Building a Bodhrán Rim by Bent Lamination

by Jim McGill


Many commercial drum manufacturers use bent lamination and it is widely used in the boat-building and furniture-making businesses.

Get a door skin, which is three-ply hardwood plywood (usually Philippine mahogany here in Seattle), rip strips to width using a table saw, and take off one layer with a hand plane. It comes off real easily and you are left with very flexible two-ply material.

Now wrap one layer around your form, gluing the overlap and using a band clamp (or an old bicycle inner tube) to hold it in place. After it dries, butt the next strip against the end of the first, put glue all over the outside and the overlap (messy part) and wrap on the next layer.

When you get the thickness you want, belt-sand the last 6" of the strip to taper to nothing; I did it from the back, so the joint is nearly invisible. Take it off the form, smooth down the inside starting end and edges, and you have your rim. Finish the shell with a couple coats of varnish before attaching the skin; it is easier to do it then and it protects the wood and glue from the dampness of the skin.

I've used this technology to make tupans, large two-headed drums. My wife plays tupan (Bulgarian two-headed drum), and I made both the drum body and the external tightening rims using bent lamination. She plays it hard several times a week and has for about 5 years, with no discernible damage yet. I've also made a bodhrán, for a friend who is more of a dilettante than a musician, so it has never gotten much wear. It still looks good.

As far as sound is concerned, the most crucial thing in any drum seems to be the edge of the body where the head wraps over. If this is too wide or flat, the drum sounds dead. I angle the edge, from the inside, to a fairly sharp edge and then round the edge over slightly to protect the head. My drums always have a "big" sound, so I guess it works.



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Josh Mittleman

Last updated 30 Mar 1999