Introduction: QUIK-TUBE Snare Drum

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

Generally, I have internal conversations with myself ... more like disagreements really. During one of these "meetings of the mind," I asked myself, "Self, Can I/We make a drum out of a Sonotube?" My response was, "I don't know ... probably? ... that's a dumb idea ... only one way to find out."

Pro Tip: Take a drum head to the store when shopping for your cardboard drum shell. Moreover, anytime you are shopping for a part dependent on size/fit, take the mating part (or old part) with you. This goes for drum heads, furnace filters, random light bulbs, random batteries, anything involving a screw/bolt/washer/nut, etc.

That being said ... when you take a drum head to a home center, you automatically become a street performer. It doesn't matter if you don't want the attention - you're getting the attention. It's like being in the grocery store and watching the milkmaid manhandle every single gallon ... looking for the date which stretches furthest into the future. Milk so fresh she won't have to start using it for three weeks. If she wants milk that fresh, why doesn't she just get a cow?! Sorry ... I swerved off topic for a second there.

Concrete form tubes are not beholden to a diametrical standard. Go to your local home center and you'll find two, sometimes three tubes nested within each other like Matryoshka dolls, yet they are all labeled as the same diameter. Maybe this is due to a lapse in quality control ... maybe Chuck, the guy responsible for this stage of fabrication, was nodding off - dammit Chuck!! ... or maybe your back deck/out building just doesn't care if all of its footings are identical. We swerved again.

My point is ... test the fit of your drum head on several cardboard tubes. Channel your inner Goldilox - not too tight ... not too loose ... just right. Roundness is also a key factor. You'll find a plethora of egged/oval tubes, so dig for the elusive perfect circle. Also, all of the contractors will be looking and laughing at you.

Points of clarification

1. Yes, I realize Sonotube is a brand name and "concrete form tube" is more accurate.

2. I really wanted a 14" tube, but they aren't available in retail locations in my geographical region. In fact, I could only find them online from Menards (Sonotube brand) and for me, shipping wasn't a consideration because I wanted a "pristine" tube.

3. Lowes carries Sakrete tubes, which aren't visually appealing IMO.

4. Home Depot carries QUIK-TUBES - the most visually striking IMO ... sadly, they lacked 12" diameter when I was in the market.

Step 1: Cutting the Cardboard

I started with a longer than necessary section of QUIK-TUBE for two reasons.
1. I could cut off the factory edge, which was damaged during its tragic life in retail.
2. It enabled me to extract the most desirable section - that of the brand logo.

Once the dinged up end was removed, which incidentally established the top edge of the shell section, I set the fence to 4" and cut the tube to final dimension.

Blade Note
Cardboard will quickly dull a table saw blade. I wouldn't use an expensive blade (Forrest for example), but at same the time, I wouldn't use an old blade with low tooth count. An old blade seems like a good idea, but you might end up inflicting undesirable blunt force trauma to the cardboard tube. Personally, I used an 80 tooth Freud Diablo.

Jig Note
I cut all shell stock using my shop made roller jig on the table saw. The wooden frame/deck hooks over the factory table saw fence and the rollers are made from threaded rod, sealed bearings, and 2" PVC. I'll be building a new version, which will have an Instructable. Once the fence distance is set, you place the shell on the rollers, power on the saw, raise the blade into the shell, and then rotate the shell.
Watch the video and it'll make total sense.

Step 2: Fabricating the Wooden Endcaps

The cardboard tube won't hold a bearing edge. Envision making a cardboard knife and trying to sharpen one edge. Not only does delamination become an issue, but any pressure on the edge will just result in crushing/mushrooming. My solution was to use actual plywood drum shell stock as wooden end caps.

The shell stockl is 6 ply and 10" diameter. The outer diameter doesn't perfectly match that of the cardboard, so it won't be a flush transition, but it's close enough and will be concealed by metal hoop of the drum head. I'm working with a much longer section of shell than the end product requires because it provides stability while cutting and is therefore safer - less tipping/rocking and flexing. It also makes it possible to mill both end cap from one piece of stock (one on each end) instead of switching between two pieces..

The goal is to reduce the outer diameter until it fits inside of the cardboard tube. It's basically a circumferential rabbet, but you could also think of it like a tenon on a turned, lidded box. Once the proper blade height is set, I carefully lower the shell into the roller jig and rotate it until the 360 cut path is complete - then carefully remove the shell from the jig. From that point, it just a matter of nudging the fence and repeating the process until you reach the desired rabbet width [Fig. 1].
Note: Since I don't have a flat bottom blade, the successive cuts leave ridges and inconsistencies. In this scenario, that's actually a favorable result since it will add more tooth for the adhesive.

Expecting chip out on the edge, which did occur, I milled the rabbets wider than necessary. After deciding on 1" rabbets, marks were made, and the excess was cut off using the roller jig [Fig. 2 & 3]. The fence was then adjusted to 2" and the two end caps cut free [Fig. 4 & 5].
Note: 1" of exposed end cap is more than required, but the final dimension will be established during a test assembly.

A light pass through the drum sander removed any tooling marks from the saw blade and flattened the faces [Fig. 6].

Step 3: Shell Assembly

The inside of QUIK-TUBES have a "special coating" for moisture resistance and since I wasn't sure how that would affect adhesion, I roughed up the gluing area with a dremel and sanding drum.

When adhering disparate materials, epoxy is my #1 choice. I mixed up enough for one ring, discerningly slathered it around the gnarly rabbet, and gently pressed it into the cardboard tube. When I say discerningly, I mean complete coverage, but not so much that it's running and dripping.

Note: I added masking tape around the edge of the cardboard as a preventative measure regarding epoxy squeeze out. If it comes in contact with the cardboard, it will soak in and result in discoloration.

Note 2: If you work with epoxy and/or resin and don't have a silicone mat, I highly recommend the purchase.

Even with my controlled epoxy application and tape masking, there was minimal squeeze out. I let it cure and then removed it with 120 grit sand paper - orbital sander for the bulk and then hand sanding close to the cardboard edge.

At this point, I could test fit a drum head to determine how much of the end cap could be removed. Turns out the metal hoop can easily conceal 1/2", so I could trim 1/2" off both the bottom and top. The end result was a final depth of 5" [4" cardboard center + 1/2" top cap + 1/2" bottom cap].

Step 4: Backing Support Plates

During a test assembly, Future BALES discovered that the cardboard tube lacked the stability required to withstand snare tension. The bottom edge of the throw off and butt plate were pulled into the shell, causing deformation.

My solution was to add backing support by way of 1/4" plywood. I ended up using a 2 1/8" width section and cutting several kerfs into it for bendability (if that isn't a word, it should be). It was then thickness sanded to match the inside exposure of the end caps and the length cut to fit between the end caps (2" in my case). They were glued in place with epoxy.

Step 5: Laying Out for Hardware

To layout the hardware locations, I use 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.

Since I don't want to mark on the drum shell, I run masking tape around the bottom circumference.
1. Center the drum on the mat - the concentric rings help with this.
2. On the bottom edge, mark the locations of the lugs (6 in this case), throw off and butt plate.
3. Apply vertical strips of tape to the shell, so you can mark lug, throw, and butt plate holes.
4. Use a combination square to extend those vertical lines across the shell.
5. Use a combination square to mark the actual hole locations on these lines. I usually reference off of the bottom edge.

Note: You could make your marks by measuring in from each edge 1 1/2", but if your shell edges aren't 100% parallel, you could end up with holes too close together or too far apart. It's not a deal breaker because you can just enlarge the holes a bit, but I'd rather not do that.

I recommend a sharp bit when drilling cardboard, so that you don't chew up the edges.

Step 6: 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.

I take my time drilling the first lug hole 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.

You can see in the pictures that I made a shell drilling fixture for the drill press .. because of course I did. It's constructed from plywood and is essentially a cradle for holding a sacrificial 2x4, which supports the drum shell and eliminates internal tear out during drilling. It has a wooden disc/post on the bottom, which fits perfectly into the existing mounting location used for the cast iron table.

Step 7: Bearing Edges

Bearing edges are cut using my big 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 a centered 45-degree bearing edge. Some basic information on bearing edges can be found here. My bit of choice for this edge is a Diablo 45-degree chamfer bit. 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 8: 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 bed, but for now I use an orbital sander and a sanding block. For this drum, the snare bed spans most of the space between the adjacent lugs. I sanded down close to 1/8" in the center with a gradual incline/arc on each side. Final shaping and smoothing was done by hand with 150 grit sandpaper.

I also took this opportunity to sand the bearing edges, as well as the end cap interior and exterior, up to 150 grit.

Step 9: Branding and Waxing the Shell

A lot of custom builders use badges, but I choose not to because I want as much of the finish showing as possible. Instead, I use 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. Usually I place my brand in the vertical center, but cardboard isn't an accepting medium, so I went with the top end cap.

Cardboard also limited finish options. Since I didn't want to saturate it with a wet finish, I opted to just use a renaissance wax. A thin layer is applied, allowed to haze up, then buffed out.

Step 10: Assembly

Assembly follows a consistent order of operations.

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. Note: I used a small dab our blue thread lock on each bolt.
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 plastic washer to eliminate metal on metal contact between the lugs and hoop. I also add a dab of lithium grease in the lugs to keep the threading lubricated.
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. These smaller snares came with plastic straps, so i threw them away and used 3/4 wide black ribbon. It was cut to size and the ends cauterized with a match to thwart fraying.

Step 11: Glamor Shots

Answer: A snare drum can indeed be made from a Sonotube.
Another Answer: The finished drum weighs 4.4lbs.

Visually, I really like it because it's instantly recognizable as a concrete form - mostly due to the color and branding. The first question is always, "is that really a concrete tube, or just a wrap?"

The second question is, "how does it sound?" Honestly, I like it. It's not as beefy/full as a wooden drum shell, but it also doesn't sound like an oat meal canister. Check out the "How Does It Sound?" video and decide for yourself.

Design Takeaways
The strong branding and use of cardboard instantly led me to the idea of cereal boxes as drum wrap. They could easily be applied with contact cement. They would have to be cut up and splice together since the circumference of a 14" drum is around 44", but it's still a fun idea. Any kind of product box would work ... electronics, power tools, toys, diapers. The possibilities are endless.

The wooden end caps work amazingly well and I plan on using them for future "non-standard" builds.

Shell: 10" QUIK-TUBE
End caps: 6 ply Keller shell stock
Lugs: 2 3/16" tube lugs from Drum Factory Direct
Hoops: Drum Factory Direct
Throw Off: Pearl style piccolo strainer
Butt Plate: Nickel Drumworks Snare Drum Butt Plate
Snares: Puresound steel 16 strand wires
Vent: Drum Factory Direct
Tension Rods: 1 1/2" from Drum Factory Direct
Top Drum Head: Evan Coated G2
Bottom Drum Head: Evans General Reso
Adhesive: Epoxy

Step 12: The Build Video

Step 13: How Does It Sound?

Cardboard Challenge

Runner Up in the
Cardboard Challenge