Custom Djembe w/inlay P1

I’m working on a djembe for a friend in return for some deer skins.? I decided it would be a great first “current project” for the blog.? I’ve already got the bulk of the djembe shell completed.

I’m building this djembe out of staves (slats of wood glued up to be round) as I do most my custom hand drums.? My wood of choice for the time being is American Black Walnut.? It’s a great wood to work with, has a pleasant scent, and has beautiful tonal properties.? It’s not super dense so the sound isn’t as intrusive as it can be with harder woods such as hard Maple and woods like Purple Heart.? Walnut has a very laid back, mellow tone while still giving plenty of attack and volume…. So that’s the wood I’m using in this project.? I use staves, but for the djembe shape I also use sections to get the proper dimensions, this djembe is done in 2 sections, the bowl and the bell.? I don’t really like the look or the sound of the djembes that look like an hour glass, two cones put on top of each other.. the bowl isn’t big enough and you loose the warmth of the tones and bass.? So I build my bowls bigger and have a middle section to connect the two.

I wanted to do a few things special on this djembe.? The first thing I have done is hand carved out the inside of the bowl.? A concern with a lot of djembe players in regards to stave built drums is that the inside is too perfect, which doesn’t lend itself to the traditional sound of the djembe which was constructed out of a solid log using crude hand tools.? So by hand carving a traditional spiral pattern on the inside of the bowl, I rough it up a bit which will give the sound more of a traditional feel.

The next thing I wanted to do was add some shape and design to the bell (bottom half) of the djembe.? I don’t have a lathe, and currently do all my drum shaping by hand, but I wanted to try something different with this djembe.? I connected up with a guy on a local woodworking forum that was happy to let me come and play on his lathe.. so I did.? Before I got there I designed out what I wanted the bell to look like,

he showed me what to do and helped me get it there, while letting me do all the cutting.? I learned a lot and now really want a lathe.? I see all the possibilities for future drums!!


This is where the djembe is at now, I’ve got the two sections completed and am about to bring everything together to have a completed shell.? The last detail on the shell is inlay.? I lathed out a groove on the bell to be filled with inlay stone resin from There is a pre-made mix called lacey that is a dark green that will compliment the rope I plan on using to head the drum.

Part two of this build will consist of some more photos, the inlay process, and a finished djembe shell. I’m thinking that the final post in this series will be with final djembe completed, maybe a sound sample or even video… I’m excited to get back to the workshop!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *