- Wooden plies
- Wood glue
- Flat iron
- Round form for shaping
Making a drum shell is a time-consuming process that will require the proper tools and a lot of patience. Contrary to popular belief, the construction of a drum shell will have a lot of influence on the overall sound of a drum. Making your own drum shells will allow you to achieve the exact sounds you’re looking for and will give you the satisfaction of making an instrument by hand.
Decide how thick you’d like your drum shell to be. The overall thickness of a drum shell will have a greater influence on its sound than the number of plies involved. Thinner plies will be easier to shape while preventing breakage. A thick shell will have less inherent vibration and produce a louder tone, making it perfect for bass drums, floor toms and snare drums. Other toms should be made with thinner shells for richer tones and lower volume.
Cut the wooden plies into strips. The length of these strips should be equal to the desired circumference of the drum shell. The width of the strips will determine the depth of the drum. Deeper drums will produce a louder, more projected tone at the cost of tonal quality and nuance. Drums with a larger circumference will have a lower pitch.
Soak the wooden plies in warm water to make them more pliable. This won’t make them nearly flexible enough to fit around your round form. Next, heat water to boiling in a pan, and slowly run your plies through the boiling water to soften them further. Wrap the wooden plies around your form, clamp them in place and allow them to dry over night.
Glue the plies together. This will require thousands of square inches of glue for a larger drum, such as a floor tom or bass drum. However, it’s important to use the smallest amount of glue possible while still getting your plies to securely bond together. The more glue you use, the less resonant and “woody” your drum will sound.
Clamp the plies together once more and allow the glue to thoroughly dry. Sand the bearing edges of the drum to fit the desired rim you’d like to affix to it. Your first drum shell will probably be rather rough. The techniques you learn by doing this will progress over time.
Be sure to soak your plies thoroughly before trying to shape them around a form. Plies are very susceptible to breakage if you’re careless.
Don’t try to use too many plies for your first drum. Doing so will complicate the procedure and potentially ruin the drum.