A semi-analytical finite element method is used to determine the free vibration characteristics of thin orthotropic cantilever circular cylindrical shells. Love's first approximation shell theory is used for the formulation. The effect of the variation of thickness along the axial direction on natural frequencies, especially on the lowest frequency, has been studied with a constraint on the total mass of the shell for a particular length to middle surface radius ratio. Studies have been conducted for different degrees of orthotropy and various values of length to radius ratio. © 1992.