Manual for those who really mean it. Original technology of shamanic drum making from Dima Ravitch. This text describes the process of mounting the skin on the rim. The rim, the dressed skin and instruments should be ready in front of you. First part: Shamanic drum membrane processing.

  1. Holes. Turn the skin over, face it down, and, using a leather punch tool (the size of 3—4 mm (0.10″—0.15”)) make holes down the marking.
  2. Then the workpiece can be soaked in warm water, and see about the laces.
  3. Laces. We select smooth, defect-free cutting remnants, scraping the fur off. Cut out ribbons with scissors. Width: 10—15 mm (0.40”—0.60”). And soak together with the skin. After they are soaked, remove from the water, wring out and pull. After the stretching, trim the width of the cord with scissors so that the width may be approximately the same.
  4. Assembly. Stretch the skin on the clean, flat table with fur down and start sewing with a leather cord inserted into the eye of a big needle. Firstly, the middle row of holes. Again spread already stitched skin and focusing on the pencil circle, put the rim on the skin and tighten the cord. If everything goes right, the edge of the skin after it is stretched, will be on the reverse side of the membrane. The edge must be 3—5 cm (1.2”—1.9”) inside the rim. Next, fix the cord making a knot and sew it again, using the same holes, but in the opposite direction. When you have finished the circle, fix the cord making a knot again.

    Important: The cord must be really tight. This is one of the great secrets of making a good drum. Well tensioned drum endures humidity changes significantly better.

    Tuck the loose edge of the skin in the third row of holes and start the third round of sewing through the paired holes constricting the first and the third rows of holes. After going one circle, fix the cord making a knot again. And sew using the same holes again and in the opposite direction. If everything is done correctly, the result is firmly tightened membrane and two tightened rows having two cords each. This is much better than the usual clumsy technique — using only one nylon thread. Durability, reliability and strength of tension are beyond compare.

    After the assemble, cut the fur if available (the length is at discretion of the craftsman), using scissors or a trimmer. If you want to make a smooth membrane but with fur around the rim, scrape the membrane after full drying. By the way, this method of drum assembling is my own invention since 1998. And I came up with the fur membrane drum even earlier, in the early 90’s. I guess I have a right to be proud of that…
  5. Making the cross piece. Put the newly assembled drum with its membrane face down on a flat surface, and leave for a day to dry. In a day you can get to making the cross piece from the same leather cord.General recommendations are the same: keep the uniform tension. The shape and weaving scheme are at the discretion of the craftsman. Here, unlike with the membrane tension, there’s a lot of place for creativity.
  6. Drying. After finishing the cross piece, dry the drum suspending it for a few days in a room with comfortable conditions and without additional drying devices. The drum is best to dry naturally. If ventilation is difficult, the use of a fan is allowed. But direct it past the drum, only to create air movement.
  7. Burdock oil impregnation. After drying is complete, the membrane should be soaked in burdock oil. We place the drum on the table, with the membrane face down and pour 30—50 g (1—1.5 oz) of burdock oil on the inner side of the membrane and knead it on the whole surface of the membrane. We leave it to saturate for a few hours and then rub the oil residue on the membrane again and carefully wipe up the unabsorbed oil with a rag.

    Wipe it dry. Do it in two-three parts or adherent debris and bad odor are guaranteed. It is not necessary to soak the front side of the membrane for too long, if it has no fur. It’s just enough to lubricate and wipe. Absorption is significantly lower on the front side of the skin. Thus, it is possible to lubricate the skin on the rim. But avoid getting oil on the cross piece. Also do not let oil get on the fur. The oil will soak and solidify and the fur will stick. No wonder that they style hair with burdock oil in theater.

    I use Evalar (a Russian brand) burdock oil. Clean, with no additives. Proven many times. Oiling is needed to increase elasticity and reduce absorption of atmospheric moisture.
  8. Tweaking. In general, the drum is almost ready. What is left to do is to tweak the handle and hang some artifacts if necessary. Well, I am not going to talk about artifacts here. There are a bunch of people who can tell you about it. But not many of them know a lot about handles. Here you need an expert. Ease of attributes is important. In fact, for a successful shamanic journey, especially at the beginning, all irritating distractions are very harmful.

    Therefore, we will make it nice and comfortable. If the cross piece is wooden, the size and the shape should be most comfortable and perfectly fit the hand. Polish the surface of the cross piece right where you hold it with the hand. All textured surface, with carving and other “beauty” should be on the edges of the cross, the part which you do not touch while holding.

    If cross is woven of leather cord, then its surface, of course, looks very texturally, shamanic-like. But, to the touch, like coarse sandpaper. Therefore, it is better to wrap the handle with something soft in order not to harm the hands after first five minutes of ritual. I use a thick and soft furniture leather, suede side out. However, other options are possible: old leather raincoat, pants, or a knitted scarf.

    You can cut into strips for winding whatever you want. The main thing is that it’s pleasant to the touch and comfortable, and the hand is not tired. By the way, winding the handle is a different creative topic. Not changing the basic properties, there’s a wide scope for imagination.