screw it up at this step. So I took my time and tested different stains on scrap pieces of ash and purple heart. The Danish Oil didn't add a lot of color to the Ash, and I wanted the grain of the wood to pop out a bit more. The Cabernet stain really looked nice on the ash, but was too close to the color of the purple heart which would take away from the pattern variation. I ended up settling on a Golden Pecan stain which added a slight yellow hue to the ash and allowed the grain pattern to really stand out. I applied a few coats of the stain, and then sealed everything with a few coats of spar urethane.
In the end, I was very happy with the whole process and the end result. I learned a lot in the process, and feel a lot more confident in my woodworking (and welding) abilities as a result. Ingrid and Ben seemed to really enjoy the gift, and I hope that it will last them many many years.