Introduction: 2x4 Snare Drum

About: I build drums, make costumes, work on house projects/repairs, dabble in Genealogy, eat tacos, and sometimes work in IT.

Sometimes (all the time) ... I have unpractical ideas. Usually, they just bounce around and live in my head along side the questionably "good" ideas ... possibly make it into my sketch book, but never exist in the physical world. That is ... until a woodworking contest comes along, which justifies the time and effort. Another helpful factor is having a friend who in response to your questionable proposal says, "That is a great idea ... we should totally do that."

The rules were simple:

1. Project has to be made from a single 8 foot 2x4

2. Standard fasteners can be used

When it comes to practicality, pine is not a good wood choice for drums overall. It will work alright for the shell, but pine hoops dent on impact and pine lugs won't hold up under high tension. That being said ... we made all the parts out of pine. After all, rules are rules.

Note: All finished part dimensions are listed at the end.

Step 1: Fabricating the Stave Segments

Since the project had to come from a single 8 foot 2x4, material conservation was important. The shell was going to be 5" deep and comprised of 18 staves. Taking material lost to 8 blade kerfs into account, we first cut off a length a bit over 46 1/2".

This section was ripped to a width of 2" and then re-sawed in half using the table saw, leaving us with 3/4" thick stock (roughly). Individual staves were cut to 5 1/4" lengths using the miter saw.

The last step was to cut a 10 degree bevel on both sides of each stave. Stave calculators make quick work of finding this angle. 18 Staves = 36 faces. 360 divided by 36 = 10.

Step 2: Gluing Up the Shell

With the help of some packing tape, the staves are aligned in a row ... this is a common technique for gluing up picture frames ... granted usually painters tape is used. It would be a good idea to clamp a level or some kind of straight edge to the table and use that as a fence to ensure all the staves are on the same plane.

Glue is applied and spread between each stave using an acid brush, the track is rolled up, a few band clamps applied, and excess glue squeeze out cleaned up with a wet rag.

Step 3: Sanding and Truing Up the Shell

The preferred methods for rounding stave shells are either turning on a lathe or using a shop made router mill. We didn't have enough faith in the pine to put this drum on the lathe and I haven't built a router mill ... yet.

We decided to play it safe and use the disc sander. Using a 12" diameter hardboard template, an outline was drawn onto the edge of the shell. Then it was just a matter of sanding to the line. It isn't 100% round, but it's close enough for what is basically a prototype/contest piece.

We built the drum a bit deeper than the desired 5" so that we could true up the edges after assembly .. just in case anything shifted during glue up or the lengths cut at the miter saw vary. We used a shop made shell cutting fixture and the table saw to cut a clean edge and sneak up on the 5" depth. The edges are then sanded smooth on a sanding table, which in this case is a reclaimed glass table top with very large sanding disc adhered.

Step 4: Fabricating the Hoop Segments

The initial plan for the drum hoops was to fabricate them using 20 stave segments. However, We were totally failing at math for no valid reason and the end grain glue joints weren't strong enough to hold any tension ... so ... we ended up going with 6 segments for each hoop.

The remaining half of the 2x4 was ripped in half and then cut 7" lengths with 30 degree bevels at each end.

Since we were again dealing with end grain joints, we decided to try using splined miters for additional strength. Grooves were cut into each end and splines were cut using off cuts.

Step 5: Gluing and Shaping the Hoops

Glue up was pretty straightforward ... just a little messy. The splines made alignment pretty automatic and very few clamps were needed.

Once the glue cured, the excess spline material was removed using the band saw for the exterior and scroll saw for the interior.

In order to turn this hexagon into a circle, we used a hardboard template attached with carpet tape and a pattern bit at the router table. It made a huge mess, but it got the job done. They key was to take your time and small passes.

In case it's of interest, the hardboard template was made by tracing an actual wooden hoop, made by Yamaha, with a trim router.

Step 6: Drilling the Hoops

The hardboard template also has holes drilled for making tension rod locations .. also transferred over from the original wooden hoop.

Using a 1/2" Forstner bit, we drilled halfway through the rim at each location. This will allow for the head of the tension rod to be recessed below the surface. The remaining depth is drilled with a 1/4" Forstner bit.

The last step for the hoops is to cut an inside rabbet on the bottom (the side with the 1/4" holes). This creates a space for the metal drum head ring to be concealed. It is cut using a rabbeting bit at the router table.

Step 7: Fabricating the Lugs

We decided on six lugs .. partly due to time, but also due to available material, as well as level of complexity. The lugs were cut from the off cut of our initial rip when making the shell staves.

Each lug is secured to the shell with a centered 1/4-20 bolt. Center was found on the front face of the lug by drawing the diagonals and using the intersection . A Forstner bit was used to drill a hole wide and deep enough to countersink the bolt head. The hole was then drilled the rest of the way through with a 1/4" bit.

Hole positions for the tension rods were a bit more "Johnny on the spot." We contoured the back of one lug to match the shell circumference. Once that was done, we could do a quick mock up with the top head, a hoop, and a tension rod to find our location. We basically used the work piece to determine out marks .. like you would when making dovetails I guess. We set the distance from the front of the lug to our mark and then transferred it to all of the lugs.

The easiest and best solution for tension rod nuts would be swivel nuts, but that is drum hardware ... not really standard hardware. To meet the rules of the contest, we tried gluing the nuts into cavities within the lugs. They worked in theory, but didn't hold up to any pressure. After the contest, we decided to try a method found in cheap breakdown furniture ... I've seen them labeled as barrel nuts. Sections of dowel with the nut embedded and a slot for aligning them with a screw driver. This was also highly frustrating. I recommend using swivel nuts ... as I will do if I ever revisit this design.

Step 8: Fabricating the Strainer, and Butt Plate

The stainer and butt plate were also designed on the spot ... and yes I giggle every time I say "butt plate."

The top section of the strainer is fixed and it had to be deep enough (extend far enough from the shell) for the thumbscrew to clear the wooden hoop and therefore be accessible.

The bottom section was designed using the dimension of the top section. The back jaw have two countersunk nuts epoxied into its back face. The front jaw has two countersunk holes for bolt heads, which reduce to smaller holes for just the shaft of the bolts. This creates a clamp for the gut snares.

Vertically, a nut is epoxied on the bottom side of the front jaw .. in line with the thumbscrew. As you tighten the thumbscrew, it raises the bottom section, which in turn applies tension to the snares.

The butt plate uses the same countersunk nuts and bolt design as the strainer.

If I take this drum apart, I'll get more detailed pictures.

Step 9: Lug Layout

To layout hardware locations on a drum shell, drum builders will commonly use a layout mat. It has several concentric circles, which are different drum diameters; as well as radial lines for different lug quantities (6, 8, 10, 12), legs, spurs, etc. The shell is centered on the mat and the desired lines are transferred to the shell. In our case , we transferred lines for 6 lugs, a strainer (centered between two lugs), and a butt plate (centered between two lugs + directly opposite of the strainer location).

These lines were extended up the shell, perpendicular to the edge, using a combination square. The half way point of each lug line was marked with a combination square and then drilled with a 1/4" bit.

Step 10: Sanding

Usually Bill, nor I are a fan of sanding, but after fabricating the lugs, strainer, and butt plate, we were ready for something more "auto pilot."

The contour was sanded into the back of the lugs using a few of the larger drums from the OSS and hardboard to shim them up to keep the drum centered. All sharp corners and edges on the lugs, strainer, and butt plate, were broken with 100 grit and overall they were sanded up to 220 grit.

The shell was sanded up to 220 grit using the random orbital sander.

Step 11: Finishing

For finish, we used two coats of 50/50 boiled linseed oil/mineral spirits ... followed by a coat of paste wax.

Step 12: Assembly

Assembly was another relatively relaxing step ... it's also relatively beer safe, but that's at your own risk ... Butter Fingers. Honestly ... it all come down to an order of operations.

First, the six lugs were attached with a bolt from the outside ... wash, lock washer, and a nut on the inside. We did use some thread lock.

Second, the butt plate fixed jaw was secured to the shell with two screws from the inside. We centered this on the shell purely based on visual pleasure.

Third, the strainer fixed top was secured to the shell with two screws from the inside. This was placed towards the top of the shell ... again purely based on what looked proportional.

Forth, top head ... top hoop ... struggle and cuss to get the tension rods fed into the lug nuts.

Fifth, repeat step 4 with the bottom head and hoop, but exponentially add aggravation in regard to tension rods and lug nuts.

Sixth, fiddle with the snares for far way too longs. Trying to get them to lie flat, feeding through the snare passes, tightening in the butt plate, trying to secure them in the strainer with even tension. It was figuratively like trying to herd cats ... it was horrible.

Seventh, tune the drum by slowly adding tension to the top and bottom heads.

Lastly, grab another beer(s) to forget about all the pain ... sit back and admire your work.

Step 13: Glamour Shots

Drum Parts
Staves (18 Total): 2" Wide x 5" Tall/Deep x 3/4" Thick
Hoops: 3/4" Wide x 1 1/2" Tall/Deep. 13 5/8" Outer Diameter. 12 1/8" Inner Diameter
Finished Shell: 5" x 12"
Strainer Fixed Top: 3" Wide x 1 5/8" Deep x 3/4" Tall
Strainer Tensioner Back Jaw: 3" Wide x 3/8" Deep x 3/4" Tall
Strainer Tensioner Front Jaw:3" Wide x 1" Deep x 3/4" Tall
Butt Plate Fixed Jaw: 3" Wide x 5/8" Deep x 3/4" Tall
Butt Plate Adjustable Jaw: 3" Wide x 3/8" Deep x 3/4" Tall


1/4-20 x 2" Bolts
1/4-20 Thumbscrew
1/4-20 Nuts, Washers, Lock Washers
12-24 Tension Rods + Nuts
Synthetic Gut Snares

Step 14: Build Video

Note: Skip to 1:08 for the start of the build footage.

Another Note: No Cat ... nor Human ... was harmed in the making of this drum ... nor video.

Special thanks to William Whitney for entertaining this crazy idea and easily spending over 50 hours together to make it happen. Part of it really sucked, but overall ... it was great.

Step 15: How Does It Sound?

Epilog Contest VII

First Prize in the
Epilog Contest VII