Monday, February 17, 2014

Continuing the Dorset Drums

This groove runs all the way
around the drum and will be
used to tie down the caribou
rawhide drum skin.
I continued to work on the Dorset Palaeoeskimo drum frames today.  I've cut the hoops to length, incised the groove to fasten the skin down, and finished the scarf joint to tie the hoop together.   There were two drums found at the Button Point site off the north end of Baffin Island and I'm using the more complete of the two for my model for these reproductions.   The incomplete drum is missing about a fifth of the hoop and the handle is partially broken.  It has a slightly lighter frame than the one I'm reproducing and the details of the scarf joint are less obvious.

The scarfed ends with the incised
grooves for tying the hoop closed
with sinew
The scarf joint that I'm using as the reference has about 5 cm of overlap and three very well defined lashing grooves.  Once I bent the split willow shoot to a complete 360 degree circle a little bit smaller than the intended drum diameter I cut the wood to the correct length, which in this case was about 24" or 61 cm as measured along the outside circumference.  I cut and shaped the top and bottom edges of the rim, to give it a peaked top edge and square bottom edge and then incised the groove around the entire outside of the hoop.  I carved the wedge shaped scarf area on each end and cut the three opposing lashing channels.

When they went into the pot they
were still pretty tight circles, but after
a few minutes of heat they expanded
At this point I boiled the drums again to cinch the hoop closed and ready them for the sinew lashing.  The wood became flexible again and the hoops started to expand in the water, which made matching up the scarf joint tricky.  I wound up wrapping the whole hoop around a pot lid again and using clothespins to temporarily hold it in place before lashing the hoop closed with wire and pinching the join tight with clamps.  The wood at the scarf joint is necessarily thinner than the rest of the drum frame so the wood wanted to bend more there than elsewhere, creating a bit of a sharp angle in the hoop.  The hoop became shaped more like a fat egg, with the little end at the joint, than the perfect circle that I was trying for.    That bugged me a little until I compared the reproduction to the photo of the original artifact and noticed that it has the same shape.  Evidently, the Dorset drum maker had the same problem that I had, which made me feel better.  The only thing better than intentionally making a matching reproduction is accidentally making a matching reproduction because you happen upon the same design and construction challenges as the original maker.

The photo on the left shows two drums stacked on top of each other.  The one in the middle, with the long handle pointing down and to the left is the one that I'm trying to match.  The scarf joint connecting the two ends of the hoop is in the 3 o'clock position and you can see how the drum hoop bends sharply at this point.  The reproduction on the right is oriented the same way, the clamps running out of the frame on the right are pinching the scarf joint together.  You can see how it also bent sharply where the thin ends of the wood overlap each other.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

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