Introduction: Drum Shell Ottoman

About: After a number of years in Austin, I relocated to New England and have spiraled into a black hole of obsession with woodworking. I love woodworking - I hate sanding. IG: @resourced_woodworking

A couple of years ago, I bought a weathered 1970's Slingerland snare drum shell for cheap on eBay with the intention of refurbishing it. However, like too many projects it sat untouched for a good deal of time and fell by the wayside, collecting dust. I got out of music instrument repair and restoration and took up woodworking, which quickly drained all of my free time. After coming across the drum shell while cleaning out a closet, I decided that instead of junking it perhaps I could find a way to incorporate two of my passions into an interesting project that I hadn't seen anyone do before. Thus, the drum shell ottoman was born.

I knew going in to this project that I wanted to ensure two things: Firstly, I wanted this to be a practical, comfortable, and sharp-looking piece of furniture. Secondly, I wanted the build to be non-invasive to the drum shell, and allow me to quickly turn this into a functional snare drum with minimal effort. I believe I was able to accomplish both of these goals, so let's dive deeper.

What you'll need:


Lugs and Tension Rods

Lumber to match your drum shell diameter (I used laminated pine that I could cut to size)

Bandsaw - OR - router w/ circle cutting jig

Sander (I used a combination of a random orbit sander, a belt/disc sander and a manual palm sander)

Power drill and bits

Forstner Bit

Air Compressor & Brad Nailer (adhesive or a staple gun could be substituted)

Sponge/rags/brush for staining / finishing

Woodglue and dowels (or alternate joinery method)

Step 1: Build the "Rims"

For the top and bottom of the ottoman base (aka the drum rims), I opted to use laminated pine panel boardthat I bought from my local big box hardware store (a 18" x 4' sheet cost me about $19). I would much rather use premium domestic hardwood boards, mill them to size and join them together myself, but considering that most of the wood will be enclosed or covered by the drum shell or cushion, it's much cheaper to use a pre-laminated board. (NOTE: If you opt to use a laminated board from a hardware store, make sure that it is straight and true, and has no bowing or curvature to it. This may require some digging in the racks...) There are multiple ways to cut a (nearly) perfect circle for this project, but I will detail two ways that you can accomplish this: a bandsaw or a router with a Jasper Circle Cutting Jig.

For my purposes, having a circle cutting jig comes in handy regardless of which method I use to cut the wood. The concept here is that you have a jig that is pre-measured to easily mark a circle of nearly any diameter. In my case, I want to make 16" diameter circles of wood for the top and bottom of my ottoman. For this jig I drilled a 1/8" hole to fit the dowel pin and then used the center hole to draw off a circle with a pencil.

For cutting the rims, I'll start with the bandsaw method. NOTE: you'll notice that for whatever reason I neglected to lower my bandsaw guide to the appropriate depth when cutting this piece. Always look to keep your bandsaw guide and bearings as close to the height of the workpiece as possible, which prevents blade wander maintains a safer and truer cut. That being said, I simply used my bandsaw blade to cut as precisely as possible along the line that I drew on my jig. Going slowly, I was able to produce a fairly consistent curve along the line. I was using aTimber Wolf 1/2" 4TPI blade, and you could certainly have more precise curving cuts using a thinner blade with more TPI. Overall, I found this method to be a little more time- and precision-intensive relative to the next method, though it certainly did the trick. With a steady hand you could also accomplish this decently with a scroll or jig saw, assuming that you're able to produce a well-drawn circle.

For those who have a router, it is a much quicker and simpler operation with a circle cutting jig at your disposal. Similar to how we drew out the circle shape in the last step, drill a 1/8" hole at the center point of your piece and insert the pin through the jig at the desired diameter. In a perfect scenario, you have a plunge router and can drill a hole out of any piece, but I made this cut with a fixed router to better illustrate for those who don't have access to a plunge base. (NOTE: check out my instructable for building a DIY plunge base for your fixed base router) Ensure that your center pin is inserted such that your straight router bit is almost flush against the outside edge of your board. I used a 1/4" straight bit that sat just millimeters away from the piece before starting the motor, avoiding any kind of kick back that you'd receive otherwise. As usual, there are ways of getting around a lack of a plunge base.

With a circle cutting jig this is a very easy cut. I used a piece of scrap 1/4" plywood between my board and workbench to allow the cutting bit to fully penetrate the piece. Make sure that your work stock is well secured (in this case, I'm using small brad nails to secure the pieces in place on my workbench, but double-sided tape can also work in a pinch). If you're using a router in the downward-cutting position (aka not on a router table), you want to be cutting clockwise to allow the blade to move naturally in a feeding direction. If set up properly, using a router takes very little time and produces a much more precise cutting line than using a bandsaw.

Step 2: Sanding (Pt. 1) and Drilling

Both of these cutting options worked well, and now it's time to sand them and prepare the boards for drilling. I used my WEN 6502 belt/disc sander to quickly clean up the edges of the rims and make sure that they were in round relative to one another. Unfortunately, the drum shell that I am using is slightly out of round, meaning that it's not a perfect circle itself. I tried to bend in back in to shape slightly, but could not make it perfectly round. This consideration will impact the build in many ways from this step forward, and is something I'll consider when buying drum shells for future iterations of this build.

With the rims cut, it's time to designate which board is the top and bottom, in order to ensure proper tension rod hole placement for the final assembly. I lined up the two boards as well as I could relative to the drum shell, and marked the location of the tension rod holes relative to each lug. I marked each shell as T (top) and B (bottom) as well as drawing an 'X' along the edge to match it up with the badge on the shell. It's worth mentioning that any drum shell may have different shell and lug heights, so the tension rods that you'll need will differ depending on all of these factors (including the depth of your wooden rims).

After marking the location of the holes, I used a 1/2" forstner bit to counter sink the initial hole before drilling the rod holes with a 1/4" bit. These counter sunk holes will allow the head of the tension rod to sit properly in place along the wooden rim. To clean up the cut of the forstner holes, I used a 1/2" chisel to scrape away any wooden bur.

Step 3: Sanding (Pt. 2) and Staining/Finishing

With the rims cut and drilled, it's time to prep them for staining and finishing. I wanted the rims to have a slightly curved edge, and normally I would use my DeWalt Compact Router with a roundover bit to accomplish this. However, because I measured the rim diameter a little on the small side and the drum shell is slightly out of round, some of my tension rod holes are fairly close to the edge of the rim. Using a router bit to round up the edges might cause me to cut into a couple of the more narrowly placed rod holes. So, I used my DeWalt random orbital sander to sand down the edges of the rim to a 45° angle with 80 grit sand paper. I then cleaned up and rounded over these lines with 220 grit paper on a manual palm sander, following this up with a sanding down of both rims in their entirety.

After wiping away the dust I applied my stain, which was a Minwax Jacobean oil-based stain. I applied two coats and then rubbed down the surface with a Scotch Brite hand pad (similar to the response of 00 grade steel wool, but without the shaving discharge). These are very handy to have in the shop during finishing. Finally, I used Minxwax Polycrylic Semi-Gloss in a spray can as my clear coat. Again, I applied two coats of this with some light sanding with 220 in between coats. Follow the instructions on the can but definitely err on the side of patience when applying multiple coats and let it sit for enough time to properly cure. (NOTE: as you'll see in the following pictures, I didn't go through the trouble of staining the part of the the rims that would be covered by the drum shell.)

Step 4: Ottoman Feet

The last step in the woodworking process is to manufacture the ottoman feet. The height of the drum shell and rims was slightly over 6", and since I wanted the ottoman to sit at a height around one foot, I elected to have both the feet and cushion about 3" tall respectively (NOTE: when my ottoman was completed I regretted not using a shorter ottoman cushion, as I think it ended up looking a little out of proportion. I would probably use a 1.5" tall cushion in future iterations of this build.)

To contrast the color of the dark wooden rims, I elected to use some quarter-sawn white oak stock that I had sitting around the shop. I drew out the approximate shape of my ottoman feet on the stock and carved out a rough shape with my bandsaw. Once again I'm too lazy to swap out my 3/4" 4 TPI bandsaw blade for something smaller with more TPI (for reference, the more teeth per inch on a bandsaw blade the finer cut you can make, but you sacrifice cutting speed), but I can make up for the rough nature of the cut with more sanding on the back end.

I wanted a more angular look to the feet, so after cutting out the four sides of the feet at a square edge, I did some hand carving on the bandsaw at about 45° angles to segment the front face of the feet.

Once again using my WEN belt/disc sander, I cleaned up the blade waver from the bandsaw cuts on the curved faces of the the feet and also made sure to properly flatten the top/bottom/sides of the feet. Since this is a handmade piece I am not overly concerned that each of the feet perfectly match one another, as long as their facade are similar and the height of the feet is exactly uniform. (I've heard master woodworkers say that handmade pieces should intentionally be made no more than 95% precise, to indicate that they are a handmade piece and not something simply manufactured by a machine). After sanding down to form on the belt sander, I used 220 grit paper on my palm sander to clean up some of the lines and make sure that my edges are straight and clean.

To attach the legs, I decided to use a combination of dowels and wood glue. Since both the legs and bottom rim have irregular shapes, using a typical doweling jig wont work - I'll have to make my own. Using a scrap wood piece, I drilled two holes 1" apart. The exact placement or distance between holes is inconsequential - since all of the dowel holes will be drilled via this piece, all of the components will match up perfectly. After figuring out the necessary depth of my holes, I used some painter's tape to mark off that depth on a 1/4" drill bit. This will allow me to repeatedly drill holes to the correct depth and not risk drilling through the other side of my rims. After using double sided tape to hold the jig onto the feet and rims and drilling the dowel holes, a liberal amount of glue and a couple of dowel pins for each leg were applied, and I clamped down each leg while they dried.

Step 5: Final Assembly

Time to finish this up. I needed a cushion custom made for this ottoman, and found a website ( that could make me a 13" wide, 3" tall round cushion (as mentioned earlier, next time I would go with a 1.5" tall cushion, as I feel the larger one makes it look slightly disproportional). Attaching the rims was as easy as threading the tension rods into the lugs on the shell. The attention to detail during drilling made this a breeze.

I went back and forth on how to attach the cushion to the top rim. This could be done with upholstery glue or another adhesive, or with a nail or staple gun. To reduce the mess of adhesive as well as ensure that the cushion is held firmly in place, I went with my air compressor and nail gun. Using 1" brad nails, I tacked 5 nails through the bottom edge of the cushion, being careful to angle these in a way that would ensure they don't hit the drum shell. These have a low enough profile that they aren't very noticeable, and will tightly secure the cushion while also being easily removed if necessary.

Parting Thoughts:

This was a fun build that incorporated a lot of different concepts (cutting large diameter circles with a jig, hand sculpting/shaping legs with a bandsaw, utilizing a couple different types of joinery). It's the perfect size for an ottoman and is quite sturdy (I tried sitting on it and it held nicely). Aside from a unique way to display the classic profile of a Slingerland snare drum shell, one of the best parts is that I could disassemble this and turn it into a functional snare drum in the span of about five minutes. I will definitely look to tweak and remake this piece in the future. If you have any questions/comments/criticism, let me know below! And if you want to follow more of my projects and builds, follow me on Instagram at @resourced_woodworking

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