How to Refinish a Drum




I own a 5 piece mid 1990's DW drum set. After much online research and thought, I decided it was time to refinish them.

The main reason I want to refinish the drum set is because there are cracks in the wrap of most of the shells. I was slightly concerned it may have been more than the wrap that was cracked. I thought I would start with the small 8" tom that I don't use for my current setup.

Here is the process I went through while doing the refinish:

1. Remove all hardware
2. Check the surface of the wrap and drum
3. Remove the wrap
4. Remove residual glue
5. Lightly sand
6. Mask and stain drum
7. Clear coat drum
8. Oops!
9. Sand stain off drum
10. Stain drum
11. Clear coat drum
12. Clean hardware and reinstall

Yes, I included a step that pertains to a mishap encountered with the clear coat.

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Step 1: Remove Hardware From Drum

The first step is to remove all hardware and drum heads from the drum shell. While removing the lugs, I screw the bolts back into them to keep all the associated parts for each together, and then place them in a box to keep the whole set together.

One thing to keep in mind is to be easy on the bearing edge of the drum. This is the edge where the drum head makes contact with the shell. Damaging the edge can make it difficult to properly tune the drum, and it can affect the tone.

The air vent on my set is a bolt on type. Less expensive or older vintage drums may have a double flanged type air vent that would require the inside of the flange to be bent in order to remove it. You can order replacement vents if you choose. You may be able to remove the wrap around the air vent, but it may have the tendency to vibrate and rattle without the wrap in between it and the shell.

The badge (company logo) may also be put on differently than mine. It is also bolted on. I had an early 1970's Sonor set that had the badges nailed on. In my version, this is not an issue because I am staining the shell. If you are rewrapping the drum shell, you would need to use a drill bit smaller than the nail holes and drill through the shell so you can find the placement after the wrap is put on.

Be aware of the different types of hardware that is on your drum. My tom only has the lugs, air vent, and badge. Other hardware may include floor tom legs, bass drum spurs (legs), dampeners, snares and other snare parts. Be aware of how the hardware works and is attached to the drum shell.

Once you have all the hardware off, it is a good time to inspect the drum.

Step 2: Check the Surface of the Wrap and Drum

After removing the hardware, it is a good idea to check the surface of the wrap and drum. You might possibly have more issues than I do, such as the drum being cracked.

Check the whole surface of the wrap. Also, check the inside of the drum shell. You will want to determine if you truly need or want to take on the task. Once you take the wrap off, it won't be going back on.

Step 3: Remove the Wrap

Once you have decided that you want to refinish you drums, it is time to remove the wrap. Manufacturers put the wrap on in different ways. Some adhere the wrap on the ends and/or edges, and others adhere the whole surface of the wrap. My set, by DW, is fully adhered to the drum in order to make it another "ply" in the shell.

If your wrap is fully adhered, you may need to use a heat gun or hair dryper to warm up the glue in order for it to loosen it's hold. Be careful though, the flashpoint of the wrap could be low and ignite. You could also damage the wooden shell of the drum.

Start on one corner of the wrap and peel up slowly. You may need to use a putty knife or other flat tool to start it off. Proceed slowly. If you just start ripping off the wrap, there is a possibility that some of the wood could be taken off with it. You don't want to go and ruin a perfectly good drum. The shell of my tom drum is only about 1/4" thick.

My tom seemed to have a different adhesive at the joint than on the rest of the shell. It had a liquid nail appearance and was gummy. The wrap that was directly on the shell seemed similar to contact cement. I was fortunate enough not to have to use heat. The wrap peeled off slowly, and took about 10 minutes to completely come off. Once the wrap was off, I was glad to find out it was only the wrap that was cracked.

Once the wrap is off, it is time to clean up the shell.

Step 4: Remove Residual Glue

Now comes one of the fun parts - removing the residual glue from the drum shell. To make it easier to work on the shell, I screwed a 1x2 piece of wood to my work table to loop the drum shell on. this helps keep the drum from trying to roll away, and it also helps keep the pressure on just the area being worked on.

At first, I tried using acetone to loosen the glue. The acetone had no effect on it at all. Luckily, I had a can of Goof Off on the garage to try out. It actually loosened the glue enough for me to be able to scrape off. It took an hour to scrape the whole drum clean of the glue.

I plan to use a plastic scraper next time so I don't accidentally gouge the wood of the shell. I got lucky this time with the metal putty knife.

Step 5: Lightly Sand

Once the glue is removed, it is time for some sanding. I used 220 grit sandpaper to go over the entire surface of the shell. This is done to remove any small bits of glue that may not be visible, or was just missed.

Be sure to sand in the direction of the grain in the wood. Also, be careful sanding close to the bearing edge. The are several different ways a bearing edge is done, so try not to sand on them. A good rule to use is to not sand it if it wasn't wrapped to begin with.

Step 6: Mask and Stain Drum

After the sanding is finished, now you can prep the drum for staining.

Clean the drum off ensuring that any and all dust has been removed from the shell. Once that is done, mask off the bearing edges. The inside and the bearing edges need to be protected from any stain or other finish products. Typically, the inside and bearing edges are already finished, so there is no need to have them altered. I masked part of the inside, the bearing edge, and about 1/8" of the outside edge of the shell so as to not interfere with the bearing edge. You will also want to mask off the inside of all the hardware holes to prevent the stain and clear coat from running inside and all over the drum

The color of stain is obviously up to you. I chose a green stain because I like green. I like the way it works with the maple shell. I got my stain at the local hardware store and picked from a selection of colors. There are some parts manufacturers that sell wood dye in concentrate, and you can mix up your own color if you wish. I'll leave that up to you.

Now, on to the clear coat!

Step 7: Clear Coat the Drum

To protect the stain and the drum, you will want to put a protective clear coat over the stain. Be sure to use a clear coat that is compatible with the stain or finish you use.

I used a Minwax stain and clear coat that were designed to be used together. It just seemed to make it simpler for me to do that. I brushed it on per the directions.

After that, I let it dry and sanded the clear coat in preparation for the second coat.

Step 8: Oops!

Here is where I ran into a little trouble. Once the clear coat was dry, I started sanding it with 220 grit paper. It was going good, but I decided to put the sand paper on a wood block to sand with. I figured it would even out the sanding.

Apparently, the wood block I was using was not perfectly flat. As soon as I started using it, it sanded through the clear coat and stain on one edge. I thought I could just sand off the clear coat and touch up the stain. That didn't work. So, I switched to 100 grit sand paper and started sanding.

Be sure to use a perfectly flat block or premade sanding block if you are going to use it on the clear coat. I abandoned it on mine because I didn't want to have to sand it down again. There is the ever so slight possibility the drum could be sanded out of round, so don't use an electric sander in any case.

Step 9: Sand Stain Off Drum

Hopefully, you won't need this step. It is here if you do.

Sand the drum shell with 100 grit sand paper. It will take a while, but is safer for the drum. Don't use a rougher grit, you don't want to damage the shell.

Once the stain is off, switch to 220 grit paper to smooth up the shell and remove any marks left by the 100 grit sand paper. You can go as high as you want on the grit of the sand paper. 220 is smooth enough for me.

Step 10: Stain Drum

This is practically a repeat of step 6, but let us review anyway.

Remask any portions that need to be redone. Make sure the masking of the hardware holes is still satisfactory before you apply the stain.

This time around, I put on 2 coats of the green stain, following the directions of the product for drying time between coats.

After the having to sand it down, it did make the grain of the wood show up better this time, so there was some good in my mistake.

Now, let's try and do the clear coat right this time!

Step 11: Clear Coat Drum

Once the stain has dried for the proper amount of time (refer to product directions for both stain and clear coat), it is again time to clear coat the drum.

The number of coats is up to you, but do the minimum suggested on the product label for minimum protection. My product required sanding between coats. This time I gently sanded by hand to smooth up the coat in preparation for the next.

Step 12: Clean Hardware and Reinstall

After you have done all the clear coats, you can now put the drum back together.

I decided to clean all the hardware before putting it back on. I chose to just use glass cleaner to clean my hardware, but you may want to use a chrome cleaner depending upon how bad the hardware looks.

I also reused the drum heads because they still have a lot of life in them. Once again, your drum may need new heads so it is up to you.

In total, I have spent $40 to redo this one tom. I got enough stain and clear coat to redo the whole drum set. This is a good idea, especially so as to be able to keep the color consistent on all the drums. hopefully I don't have any additional costs other than maybe some more Goof Off.

I chose to do a stina over rewrapping because of cost. Depending upon what type of wrap I wanted, it could cost me from $150-$300. I am also more comfortable staining than I am at wrapping.

Below is a list of online companies that sell drum parts and drum wraps if you so desire to rewrap as opposed to staining.

You can also refer to your drums manufacturer's website if you are needing special parts.

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    37 Discussions


    3 years ago

    where do you choose from to get the wrap ?

    I actually have a miid 1990's Dw Collector's Series Kit as well. I don't want to stain them though they are worn and I just want to refinish them. Is there an instructable for just refinishing?


    4 years ago

    Looks great, and is wisdom earned


    4 years ago

    im co fused as to why you ckear coated it and then tried to sand it again at all. did you want to go darker and then have to remove it ir darken it? i understand about the sandijg cloxk, but why sand it again at all?


    Thanks for the tips. I already refinished my drums and they turned out awesome. I have a very old drum set that was wrapped with transparent red plastic. When I pulled the wrap off, there was tin foil underneath the transparent red plastic giving it a "metallic red" look. (Not as cool as it sounds) I sanded, stained, and clearcoated it. I feel like I just bought a new drum set for under 50 bucks!

    2 replies

    Reply 4 years ago

    i have he same BS under my drum wraps. did you say you just sanded the tin off? was it easy to get off? was it glued down all over the drum? or was it spot glued in particular spots? im worried about getting this tin off and messing up my wood. and what kind od xheeseball conpany puts tin around a woodeb drum! ill bet your drums sound better niw too.

    After you took the wrap off the drums does the wood look good under it?? Then can you stain it and make it look like maple or what ever?? Thanks..Mike


    10 years ago on Step 6

    where did u get the stain


    11 years ago on Introduction

    So maybe I missed it, but how much all together did this cost, and what kind of stain did you use? Thanks and nice job man!

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I used a water based Minwax stain and the Minwax clear coat that is compatible. It cost me about $50 for stain, clear coat, sandpaper, gloves, staining cloth, and the Goof Off.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    The metal parts just needed a general cleaning and are also chrome finish, so there was no rust.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    God, that original wrap has to be the ugliest thing ever. Nice instructable though, and kudos for admitting and documenting your mistakes too - that sort of thing really helps others to avoid doing the same.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    It very slightly deepened the tone, but barely noticeable. DW timbre matches their drum shells, and my change to this tom did not affect the relation with the other toms. I'll post a final image once I get them all done.