Refinishing a stained kit

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Stained AND polyurethaned.

No wrap. It's my first custom built kit. Eames. 1979. Birch Mastertone shells. 5 drums. 22,15,14,13,12. Lotsa surface area to work on

At the time, I wanted the stain that looks like the Gretsch walnut glaze finish. I fitted the drums with Gretsch hardware.

I lent it out to my good buddy's young son for years, then my buddy kind of loaned it to the drummer in his band...I didn't know about that until years later. It got pretty beat up. He thought I gave them to him outright when in my mind they were on indefinite loan. He can afford drums, we just wanted to see how long his son would stick with it. Not that long.

So I want to refinish them in natural or possibly a color like Thermogloss

How hard is it to take stain off down to wood? The shell is probably a half inch thick, so I can remove enough...I think.

Woodworkers opinions appreciated. Some tips and tricks sure would be helpful. I'm trying to save some labor if I can, but am willing to do what it takes.

I don't know how deep stains go. I would do a solid color if it goes too deep. Maybe Piano Black

Milling the finish off would be pretty dope. I guess I'll have to do a part on the bottom of the bass drum to see how deep the stain actually goes.

I still want the collective knowledge though. I'm thinking of using a powerful drill and some kind of home made adjustable spoke mechanism inside to hold and turn the shell

Any tips on how to make a home made lathe on the cheap?
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
Any tips on how to make a home made lathe on the cheap?
Uncle Larry I have see a homemade lathe fashioned in a couple of different ways. Both require a router.

The first way has a 2 sets of wheels that are adjustable width wise. The drum sits on these wheels and spins freely. A jig is made for the router to sit in and slide across. You spin the drum and slowly move the router across it. The jig keeps the depth consistent.

The other way uses a spindle. Imagine a throne. The spindle attaches to a block. The block holds the shell. A router remains in a stationary position, parallel to the floor and perpendicular to the edge of the drum. As you spin the shell, it goes up and the router removes the material as it spins past.

I imagine if the speed was fast enough you could use sand paper. Try this: motorize a lazy susan and attach a drum to it. Turn that dude on and, with both hands because you are a drummer after all, put some 80 grit against the shell.
 

harryconway

Platinum Member
Milling the finish off would be pretty dope. I guess I'll have to do a part on the bottom of the bass drum to see how deep the stain actually goes.
A buddy of mine was able to sand a 14x14 Gretsch Burnt Orange shell, to a point where he could put an amber stain on it ..... and that took a lot of sanding.

Doing a whole kit. Easiest way would probably cover everthing in a veneer. (You could get as exotic as you want). Then stain it.
 

calan

Silver Member
A buddy of mine was able to sand a 14x14 Gretsch Burnt Orange shell, to a point where he could put an amber stain on it ..... and that took a lot of sanding.

Doing a whole kit. Easiest way would probably cover everthing in a veneer. (You could get as exotic as you want). Then stain it.
I'm going to agree with this. While I haven't spent more than an hour or so trying to sand out stain on a drum, I concluded that it wasn't a productive pursuit.

I have done a lot of antique furniture refinishing, and for the most part, I've found I'm gonna sand through the veneer of anything that has one before you get to bare wood. I have had good results with stain matching on repairs and touch ups, but that's clearly not what you're after.

Darkening an existing stain isn't so much work. Lightening, I just don't know enough to offer anything.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Beauty is only skin deep. Stain, depending on the wood goes real deep. You could try a furniture refinisher and have it dipped, then prepare to sand a lot.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
A buddy of mine was able to sand a 14x14 Gretsch Burnt Orange shell, to a point where he could put an amber stain on it ..... and that took a lot of sanding.

Doing a whole kit. Easiest way would probably cover everthing in a veneer. (You could get as exotic as you want). Then stain it.
I hadn't considered this.

Awesome suggestion Harry thank you.

I very well could end up doing just this.

I'll have to sleep on it. I kind of wanted the original birch grain to show through. I have to weigh how important that is. One one hand it's keeping the drums original. On the other hand it would save a ton of time and could look even better. I'll just lie and say it's original. What are they gonna do jail me? (kidding) I'm not selling it so it doesn't matter. And like Bo said, he's never seen a stain removal job come out 100% perfect.

I'm a little partial to wood grain over solid paint. That's how I've been my whole life and where has that gotten me? I may reconsider. Wrap in veneer, stain and lacquer, or sand, solid black paint and clear coat, or lathe, stain and lacquer. I'm no painter so Harry's option...it's just the clear coats I have to be careful with. Even I can stain.
 
Last edited:

harryconway

Platinum Member
Veneer is what I did, on my Luddie 26x14. "Original" 3 ply natural maple/thermogloss 26'ers cost ..... a lot. $2K. I've seen 'em sell for. So I got me a 40's era 26x14 button lug marcher ..... for $91. Threw a maple veneer on it. Stained it to match my toms.
 

Attachments

  • 1 a.jpg
    1 a.jpg
    125.9 KB · Views: 24
  • 1 c.jpg
    1 c.jpg
    137.4 KB · Views: 24

CommanderRoss

Silver Member
Stained AND polyurethaned.

I don't know how deep stains go. I would do a solid color if it goes too deep. Maybe Piano Black

Milling the finish off would be pretty dope. I guess I'll have to do a part on the bottom of the bass drum to see how deep the stain actually goes.
As a Drumsmith who has done this a lot, it's a long Journey with an orbital sander.
But...it's 100% worth the time & effort. If you rush it, you'll run the risk of mistakes & gouges that will only add to the frustration.

I did this with my personal Gretsch kit last summer and choose the deep, piano black stain. You really can't go wrong with that color as it pretty much hides everything. You won't get out 100% of the previous stain, but the black will hide that.
I went with flat stain & flat urethane to bounce off the shiny black lugs & black hoops.

Just take your time & work the wood with love. You'll then get to admire your work for life. ;)
 
Last edited:

motleyh

Senior Member
Larry, I'd say go with the solid color. Those are ply shells, and each layer of veneer is 1mm thick. Any slight oversanding and you'll go through to the next layer, which will look bad and show through any future stain. The existing stain probably doesn't go into the second ply, but it may be deep into the outer ply.

As far as milling goes, your "lathe" jig would have to be true to a tolerance of about 0.3mm. Just sayin' -- that's tough for a DIY setup. :)
 

incrementalg

Gold Member
Lathing sounds risky. I took 4 years of wood shop in high school and made a pair of drum sticks. Broke the first few and the final pair was...let’s say, not great. I managed to make a pair that was at least three different sizes...depending on the angle.
 

doggyd69b

Well-known member
I would definitely go for the piano black or the wrap. Can't go wrong with ether and I have also never seen a 100% perfect stain removal perhaps if you had one of those stave drums and were able to remove enough material to completely clear...
I have only seem the router setup MrinsanePolack was talking about from a guy that made those stave drums, since you end up with sharp edges and a semi- round shape, you have to make it round by sanding (it takes a whole lot of ) or by a router jig as the one described by him.. but that most certainly would be way too extreme for regular (made of multi ply) drums as it would definitely would go through and cause damage.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
I also have never seen a drum shell look good after it’s been been bathed in paint & stain stripper, and sanded past the last depth of the previous color. I know this first hand, but I wasn’t a drumsmith, I was a teenager. If I could’ve wrapped that kit, I would have.

Either paint it, wrap it or veneer/stain it.
 
Last edited:

rhumbagirl

Senior Member
I like the veneer option because it allows you the option to retain the outer shell diameter. Sanding off an existing stain, only to re-stain, may lose that option.

The last time I checked into a veneer job, this guy had a good how-to process documented.


Some of my notes:

Continuous run vacuum pump.
120, 300, 400, 600 grit sandpaper
Breather mesh
Exercise ball
Vacuum bag
TiteBond III Ultimate Wood Glue (i.e. PVA glue)
Hot Clothes Iron

Choose a method that does “not involve contact cement so I could use high gloss lacquer”.
 

rhumbagirl

Senior Member
More notes. These are snippets quoted from different sources. Enjoy!

-------------------------------------
"
First, you'll need to determine what "paint" you are dealing with (poly, acrylic, latex, lacquer).

But in general you'll do less damage with the proper chemical stripper than you would by mechanically (sanding) the paint off.

Thinners shouldn't bother the glues (unless you were to leave them on for days)

Methylene chloride strippers (which are probably the best for most paints) usually recommend rinsing with water and that could be a problem. I'd rinse with lacquer thinner.

If it is stain it will be deep into the wood and basically there to stay

Stripper on the surface won't harm the glue at all. You will likely still want to sand with a fine grit after stripping, anyway

I've tried to remove finishes sanding by hand before that simply would have taken months,

Lacquer is very easy to strip with the proper chemical strippers compared to poly or acrylic.
you need to get specific lacquer stripper and NOT paint stripper.

Check out Youtube for instructional videos on hand sanding of fine wood!

If you are a n00bie at sanding fine wood, please avoid the use of electric sanders. A momentary lack of attention can ruin the drum shell. Use hand sanding methods, start out with 120 grit sandpaper. Use a piece of semi-rigid polyurethane foam to act as a sanding board that conforms to the curve of the drum shell. With the sandpaper held on the the poly foam, move the sandpaper ONLY in the direction of the wood grain. Doing otherwise will result in crossgrain scratches that will make the shell look very bad. After you are finished with the 120 grit sanding session, wipe the shell with a tack rag that you buy at the hardware store. Throw away the used tack rag.

Repeat the above procedure with 220 grit paper, 300 grit paper and then 600 grit paper. This should give you a good base from which to dye the shell and apply a clear top coat.

http://www.unixdrums.com/
Precision drum
Keller maple shell

You will also have to have the shell re-edged if you want to do it right.

1) Remove all the hardware and put masking tape on the outside of all the holes

2) From the inside, put silicon seal in each of the holes to create a plug

3) When the silicon dries, remove the masking tape

4) Use citrus strip to remove the laquer

5) When all the laquer is off, push the silicon plugs out - they just pop out.

I also used a palm sander but was VERY careful to keep moving it and when I saw the finish getting thin moved to the finer grade.

Be careful with that high grit sandpaper. You can sand right through the top ply if you're not easy on it. I like to start with a 400 and work my way up to an 800 grit just to avoid scratching, etc. DO NOT use a palm sander or any machine sander - sand it by hand. Pay attention and make sure you sand it evenly (to avoid flat spots!) I've refinished many a drum and the best advice is go slow. I've spent up to 40 hours refinishing just one shell (a 1962 Slingerland cocktail kit) and it's worth every minute.

Most (but not all) of the veneer used in drum shells these days are
from .015 to .040 depending what part of the world they
came from. Japan is known for slicing some very thin
veneer.

I stripped the shells of all of the hardware, placing the removed rods and mounts, along with the lugs, screws, and washers, into separate aluminum tins. I soaked them in Varsol, a grease-dissolving, chrome-friendly solvent.

"
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
I wonder if paint/stain stripper or stain remover would take enough stain out that it would minimalize sanding? It works on furniture but I'm not sure with a drum. I'm sure somebody has tried it on here?
 

Vintage Old School

Gold Member
Larry, I spent countless hours hand sanding a lacquer finish off my TAMA 14" X 20" gong bass drum and I was only a little bit over the 3/4 point of being down to the wood finish. I sent it out to Dale Vigent and he safely and professionally finished the remaining sanding in 1-1/2 hours and laid down a gorgeous black burst gloss finish. You might consider contacting him to see what he would charge, especially if the drums have sentimental value to you. Dale is a phenomenal painter and drum builder. Check out his work on Instagram at vigent_drums. PM me for his contact info.
 
Top