The lack of availability of US-type 20 pound (5 gallon) liquid-propane tanks outside of this country has made the use of my hank-drum building template & plans of limited use overseas. I recently spent three weeks in Senegal, Africa where I conducted a musical instrument-making workshop where, amongst other instruments, we made a lot of hank-drums. A worry before flying over was that propane tanks available in Senegal would not make good-sounding hank-drums. Upon first seeing these much different-looking tanks with their half-again as thick as US tank's steel, my worries increased but upon experimenting - making my first drum with these tanks, all worries disappeared! They sing fine - maybe a bit better even than US tanks - as it seems the thicker steel may make for a slight bit more accoustic seperation between adjacent notes --- less interplay perhaps. Turns out that these are 6 kg tanks with a steel thickness of .099 inches ( roughly 1/10 of an inch!). In west Africa they are often referred to as French tanks - my being told that the same type tanks are also used in France. Can anyone enlighten me on this?? Are these type of tanks used elsewhere in the world?? firstname.lastname@example.org Anyhow, the remainder of this article concerns building a hank-drum, in "D Minor Pentatonic" tuning: lowest-pitched note being D (equivalent to a hang's "DING") then, low to high: A C D F G A C using one of these 6 kg Senegalese/French tanks. Here is the exact tongue template used in making all of the hanks we made in Senegal. Please note the "inch & mm scales":
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You'll note that (for the first time) I resort to using rectangular shaped tongues instead of my usual
curved tongue-shaped tongues. This was done for simplicity - not having that many tools in the African
workshop village. I might add that I noticed no difference in either tone or volume when switching to
The tongues having straight lines, each of the three cuts per tongue were easily started using a Dremel
tool with fiberglass reinforced "cutoff wheel" - cut through just enough to allow a saber-saw blade to
be inserted for the remainder of each cut. Each side of each tongue was cut short a quarter inch or so
to allow fine-tuning with a bare fine-toothed hacksaw blade.
Speaking of tuning -- before I left for Africa, I bought, on sale, a Planet-wave brand (by D'Addario)
portable strobe chromatic tuner. I have nothing but high praise for this little beauty which performed
flawlessly in the intense African sun, sand & humidity in our outdoors workshop. Many hours were spent
bringing all the hank-drums into exact pitch - all using up only one 9 volt battery.
I might add that the African folks who attended the workshop very much liked my hank-drums! They took
right to them and we had a number of first-rate African music sessions where the hanks fit in exceptionally
well with the other, more traditional African instruments. I was told by many there that hank-drums, by virtue
of their simplicity, good sound, fun playing and ease of construction may well spread in Africa.
Whether this comes to pass or not, the good folks of Senegal certainly did like them!
Dennis Havlena - 11/30/2011
Webpage at www.DennisHavlena.com
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