Frame Drum Making Classes

The frame drum is the oldest known drum on the planet. It arose in several areas of the world, independently of each other, and today many versions are still being used by different cultures around the world.

We gather at Swan’s Nest Holistic Wellness and Nature Centre, a private sanctuary atop the Oak Ridges Moraine, to build 12″ and 14″ deerskin and sinew frame drum in the style of many First Nations, and shamanic cultures in Asia, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Drums we make ourselves, out of materials that have been properly harvested, with respect given and permission received, are known to be the most healing, not just for you, but for those you play it for.


We build drums with a 12” and 14″ diameter. Here’s why:

  • they sound great.
  • they are relatively inexpensive to make, and includes a drum stick we will also make.
  • they are relatively easy to make, as the frames are already made, sanded and sealed. The deer skins are already pre-measured and cut, the holes pre-punched, and I will soak them overnight to make them ready to work with.And after building many of these drums myself, I’m very impressed with these features:
  • the wooden rings – I really like how strong they are, and how they are put together – they are made of 16 pieces, unlike the traditional 12 or 13. This lines up nicely with 16 pairs of holes, which come pre-cut in each drum skin.
  • each section of the pinewood hoops have hidden wooden dowels attaching each section to each other and reinforcing the glue.
  • any drum can be broken, but this is one of the strongest I’ve ever made.
  • the pine hoops have been expertly sanded, leaving a practically round shape, and a thin ridge which the drum skin and the sinew touches, which prevents rattling and humming, which can be a common problem with frame drums with flat edges.
  • the rings have also been stained and waxed, for beauty and long lasting protection.As you can see, these drums are tied together with sinew, instead of buckskin strips. Sinew has many advantages:
  • they make drums easier to build.
  • it’s easier to keep the drum skin tight as you build.
  • we won’t have to spend any time cutting and tying pieces of buckskin together either, allowing us to take our time building our drums.
  • it doesn’t change tension with the humidity, meaning the drum will shrink and stretch less than a drum laced with buckskin.Sinew has a couple of disadvantages due to its thinness:
  • we have to be a bit more careful when tightening, so we don’t tear the drum skin, or hurt our hands.
  • It also requires a handle, to make it more comfortable to hold and play, which we will make by wrapping faux leather strips around the centre – this can look quite nice as you can see in the photos – with the 4 colours of the medicine wheel.