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WIP Tongue Drum from Propane Tank


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I showed you guys one of the drums I made the other day, http://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.php?showtopic=25998 and I got good response on it so I decided to do a WIP/tutorial on how I make these. So here goes, any questions just ask and I'll try to be as detailed as I can.


What you need

Propane Tank (20lb is what I use for this but any will work)

Jig saw with variable speed and appropriate blade (Show you the blade later)

Dremel tool with reinforced cut-off wheel

Angle Grinder with a flap wheel and standard wheel (to clean off the paint and true up your surfaces prior to welding)

If you are going to make a smaller tank like I do then a welder is needed and a sawsall is nice.


First I would like to say if you can use a new unused propane tank, they are $30 at Home Depot and less dangerous and a lot cleaner to work with. My forge is an old propane tank but its not sitting in my living room smelling up the place. If you use an old one then be sure to clean it very well.


Some people use the whole propane tank to make a drum. If you choose to do it this way just remove the valve and flip it over. Remove the stand and clean it up and move on to the marking and cutting of the notes.


I first remove the valve from the tank. since I'm not going to use the valve I just beat it off with a 3lb hammer DONT DO THIS TO AN OLD TANK!!!


I used the label on the tank to mark my cut line. (makes it easy)




Used the Dremel cut-off wheel to start the cut and finished with the Sawsall




Removed the bung, made a hole large enough to fit my hand into, and cleaned them up ready for welding




Re-welded and cleaned up




Now it's time to mark the notes. I cut these out from a template I made. I have the template in PDF format so it can be printed on 8 1/2 x 11. Cant attach PDFs to a post though so you can send me your E-mail and I'll send you the file, or maybe someone here with a website will provide a hosting spot for it :)




Start the cuts with the cut-off wheel like earlier, but keep the cut 1/4" or more from the bottom line. This gives us room to tune.




You will need to modify your saw blade so it can cut these tight radii. Keep your speed down or you will burn through blades like there is no tomorrow (I usually go through 2 per drum anyway so make sure you have a few extra on hand).




Now just follow the lines and again stay at least 1/4" from the end to give yourself room to tune. The template is fairly true but the thickness of the metal and variance in how well the lines are followed can make considerable difference. If you cut to much you will have to reweld the line or trim the end of the note to compensate, so I always play it safe.




That's it for now, tomorrow I will tune it and finish it up.


Thanks for looking





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OK lets see if this works...




Not real familiar with these things so let me know


thanks for the tip Philippe

Edited by Bret
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I saw the other thread you posted and thought "That would be great for my 2 year old, he likes to play at making music and, this instrument would stand up to him! Then I went to the links you posted and noticed the price tag. Now, today, you have a WIP tutorial! Another project, just what I need. Seriously, thank you for showing how you make these and, especially, for making the templates available.



“All work is empty save when there is love, for work is love made visible.” Kahlil Gibran

"It is easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them." - Alfred Adler

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Karter I'm using a cheapo 110v 130amp flux core wire welder. makes ugly welds but penetrates well enough that I can just grind down to flush on these things.


Taran, I checked the link and can't find a problem with it. I can access without being logged in. If you are still having trouble send me your email address and I'll send it to you directly.


Thanks Bruce they are great for kids, I do sell them and have fun making them but, I personally like and value the things I make more than the things I buy. I think most people do. There are plenty of people without the time or inclination.



And So Part 2


We have a drum that is pre-cut and ready to go. Before we tune it if you are going to be using heat for decorative finish (like me) your going to want to torch it to a light blue all over the note side so that it is fully drawn back and you dont mess your tuning up later by changing the harmonics.


Next we mark out the notes we are shooting for. This drum is in the La sirena scale (E3 G3 B3 C#4 D4 E4 F#4 G4 B4). The bass note is the large one on center and then left, right, left,right...




I use Chromatia Tuner http://www.fmjsoft.com/chromatia.html It is a free to use program that makes this real easy. If you make more than a few give em the $20 they ask to buy, they deserve it :)


I start at the lowest note and work my way up. Mute all the notes you are not tuning with tape, so you are not picking up their resonance. The deeper you cut the lower the frequency (note). Go slowly just a bit at a time and keep the notes as even as you can. I leave them a little sharp and go back for a final after finish has been applied. Tune it up, clean the burrs and finish however you like. If you are going to use paint go lightly as this will change the overall tone. I do a decorative heat blueing and then a clear coat.




Good Luck and Have Fun. I'll do my best to answer any questions

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well it aint a Martin guitar , but it looks neat. Thanks for sharing!


Isa 54:16 Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.Lu 22:36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. Mr 8:36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
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I dont know how tight you can get the cut on your torch, but from what I've seen, you should be able to get it small enough. Just stay to the outside of the profile and the note wont change. You should have plenty of room. You can always do test cuts on the portion of the tank that was cut out. Thats where all my tests go.

Good Luck and let me know how it works

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