Shake sawyer and musician Dave Beaton was inspired when he first heard a Hang, a melodic steel-percussion instrument invented in Switzerland in 2000. They were out of his price range, so he started looking for ways to construct his own. Today he creates steel tongue drums called Hoj drums out of recycled propane tanks and sells them internationally from his workshop in Powell River.
How did you first get into making instruments?
I was jamming at a friend’s house and he showed me a YouTube video of a man in Texas making something he called a Hank drum, a cross between the words Hang and tank. It was made out of a propane tank. With that, I was on my way. I made a couple leaving them basically the same shape as a regular propane tank with notes cut on the bottom side and a quick coat of paint. They were fairly simple in design and I sold a couple and gave others away as gifts. About two years ago I saw someone post a drum on Instagram saying it was something she always wanted. I messaged her telling her I know how to make them but have zero knowledge on how to sell online or ship. She walked me through the process and I sold my first drum online.
How do you make them?
I take a regular propane tank and cut the top and bottom off, strip the old paint and rust and cut my notes. Then I weld them back together and prep them for paint. I airbrush each drum with its own original paint job using automotive air colours. Then I put an automotive clear coat on to protect the finish.
How did you get the skills to make the drums?
I made it up. I bought a welder one day and just started trying to weld. I wanted to work on my truck and watched a couple of episodes of Forged in Fire. I basically taught myself all I know about the drums. Now I have a plasma cutter and all the tools that I need to do it nicely and my design is way more refined.
What do they sound like?
It’s hard to explain; it’s kind of its own sound. People describe it as almost like a singing bowl sound. They’re a meditative instrument for the most part. Each one has nine different notes on it so you can play regular songs but it’s kind of like a metal xylophone, except better.
Where do you sell them?
My first customer was online from San Antonio, Texas. I just recently had two go to Brazil and they just ordered two more. I sell them through Facebook and Instagram, and for the most part it’s just been word of mouth. People message me and tell me what they want. I do any scale that they can come up with and custom artwork on them. It’s been pretty exciting. The internet is amazing.
Are you from Powell River originally?
I was born in Kamloops but moved here in grade one. I graduated from Max Cameron [Secondary School] in 2000.
What else do you do for fun?
I also enjoy playing the drums, and I play the guitar and enjoy fishing. I love music and art. Music has the ability to change the way one feels and I find that very powerful.
To see and hear the drums, go to facebook.com/dave.beaton.790