UPDATED - January 10, 2012 My first hank drum was completed in February 2007 HI - Pre note: I'm liking this thing a lot more now that a hang drum sold on E-bay for nearly $10,000 !! You could have well over 300 of these propane tank hank drums for that price! A few words about my propane (LP) tank HANK-DRUM ("hank drum" -- Hang + Tank) PS: Much thanks to "Cheapbastid" on the Hang forum for coming up with the name "hank drum") I invented this instrument because of a love for the sound, music and idea of the hang drum created by two dedicated artists at PANArt company in Bern, Switzerland. In lieu of not being able to procure such a hang drum from Switzerland, I'm having a WHOLE lot of improvisational fun playing away on this simple tank drum. As humble as the idea is, it plays very much like the real thing & has a somewhat similar and quite pleasing sound. It is very responsive, requiring only a light, one-fingered tap to start it singing nicely. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> PLEASE NOTE: Pantheon Steel, maker of beautiful steel drums (aka "steel pans") is now making and selling their version of the Hang - called "Halo" A truly beautiful instrument every bit as capable and pleasing as the Swiss Hang. Please contact them at pantheonsteel.com I have one and recommend the Halo highly!! >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> PLEASE NOTE: if you like the idea of my hank drum but don't want to make one yourself. I am far too busy to make them commercially (aside from my intense dislike of "production work") A number of other folks are making hank drums in various forms. The one I am most familiar with, the one I obtained is called a "Zen Tambour" and I am liking it very much (see YouTube video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1KzKI1YiDc). Please see http://exoticvessels.com/zentambour/ for much more info on this fascinating instrument. Unlike my "rough-and-ready" propane tank conversions, The Zen Tambour is drop-dead beautiful to look at as well as play. Along with the Pantheon Halo, this Zen Tambour is a prized possession. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> NOTE: Many people have built hank drums from my plans here but of those I've heard played (youtube and otherwise), a lot of them are quite out-of-tune!! I am at a loss as to why this is!! If you can tune a guitar, you can properly tune this Drum. Please do not get impatient and settle for bad tuning -- for one thing, I am proud of my hank drum invention and it gives it a bad name for people to be hearing (sometimes) WAY off tuning on the things! Take the extra time to tune it right -- it truly is NOT hard. Another LATER NOTE: Nice to see a lot of home-made hank drums popping up on YouTube. I do notice that quite a few folks are not hitting the tongues "properly". It makes a LOT (repeat LOT) of difference in the tone/sound/volume WHERE on the tongues you hit. Try to hit the higher notes about a third of the way up from the base of the tongues instead of near the tip - EXPERIMENT. Lower notes aren't so fussy. Also, a far better tone is obtained if you hit very quickly - not allowing your finger to rest on the tongue even for an instant -- tap it as if you were testing a stove burner to see if it's hot. Also, I still see people not using the highly recommended bungee cords to mellow out the tone. These may seem like small points, but they're not.CLICK HERE to see a short YouTube video of me playing this instrument
PS: The tiny, tinny speakers in most laptops do a very poor job of representing the real sound of this instrument. Desk-tops do a far better job.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> There is NO doubt that you can build this hank drum if: a- You know how to use an electric drill b- You know how to use a pipe wrench c- You know how to use a saber-saw (only a few mins practice needed if you don't) d- You know how to use a pair of Vise-Grips e- You know how to use a file f- You can tune a guitar g- You can get a friend to help you with a-f above As you can see, basic stuff! - V E R Y IMPORTANT: USE ONLY NEW - NEVER-BEEN-FILLED - 20 pound propane tanks. Input keywords such as - propane tank explosion - into YouTube to see the reason why!! These new tanks cost $27 or so at Home Depot stores (I've been told that they're as low as $19 in big city discount outlets). Even if you hear and feel no liquid in a used tank, there may still be gas inside - which can be very explosive. Then too, valves have been known to jam and the newer type LP valves can more easily fool one into believing that a tank is empty. Heed this caution: use a NEW tank. - Remove the valve mechanism using a Plumber's pipe wrench. A 3 or 4 foot long "extender" is almost always needed to get the screw-threads to start turning (it's glued-in/sealed at the factory and can take some determined convincing to unscrew). One sure-fire trick is to very tightly clamp a 2' long hefty (1" D.or so) length of water-pipe vertically in a vise, then holding the tank on it's side, slip the handle-holes over the pipe. Now with the tank resting on the vise, use the pipe-wrench/extender. This method works largely becasue it keeps the tank stable -- keeps it from rolling around. LATER NOTE -- THIS REMOVING METHOD WORKS LIKE A CHARM - EVERY TIME - EASILY. IF IT DOESN'T WORK FOR YOU, YOU'RE DOING SOMETHING WRONG! PLEASE READ THE ABOVE INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY. - The metal ring that is welded to the tank's bottom also has to be removed. It comes off quite easily with a sharp chisel. LATER NOTE (9/2/07): A far easier and quicker way to remove this ring is to clamp Vise-Grip pliers onto the ring, 1/4 inch from the ring/tank weld then worry it back & forth a few times til it breaks free. Repeat with the other 3 welds. I just de-ringed a tank this way in less than a minute. The welds usually break off flush with the tank, but if not simply file off any leftover bumps. This ring can be cut, re-formed and bolted onto the tank's carrying-handle ring (creating a complete circle) -- this makes an excellent base that keeps the tank from tipping over when set bottom-side up for playing. - To make the small slot that the saber-saw blade will fit into, I drill three fairly closed-spaced 1/16" holes - positioned about 1/4 inch from the end of one of each tongue's legs. I then carefully (wear goggles!!) "worry" these holes into one long hole that will fit the saber-saw blade. Crude -- but works fine. LATER NOTE (1-10-2012): a Dremel tool with 1-1/4" reinforced "cutoff wheel" works better for making these slots. I didn't have this setup until recently. - I use a regular off-the-shelf saber-saw to cut the tongues. The saw-blade has to be ground-down so the back-side is half as wide, in order to follow the curves of the tongues. WEAR SAFETY GOGGLES -- the less-wide blade can break all the easier with possibly disasterous results to eyes. I use hearing protection too --- look like a Martian! I prefer cheaper saber saws. They're lighter, easier to use and usually do NOT have this silly "no-screw" spring-loaded blade "quick" attachment (which I find works very poorly). I just bought a nice Black and Decker for $20. Also, small, cheap grinding wheels, that are used with a regular electric drill, work nicely to grind down the saw-blade. Home Depot and Walmart sell these wheels inexpensively. I must confess that this cutting of the curved portion of each tongue is by far the part of making a hank drum that I least like. Even having built wuite a few of these jobbies, I still break probably 4 or 5 saw-blades as well as a similar number of 1/16" drill bits! After a LOT of trial and error, the saw blade that seems to hold up best is Vermont American brand bi-metal, fine tooth. Rounding these curves has ceased to be fun! - I always cut the tongue lengths a good 1/4 inch shorter than I think will produce the desired note. After saber-sawing, the tongues are fine-tuned using a bare hack-saw blade with the end wrapped in duct tape to keep from cutting my hand. GO VERY SLOWLY -- it's FAR easier to flatten a note than to sharpen it (to sharpen it, you have to run the saber-saw blade along the perimeter of the tongue, seeking to nibble away a fraction of metal & reduce the mass of the tongue - & thus raise the pitch --- this wearying process goes very slowly in comparison with how lightning-fast the tongues can be flattened). - The scale I used is D minor Pentatonic: (I fell in love with this scale after hearing a fellow in Pennsylvania's beautiful youtube uploads in this scale). (low to high) Low note ("ding") is D. Circle-notes are (running up the scale & alternating right-left-right-left etc) A, C, D, F, G, A, C . You can make this drum in any key/scale you'd like. Just use my template dimensions as a starting point. For example, if you'd like to include an E note, refer to my F note and just (carefully & slowly) lengthen each leg of the tongue until the E note is achieved. - The fact that the Low D note is NOT in the center, but instead is located between the two highest notes, does not seem to be much of a liability. It IS however, the closest note to the center. I'd LIKE to have put it in the center, but after doing so on an experimental tank, it confounded the other notes considerably -- thus this "off-center" placement. I'm sure hang players would have little trouble playing this slightly off-center Low D "ding". - The saber-sawing process magnetizes the filings to a point where they're quite pesky! While sawing and tuning, I find that taking an old towel and forcefully whapping each tongue dislodges these filings nicely. Once all cut and tuned, I insert a garden hose under high pressure into the tank and let it run for about ten minutes while rotating and swishing around the tank. This gets rid of the metal filings. - Tuning the beast: I rough-tune each tongue by ear to just a bit higher-pitch than desired, then use a simple electronic tuner to fine tune each tongue to pitch. Here are a few tricks I have found to be quite useful in the process. I start with the low A tongue, silencing all the other tongues by sticking a pea-sized glob of “Mortite” brand window-caulking “rope” (actually very clay-like), available at any hardware store, across the top of the roundy end of each tongue (masking-tape works too). Thus silenced, the overtones and harmonics of these notes don’t confound the electronic tuner. For reasons I don't understand, (stringed and wind music generation I DO understand -- but the best I can do with this musical-steel stuff is to take my best guess, then launch into a barrage of adjustments & experimentation until I find something that works to my liking. There are lots and lots of variables with musical-steel methinks!!) the two highest notes tune (& sound) noticeably better with NO Mortite silencing the other notes. For fine-tuning, lengthening of the tongues, I only use a hacksaw blade itself. An observation: Please take the time and care to tune this thing properly. Quite a few folks have built one of these hank drums & several have sent me sound samples while others have uploaded to YouTube. While many of these sound quite nice, in far too many cases, it's obvious that their tongues are not tuned properly -- one or more note(s) being out of pitch! It's not that hard at all to get it right -- CLOSELY follow my tuning instructions (do not "wing it"), go slow and you won't go wrong. - A bungee-cord or two (or even three) wrapped around the tank just down from the tongues really does do wonders in helping control any excessive tank ring as well as undesirable overtones. I can't imagine playing one of these instruments with no bungees. LATER NOTE (8/23/07): Just discovered that black rubber bungees work FAR better than round, multi-color, cloth-covered ones -- must be due to more contact area. Here again, videos sent me and on YouTube show people playing these drums without bungees -- far too ringy & brash a sound! - Later note: I just had occasion to play this drum with the thing's base resting on concrete & was amazed to hear just how much the sound suffered - lower notes were muffled. I'd only played it on carpet, grass or in my lap previously. Must be that the sound conducts into the concrete & acts similarily to a mute on a fiddle. This problem was completely solved by taking a short length of discarded garden-hose, splitting it lengthwise & working it onto the base, securing it a few times with colored duct-tape. Also has the advantage of not scratching any surface that the drum rests on. Later note: An alternate method of expanding the above digitalized template to proper size is to use the old "grid-square" method. I have applied grid squares to the template -- each square on the template represents a quarter of an inch -- even though it obviously does not measure 1/4" on the computerized template. Carefully tape together several sheets of 1/4" graph paper taking care that where sheets overlaps, all lines line-up. Look carefully at a square on a tongue -- count where the corresponding square should be on the blank graph paper & carefully draw in the tongue line. It's not that critical so long as when it comes time to actually cut the metal, you leave each leg of the tongue amply long (at least a quarter inch) for fine-tuning. Crafters - quilters, rug-weavers all use this simple "grid-square" method to expand small magazine designs to whatever size they wish. This instrument is not especially light -- an off-the shelf tank weighs 17 pounds (a pound or two less with the bottom ring and valve mechanism removed) but it does have a comfortable built-in carrying handle. In my case, the weight has not been an issue. I cart it around to all sorts of places quite easily. Think of a piano! A later note: a lot of people desiring to make a hank drum but living outside of the United States have reminded me that "20 pound propane tanks" are not available in their country! I have been trying to determine just what type of tanks ARE available overseas, with limited results. In any event, as evidenced by seeing very successful hanks made using other types of tanks on YouTube, if you've got one of these other type of tanks, give it a try! You might consider not using my template, but instead using my tongue shape & dimensions applied to your tank BUT with the legs of each tongue initially cut MUCH shorter. See what pitch this shortened tongue produces & carefully adjust accordingly. PLEASE LET ME KNOW how this goes so I can include more detailed info in this article. Thanks If more "would-be-hang-drum-players-who-can't-obtain-a-PanArt-instrument" saw how easy this thing is to make, how good it sounds in person & how much GREAT fun it is to play, I think that they'd be more around. But please TUNE the contraption properly!! LATER NOTE (1-10-2012): After recently conducting a hank-drum (& other instrument) making workshop in Africa, where things like saber-saw blades were very hard to find, I (admittedly reluctantly) opted to use rectangular tongues instead of my usual "tongue-shaped", roundy tougues. Have to say that I noticed no (zero) difference in tone, volume or playability. I did notice that with three straight sides per tongue, the instruments were MUCH easier to build. So - hopefully I will soon add a rectangular-tongue template to this web-page. In the meantime, if you'd rather make the easier rectangular-tongued hank, I might suggest still using my roundy-tongued template above to get the general idea of width and length. Using same width, plan on the rectangular version being shorter than the roundy. Try locating the top of each the rectangular tongue 3/16" down on the tank from what the above template shows and then stopping your right and left cuts WELL before what is shown above. Then carefully work their lengths to pitch. PLEASE LET ME KNOW HOW THIS GOES. I have been so busy that since I got back from Africa, I have not had the chance to do this myself yet. I DO have a rectangular template for SENEGALESE tanks (see elsewhere on my webpage here) but their tanks are much thicker than US tanks & unsure how that template would work. Kindly share your thoughts and ideas with me please. Thanks firstname.lastname@example.org PS: I still like the LOOKS of roundy tongues better! Hard for an old fart to change! Another idea/observation -- I recently (2011) made a few hanks from well-water air tanks. They worked fine but ringy overtones were an issue. Instead of the bungee-bands, on a whim I stuffed half of an old t-shirt into the tank & it worked!! Mellowed it right out. Lemme know if you repeat this experiment.CLICK HERE to see Jim Doble's neat thick- metal, BIG-tank playground drums!
Dennis Havlena - W8MI email@example.com Mackinac Straits, northern Michigan Originally posted July 3, 2007