My Drum Refinishing / Rebuilding Project

maxpower7000

Junior Member
I’ve been wanting to do a drum kit refinishing project for a while and I’m glad to say I finally did, and that it turned out really good. A couple of “step by step” guides that I came across in a Google search helped me, so I thought I’d make one myself that might help someone else.

How the drums came together is sort of a story in itself, so I’ll first post the steps I took to refinish the drums (Part A), and then at the end (Part B) I will add the more technical details of the project. That way you can get as much or as little info as you want.

PART A: The Refinishing

Step 1: The drums
I’ve always played a standard 4-piece kit and I planned on using an existing snare, so for this project I needed a kick drum, floor tom, and rack tom that had a wrap finish that I could remove.

I’ve always wanted to convert a marching bass drum into a standard kick drum, so I started with a massive 14”x28” Pearl marching bass drum. Judging by the hardware, I think it was probably made in the early to mid 1990’s.



For the toms I used a set of brand new Pearl Vision Birch (VSX) series drums in an orange glitter wrap including a 16”x16” floor tom and a 12”x9” rack tom.




Step 2: Remove all of the hardware
Start by removing all of the tension rods, claws, rims, heads, and lugs. What your left with is the shell with the wrap, and the air vents. I kept everything organized by using one of those typical plastic three-drawer units that you’d see in a bathroom and using one drawer for rack tom parts, one for floor tom parts and one for bass drum parts. I planned on reusing the hardware from the new rack and floor toms but bought new matching Pearl Vision hardware for the bass drum. The only additional parts I needed were a pair of straight drum spurs for the bass drum and the air vent grommets for each drum.

Step 3: Removing the air vent grommets
Before you can remove the wrap you need to remove the air vent grommets. If you’ve read about removing these you can believe that what others say is true. It’s the worst part of the project because they do not come out easily. In order to get them out you need small flathead screw driver and a needle-nose pliers. There are several ways of doing it, some say you can even file them off from the back using a metal file, but I didn’t have a file and thought that would take forever. I started by wedging the flathead screwdriver underneath the edge of the grommet and prying just a little to get the rounded edge of the vent to straighten out a little and then continue this all the way around the vent. I used the flat head in one hand to pry and another screwdriver in the other, using the shaft to pry against which gave me leveraged and helped from denting the shell too much around the hole. Having a wrap on the shell also gives some protection to the shell from all of the prying. Once the edge of the grommet has been bent out all the way around I’d use the needle nose pliers to bend the edge of the air vent towards the hole. Once the vent is bent enough to be off of the outside of the shell you can use the needle nose pliers to grab onto the vent and tug it out. It takes a while because they are really wedged in there. I also used the pliers to jab at the vent from the inside of the shell trying to pound it out. It did help move it a little. In the end, I did dent the shell slightly in some spots around the vent, however, it was covered up when the new vent was inserted towards the end of the project.

Step 4: Removing the wrap
I learned that the wrap on all three of my drums was adhered to the shell with glue at each end of the wrap (which may be typical of most drums with a wrap finish). Find the seam (edge of the wrap that is visible) and use a heat gun or hair dryer to heat up the glue underneath it by moving the heat back and forth over the seam for about 2-3 minutes. As the glue heats up, the wrap starts to flex and dip from the heat. Then, use a PLASTIC paint scraper to lift up the edge of the wrap. Do not use a metal scraper or you could scrape the shell. With one hand, wiggle the scraper back and forth to work at the glue and pull back the wrap slowly with the other. If the glue is hot enough it should come up fairly easily, but as soon as you get some resistance, apply more heat and continue. Fortunately the heat gun I used had a stand so that I could peel the wrap with one hand and use the scraper with the other while the heat gun blew heat on its own. Once you’ve gotten the first seam completely apart the wrap will come loose from the shell until the last section of glue at the other end of the wrap. I used a scissors to cut the wrap about 6 inches from the end so that I had a smaller piece to manage for the last part. Use the same technique to remove the last section of adhesive.

Step 5: Prepare the shell for stain/paint
Next you’ll need to clean up any residue from the glue. The glue on the newer drums was actually still somewhat gooey so I was able to remove the residue by balling it with my finger. The glue on the older drum was trickier but came off by picking at what I could and then sanding the rest. When sanding the shells, use a fine grit sand paper (220 grit or higher) and sand WITH the grain. I used a 320 grit and it worked well. Next, TAPE OFF ALL HOLES FROM THE INSIDE. You don’t want stain/paint dripping through the holes in the shell so tape it off. I used painters tape which comes off easily and doesn’t leave residue. I would recommend putting a small chunk of paper towel over the hole on the inside and then taping over that, or even just filling the holes with a balled up piece of paper towel. I used only the tape and some of the stain that got into the hole bled onto the inside of the shell underneath the tape. So learn from my mistake and use something that might absorb or make a better seal over the holes.



Step 6: Apply stain/paint
I used Minwax water-based stain tinted a charcoal gray. I also had a spare drum to test out the stain and to see about how many coats I would need but you can use a scrap piece of wood. In order to easily stain the shells I set up a couple of old folding chairs back to back with broom laying across the backs of each chair with the shell being suspended by the shaft of the broom.



Follow the directions on your paint/stain, applying with a good quality brush in the direction of the grain. I sat on a drum throne and used the brush in one hand and used my free hand to hold/guide/rotate the shell from the inside. The trickiest part with the stain was doing the wood hoops. I used a soft roller hoping that it would apply the stain evenly and without risking the brush going over the edge of the hoop getting stain on the front. This worked to an extent, but there was still some seepage onto the front in spots. It’s hard because the front edge of the hoop is rounded and you can’t. just tape it off. Eventually I will go back and use a detail sander to clean the stain off the spots where it got onto the front of the hoop. NOTE: be sure to lightly sand off any nubs or bumps in between coats.

Step 7: Add clear coat
I used Minwax water-based Polycrylic for the clear coat. They recommend three coats so that’s what I did, sanding lightly in between all coats and after the last coat.

Step 8: Clean up
Pack up all your supplies, remove the tape covering the holes, sand off any spots where stain/paint bled onto the edges or inside of the shell.

Step 9: Reinstall all of the hardware.
This is the fun part because all the hard work is done, and you’re finally seeing the project come together and all of the work paying off. For the heads, I used Aquarian Performance II coated on tom batters, Aquarian Performance II on bass batter (28” is the biggest they make this head), and a Remo Black Suede Powerstroke 3 for the bass resonant head.

Step 10: Take pictures and show it off.








Cost of the Project (approx.):
Heads = $150
Drums = $310
Parts = $320
Finishing supplies $20
TOTAL = $800

A few notes about the costs:
28” heads and hoops are not cheap and accounted for about $200 of the total cost. $45 for each maple hoop and $55 for each head. Also, the kick drum was bought on Ebay for $160 shipped. I sold off the used hoops for $45, and the claws and lugs for about another $60 but after Ebay and Paypal fees I ended up with about $80, which cut the overall cost of the kick drum from about $160 complete to $80 for just the shell that I was left with. The cost of the finishing supplies was only $20 (10 for stain, 6 for brush, 4 for sandpaper). I already had water-based Polycrylic clear coat which probably saved me $10.

To recap the entire kit for those who are interested:
Drums:
5"x14" Pearl Chad Smith Signature snare
12"x9" Pearl Vision birch (VSX) tom
16"x16" Pearl Vision birch (VSX) tom
14"x28" Pearl marching bass drum (approx early/mid 90's)

Cymbals:
All Zildjian 70's era hollow logo cymbals.
14" new beat hi hats (both bottoms)
20" medium ride (used as crash, 2479 grams)
22" medium ride (3400 grams)

Hardware:
Pearl hardware and single kick pedal.


Part B: The technical aspects/details of the project

Some people might refinish an older kit that they already own, but I happened to do it because I wanted a new kit but didn’t have a lot of money to put into one. Another reason for doing the project was to finally convert a marching bass drum into a standard kick drum. As mentioned, I used a HUGE 14"x28" Pearl marching bass drum from the 80's on Ebay for about $160 shipped. I knew I didn’t want to keep any of the hardware, and sanding down a beat up pair of hoops sounded like more work that I wanted to do. So I sold off all of the lug casings, the claws, and the hoops on Ebay which ended up cutting my end cost for the shell to about $80. Once I started looking into choosing the lug casings for the project I realized that most drum companies mount their lug casings to the shell using a 1.5" hole spacing for both toms AND kick drums, whereas Pearl uses 1.5" hole spacing on toms and a 2" hole spacing on kick drums. That cut out almost all of the lug casing options that I found on various drum part websites and forced me to use Pearl style hardware for the entire kit. The only Pearl option that most drum part sites have is the old 80's bowtie style lug and there's no way I'd put those on this kit so I decided I would use the newer style Pearl Vision series lugs and claws. The 28” bass drum has 20 lugs due to its size, whereas the standard size kick drum has 16 so I would most likely need to buy a complete set of 16, and then find someone who could sell me four more. The bass drum also had six 5/8” air vents and two smaller holes from the marching harness hooks. By doing some Google searching, I’d learned that some people used two of the 5/8” holes for straight bass drum spurs rather than drilling holes for standard spurs. This sounded like a good idea to me and I found a pair of straight spurs on Ebay for $30 that fit a 5/8” hole.

Chrome air vents:


Straight bass drum spurs:


Note: When using straight spurs like these, it's also a good idea to use a bass drum anchor on the front hoop since these spurs do not have spiked feet. However, because I'm using a bass drum that is only 14" deep, using the claw tends to lift the plate of the kick pedal slightly off the floor. So I may look into buying a pair of spiked spurs and/or a bass drum anchor that has shorter spikes than the Gibraltar one I bought ($10).

As for the rest of the bass drum parts, I ended up buying a pair of pre-sanded 28” maple hoops ($45 each) and four 5/8” chrome air vent grommets ($2.50 ea) from a drum part website, and went to Ebay for almost everything else. I bought the pair of straight spurs for $30, a box of 16 Pearl Vision claws for $30, a 28” Aquarian SuperKick II for about $55 (28” is the biggest size they make this head in, so I got lucky!), and a 28” Remo Black Suede head for the resonant head. I still needed the four remaining claws, and 20 lugs.

Now I needed to figure out where the rack and floor tom would come from. My options were to buy them new or used (with a wrap that I could remove), or to buy Keller shells. Because of the hole spacing issue with the bass drum, the hardware had to be Pearl. So once I started looking into buying the 28 lugs needed for the rack and floor toms I quickly realized that buying the drums new would be much easier and cheaper than buying the lugs, hoops, tension rods, and shells separately. Buying a Pearl Vision shell pack for $400-$500 would get me the floor tom, rack tom, and most of the bass drum parts that I still needed, but I’d have to sell off the snare, extra rack tom, and whatever parts I’d have left from the bass drum. I ended up talking a music shop who was selling on Ebay to sell me just the parts I needed from a floor/demo model of a Pearl Vision Birch (VSX) kit, leaving them to deal with the rest! I picked up a 12x9 and 16x16 floor tom with legs in an ugly orange glitter wrap, the floor tom legs, the rack tom ISS mount, the short tom arm, and the 16 lugs and 16 claws from the bass drum for $340 shipped.

Now I had a surplus of claws, but I was still short four lugs. I found a guy on Ebay who was selling a set of 16 lugs for $80 and I got him to sell me four of them for $25 shipped. The remaining claws I will sell off later to drop the bottom line. In the end, finding the parts and the dealer who would sell me part of a floor kit was what took the most time. Getting the shells stripped and sanded took a few hours in the evening, and staining and clear coating the shells took a Saturday and Sunday because you need a good two hours in between each coat and there were five coats (two stain, three clear coat), plus a couple of times where I needed to touch up spots.

Overall, the project was a lot of fun and I’m glad I did it. It was a great way to get a new kit for less than half as much as I would have spent on a brand new one had I been able to afford it. If you have an existing kit and you plan to use the existing hardware then all you need are the tools and stain/paint supplies so it’s really affordable. The last thing I wanted to say is that going from a 22" to a 28" kick drum is quite a change. I like to play with all of my toms and cymbals mounted low and up sizing the kick required me to raise things up and to spread my stance on the throne a bit, but being 6'3" tall, it wasn't as big of a deal for me as it might be for others. The other difference is the response. The beater reaches just short of center of the drum because its so tall. And because there is a lot more surface area, the response is noticeably slower/less bouncy, but by no means not worth using a large drum. The presence is, however, much better and more noticeable by bandmates!




Hopefully this helps you see how it can be done so that you feel better about trying it yourself. It’s totally worth it. If you have any questions feel free to leave them here or email me at worldclasslisteningproblem @ gmail.com
 
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bobdadruma

Platinum Member
Nice Job and good ideas on the sources of drums that you refinished.
That kit has a real nice vintage vibe to it.
 

Mikecore

Silver Member
Well done! Good call using the updated Pearl hardware on the bass drum. It really unifies the whole project. As far as the spurs go, there's no harm in reverting those vent holes and adding a set of more durable spurs. I think the Yamaha PHXs actually add more vents as the drum gets bigger, so you might be in good company, design-wise.
 

Toolate

Platinum Member
That is one huge kick! I would love to hear it- what kind of music are you playing?

Just got into a 26" and it is a whole new world of sounds, playing style and tuning. Any chance for a sound file?
 

maxpower7000

Junior Member
Yes you're right, it is a new world of tuning. On my 22 I'd tune it so the drum was about in the middle of the possible tension but on the 28 I actually tune it at about 85% of the possible tension (on both heads) in order to regain some of the control and bounce and becuase the drum is so large I can tune it high and its STILL low and boomy! Unlike my 22, I don't even need any muffling. Having a shorter depth of only 14" keeps it punchy but the large diameter still allows the low pitch. I'd be curious to try a 26 or 28x10.

As for a sound file, I'll see what I can do and I'll come back and post a link.

That is one huge kick! I would love to hear it- what kind of music are you playing?

Just got into a 26" and it is a whole new world of sounds, playing style and tuning. Any chance for a sound file?
 

maxpower7000

Junior Member
Forgot to answer your question on the kind of music I play. I'm in the process of starting a post-rock instrumental band, and some influences are bands like The Life and Times, Russian Circles, Mogwai, etc. I'm really into drummers with bombast like Bonham, James Theodore, Chris Metcalf (life and times) etc, who are more beat oriented and who can make small kits sound huge, so that's kind of something I'm trying to work into my style. I think this bass drum is definitely going to help with that because the prominence of its sound really forces you to think about what your playing and to use it tastefully.

Sound file coming soon.

Yes you're right, it is a new world of tuning. On my 22 I'd tune it so the drum was about in the middle of the possible tension but on the 28 I actually tune it at about 85% of the possible tension (on both heads) in order to regain some of the control and bounce and becuase the drum is so large I can tune it high and its STILL low and boomy! Unlike my 22, I don't even need any muffling. Having a shorter depth of only 14" keeps it punchy but the large diameter still allows the low pitch. I'd be curious to try a 26 or 28x10.

As for a sound file, I'll see what I can do and I'll come back and post a link.
 
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