An easy and inexpensive way to rock out in the dark, with the additional benefit of providing a unique grip for those who hate drumming with perfectly smooth sticks. The lighted tube(s) to charge the sticks is optional; I provide instructions for both separately.
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Step 1: Materials for Glowing Drumsticks
You will need:
- a set of drumsticks, preferably unvarnished. It doesn't matter if you use nylon or wood tipped, and diameter doesn't matter that much either (unless you also want to make the charging tube. If so, either A or B sticks will work, but nothing larger.)
- 3D/dimensional "natural glow" glow-in-the-dark paint (sometimes called dimensional fabric paint), which can be obtained at most craft stores. Plan on about one fluid ounce per stick. The large bottle pictured here is 2 oz and the shorter is 1 oz.
- a wood rasp or any other tool capable of roughing up the drumsticks
- string (any kind will work)
- sandpaper (only necessary if you need to remove varnish or markings from your sticks)
Step 2: Prep Sticks for Painting
If your sticks are varnished, first sand the varnish off with sandpaper. If your unfinished sticks have markings (branding printed on them), you may wish to sand this off as well.
Rough up the sticks (but not the tip) with a rasp or similar tool. You don't want to gouge away a lot of wood and weaken the stick; you just want to provide enough grooves to roughen the stick so that the paint will adhere well. You'll note in the photo I'm using the rasp "backwards" so that I don't rip away the wood. I grooved it in a spiral one direction and then reversed and put grooves in the other way. It really doesn't matter how you get it done. Just make it rough, but not so rough you create splinters.
Step 3: Apply Paint
Consider using string to hang the stick from its tip first, as this will leave you with both hands free to work.
Squeeze paint onto the stick, starting at the bottom. Work in circles or zig zag patterns and try to keep the tip just off the surface of the stick. Use your free hand to rotate the stick as you apply the paint with the other. You can use the tip to push the paint around to make sure the stick is coated. It's okay to put it on thick; you just don't want so much that it's dripping down the stick. Remember that this is "dimensional" paint and is meant to be thicker than most paints.
It's okay if it looks "bumpy." Gravity will tend to help smooth it out a little as the paint dries. But that bumpiness is also what provides the texture/grip!
One important note: don't bother covering the tip of the stick. Any paint on the tip will eventually break off the stick anyway. If you play a traditional/acoustic kit with metal cymbals, you can also expect the paint below the tip to begin to break off as you do your cymbal work, especially on your hat. This is less of a factor with electric kits. But even if your kit's electric (...boogie woogie woogie woogie), painting the stick tip probably isn't worth it.
I suggest waiting at least 48 hours for the paint to dry before you use the stick or recoat. If you've applied the paint thick, you may not need to recoat. Look at your stick in the dark to determine if you need to re-coat to get stronger glow or patch up spots you missed. It's really up to you how much texture/coating you want on the stick vs. how much glow you're going for.
Once you've got one stick done, repeat for second stick.
(I apologize for the blurry photos. My camera isn't very good in low light.)
Step 4: Test Your Glowing Sticks
Charge your sticks up under a light and see what you think. Recoat or rock out; the decision is yours!
If you want to make the charging tubes, proceed to the next step.
Step 5: Materials for Charging Tubes
Materials I used:
- Clear tube! If you can find one in a small/narrow enough size, I suggest using a Fluorescent Tube Guard. This is a clear plastic sleeve that is meant to protect/store a straight fluorescent light tube. It's relatively cheap, straight, and comes with end caps. Look in the lighting section of your home improvement store. If you can't find those, try 1-inch diameter clear vinyl tube. You can usually get this vinyl tube in the plumbing section of pretty much any home improvement store. It may be on a spindle that you can buy by length, or it may be a coil of pre-cut tube on a shelf. If you can't find either, it's probably possible to use any other type of clear tube you can get your hands on. You really just need clear tubing long and wide enough to fit drumsticks in. I used vinyl tube because I had some spare sitting around, but if you're going to buy materials specifically for this project, trust me.... it's nicer and much cheaper to use the straight tube guards.
- a utility knife to cut the tube
- a string of white LED lights.
- some aluminium foil
- some black felt (or other thick light-blocking fabric. Felt works well because it's thick, soft, and cheap at a craft/fabric store.)
- black nylon cable ties (ideally with eyelets)
- sturdy scissors (kitchen shears) to cut felt and cable ties
- Gorilla tape or sturdy duct tape
A few comments on the LED lights. They can be a holiday type string or something you make. I grabbed a discounted LED rope light string at the end of the holiday season to make it easy on myself, but feel free to use whatever works. I like the rope light because there is less excess wire and the clear vinyl coating helps grab the tube walls well, but just about any string of 50 to 100 LEDs will work. The brighter the better. One word of caution: while you probably could use traditional incandescent light strings for this (and it would be plenty bright), I discourage it on two grounds: they burn out eventually, and they generate a lot more heat. We'll be wrapping the lights in foil in a later step. The heat is likely to burn out your bulbs and also be a hazard. If you choose to ignore this advice and use traditional incandescent lamps, be mindful of how long you leave them on while charging. My advice: spend the money to use LEDs, and save energy while you're at it.
Step 6: Prep and Cut Tube
Use the utility knife to cut two identical sections of tube, one for each stick. They should be almost as long as your stick length. Ideally, when the stick is inserted into the tube, you want just the tip sticking out.
If you use the vinyl tube and it has kinks in it (if it's been coiled up), you can soak it in hot (not boiling) water for a while to relax it. Then bend it back to shape as needed. You want it to be as straight as possible before the next steps. You may need to repeat the relaxing process over several days if your tube is severely kinked. This is why the Fluorescent tube guards are nicer... no bending to deal with.
Step 7: Wrap Tubes in Lights
Wrap the tubes together with your light string. Use your tape to secure the ends.
If you used a fluorescent tube guard for your tubes, you can stick the end caps that came with it on the end of the tubes by the wire. (This will be the "bottom", and these caps will help keep your sticks from falling out, but it's not crucial, as you'll be wrapping the entire bottom in felt in a later step.)
If you used vinyl tubes and they still have a bit of a bend in them, you might temporarily tape them together to help straighten both before/while you wrap them in lights. If they have a slight bow, use them in a "mirror image" fashion to make the bows counteract each other.
Step 8: Wrap in Foil
Wrap the tubes and lights in aluminum foil with the shiniest side of the foil in (toward the lights). This will help reflect the light back inward to get maximum illumination for your sticks. Once wrapped, go ahead and squeeze it down tight all around. (The piece of tape on mine is to keep the flap of foil down until the next step.)
Step 9: Wrap in Felt and Tie
Wrap the entire rig in felt as shown. This is a bit like wrapping a burrito. Note two things: the slit to allow the cord to come out at the bottom, and the extra flap at the top, which will be used to cover to the opening to the tubes.
Use the nylon cable ties to secure the felt around the assembly.
Step 10: Set Up and Use
Once it's attached, you can slide your sticks in and cover with the loose flap of felt. This flap will keep the light from shining out.
How you plug in your tubes is up to you, but one of the pictured foot pedal switches (which can also be obtained around the holiday season) will work great if you want to keep your hands free.
If you wish, you can attach your charging tubes to a stand or your drum cage. If you used the cable ties with eyelets, use some string or cord with those eyelets to tie your tubes to your kit. You can also use velcro straps. Do what works for you.
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