Tongue drum

For the fab9 world contest in Yokohama Japan, I decided to make a tongue drum from scratch. This is a nice compact drum with 12 tones. The design I found on the Internet, so I just had to draw and machine the resonator box in the right measurements. This is crucial in order to get a proper sound. Since I made this during the fab9 conference, I really didn’t have much time and ended up doing night shifts, which I don’t recommend on a safety point of view. The top plate is a plate of 18mm Alder wood, where I first engraved the tongue pattern on the laser cutter, then I drilled small holes on both ends on each line in order to insert the small saw blade. A much nicer method would be to use a water jet to cutout the tongue pattern. Friends of mine have tested this in New Zealand with good results.

Ones everything is machined, it’s time to glue the drum together. Use good wood glue and be generous applying it, then clamp together properly and make sure the glue is oozing out everywhere. This is a crucial step again as the drum needs to be air tight for a good sound. Then one 8mm hole was drilled on one side so that the air can go out, and I wouldn’t be surprised that you could influence the timbre of the sound by testing different whole diameters as well as location of the whole.

The last step as always is surface finishing. As I was in a rush, I just sanded quickly with 180 grain and the top 280-grain. Then I applied olive oil and let it dry a view hours. Although I did not have any time to tune the drum, the sound was surprisingly beautiful. Here’s a small impression.

Download the files to make your own. These are designed for 18mm thick wood. Please send me a photo or movie of your tongue drum.

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