Tongue Drum Inspired Table Lamp


Google Photos link to finished project.

My 7 year old daughter asked me to make something that she could sell at a craft swap. I had build a tongue drum yesterday and thought I might try re-using the geometry for panels on a lamp.

I’d say it is unique… might be something you’d want to try. For the most part it snaps together with no glue. You end up with 3 assemblies (top, middle, bottom). You’d probably want to glue those together once you have all three complete.

This design press fits this remote controlled light into its base.

The spacing for the middle panel tabs is 3.9mm because that is the plywood I had on hand. The top and bottom are designed for 3mm. I could imagine a world were semi transparent acrylic would be fun with this design so I rendered a green look for this post.

Final dimensions are about 16" tall and 7.5" square.

If you have any questions let me know! I think it only goes together one way so I’m not going to include instructions unless people ask.

Have fun!


How’s it sound?


Pretty terrible. But for never having made one before, not knowing how to tune it, and not having anything better than sticks with rubber bands around them… I’m satisfied for a first try.

I’m happy with how the glowforge functioned in cutting the top at least, everything else can be worked through with time.


Very nice. Thank you!


Kind of you to share! Really nice you could honor your daughter’s request!


Awesome project. The new owner seemed pleased.
I have seen people playing with these in various places, so have to ask. Any idea why the sound came out so bland?
Some were not even as creative looking, but still sounded… better? more vibrant?
Not dissing it, just wondering if you now know what the trick is.


Strain. I discovered when I made this…

That it is really quite loud if you hit it. Of course, I had to use clamps to keep it from springing apart while the glue dried, so the strain was there when the clamps were removed.

After thinking on it for quite a while I realized that hitting a loose string makes no sound but a tight string sings. Likewise, instruments like a violin have the wood of the sounding area under strain as well


I agree with Dan.

There are a few things at play here but the tension or strain of the wood is one of them.

  1. A finger joined sound box of 1/8 in plywood is not ideal. Plywood is by design not allowed to move because each of the glued up panels is held in tension against the other canceling out movement. Not the right kind of tension for musical instrument
  2. Finger joints on this plywood are also not perfectly tight which negatively effects sound making it more tinny?.. I think, again first time no experience so anyone else is welcome to chime in.
  3. The way each finger is struck and with what greatly matters. Rubber xylophone mallets produce a much better sound.
  4. None of these fingers are tuned to a specific key. I had a theory I could try engraving off material on the underside to provide a tune. That may be possible to some degree, but to get legitimate sound I suspect each finger needs to be tuned through a one-off process.
  5. I think the shape of each tongue matters a little but for someone who knows what they’re doing I suspect they can make a beautiful sound come out of anything. The secret sauce happens on the back side of the board not the front.

I take no offense at all. I’m just learning as I go and a win for this test was to cut out the top with laser. I can imagine a top that is easy to make and very pretty.


I hope you keep working on the design and find a way to tune the tongues. My meager musical abilities would thoroughly enjoy it.

When I first started reading, I tried to imagine how you would play a drum with your tongue. I can take things very literally.


What I have seen is the finger is cut a hair big and then made shorter and thinner and testing constantly till the correct note is reached. The length mostly and air resistance will set the note much more than making it thinner. In a violin the back is thinned to increase movement and thus be louder but it is the strain (tension) on the string that tunes the note.

The box in the photo is 1/4" oak plywood, and there are a lot of Baltic Birch Plywood Drums (cajons) that work very well though I suspect cheaper plywood would not work that well.


Super cool!


I saw it and thought “tongue drum” was slang for tonsils…or whatever that hanging ball in the back of the throat is called. I was like, cool, never seen tonsil art before. My musical background…I have the radio playing in the car for background music when I drive to cover up the road noise and any annoying rattling that may be coming from my vehicle.




I learn something new every day!

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