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How to Lacquer Your Own Drums

Refinish your drum shells with lacquer.
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When it comes to finishing drums, tone is the main concern for most drummers. While most wood paints wont have a dramatic effect on a drum shell's tone, the inappropriate use of lacquers can make your drums sound weak, dull or powerless. On the other hand, a good wood lacquer will both maintain the drum's tonal integrity and give the shell a sleek new look.

Things You'll Need:

  • Hardwood Primer
  • Soft-Bristled Paintbrush
  • Phillips-Head Screwdriver
  • 120-Grit Sandpaper
  • Dry Wash Cloth
  • Putty Knife
  • Flat-Head Screwdriver
  • Drum Key
  • Hardwood Lacquer Spray

Relocate your drum shell to a flat work surface. Place the drum shell face up with the beater side of the drum facing upward. Loosen the drum head's lugs by turning them in a counterclockwise direction with a drum key. Remove the drum hoop and remove the drum head from the shell. Repeat this to remove the drum head on the opposite side of the drum shell.

Remove all mounting hardware from the drum shell. Hardware is usually mounted to the drum shell from inside the drum by a few Phillips-head screws.

Locate the ventilation grommets along the outside edge of the shell. These are small, metal loops attached to ventilation holes bored into the drum shell. Insert a thin flat-head screwdriver into each grommet and carefully pry each grommet from the shell as necessary.

Insert a putty knife into the crease on the drum shell's wrap. This is the acrylic or laminate material wrapped around the drum shell. Carefully begin to separate the drum wrap from the shell with the putty knife.

Pull up on the drum wrap with one hand and begin to pry the drum wrap with the putty knife. Work your way around the entire drum shell until the wrap is removed.

Sand the drum's outer shell with 120-grit sandpaper. Sand the surface until all glue, adhesive material or rough edges are smooth. Wipe away any wood dust from the drum shell's surface with a dry washcloth.

Lay out some drop cloths or newspaper on your work surface. Place the drum shell vertically on the drop cloths.

Apply a coat of hardwood primer to the outer drum shell with a soft-bristled paintbrush. Refer to the primer label's instructions for specific application and drying instructions. Lightly sand the primer smooth with 120-grit sandpaper.

Apply a generous coat of hardwood lacquer to the drum shell's surface. Most hardwood lacquers come in spray-can form. Be sure to apply the lacquer in even spray strokes to avoid runs in the finish. Refer to the lacquer's label for specific dry times. Apply a second coat after the lacquer has dried.

Repeat this procedure to lacquer each drum shell included with your drum kit.


Avoid using a power sander on your drum shell. Some drums, especially vintage shells, can crack or damage easily.

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