Splitting the work between them, three families in northern Vietnam make 100,000 drums for the Mid-Autumn Festival every year.
Every year, when the Mid-Autumn Festival approaches, demand rises for traditional wooden drums that are used for accompanying dancers and for children to play with.
The body of these drums is made with wood and the drumhead is covered with processed buffalo’s skin.
Traditionally, the drums were used to support Lion Dance groups and create a lively atmosphere on the street during the Mid-Autumn Festival. The smaller size version for this are used by children for their own amusement.
The family of Vu Huy Tu, 42, in Hao Village (Lieu Xa Commune, northern province of Hung Yen, east of Hanoi) has been making the Mid-Autumn Festival drums for children for four generations. He and his mother are in charge of the first phase, which is creating the wooden frame.
Tu’s mother chops the wooden block into a round shape by hand.
Tu then uses a lathe to smoothen the surface.
The frame of the drum supposed to be thick in the middle and thin out towards the two heads.
After the frames are made, the drums are left outside to dry and given a coat of termite resistant paint.
Nguyen Dinh May’s family is responsible for the second phase, putting on thedrumhead covers. The sound of the drums depend on the quality of the skin. The buffalo skins are usually soaked in slaked lime water for 5-7 days, then sun-dried before being stretched on both sides of the drums.
May says it’s extremely important not to get any water on the skins while putting them on the drums. “This kind of drumhead cover, if it gets wet, will break easily.”
Earlier, sharp bamboo sticks were used to attach the buffalo skin to the drum. Big staplers are used now.
Painting and fixing straps to the drums is the last phase. For this the drums are transferred to the house of Vu Huy Linh (Tu’s father).
The three families make more 100,000 drums each year. Each drum is sold for VND100,000 (about $4.31).
The finished products are bought by wholesalers from Hanoi.
“After a long time of being dominated by Chinese’s products, these drums have become popular again, because people are liking traditional toys again,” Tu said.
The Mid-Autumn Festival this year will take place on September 24.