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  #1  
Old 11-19-2013, 06:21 AM
Tympanista Tympanista is offline
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Default Beginner Drum Building

I've had the dream to build drums and sell them, then make a few for my self for a while now. I would want to even make hardware myself, but it'll be a long time before I could do that.

Assuming I have the help and resources to make certain drums:

1. Would it be a good idea to practice making stave shells with really cheap wood? If so, what kind?

2. Would it be better to just sell shells with no hardware or finishes if I can't risk spending too much on hardware or using a finish that would lower the buyers' interest? Or maybe I could ask what kind of finish the buyer would want?

I'll probably have a million more questions later but these are my two biggest questions at the moment.
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  #2  
Old 11-19-2013, 02:09 PM
The Old Hyde
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Default Re: Beginner Drum Building

Do you have any kind of training in woodworking?
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Old 11-19-2013, 02:17 PM
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Drumsinhisheart Drumsinhisheart is offline
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Default Re: Beginner Drum Building

I would not want to discourage you in any way, but look at some facts.

Back in the early 90s when the DIY boom struck big, everybody and their brother saw how it is easy it is to make drums, and figured they could sell them. The market saturated with "custom" drum makers. Almost 400 makers were out there on myspace, their own sites, ebay ... Most are gone now. Not because they didn't make good drums. The competition was too stiff.

From my perspective of thinking about doing the same thing for years, and not pulling the trigger on it yet, I'll offer this:

1. Drums are drums in my experience. If you want to make and sell drums they need something other makers do not have. Good luck finding that. Your own lug design, or some kind of truly custom finish work are the major points to stand out in today's market. You can make plywood, stave, segmented blocks, acrylic, metals, ... but lots of other people do, too.
2. If you are going to offer piano/mirror gloss finishes you need the equipment to get that right. It's a lot of work, and that factor is what ups the cost of drums, not the market materials to make them.
3. The bottom line is price point. You will have a hard time competing with the major name manufacturers. Then there are the small companies - Spaun, GMS, Q, SJC, Artisan, and many others that have maintained their smaller businesses and do excellent work. In many cases better than what the majors put out. But the prices tell the story, too. They can be a lot more expensive than some of the majors. Those who put out really great drums at lower price points get caught in a catch-22 in the minds of those wondering if your drums are any good. Pricing is a business science.

I have wanted to do this for 20 years now. I need a better shop. And I need to hone another idea before I'd jump in.

Make your own drums for your own pleasure. It's a wonderful feeling to play an instrument you made yourself, especially is that the case with stave drums made from the raw materials, including lugs.

My first stave was pine. A 6x12 snare. Sounds cool, too. I did a fade for the finish. Just some wood stain I had. Once I got the process down I went to various maples, and a Purpleheart I did end up selling. Haven't made any in years now. I made steel shells, too. Very easy. A local sheet metal shop can fix you up. They actually feel kind of special someone would ask for a shell like that. Most are doing duct work all day long. I had an 18 gauge steel 6.5x13 that I just loved. Wish I never sold that one, too.

It isn't just the art of making the instrument. It's about business, too. And the business of selling drums is tough, especially in this economy.

I wish you well.
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Old 11-19-2013, 05:53 PM
Tympanista Tympanista is offline
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Default Re: Beginner Drum Building

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Old Hyde View Post
Do you have any kind of training in woodworking?
Nope. I figure making stave shells would be tedious but not impossible. I've got a friend that can help me.
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  #5  
Old 11-19-2013, 05:56 PM
The Old Hyde
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Default Re: Beginner Drum Building

my first advice would be to take some woodworking classes. getting to know first hand different wood species and how to work with them, as well as learning to use wood lathes and cutting tools and hand tools.
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  #6  
Old 11-19-2013, 06:15 PM
Tympanista Tympanista is offline
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Default Re: Beginner Drum Building

Thanks, Drumsinhisheart.

1. I would definitely want to do custom finishes, but I would try to set things up where a buyer could choose their finish. Or, I would make a drum that wouldn't be off-putting to most people but still be unique. One idea I have is to combine woods in separate sections on staves by dovetailing them. I'm not sure how that would look after being sanded down though.

2. Sounds necessary. I could see what goes into that.

3. This is what worries me the most: "name manufacturers". I feel like, in modern times, if there's no brand, a product is usually perceived as worthless or at least it raises suspicions of quality. Why buy from a little guy with no kind of image on his product that shows he and it are worth something? But I'll have to eventually figure out a way to brand without using metal badges at the moment.
And then the actual competition with other companies. I'd love to make drums for the love of it, but I would want to sell most of them so that I could keep learning and not break bank. I'd hope to sell one at a time through craigslist locally or other local methods. Maybe stressing that they're local-made would help? With the price point, I would start at a reasonably high price, then negotiate from there.
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  #7  
Old 11-19-2013, 06:16 PM
Tympanista Tympanista is offline
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Default Re: Beginner Drum Building

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Old Hyde View Post
my first advice would be to take some woodworking classes. getting to know first hand different wood species and how to work with them, as well as learning to use wood lathes and cutting tools and hand tools.
Thanks! I'll see about taking classes.
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  #8  
Old 11-19-2013, 07:09 PM
TWerner TWerner is offline
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Default Re: Beginner Drum Building

You don't need an enormous number of tools just to make stave drums, but the ones you need are fairly expensive since you have to be quite accurate on your angles. At a minimum you'll need a good router, a saw (table saw would be nice), a bevel protractor, calipers, some clamping devices, and a lot of jigs and benches you can build yourself. A planer and jointer would make life much easier, as would an electric sander of some sort, and a dust collector is mandatory.

It will be quiet an endeavor even before you get to finishes, which I consider the hardest part of woodworking.

Find the local woodworkers discussion forum and join!
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  #9  
Old 11-19-2013, 09:21 PM
tamadrm tamadrm is offline
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Default Re: Beginner Drum Building

There are a few drum builders that are forum members.I think that none of them will try to discourage you from your drum building dream.You have to understand ,from the get go,that good woodworking skills,is but only one,of the various skill sets ,that you'll need to be sucessful


Like Drumsinhisheart said,in effect,if was easy,everyone would be doing it,as was evidenced by the DYI craze.There are some really great drum builders out there,but I'd have to say,there are a lot of "Hardware hangers also.

They buy shells from Keller or Eames as an example,and just drill for hardware,and put a "custom" finish on the drum.

Actually making your own stave or steambent shells,from quality,hand picked, raw materials,is a labor intensive job,that involves many man hours,before you have a finished product.

Also take into consideration,that you have to offer something that the big guys don't,in terms of sound and looks.

There's not a very large client base out there now,with the disposeable income ,that can afford,thousands for a true custom kit.

Do LOTS of research first,and just build a few first.Have fun with it.

A man who loves what he does,never works a day in his life.

Steve B

Last edited by tamadrm; 11-20-2013 at 04:58 PM.
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  #10  
Old 11-19-2013, 10:01 PM
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keep it simple keep it simple is offline
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Default Re: Beginner Drum Building

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tympanista View Post
I would want to even make hardware myself
Thinking ahead is great. Wanting to build your own stuff is great, but mapping so far into the future & planning a business is a step level that you're clearly not ready to take.

Make some drums for yourself. It's fun, it's rewarding. Once you're past that hurdle, then think about how you're going to bring something new of real world value to the marketplace. The depth of knowledge you'll need to truly innovate is enormous. One step at a time.

Good luck, Andy.
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  #11  
Old 11-20-2013, 12:26 AM
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sethlowden sethlowden is offline
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Default Re: Beginner Drum Building

I have ton of woodworking experience making everything from guitars and mandolins to windsor chairs, highboys, and handplanes. I am sure you can do anything you put your mind to, but it's hard not to think you are getting a few steps ahead of yourself.

I think I may build a drum myself- thinking about making a steam bent black locust snare shell and using hardware from a Sonor Safari snare. Eating the elephant one bite at a time...
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  #12  
Old 11-20-2013, 05:38 AM
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Mikecore Mikecore is offline
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Default Re: Beginner Drum Building

Build for yourself first. If nothing else comes of it, you will at least have some unique drums of your own. Who knows, you might land on something that turns out to be really special...I just wouldn't bet the farm on it.
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  #13  
Old 11-20-2013, 05:03 PM
tamadrm tamadrm is offline
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Default Re: Beginner Drum Building

I would also join the Ghostnote forum.They are mostly drum builders,and are a wealth of information.

Steve B
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  #14  
Old 11-20-2013, 06:36 PM
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wombat wombat is offline
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Default Re: Beginner Drum Building

I know little about woodwork / drum manufacture so cant help but it seems to me to be a small "manufacturer" you have to have a "point of difference" to get attention.

For instance my "local" niche maker "Brady" uses unique West australian timbers like Jarrah which cant be found anywhere else growing wild.

So do you live in a place with unique timbers that you can experiment with ?

If not I wonder if using "recycled" products in a society where going "green" is seen as a badge of honour you may get custom orders..... as well as cheap(er) building materials.

For instance if I were making drums I might try using old housing floorboards..here it would be Jarrah and a lot of the old boards are high quality wood ( the quality thats hard to find in an age of mass felling for woodchips...a total waste of good hardwood if you ask me)

Maybee you could recycle plastic, scrap metal (has anyone made a corrogated iron drum) maybee different materials like bamboo, cork, interwoven strips of < name your material> like a basket weaver style....no adhesives needed.

Similarly maybee hoops made of something other than wood, or triple flange design.

What about a different shape other than round, or maybee concave / convex heads (like a carribean steel drum has).....

Perhaps if you live near a forrest look for naturally hollow wood. For instance a traditional didgeridoo has been hollowed out by termites rather than drilled (which the "tourst didges tend to be )

So why not experiment rather than following a road well travelled..... if you succeed you could patent the process and if its copied you would get a passive income stream.

Sure it would be hard work and little reward for a long time (if ever)...but hey so is competing in an overcrowded traditional drum market

Whatever you do...good luck !!
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  #15  
Old 11-21-2013, 01:52 AM
Tympanista Tympanista is offline
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Default Re: Beginner Drum Building

Thanks for all the advice! I will definitely be very cautious and try to think more in the present and near future. I've gotten some good ideas to stand out from the crowd if I really get into this too.

Now, what if I was to take off the wraps on my drums (D2 set built with plies that people have claimed is basswood), do some pyrography, and do a finish on them? How many days would this take to do? Or is it too risky to do this with my only set?
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  #16  
Old 11-21-2013, 11:56 AM
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Drumsinhisheart Drumsinhisheart is offline
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Default Re: Beginner Drum Building

Wood burning is an art you'd want to practice on scrap wood way before you place a hot tip on a thin outer veneer of a drum shell.
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