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Instructions for Making Our Kits


  Making the Harmonic Shamanic Drum

Download these instructions

You will need:

Drum Kit (Prepared Hoop, Hide & Lacing)
Sharp scissors

A towel

Spray bottle with water

Before you start:

Soak the hide and lacing overnight in cold water.  If you wish, sand, color and/or finish the hoop to your liking. Write in your hoop…I write the size of the drum and the type of hide and hoop and sign it with its date of birth.  Many people add prayers or blessings, some people name their drum…whatever you want to remember.


Lacing Diagram for Harmonic Shamanic Drum Making by Gaia's Workshop

Lacing your drum:

Use the diagram to the right to orient yourself during your drum making.  Hole #1 is whatever hole you choose to start with (I usually use the hole directly in front of me).


Lay out your towel on a table or on the ground.  I generally make drums on the ground as I find it easier to reach.  Smudge, cleanse the space, call in your helpers, etc. as desired. Your way is the right way.



Pic.1 Making the Harmonic Shamanic Drum: Rawhide Head, Hoop and Lacing by Gaia's Workshop

Look at your drum head.  You will notice that one side is smooth and the other rough.  The smooth side is the outside (top) of the drum, so lay the head on your towel smooth side down.  Center the hoop on the head so that your writing is upside down (Pic. 1).  You can check your centering by pulling up opposite edges of the head around the hoop and ensuring they are even.  Do this in several places, and double check frequently as you build the drum.

Hint: If you have difficulty telling the sides apart, scratch the hide with your fingernail.  There will be virtually no mark on the smooth side while the rough side will show a definite mark.

Pic. 2
Beginning your drum: Tying the lacing to the rawhide head by Gaia's Workshop

Take one end of your lacing and put it through the hole nearest to you from Mother Earth to Father Sky (from the smooth side to the rough side). Measure the short end of the lacing against your hoop and make sure it reaches about 6” more than the diameter of your drum (if the drum is 15”, for example, the short end of your lacing would be about 21”). Tie a quick release knot around the hole, so that the long end is anchored securely but the short end can be pulled easily when the drum is finished (Pic. 2).

Take the long end of the lacing in your hand near the knot and work your way to the other end, removing any tangles or knots.  When you get to the end, cut a point on the end of the lace, if necessary. 

Hint: When lacing the drum, keep the end of the lacing in your hand except when actually putting it through a hole (you can wrap it around your ring & pinky fingers).  This prevents knots (but not tangles) in your lacing as you pull it through (Pic 4).






Count seven holes counterclockwise. Put the lacing through hole #8 from Sky to Earth (from the rough side to the smooth side, Pic. 3). Pull the excess lacing through the hole. At this point your tension should be light, just enough to pull the head up around the hoop. 

Pic. 3Going from Father Sky to Mother Earth when Drum Making by Gaia's Workshop

Pic. 4Keeping the Lacing in your hand when Making Drums by Gaia's Workshop

Center the hoop again, measuring the sides and diagonals as well.  The next hole is next to your knot on the left-hand side, #15.  You will note that the lacing will be proceeding clockwise.  Again (and from now on) go through from Sky to Earth (rough side to smooth side). Pull the excess lacing through and check your centering (Pic. 5).  Remember to hang on to the end of your lace as you pull it through (Pic. 4).

 Pic. 5Theading the first holes when making your drum by Gaia's Workshop

Hint: If your lacing gets sticky or tangles frequently, spray it well with your squirt bottle.  While you’re at it, spray the head as well.  Allowing things to get too dry can cause breakage of the holes or lacing.

Pic. 6
Tying the final knot when drum making by Gaia's Workshop

Lacing Pattern for the Harmonic Shamanic Drum by Gaia's Workshop

The next hole is to the right of the second hole, #7.  Keep crossing back and forth clockwise around the head, always going from Sky to Earth and checking your centering frequently, until you get to the last hole.  Tie off the long end using another quick release knot (Pic. 6).


If you get confused, check the figure to the right à

Remember to always lace from the rough side to the smooth side.

Tightening the Drum:


Pic. 7Pulling the rawhide head over the drum by Gaia's Workshop

Pick up the drum so the lacings are facing you.  Grabbing the lacing and the hide, pull the head up and over the rim towards the center.  Put some muscle into it, you are pulling the slack out of the drum head.  Go around the entire drum, pulling each section towards you (Pic. 7 & 8).



Pic. 8Pulling the rawhide head over the hoop by Gaia's Workshop


Starting with the beginning (short end) knot (Hole #1), follow the lacing.  You will notice that it goes into the next hole (Hole # 8) under the head.  Pull up the lacing coming out of the top of Hole #8 smoothly and tightly.  Trace this to the next hole (Hole #15), where the lacing will again go into the bottom of the hole and out the top.  Pull the top lace.  Repeat this until you reach the ending knot (Hole #9). 

Depending on the thickness of your hide, you may have to repeat pulling the head over the hoop and tightening the lacing several times.  It is better to gradually tighten the drum rather than jerking or forcing it.  You are done when the head feels bouncy and alive and you cannot physically get any more slack out of the lacing.  The lacing should feel like a trampoline (Pic. 9).


Pic. 9Tightening your drum by Gaia's Workshop

Pic. 10Gathering into the center of the drum by Gaia's Workshop


Keeping the lacing tight, gather the excess in your hand.  Put the lacing through the gap to the left of the beginning knot (between Hole #15 and Hole #1), and pull it up through the gap to the left of your last hole (between Hole #8 and Hole #9).  Pull all the lacings to the center (Pic. 10).  From this point onward, keep tension on the lacings at all times.


Making your Handles:


Pic. 11Starting your drum handle when making rawhide drums by Gaia's Workshop

Start your first handle by going underneath the first three lacings next to the beginning knot (the lacings coming out of Holes #2, #3 and #4).  With the rough side of the lacing on the outside, wrap these lacings together.  Keep your wraps laying tightly next to each other, pulling tightly towards the outside of the drum (Pic. 11).  The tighter you can make your handles, the better they will look when they dry.  Proceed until you have 1 ½” to 2” wrapped, big enough for your hand and proportional to the drum.

Hint: There may be some areas on the lacing that have flaps. These come from cutting around curves.  You may trim these, being careful not to cut the lacing itself too narrow, as it may break.

Pic. 12Step one of making a handle on your drum by Gaia's Workshop

When you are satisfied with the length of your handle, go under the first lace and over the next two to turn it over (Pic. 12).  With the smooth side out, wrap back to the center, again keeping the lacing tight and not overlapping wraps (Pic. 13).


Pic. 13Step two of making the handle on your drum by Gaia's Workshop

Pic. 14Getting ready to finish the drum by Gaia's Workshop

Proceed to the next three lacings (those coming from Holes #5, #6 and #7), going underneath so that the rough side is out as you wrap.  Turn and return to the center when your handle is the same length as the first one.  Continue with Holes #8, #9 & #10, then Holes #11, #12 and #13 until you have four of the five handles wrapped (Pic.14).


Pic. 15Tying in the other end of the lacing on your drum by Gaia's Workshop

Untie the quick release knot from your beginning hole (also shown in Pic. 14).  Wrap the short end around the center of the drum, crossing and ending up back at your unfinished handle (Pic. 15).  Tuck the short end in the lacings, then begin wrapping the handle with the long lacing as before.  When you have made 3-4 wraps, pull the short end tight and cut it off (Pic. 16).  Be careful to cut ONLY the short end.

Pic. 16Wrapping the final handle of your drum by Gaia's Workshop

Wrap the rest of the handle, turning as usual, until you are about ½ way back to the center.  Wrap the lacing around your thumb or finger to create loops (Pic. 17).


Pic. 17Tying off your drum lacing, final step by Gaia's Workshop

Pic. 18Final step of securing your drum lacing by Gaia's Workshop

Cross underneath the center and wrap the lacing over one of the opposite handles, bringing it down under the center and through the loops (Pic. 18).  Tighten the loops and pull it through.  While pulling the end tight, clip it off (Pic. 19).



Pic. 19Final step in securing your lacing while making drums by Gaia's Workshop

Finishing the Drum:


Pic. 20The finished drum...Isn't it Pretty? by Gaia's Workshop

Smooth the edges of the head over the hoop (Pic. 20).  If necessary, use push pins to hold the edges in place.  Remove the push pins the next day.



Allow your finished drum to dry in room temperature for a few days…Then try it and see what a happy drum you have birthed!

The finished drum, front view by Gaia's Workshop


Special Information & Hints


Each type of hide has special qualities that need to be taken into account when making a drum.


Deer:  Deer relates to the heart chakra and is a hide that requires gentleness.  Do not soak it longer than overnight, it absorbs water quite well and will get waterlogged and hard to work with if left too long in the water.  It tends to be on the thinner side, and stretches quite a bit in some places.  When making a deer drum, it is preferable to do a few rounds of gentle tightening rather than yanking or pulling.  Watch your holes and your lacing, sometimes they will stretch to the breaking point (if this happens, see below). When working with deer, give it the same tenderness you would give an innocent young girl.


Horse:  Horse relates to the third eye chakra and is a hide that requires smoothness.  Horse can vary from very thin to very thick, and it has virtually no stretch.  It dries out easily, so be sure to keep both your head and lacings sprayed with water frequently, or it is likely to break.  Horse responds best to smooth pulling…you can pull quite hard so long as you don’t jerk or yank. If you think of the lacing as the reins to your steed, you’ve got the idea.


Scalloping the Drum:


If you are working with a very thick hide, you may not be able to get it to wrap over the hoop neatly.  In this case, you can scallop the head (you may want to do this just for aesthetics).  When you have completed your drum, rather than smoothing the head over the sides, take a very sharp scissors and cut smooth arcs between each hole.  Do not go more than halfway up the hoop at the top of the arc, and leave at least ¼” on either side of each hole.  You can tape the drum overnight with clear shipping tape so that it will dry smooth.  Take the tape off first thing in the morning…if it is allowed to dry too long, it may leave marks on your hide.


Scalloped Red Stag Deer Rawhide Drum by Gaia's Workshop

Sometimes, Things Do Go Wrong.  Don’t Panic!


The most common problems during drum making are broken lacings and/or torn holes. See the instructions below…

What to do if the hole in your rawhide drum head breaks by Gaia's WorkshopWhat to do if your lacing breaks on a rawhide drum by Gaia's Workshop


If Your Drum Dries Too Loose or Too Tight:

You can remake your drum over and over again without hurting anything.  To unmake a drum, soak the drum with the handle/lacing side down in water for a couple hours (You don’t want to leave the hoop in the water more than a few hours).  You should be able to unlace the drum (a needle-nose pliers may help).  Pull off the head, then re-soak the head and lacing overnight and try again.


Painting and Decorating Your Drum:

Drums can be colored with anything that isn’t oil based.  Artist acrylics work well, as do acrylic paint pens, sharpie markers, colored pencils and natural dyes.  When you have finished your painting, seal your drum with Artist Matte Fixative, available at any art supply store. I have had some inks work well, others have run when the fixative is applied, so, if in doubt, test your medium and fixative on a dry piece of lacing before using it on your drum.


Water Drum painted by Luke Martinez made by Gaia's Workshop
Deer Suede Handle Wrap on a Harmonic Shamanic Drum by Gaia's Workshop

You can wrap the handle in felt or suede to make it more beautiful and more comfortable to play. The technique is similar to the way you made your handles.  The difference is that you can go directly from the center to the end of the handle, between the lacings, and wrap your way back.  When you are done, use Elmer’s glue to secure the loose end under the handle.



Drum Care Instructions

Treat your drum like a pet. If you're happy, it's happy.

Heat is the drum killer, please avoid leaving it in a hot car or hanging it in direct sunlight or over a heater register or stove.

Cold and damp may make your drum sad. Thinner hides like deer and some horse are more susceptible to the weather.  You can heat it gradually with a hair dryer or other gentle heat.  Be sure to check it often while heating.

Pet and stroke your drum often, the oil from your skin is the best thing for the head.

Bond with your drum. Decorate it, paint it, make it your own. Any non-oil-based pigment may be used.

You already know how to play it.  Give yourself permission.  Listen to it carefully, it has things to teach you.

Michelle & Luke
Your Gaia's Workshop drum makers


People ask "Where do you get your horse hides?"

It used to be that horse hides were readily available in the US, but since so few people keep horses any more, the horse hides that I use for drums now come from South America, where horses are more common. No animal that I use is killed for its hide. Horses typically are family pets or farm animals who die of old age. Sometimes they are used for food, but that is illegal in the US. I made a drum for a woman that had the registration tattoo of the horse on the surface of the drum... she tracked down the tattoo, found the former owners and actually got his life story and a picture from them. Very cool.

Because we can never be sure what the actual circumstances of death were, I always smudge the hide thoroughly and spend some time talking to the spirit of the animal. I suggest you journey with your drum and ask him/her for more detail. Have fun bonding with your drum!




Gaia's Workshop
Michelle Meister & Luke Martinez
Portland, Oregon
503-933-9038     gaiasworkshop@gmail.com