The vast majority of my drums are made to order. Before I start making a drum for an individual we have to define some parameters. Chief among these are size, kind, color, head materials, strength, and label.


18 and 20 inch drums

The standard drums I make are 18" or 20" in diameter and usually 14" thick, though that can be easily changed. Their relative sizes as are shown in this picture. 18" is a good size for most people, but if you are over 6' tall or have very long arms, you would probably find the 20" drum more comfortable.


CounterAndTraditional drums

The drums can be made with (left) or without (right) counter rims, as is shown here. The counter rim is the wooden hoop near both faces of the left drum. It has rope holes in it and presses against the edge of the head. The ones with counter rims are referred to as Bulgarian style and those without as Macedonian style. What is the difference? Personal taste, mostly. Theoretically, the heads on a Bulgarian style drum will last longer because there are no rope holes though the heads. I've repaired a lot of drums and replaced a lot of heads. Most heads have either have punctures from something sharp spearing them, or edge-to-edge splits because they got too dry, causing the skin to shink and fail. I've seen a couple that had torn out from the rope holes, but the drums had been so badly abused that whether that was a cause or an effect is unknown.

This picture also illustrates that I can make custom sizes. The Macedonian style drum on the right in this photo (actually Greek) is 25" in diameter and 12" deep. The Bulgarian style drum on the left is a standard size, 18" in diameter and 14" deep. The cost of custom drums is on a per item basis since I have to build tooling to make the shell. But if you absolutely have to have a 23 ¾" drum, it could be made. But it won't be cheap.


The shells are made from Philippine mahogany veneer, which is naturally a light reddish brown. But it takes stain quite well, so other colors are available. Default is a dark walnut stain which gives the color of the drum on the left in the above picture. The one on the right was a mix of half dark walnut and half black. Any wood tone is easy, but if you want it bright orange, we'll need to figure out some other finish, since the underlying mahogany brown tone always comes through.

Head Materials

Mylar head on drum

All heavy heads are made from goat skin (see the top of the page). The light heads are either made from goat skin or Mylar, shown here. Mylar gives a brighter sound, goat skin is more mellow. The Mylar heads are hand sewn onto a custom rolled metal rim, so they cost more than the standard goat skin heads. If you want one put on an existing tupan, contact me and we can discuss the details.


Man on tupan

My standard drum shells have 4-ply walls and 10-ply rims. They weigh about 5 - 6 pounds. This construction is plenty strong enough to support the drum. If you also want to support a dancer, you need a stronger drum. I make these with a full 10-ply walls and ½" maple dowels cross bracing the shell in two directions. It will hold up a dancer but it makes the drum nearly twice as heavy (roughly 10 pounds - your shoulder will notice the difference after an hour or two of drumming). So, unless you are really sure you need the extra strength, I'd strongly recommend you not buy it. This is an extra cost option because I have to use so much more material.


I'm a calligrapher so I hand letter a label for the inside of the drum. I always put in a label giving my name, the drum number, and the month it was finished. On a custom-ordered drum I usually also put a message " Made for (name of buyer) ". But I have put other things on the label (poems for example) and added other things like money (which is very traditional in the Balkans, following the belief that money attracts money, so if there is money on the inside of the drum it will be a good money maker.) Another tradition is to put cheesecake pictures on the inside. Below is an example of all these combined. Labels in tupan


A Doli is a Georgian cylindrical hand drum which is used in Eastern Turkish music and has a very similar construction to a small Tupan. I was asked to make one by a musician and, after considerable experimentation, produced a drum that worked well. It is the traditiional size, 13" in diameter and 11½" deep and has Mylar heads on both sides. As you may guess, this is how I learned to make the Mylar heads discussed above. Doli