Making A Propane Tank Hank Drum


A [Hank Drum], as explained here, is a steel drum-type instrument made out of a propane tank. The name comes from the [Hang] or [Hang Drum] which is significantly more expensive than that $40 or so an empty propane tank costs. Of course, you’ll have to do some work to get it to play beautiful music, which can be seen in a time-lapse construction video after the break.

The details of how this instrument was made can be found here, including how to lay everything out and cut out eight relatively neat “tongues” for producing different tones. I used a Dremel tool, but this can also be done using saber saw for a curved top. This method is explained here with a template, but the results may not be as neat.

If you want to try this yourself, make sure to use an empty, unused propane tank. This is extremely important. For another entirely different homemade instrument, why not check out the [Whamola] that we made a year or so ago?



39 thoughts on “Making A Propane Tank Hank Drum

      1. This may shock and astound you, but musicality is subjective. If you think things like clean notes, being in tune, and being pleasant to listen to are universal measures of good music, then I have some long-haired Scandinavians to introduce you to.

  1. Doing this to a used cylinder is dangerous, but can be done, and I will explain how in order to prevent people doing it incorrectly and killing/maiming themselves.
    Basic principle: heat+fuel+oxygen = fire/explosion.
    Obviously, start with an empty tank.
    If space and time permit, leave the empty tank with its valve open away from people for a few days or weeks to fully offgas.
    The next thing is to fill the tank with water to address the heat and oxygen factors. Immerse it in a tank of water with the valve open and rock it around, letting the bubbles come out. You’re done when it weights 9kg more than it did to begin with.
    The water will stink from the methyl, or ethyl, mercaptan, the odorant used to make the LPG smell, and which is the liquid often left behind when most of the gas is gone, and is also flammable.
    Once the tank is full of water, a hand tool such as a hacksaw can be used to start a cut in the tank. The risk of ignition is low. Once through and a portal is made, the tank can be cleaned more thoroughly and as it is no longer a confined space, is less likely to behave like a grenade.
    Do this at your own risk… screwing it up can be lethal.

    1. Screw that!

      Revised steps:

      1) With the aid of a BBQ, finish off gas contained in an old, long expired 9kgs gas tank. Lamb and pork chops work well.
      2) Plug in angle grinder
      3) Cut away!
      4) ???
      5) Profit!

      1. That’s more or less the procedure I used, but with a “fill with soapy water then empty” as step 1a and no “profit” bit at the end. I made three of these for my kids’ school and welded them to a steel pole bolted to the ground. This does the sound quality no favours (it massively damps them) but the kids love beating the crap out of them and making lots of noise. I also made a series of bells out of old oxygen cylinders.

        I made the beaters/drumsticks from round metal bar and some disks cut from a plastic chopping board. Stack 3 or 4 of the disks on the end of the bar then gently melt them together so you end up with a laminated stack with a clear skin holding them together.

        All this “only use new, never-filled cylinders” is a load of nonsense just to cater for people with no sense.

    2. Explain again (in detail) how any remaining propane in a tank with it’s VALVE REMOVED can do anything but a small ignition fart? There is ZERO chance of explosion. Geesh I love whiny advice from people who failed high school chemistry.

        1. Eh? So you can remove a metal valve from a metal tank without touching it and ensuring that both you and the tank are at exactly the same electrical potential? Please explain how you can do that, it’s a neat trick!

          1. 1. Ground tank
            2. Put one hand on tank
            3. Use other hand to remove valve

            Alternatively, just purge the tank with fucking water, what the hell is wrong with you?

  2. I cut open 4 propane tanks today…. All were full of water and had been full of water for over a week. All valves were removed prior to filling…. I have done this many times … I use them for decorative firepits that I sell in the winter.

    The first was a 120 gallon tank. No problem. Cut a little at a time and let the water leak slowly. When you get about half way you roll it over and dump all the water and finish cutting the end off.

    Second tank was a 150… It popped a couple of times because as the sun was starting to heat up it would release the propane embedded in the metal and fill the vapor space created in the tank by the water running out as I cut. If you spray the whole tank with water on the outside to cool it then everything was ok.

    Third tank was a 250 and not very old so there wasn’t much propane embedded in the metal. .. It only popped once in the beginning as many of them do.

    Fourth was a very old 500 gallon…. The temp was in the mid eighties and the sun was beating on the tank. … Every time I cut on that tank you could feel and hear explosions . Very mild but even the smallest explosions make you as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. After I had cut 18 inches on each side the explosions stopped. I figured I had it beat… I rolled it and dumped half the water out so I could get the bowls off and go home…. I let it sit for about 5 minutes before going back to cutting. … The propane that was embedded in the tank released into the vapor space that is now half of the tank. … I always run my torch past an opening just in case and man …. Water shot everywhere and all over me as well….

    Tipped the tank back up right filled it with water and headed to the store for a box of tampons….

    I am a certified propane professional and was doing all of this at the local propane company. Nobody else wants to do it but it has to be done….

    Water is the best method to do this. … Just keep in mind that as it gets hotter it becomes more dangerous… I will not cut anymore tanks until winter once the temp gets above 80 it just ain’t worth it…

  3. Hi Jeremy, do you happen to have some videos on how to play the steel tongue drum? I just bought one from Bali thru their website and they only have this;


    It’s easy to play the UFO drum – it’s tuned so that every combination of the petals sound together harmoniously (pentatonic scale). From the first touch, you will intuitively play delightful music. You should just relax, follow the rhythm flow and the music will come from you, filling a space with mystical sounds and healing vibrations. It is also a perfect instrument for meditation and sound healing.

    Do you happen to have some tutorials or articles or videos you have in an easy or layman way?Thanks!

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