Toddler Sized Djembe with a KICK!

Custom Djembe

I’ve been away from the blog for a while, I know… but I’ve been hitting it up double time in the workshop.? One of the most fun projects I’ve ever worked on was for a friends son who just turned 1!? My daughter just turned one herself, and I’m wanting to build a little djembe for her (more on that one later) so I had been thinking about the best size and drum design for a smaller kid, but also something they can grow up with and enjoy later.? Final dimensions are 20″ tall, 7.5″ base and 10.75″ head… Not one of those 5″ stocking stuffer drums.. 🙂

My idea for the design was to pretty much scale down my pro series djembe design, yet add some ports to the base and make the base a bit heavier to make it more stable on the ground.? The reason for the ports was that cheerin this young cannot properly tilt the drum to allow the bottom end to resonate.? Unfortunately I see many adults playing djembes out at drum circles with the drum flat on the ground as well… you get no bass this way, as the sound has to push through the shell.? Anticipating that kids play the drum with it flat on the floor, the only way to get a good bass response was to cut ports in the shell to allow the air to push out.


To fancy up a hole in the shell, I decided to go with 1″ plugs (Yellow Heart wood) in every other slat (7 plugs total) and then drill out the plug center with 5/8″ bit.? I then used a small round over bit in a router and added some curve to the opening so it flowed more.? On the back of the plug (inside the drum) I used a large counter sink bit I have to ‘cone’ out the port.

I added a rubber foot to the base to protect the shell and the parents floors from drops.? I was so happy with this shell.? It’s the first djembe I’ve turned on my new 16″ 2hp Jet lathe? :)? Anyhow, I wasn’t sure what would happen on the lathe, I was planning to just smooth up the shell and pretty much cut out my planing and sanding steps to get the drum round.? It was so easy I just started adding some simple designs and ended up with a drum that looks like an art piece.? I love it.? I think I went way over the top with this drum, the rubber foot was a new process for me, the sound ports were a new process, and turning the drum on the lathe was new.? I love how it came out.. I’ll be doing some more of these djembes but full size once I get some time!

A few things on this drum I might change for next time… well, the bottom groove I cut for the ring I cut it proportional to the drum size, yet my rings are the same size I use for full size drums… I should have cut the groove deeper and wider.? It’s not horrible, but the bottom ring pokes out a tad more than I’d like.? It takes away some from the very organic looking curvature that shell has.?? Also, the finish I used browned up the Yellow Heart wood a tad.? I used a fabric to wrap the rings that matched the Yellow Heart when it was fresh cut, but it’s a little bright on the drum once the finish toned down the woods.? I suspect overtime the rings will get a bit dirty and then it might blend better with the shell… it’s not bad, in fact it looks really good… these are just some things I nit-pick about so that my next one is always better!

There were some other firsts and experiments on this build.? A major one being a sled for the table saw to more accurately and safely cut the slats.? I built the sled from 3/4″ baltic birch ply and used some thick 5/4 purpleheart for the fence and the miter runner.? Purpleheart is super dense and is a fiarly stable wood… it’s also super hard and heavy so makes for a good straight fence and a runner that wont warp… More about the tablesaw sled here.

All in all I’m really happy with this build and what I learned from it.? I’m excited to see where the next one takes me.? I know the new owners will enjoy the heck outa this djembe and that’s good enough for me!

1 thoughts on “Toddler Sized Djembe with a KICK!

  1. Michele says:

    Is it too early to begin my Christmas list? Actually, adding to the list isn’t the problem…deciding which djembe?now there?s the conundrum (heehee, pun intended). I think the Toddler Sized Djembe with a KICK! has completely stolen my heart. A must have. Exceptional artistry, my friend!

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