Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cub Corner: Making a drum for the Wolf Den

I've been a Cub Scout Den Leader for almost three years and I finally decided to do this elective out of the Wolf Handbook (10b, page 155).  The Handbook is a little lean on step by step instructions sometimes, so here you can watch me build a prototype - always a good idea when doing a craft project for the first time.  You don't want to get into a problem at den meeting and not have the tools/materials to solve it.  If you mess up at home first, you know what to do different later.

So, let's make the drum in the American Indian Lore elective. (Shouldn't that be Native American by now?)

I collected some #10 cans - you know a large type can that coffee came in before they went to plastic or whatever. Make sure those are clean inside and out and take the labels off as best you can are able.  With this prototype, one end is open and the other end is still closed/intact.  If you want a more "authentic" drum sound, go ahead and get the can opener and make sure both sides are open. I don't think it's a big deal if only one end is open - it just means the kids will get two possible sounds as they beat their either side of their drums - one a "boom boom" and another a kind of a "boomclang".

You'll also want to collect some dowels - 12 inch lengths are good - any thickness is okay. You can decide if each Scout gets one or two drumsticks a piece. I opted for one.

Now for the drum covering.  The Handbook suggests chamois or vinyl.  Well I'm not so flush as to go out and buy chamois.  Even vinyl seemed a bit pricey for me.  I was lucky to find, at an online fabric store, some vinyl tablecloth material - kind of thin vinyl on top and fuzzy cotton on the underside - yeah just like that tablecloth your grandma had when the grandkids were visiting.  I found some in white and the regular red checker pattern. I opted for the white. It was much cheaper than the upholstery vinyl they had.

The #10 can was about 6 inches across, and I wanted some of the vinyl to overlap, so I cut out a 12 inch by 12 inch square of vinyl and planted the can in the middle. (Since I have obsessive compulsive tendencies, I made sure the edge of the can was three inches from each side of the vinyl. You probably don't need to be as precise.) I then traced the outside of the can onto the vinyl with a marker.  I realized later that if you don't want a marker line on the top of your drum, maybe you better trace the can on the underside of the vinyl so the marker circle won't show.

If you had a large compass, (the drawing tool, not the navigation tool) it would be super easy to just add another circle outside of the one you just traced. I did not have said handy device, so I took a 12 inch long dowel, centered it on the traced circle and made dots at the ends of the stick with my marker.  I twisted the dowel from the center of the circle, imagining lining the stick up with opposite numbers on an analog clock, and continued making marks until I had a circle of dots around the first circle.

Then using my rotary cutter, I "connected the dots" and I had a roughly circular piece of vinyl. Of course scissors would work as well. Use what you have, I say. I used the first circle I cut as a template for the second circle - tracing is easy once you've done the first one.

I used a paper hole puncher to put holes along the edge of the vinyl circle. I was glad the paper hole puncher got through the material. I tried using a leather hole punch tool first (commonly used on belts and the like) but it actually didn't work as well for me. I just don't have the strength to use it I guess. It worked okay, but unless you have an iron grip, I think the paper punch was fine.  Now if you use a thicker vinyl, the leather hole tool might be a better choice. I ended up with about 14 holes around the circle.

Again, using the first circle as a template, I marked dots through the holes of the first circle onto the second circle.  You want the same amount of holes in the top and bottom so that when the Scouts start stringing the lacing on, they don't end up with an odd hole they don't know what to do with. I punched the holes in the second vinyl circle where the dots were.

This step you might want to have the Scouts do in pairs to help each other out. Center the vinyl over the can and stretch a rubber band around it to hold it in place. Turn the can over and do the same on the other side with the other piece of vinyl, and try to make sure the holes in the bottom don't line up with the holes on the top.  You want the lacing to end up having "V" shapes so stagger the holes so they aren't right above each other.

Give each Scout about a yard length of plastic lacing.  They should loosely thread the lacing through the holes. The lacing needs to go all the way around before tightening.

If the Scouts want to make the lacing more decorative, you could give them beads to string on as they lace. They'll have to do this in between the holes, draw the lacing through a bit, lace through another hole, do some more, etc.  The beads shouldn't go through the holes.

Once the lacing has gone all the way around, the Scouts might want to pair up again. One Scout can hold the ends while the other Scout starts gently pulling each lace that comes down from the top piece of vinyl. I ended up going around my drum three or four times before easing all the slack out of the lacing. There may be a temptation to pull hard on just the two loose ends, but I think that might blow out some of the holes in the vinyl.  As it was with gradual pulling and tightening, the holes I had punched started to stretch longer than I liked.

When the vinyl has been stretched as tight as you dare, tie the loose ends together and cut off the excess.  This might be a good place to teach the Scouts the Square Knot or another knot designed for tying two ropes together.  Plastic lacing tends to be slippery so I put two or three square knots in there just to make me feel better.  I took off the rubber bands after I finished lacing, but you can keep them on if the Scouts like the look.

You can let the Scouts have some permanent markers to decorate their drums.

If you have feathers, the Scouts can slip the ends into the beads on the lacing or maybe even the holes in the vinyl.  A spot of glue will help them stay there.

Don't forget the drumsticks!  I had some spare bits of quilt batting and cotton fabric.  If you don't sew or have fabric scraps, you could put cotton balls into a plastic sandwich bag and put the end of the dowel in it.

I wrapped the end of the dowel in the batting first.

As I started to wrap the stick dowel in the fabric scrap, I tucked in a couple of feathers too.  You could also tie on a bit of plastic lacing and let the Scouts put beads on it.

Once tightly wrapped, use some more plastic lacing to tie it all down. This could be a good place to teach the Scouts a slip knot or other knot that tightens on itself.

And there you go!

You could add another elective (10f, page 159, Wolf Scout Handbook) and have the Scouts write a story on their drum using word pictures.
Of course the whole point is to have fun with it - make it as fancy or simple as needed!


Pam said...

WOW college taught you crafts and persistence and patience to do things like this.
Well done!

Crystal Stanworth said...

Great tutorial! I'll be using this next week in scouts!