Wooden Tongue Drum

This is a note for making a wooden tongue drum (slit drum). I intend to make a clone of Baby Ben Chorded 12 key tongue drum but I’ve never owned it. Looks like Baby Ben but it’s a completely different tongue drum. I used tips that I got information from internet and YouTube.



  • Padauk 3/4″ x 8″ x 36″
  • Baltic Birch Plywood 18 mm-3/4″ x 24″ x 30″
  • MDF 3/4″ (I used a left over from other project)

The sizes are what I bought from woodcraft



  • Hand drill
  • Jigsaw
  • Palm router
  • Circular saw + Guide
  • Orbital sander
  • Wood glue
  • Spray lacquer
  • Electric iron or spray adhesive
  • Forstner bit (for tuning, drill bit also may work but I had to take a lot of material to get a note)
  • Chromatic tuner (I used android app Pano Tuner)
  • Sandpapers (#100, #120, #150, #180, #240, #300, #400, #600)
    Maybe no need more than #240 but I liked the smooth feeling and I have them, why don’t use them?


I picked up Padauk because Yamaha uses Padauk for their xylophone, and it was sale at Woodcraft ( it was %40 off on August 2020). This is the first time using Padauk, it’s a quit difficult wood. After I made slits on it, it started waving. One tongue coming up, one tongue going down and entire board start twisting. And I tried plane by hand, the planer hook and tear out deeply. I checked line but some area’s line is opposite direction. I only have Japanese planer and I couldn’t find how handle Padauk with it. I used an electric hand planer in the end.


Cut layout

I use mill meter for an easy calculation, and also I gown up  metric environment.

Note: You may need to adjust below sizes based on your material thickness.

  • MDF height (143 mm) = 160 mm – Birch Plywood thickness (17 mm)
  • Birch plywood height = 160 mm + The final thickness of top
  • Bottom height (422 mm) = 460 – (Padauk thickness (19mm) x 2)


Slit Pattern

You can print this PNG out with below printout setting. I used a laser printer to copy the pattern on a wood with an electric iron. It may has a void space between papers. You can measure the width of outline. It should be 460mm. If you use an adhesive spray, this slit pattern will be front back.

  • Paper size: A3
  • Model: Tiled (It will use 4 letter size papers)
  • Orientation: Landscape

Note: The both side has a blank space. It will have very thick walls underneath. Please adjust the width with your material thickness. In my case, I used MDF(19.5 mm) and the blank width is twice MDF thicknesses (19.5 x 2) + Padauk thickness (19 mm) = 58 mm


I used a hand jigsaw. I made a hole in the center and start making slits from the center hole.


Step 1.

Make side walls. Glue evenly and Clamp them very tightly. The top should be flat.

Step 2.

Glue the top.

The sound before add front and back wall.

Step 3

Glue the front wall and back wall

Step 4

No assembling. It’s a tuning time!

Step 5

If you satisfy the tuning, you can glue the bottom. Don’t screw it, glue it. The resonance is much nicer.


This was enjoyable part but I’m still not sure what I did right. The notes are in below picture.

Note up: remove material from a top of tongue.

Note down: remove material from a bottom of tongue.


One note down was easy, but I had to remove a lot of material when I one note up. I had to remove a edge of note A of Chord F. I’m still not sure what I should’ve done. I may be able to switch A and F, or make shorter tongue. Note D of Chord G also lost the edge.

Contrarily, I didn’t need to remove a material for note E of Chord Am and note E of Chord C. It seems like the width and length were good size.

I noticed higher note tongues doesn’t make a good resonance. I don’t know the reason. It was too thick? side wall wasn’t glued well? MDF wasn’t good material?



What I learned about tuning tongue drums.

How to Make a Tongue Drum (or Log or Slit Drum)

How to Make and Tune a Tongue Drum (Part 2 of …) Featuring the Length Calculator!


Building and Tuning Tongue Drums, Slit Drums, Xylodrums – Easy Woodworking Music Project

Michael Thiele Interview – Tongue Drum Maker – Unbelievable Sounds


I bought this mallets, but it was a hard polymer. I thought it ordered a rubber mallets.

This is a rubber mallets.

ブックマーク パーマリンク.


  1. This is really cool! It looks beautiful, too! Do you sell your creations anywhere?

  2. Do you know what the frequency of each tongue’s note is? I am trying to identify where the notes of each tongue would fall on a piano.

    Referencing this chart-(https://pages.mtu.edu/~suits/notefreqs.html), I am wondering if the C-note in your C-chord is a C3 note or a C4 (middle C on piano).

    Also, do the notes on your drum match the notes of the “chorded 12 key” drum on hardwoodmusiccompany.com? I am curious if the “chorded 12 key” drum may have the notes arranged differently, for example, if the B-note and the D-note in the G-chord were swapped, the B-note could be played with the C-chord notes to make a Cmaj7-chord (contains the notes C-E-G-B). I am just curious if this was thought about when you assigned notes to each tongue.

    And thank you so much for making this! These are the clearest instructions I could find online. I wouldn’t even attempt to build one of these without your instructions! So thank you very much!

    • HI JC,
      I’m sorry I missed your comment. I believe my keys are different from hardwoodmusiccompany.com. I don’t have their drum and I can’t compare, but I feel my notes layout is not good. I’ll check my drum’s key and let you know.


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