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A Pink Brocade Snare Drum ... who doesn't want one?

Although I don't do it often, I have the ability and rather enjoy making drums. Pink isn't in my top ten of colors, but once I saw the brocade drum my friend Bill made ... I wanted to make one. I'd never wrapped a drum in fabric, but what's the worst that could happen?

Step 1: Preparing the Plywood Shell

The foundation of any drum is the shell. In this case, I'm using a plywood shell purchased from Keller Shells. You can buy from several online entities, but they get their stock from Keller and then add a markup. I prefer to buy directly from the source. This specific shell is a 9-Ply Magnum (insert jokes here), which is made using fewer, but thicker plies ... therefore resulting in less glue joints. That is an acoustical debate for another time.

You can buy the shells cut to your desired depth, or you can buy full tubes ... 18" or 24" deep depending on the diameter and shell thickness. I buy full tubes and cut them myself using a shop made fixture for table saw. A lot of people cut shells successfully just riding the fence, but I personally find it to be a recipe for kickback and injure ... so I made a fixture.

Once I have the fence and fixture set to my desired width, my right hand holds the shell in place and tight against the fence, while my left hand powers on the saw. The blade is then slowly raised into the shell until it is about 1/8" above the inside edge and the shell is rotated into the blade until the entire circumference has been cut. At that point, I power off the saw, but keep rotating the shell until the blade comes to a stop. It's not necessary, but I've found that this prevents any burning or minute ridges from being left on the edge of the shell. When cutting shells, I use an 80 or 90 tooth Diablo Blade.

After cutting the shell, I true it up on a flat surface with sandpaper ... this will remove any burning, high spots, etc. For a surface, some people use a glass tabletop or a granite slab .. I'm using the top of my work/assembly table. For sandpaper, some people use large sanding discs (26" diameter and larger), or buy rolls of sandpaper and attach it to the surface with spray adhesive. I tried using regular 8 1/2" x 11" sheets with spray adhesive, but the edges peeled up and it was ineffective. My current method is clamping a broken drum sander feed belt to the table ... it works amazingly well.


About the shell cutting fixture
The design is roughly based on of an old drum factory tour video I saw (either Ludwig or Gretsch). I've seen people make simple versions with conveyor rollers and even fixed, rubber casters from a hardware store, but they didn't fit my need/desire.

1. I wanted a fixture which slipped over the existing table saw fence. No need to clamp it down and it would automatically be square with the blade.
2. I wanted enough capacity for a full 24" tube so that all of the stock is supported before and after the cut.
3. I wanted adjustability for the rollers to accommodate all shell diameters.

The main construction is plywood, some hardboard, and 1/2" PVC sheet stock for a smooth fence. The rollers are a variation of a Norm Abrams design he used for out feed rollers. It's a custom roller made from PVC pipe, threaded rod, washers, nuts, and some bearings. I like it because you could make it any size you want and not pay a fortune for large scale conveyor rollers.

Step 2: Laying Out for Hardware

The order of operations is going to vary depending on the desired finish.

Scenarios when I finish first ... then layout and drill for hardware after because the holes would case drips/running/pooling and make we standing difficult.
1. Custom paint, stain, dye ... top coated with oil, poly blends, lacquer
2. Veneers or drum wraps that get adhered to the drum with adhesives


Scenarios when I layout and drill first ... then apply the finish
1. Thinner wraps that "float" on the shell and are only taped at the seam
2. Fabric wrap - drill bit and fabric don't mix ... neither does a router bit with fabric
3. Crazy ideas which might not work and I'm prototyping


In this case ... layout and drilling comes first. You could do the layout with math and a seamstress tape, but I'm using a commercially available layout mat. It has marks for drum diameters up to 28" and gives all the lines the placement of lugs (6, 8, 10, and 12 lug configurations), throw off/butt plate, kick drum spurs, and snare beds.

I could've marked directly on the drum since it was being covered, but I ran tape anyway ... I think it helps reduce chip out during drilling and routing, which could be totally untrue, but it makes me feel better.

1. Center the drum on the mat - the concentric rings help with this.
2. On the bottom edge, mark the locations of the lugs (8 in this case), throw off and butt plate.
3. Use a combination square to extend those vertical lines across the shell.
4. Use a combination square to mark the actual hole locations on these lines.

The lugs I'm using are single post, so the hole goes in the middle of the vertical line. The throw off looked best centered and comes with a rubber gasket, so I used that to make the marks. The butt plate looked best 1/3" of the distance up from the bottom and also had a gasket, which I used to make the marks.

Step 3: Drilling for Hardware

All of the necessary holes could be made with a handheld drill, but I do most of the work using the drill press. I mark/start all the hole locations with an awl, which helps guide the bit exactly where I want it. My bit of choice is a step/unibit. I tired brad point bits, but I found that they sometimes wandered. The unibit doesn't wander at all.

The lugs for this drum don't have posts and the bolts are #8-32. I drill the first one to the required size, set the depth stop at that point, then drill the rest of the holes. Throw off and butt plate hole size will vary depending on the manufacturer.

One exception to the drill press rule is the butt plate. I start the holes on the drill press, but I finish them with a handheld drill. If you make these holes on the drill press, the screws will not properly thread into the butt plate, because they will be angled inward.

In regard to the drill press set up ... I've seen people rotate the table out of the way and construct what looks like gallows, which the shell slips onto and is support. I liked the idea, but the design seemed clunky. My design fits onto the existing table mount ... just remove the table and put it in place. It's constructed from plywood and is basically a channel or cradle for a length of 2x4. Since it's an open channel, the 2x4 length can be whatever you need to support the shell depth in question. The best part is that once the 2x4 is full of holes, you just replace it with a new one.

Step 4: Bearing Edges

Bearing edges are cut using my big ass router table. I clamp a straight edge down to the table so that I have two points of contact on the drum shell. I find this gives me more control and the cut is more consistent compared to just running the shell around the bit freehand.

For this drum, I used an offset 45-degree bearing edge. It's also referred to as Standard 45-degree or just 45-degree. Some basic information on bearing edges can be found here. My bit of choice for this edge is a Diablo 45-degree chamfer bit.

On this 9 ply shell, I cut through 2 plies for the outside edge, and 7 plies for the inside edge. You can start with either edge, but I prefer to establish the outside edge and then make the inside counter cut. I'm cautious, so I take several smaller cuts .. raising the bit between each pass until I get my desired edge.

Step 5: Snare Beds

Snare beds are made on opposite sides of the bottom edge ... in line with the throw off and butt plate. Some basic information on snare beds can be found here.

There is a commercially available sled for cutting snare beds on a router table and a shop made version is on my to do list, but for now I shape them by hand.

I used a piece of tape on the shell to mark the width of the snare beds ... so I know my boundary side to side. I sanded down about 1/8" inch in the middle of the bed with a gradual incline/arc on each side. The bulk of the material was removed with the orbital sander, but final shaping and smoothing was done by hand with 150 grit paper.

Step 6: Brocade Wrap

I'd never wrapped a drum before ... let alone with fabric. Some things worked and of course ... some things didn't.

Taping the Shell
First off, I asked my pal bill about using spray adhesive for holding the brocade to the shell. He informed me that it works, but it stains the fabric and makes a sticky, over sprayed mess. Dodged that bullet! His recommendation was Killer Red Tape, which I can tell you .. isn't cheap. A roll of 1" tape with shipping was around $25. I ran the tape around the drum in individual, consecutive roles .. leaving the plastic film in place. Using a combination square and razor knife, I made a vertical cut through all of the tape at the overlap location and then removed the excess bits ... so it's just one layer of tape throughout.

Cutting the Fabric
The fabric was cut to a width around 6 1/4" because I/you/we don't want it on the bearing edges. Cutting the first piece revealed two issues.
1. Cutting a perfectly straight line in the fabric was difficult for a newb ... especially since I couldn't make any marks on the fabric with a pen, because it would bleed through. Maybe I should've tried chalk? I'm not sure.
2. The edges frayed like it was their job. I tried using fray check, but it wasn't much help and discolored the fabric.
My solution was to use frog tape. It kept the edges from fraying into infinity, as well as gave me a place to draw clear cut line. It's wasn't a perfect solution, but it worked.

Applying the Fabric
The seam is placed under the throw off because that's the largest piece of hardware and is the best hiding place. I started by peeling back the plastic on the tape about 1/2", so I could carefully align the fabric parallel with the shell. Once I was satisfied, I pressed the fabric into the tape at this starting edge and was pretty much committed. At this point, my technique was to hold the fabric in line with the shell, using light pressure, with my left hand .. too much pressure and you'll be distorting the pattern, which depending on the print, could be very noticeable. I would then remove the plastic from the tape a few inches at a time. The plastic ends hung off to one side and I'd just slowly pull them ... like removing painters tape from a wall [Pictures 7&8].

Dressing the Seam
Obviously, I wanted the seam to be perfect and I figured if I tried the cut the fabric to length by riding the scissors along the starting edge, I'd either end up too short or I'd stray from a straight line. My idea was to hold a length of tape ... sticky side up .. even with the starting edge, and then lie the ending edge down onto it [Picture 9&10]. Then I could lift up the fabric and cut along this tape edge for a perfect seam. Let me tell you ... it was bang on perfect. I ended up covering this seam with black ribbon in the end, but I know it's perfect underneath [Pictures 11&12].

Cauterize the Fabric Edge
Thanks to taping the edges, random fabric strands were minimal. Instead of pulling them off (bad idea) or trimming with scissors, I just ran around the edges with a flame to burn them off. This was very effective.

Step 7: Punch Holes and Branding

I needed to make holes in the fabric for the hardware mounting bolts and wasn't sure of the best method. A drill bit would catch and destroy the fabric. I considered cutting the holes out or even making slits with an exact-o knife, but I was concerned that this would result in larger tears in the future. I decided to gently punch holes with a sharp awl, which was very effective.

At this time I also added my brand to the inside of the shell. A lot of custom builders use badges, but I don't use them because I want as much of the finish showing as possible. I used a toner transfer method, which I learned from John Heisz. Just print the desired text/image in reverse using a laser printer (ink jet won't work), tape it in place, and make a few passes with acetone on a rag .. a paper towel also works.

Step 8: Finishing

Some people leave them raw, but I like to finish the inside of my drums and bearing edges with 50/50 boiled linseed oil/mineral spirits. My thought process is that it helps seal the drum against humidity, but that could be totally false.

In an attempt to have some protection on the fabric, I applied a few coats of Scotchgard.

Step 9: Assembly

Assembly is pretty straight forward.

1. Lugs are attached using bolts and washers, which go through their respective holes from the inside of the shell.
2. Throw off and butt plate are attached using provided bolts and washers.
3. Drum heads are hoops are next. The hoop with the snare gates goes on the bottom ... and the gates are inline withe the snare beds.
4. Hoops are held in place with tension rods, which are just specialty bolts for drums. I add a dab of lithium grease in the lugs to keep the threading lubricated. I start the tension rods by hand, take up most of the slack with a drill, and then tension/tune by hand.
5. Snares are added last. They are connected to the throw off and butt plate via snare straps, which pass through the gates on the bottom hoop.

Step 10: Glamour Shots

It's pink ... it's sexy ... and it sounds pretty damn good.

Parts:
Shell: 6 1/2" x 13" Keller maple 9-ply Magnum
Lugs: Champagne aluminum lugs
Hoops: Drum Factory Direct
Throw Off & But Plate: DW 3- position Magswitch
Snares: Puresound brass 20 strand wires
Vent: Drum Factory Direct
Tension Rods: Drum Factory Direct
Top Drum Head: Evan Coated Reverse Power Center
Bottom Drum Head: Evans Glass 500
Fabric: Pink Brocade
Adhesive: Killer Red Tape

Step 11: The Build Video

Step 12: How Does It Sound?


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Bio: Desktop Support Technician by day. Rock Drummer by night. DIY Home Improvement Enthusiast. Maker of whatever I can imagine in between it all. Professional level ... More »
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