Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Building a propane tank drum

The Beginning. Planning the notes.
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Rough notes cut into the tank (Not tuned yet)

Tuned, and partially panted. Not finished, but sounds super nice.

Not all the way painted, but it sounds great!

Hey everybody! Happy 2013

I've been meaning to write a blog post for some time. Now, I'm going to sit down, and do it even if it kills me. And it might. My room feels like a refrigerator right now. The weather has been icy icy cold. We even reached the negative 20's at night.  Brrrr....

So before I start rambling about my life, I wanted to do a special post on my sister's propane tank drum she has been making over the past month. She is very musical and likes to build things. When she saw a video of one of these beautiful-sounding drums on you-tube, she was determined to build one

I wasn't too heavily involved in the building of this drum. I was mostly a spectator. But it was such a nifty drum, and the process was quite time intensive, that decided I needed to do a short post about this intriguing little drum. 
 My first thought was a propane tank? Who would build a drum out of propane tank? What in the heck would it sound like

To answer that question, watch this video of my sister's drum. I think you will be amazed.


 Just so you get a picture of what had to go into building this drum, I'm going to give you a little insight into the making of it

First she had to buy an empty, stainless steel propane tank. You think that it wouldn't be that hard to find something that simple. But in our small town, nobody sells empty tanks. There were zero tanks here. So we had to ask my sister who was coming down over Christmas to pick one up at Home Depot
They have the cheapest price  for their tanks---around, about $39.00 

Everywhere else is too expensive, and the shipping is crazy.

 We also considered using a used tank. But we were worried because you start sawing on the tank, it makes sparks, and it being a used tank, you don't want to blow yourself up. 

However, my sister did a lot of research how to use used tanks, and now she is working on making her second drum, and for this one she is using a used tank. But it took her ages to clean it out. And the smell is terrible. She brought it into the house, and I thought I was going to die. To prevent blowing herself up, she filled the tank full of water, so if there is any gas left in the tank, she'll be okay. 

Anywho. Once you get the tank, you have to figure out how to pry the valve thingy and the standoff.  

I'm not exactly sure how she did it, but it took her a good while. I think it helps to have a professional valve remover.

Then she had to buy a saw, and saw blades to cut the metal----all of which adds up. Plus because of the angles you have to cut, you'll probably break a lot of blades in the process. (my sister did)

Then she got some plans off the internet on how to space the notes, and how big the cuts should be. Then my older sister, helped to put the plans on a grid paper and transfer them over.  

My sister began cutting the holes in the drum (in the house) because it's too cold outside.  She had to drill a staring hole first in order to to make the first cut Take note, that when you are cutting, you will need ear plugs because the tank echos really loudly.  

After she cut the holes, she had to tune the drum.  To tune the drum, she used magnets, and cut the tongues different lengths. Also the length and the width of the cut also determines the note.  My sister had to sit by the piano, and play a note, and then go back and forth to the drum, to the piano, and to the saw,  in order to tune it. 

There are are a lot of different aspects to making a propane tank drum. And I am no expert, I'll leave that up to my sister. 
My mom and her recorded themselves playing the drum, and I decided to upload the video onto youtube. As of today, my sister  painted over the drum with a some really cool metal paint. So now all my pictures aren't true to what it really looks like now. 
Oh well. 

If you're interested in learning more, for patterns and better details. I suggest you do a google search for tank drums, or Hank drums, or Propane tank drums---or ufo drums. A man called Dennis Havelna first invented these drums a few years ago, so they are still quite new .It's name is halfway between  a hang drum and a tank drum, hence the name hank drum.  

My sister followed a pattern someone posted on their blog. However the next drum she makes is going to be on a scale she made up, so that she can play a wide array of notes.

 I'm very excited to see how it sounds. The exciting thing about these drums is that they are a really cool alternative to steel drums, which cost in the thousands. These tank drums are a lot less complicated to make, and they sound really neat. I like to call them Zen drums. But my sister calls her drum a Luna drum. 

If you don't want to make one, that's fine.  If you want to buy one already made, my sister is considering making, (and tuning them) for about three hundred dollars each. Which, if you consider the crazy amount of time and work that goes into them, is pretty fair. There are a lot of sellers on the net who sell their drums from three to five hundred. Just depends. 

Anywho. That's my plug for my sister's project. For my next post, I'm going to be showing off my awesome homemade ice skating rink. It's bigger, and better than last years. :) 



  1. This is really cool, I've never heard of anyone doing this before. I wonder if I can find propane tanks in Seattle WA and this is great to know.

  2. There was a show called "Time Warp" and they did things in slow-motion. It was super cool seeing a propane tank blow up. The fireball that came out from it was super cool looking. I would love to blow one up.

  3. This seems like a very useful step by step guide to building a propane tank drum. I've never thought to make a drum out of a propane tank. It seems like it would make a really interesting noise. I have an old propane tank that I can use for a project like this. I would like to make a drum of my own and see how it sounds.


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