Building Drums & Spirit: Recapping a Workshop with Stan the Drum Man

Although it’s been a few weeks since I hosted a drum-building workshop in my back yard, I wanted to recap the event here, and include a few photos.

Stan Secrest leads drum-building workshops all over the country. I first met Stan (and, subsequently, built a drum with him) in 1998 – I’ve built several with him since.  Stan leads both child and adult workshops (and if you’re ever interested in hosting a workshop,  let me know).

We created this particular event as a weekend-long workshop that began early on Saturday and ended during the wee hours of Monday morning.  Stan drove down from New York with shells in tow that he had constructed in the weeks leading up to the workshop.  Essentially, he brings everything you need to create an excellent-quality drum, and then spends the weekend walking you step-by-step through the process.  Below are some photos of the process – not in order (because WordPress hates me).

The first step for a djembe involves sanding the shell. This can take anywhere from an hour to several, depending on how silky smooth you’d like your wood to be. For a dunun, there was some planing involved. It was quite a lot of fun once I got the hang of it.  Two of us created African sangba’s (a type of dunun – I’ve seen this spelled in various ways), as depicted in the double-headed shell below. The small shell seen is a Native frame drum.

The second step is decorating and staining your shell. Most folks did some wood burning, and some painted intricate designs. I was feeling brave and decided to see what the propane torch would do (you can see the result on the dark dunun). I was pretty happy with the result. Stains varied, and produced very different (yet all beautiful) results depending on the hue, the number of coats, the saturation,  and the wood type & grain.

Now comes the hard part: welding rings, cutting fabric and wrapping the rings, knotting the rings with rope, gluing the djembe sections and leaving them over night, soaking your skin, Tye-dying the skin if you want to,  pulling the hair off the skin if necessary (or in my case, scraping the tissue and fat off of a cowhide for several hours), measuring the rope, threading the drum.. and last but not least… (and certainly the most tedious)… tightening the drum.

I can’t wait to do this again next year! Many of us are performing with our new drums this coming Friday.

You can find out more about Stan and the process by checking out these links:

Stan the Drum Man – Build-a-Drum Website – Drum-Building Steps


  1. I’ve been told that there’s a large, smiling African man with dreadlocks who sits outside the Buchanan Galleries (a mall) in Glasgow, playing a djembe, and that if you drop a pound in his hat and tell him your name he’ll sing it as he beats out a tattoo.

  2. Beautiful! Now I want to build one 😉

    By the way, WordPress doesn’t hate you. The site was down last night.


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