"Trying to tune a year-old drumhead is like polishing a turd." I laughed when I first heard this saying but in reality, it's true. Drumheads are like guitar strings and t-shirts: after an extended period of use they get worn out and lose tension. With drumheads, however, the amount of abuse they have to endure on a regular basis spells trouble for their livelihood. In other words, they can only take so much of a beating.
Every drummer is forced to change out their drumheads at some point, even if they don't want to. If you need help with replacing and tuning your new drumheads, check out my instructable HERE. When drumheads are changed out, thousand of them are thrown out across the world every year. Drumheads can have many uses even after they have been beaten to death.
Don't contribute to the growing waste problem by throwing out your old drumheads (this goes for just about anything you own). With a little ingenuity and planning, you can turn these worthless heads into several cool items that can save you money and serve a useful function.
Step 1: Paint Them
With me, an excess of paint supplies and beaten-to-death drumheads means that I get the urge to attempt to summon some creativity. If you are a drummer and enjoy art, this is really a match made in heaven. Painting your old drumheads not only gives you something to do with your old, beat up heads, but it saves you money on canvases, reduces waste from just throwing them out, gives you something to do when you're bored and can be a nice addition to your living space.
As a college student, I fell in love with this idea because of the reasons listed above, and I must admit, I am glad I saved so many used drumheads from years past. Here are a few examples of some things I have done:
Step 2: Weave Into a Basket
This particular idea is a great way to re-use your old drumheads and make something cool and useful out of them. With a few minutes of cutting and following a simple pattern, you can weave a basket from a couple of old drum heads that can hold your sticks, accessories, serve as a trash can or just about anything else you can think of.
I previously wrote this as a separate instructable, and you can check out the detailed steps for that HERE.
Step 3: Make Some Drum Accessories
Another way to re-use your old heads is to make some drum accessories out of them. Rather than shelling out the cash at Guitar Center for things like muffle rings and impact pads, you can just make them yourself with your used heads.
If you have some clear tom heads, making muffle rings is pretty easy and straight forward. Simply grab your used head and a sharp pair of scissors or a knife, and cut the head along the shoulder, separating the metal rim. Now, pierce a hole in the middle to cut out the inside edge of the ring. Depending on how much dampening you want to produce, determine the thickness that you should cut it at. Common muffle rings sold at stores are between 1 and 1.5 inches in thickness. The most common use for muffle rings is on snare drums, but they can be equally effective in dampening the extended ring of a large floor tom.
Making beater or impact pads out of old drumheads is a great way to reduce cost and actually increase the life-span of the head replacing the old one you have. You can experiment with using impact pads on any drum, but they really shine when used on the batter head of your kick drum. Cut out a circle of around 2 inches in diameter from the old head. I would recommend using at least two layers of pads for your kick drum, and as many as 4 could be used depending on the thickness of head you are using. Once you have glued the layers together, determine the exact spot that your bass drum pedal beater(s) makes contact with the batter head, and attach the pad here. Glue is the best bet for this job, but double sided tape can be used as well.
Snare Wire Straps:
Another easy thing to make from an old drumhead are the plastic straps used to attach your snare drum wires to the snare mechanism. You might be using a string for this purpose as well, but most snare wires come with a slot that accommodates straps as well. Cut a couple of strips that will fit in the slot and toss them in a drum bag just in case. You never know when the straps/string may break and you'll be SOL without a backup.
Step 4: Random Ideas
Paint Splatter Guard:
Doing some painting on a room in your house or maybe even some drumhead art (hint hint)? One of the best random uses for a beat up drumhead is to act as a paint splatter guard. Put one under your paint can to assure that you don't spill any onto the floor. You can even use another as a palate to mix and hold the paint as you spread it on the brush.
Hold Your Pieces:
Doing some wood work or have pieces sitting around from a project you're working on. Nothing holds screws, nails, or even knex like a drum head.
It's a simple task to turn an old drumhead into a (fairly ineffective) umbrella. Simply find a pole of some kind and attach a head (kick drum head would work best) using a nail, a screw, glue, staples, etc. Hope you don't mind a little water (and a lot of ridicule).
Want to put a logo on your kick drum head? It can be a tough thing to freehand paint a logo on acrylic, but you can use your old head in two ways. You can cut out the logo you want from the old head, paint it, and glue it onto your current bass drum head, or cut out a stencil from the old head and use it to help paint the logo on the new one.
Dice Rolling Bin:
Doing some dice rolling? No questions asked - just grab and empty drum head and roll away.
It might not be the best flying disk that money can buy, but it's virtually free at this point, and the possibility of getting hit in the face by a metal ring is good enough motivation to catch it.
Step 5: Send Them to Me!
Don't have any desire to try out one of these ideas? Want to be a little greener and keep a little bit of trash out of the dumps? Send me your unwanted used heads and I promise I'll put 'em to good use.