Museum of Ancient Inventions: Bodhran Drum

Bodhran Drum, Ireland, 1500 CE

There is not a great deal of information about the bodhran and its history, probably because the drum hasn’t really changed much over time. It resembles a large tambourine without the jingling parts and has a rather deep and somber sound. The word bodhran in Irish for deaf. It is a folk instrument that was originally beaten with one hand, but eventually a cipin, a small beater, was used to play the bodhran.

Method of Construction

Constructed by: Megan Sarah Stefanow ’98

To make a bodhran one needs to start with a piece of wood, usually ash or oak, about a quarter inch thick, 5-6 inches high, and the correct length of the circumference (pi * diameter). A scarf joint must be cut so that the two ends can be joined together. Next a groove 3/4 in. wide and 1/16 in. deep should be cut into the wood, about 3/4 in. down from the top of the drum. A steam box must be set up in order to soften the wood so that it may be bent. To construct this make a wooden box that will fit the rim, cut a hole at the bottom for steam to be let in and one at the top for steam to be let out. Boil water in a kettle and use some tubing to siphon water into the box, it takes about an hour to steam the wood to the point where it will bend. Once the wood is ready immediately wrap it around a circular mold of the same diameter and clamp it down until it dries (no more than 24 hours). Take the rim off of the mold and glue the scarf joint, clamping it down until it dries. After sanding the whole thing, cut two dowels so that they fit inside and glue them in so that they form a cross in the back (this is a crossbeam so that the drum is easily held. Get a goatskin (this can be ordered by many music stores that specialize in making/selling bodhrans or other more ethnic drums), and soak it until it is like a wet chamois cloth (this takes about an hour). Drape the skin over the rim and tack or staple it to the groove in the rim. Make sure that the skin isn’t too taught or the skin will dry too tight and the sound will be too high pitched. Once the skin has dried your bodhran is ready to be played.


Science Topics
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K-6, Middle School, High School
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