Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Civil War Drums

Our very own and very special Navy Corpsman, Terry Hansen, has completed these replicas of Civil War drums that can be used with our Color Guard.  When Terry showed us the drums he’d made, we asked for the “rest of the story” so we could share the story with all of you. Here it is:

Several years ago I completed a cedar strip canoe and I had a bunch of gorgeous cedar strips left over. Being the pack rat that I am I never threw them away- just stored them in my loft in my workshop. After staring at them long enough I thought I might try making a civil war drum. I've been a fan of that era ever since I first visited Gettysburg in 1957. Have been back there 11 times since. Very hallowed ground indeed.

I started by making a circular form, gluing and nailing each successive 7/8" strip. My wife, the math instructor, calculated that each strip, 56 of them, had to be sawed at 3 and 3/4 degrees. After gluing up, there's lots of sanding to be done. Then I applied the first of 4 coats of marine spar varnish.

The hoops I found on the internet for a lot cheaper than I could ever make them. The heads I found on sale at our local music store. Finding the right 1/4" rope was a challenge. I started with nylon rope but that is too stretchy. Now I'm trying some cotton rope but it's not very strong. Maybe some day I'll order the genuine linen rope that's made in Ireland. It is a little pricey, however. I made my own leather "ears" for the rope tensioners.
As of today I have completed three drums and look forward to completing 2 more, one out of cherry and one out of clear white pine. Each different wood gives them a different sound.

My drums are in the style of either Revolutionary War or Civil war drums. At the outset of the Civil War Abe Lincoln ordered 32,000 drums for the various units. Consequently many people got into the drum making business and that's why it's hard to find two Civil War drums that look alike– close but not exactly alike because the lettering and the eagles were all hand painted.  

Many drums still exist today in various stages of repair. Their cowhide heads did not survive the years simply because they tear easily or disintegrate.