Advice and questions on making and fixing instruments
By futurepotus
#39411
Hello Everyone,
I've got into djembe carving recently and have been experimenting with different tools.
The biggest challenge I've found so far is carving the bottom surface of the bowl. Due to the depth, its nearly impossible to carve this surface flat (at least with the tools I've been using). I now see why a lot of djembes have a conical shaped bowl.. its much easier to carve that way. However, from my research I've gathered that a flat bottom provides a much better sounding drum than a conical bowl.

Anyone have some tips or tool recommendations for getting the bottom nice and flat?
For the record, I am carving green Basswood.. and no, I don't have access to a large enough lathe for a full size djembe.
Thanks!
User avatar
By batadunbata
#39423
I imagine this reply is a bit late, any progress to report?

What tools are you using? I imagine a long straight chisel would be the best bet, but I don't know. (long enough to keep the hammer handle outside the bowl)

If you don't get anywhere watching videos on youtube, I'd try contacting Wula, because that was an issue they tackled and part of why their drums cost more (paying carvers to spend the extra time getting a nice flat smooth bottom ledge), so they might be able to point you in the right direction?
By wyshout
#43329
I have seen at least one video with the builder using a scorp like tool and wonder if a good quality hook knife might be effective. Green basswood should cut like butter with a sharp tool
By futurepotus
#44403
batadunbata wrote:
Mon May 20, 2019 2:06 am
I imagine this reply is a bit late, any progress to report?

What tools are you using? I imagine a long straight chisel would be the best bet, but I don't know. (long enough to keep the hammer handle outside the bowl)

If you don't get anywhere watching videos on youtube, I'd try contacting Wula, because that was an issue they tackled and part of why their drums cost more (paying carvers to spend the extra time getting a nice flat smooth bottom ledge), so they might be able to point you in the right direction?
I made fantastic progress using a drill setup combined with a hand chisel, mallet, and a long chisel that I fashioned from a pipe (It broke after a while. I should have used a harder pipe.) The edges are straight and it has a wide flat bottom that doesn't taper much into the down stem. The down stem is very straight and uniform and doesn't taper out at the bottom.

Unfortunately the bottom of the bowl is very choppy. I have no idea how to get it smooth because its impossible to carve the end grain with my chisel given the shape of the bowl. Also, the down stem is quite rough because my my pipe chisel died before I could get it perfect.

I've been drying it for months now, and to my dismay I am seeing some cracks start to form. I think this is due to uneven thicknesses.
  • Bottom of the down-stem where the outer-profile tapers out.
  • The middle section where the down stem meets the bowl.
Some considerations for my next attempt:
  • Make sure all wall thickness are even for drying purposes. This will be tricky because having even wall thicknesses on the design I want will affect the structural integrity
  • Make a new long handled chisel with a harder blade
  • Find a way to make the bottom end grain smooth.
  • Consider ditching this design for a more traditional design
  • Perhaps experiment with using staves? Would require lots of very specific angles and jigs.
I also had an idea of using smaller logs that will fit on my lathe, and making mini djembes. I could build a bunch of them with varying design considerations and see which ones make the best sound. I would need to use screw style tensioning assemblies and plastic heads to get a more accurate sound comparison between designs.