Drum Heads

I am wanting to print logos and designs on natural animal skins. I am a percussionist, drummer and drum builder. I would like to print logos on the new heads I install. Skin types, cow and goat as well as some others. Thickness varies some.

I don’t want to cut score or engrave too deeply as this will cause issues and potentially tear the skin once tension is applied.

Any thoughts?

And hello! I’m Nate, new FA Engineer at GF East.

Djembe Drum Example. Blank Skin


Welcome to the forum.
Leather is leather, whether it is for a drum head or a hat patch. Turn the power lower than Proofgrade leather settings since you want a light engrave and test a small area with a simple design. You are going to need to make sure that the drum head is held perfectly flat against the honeycomb tray or your engrave will be uneven.


Welcome Nate to the forum and to Glowforge. I do hope you have fun with your new job.

GF East? I haven’t been keeping up with the company. Hadn’t toured staff page for a while.


You mean like this?


In taiko, we (sometimes) traditionally paint designs on the heads of drums. Your Glowforge might be useful in creating stencils for that. I could see using something like self-adhesive polyester to make a stencil, sticking it on temporarily, applying paint, removing the stencil.

I don’t think I would want to do anything to cut into the heads at all but, then, taiko heads are difficult to change and, we tend to really wail on them. That might be less of a concern for something like a djembe.

Let us know how it goes if you try it!


This is amazing, how did I never see before. Do you play the banjo or just embellish them?


I’ve meant to ask a long time ago but kept forgetting until I saw this post resurrected. Do you play the banjo with that head on it? I had mentioned to a friend of ours who plays banjo that he should let me engrave something on it for him, but he thought it might impact the tone. Thoughts on that?


I play oldtime music and build banjos. Post was 4 years ago. Engraving was with a pre-release GF.


It didn’t affect the tone of the calf skin at all. But a calf skin banjo head has a completely different sound than a modern plastic or even a fiberskyn head. I would not recommend engraving a plastic head.
They are probably vinyl and it would melt more than engrave anyway… Skin heads are great for old-time music on an open back banjo but the bluegrass folks seem to prefer a more brassy sound.

I usually use a fiberskyn head which is middle ground between plastic and real skin. Skin heads need constant adjustments to tension as the humidity changes. Too much work for the traditional authentic sound.


I’d really like to see / hear more of your work. Never saw someone engrave a head like this before.

Engraving the head was a one of. I have used the GF to make a lot of jigs for my banjo builds.


They’re beautiful. Thanks for sharing.


Hey Nate, and welcome :slight_smile:

I moved your post to Beyond the Manual because that’s the only place we’re allowed to discuss non-PG settings.

I used 650/65/225lpi on 230gsm Pergamenata - which is a paper that is very similar in weight to vellum and it engraved all the way through. My suggestion would be probably 650/25/225lpi to start, and use the Convert to Dots/Pattern setting so it’s not trying to dig deeply.


Hello Nate!

‘Glowforge East’ begs the question - where is that?
Welcome to the club. :sunglasses:


FA Lab on Occidental

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That is sweet! Well, that answers my question. Would you mind sharing your settings?

Would if I could. That was done with a pre-release non-pro unit and a 45 watt tube, and the user settings have changed completely since that time. Wasn’t a lot of power though.


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