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Build Your Own Drum Heads

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  • Build Your Own Drum Heads

    I've developed an easy, inexpensive, method of building drum heads from scratch. This method is a mash up of the best ideas I've seen here and elsewhere around the web. I want to document and share this information with the community here. I will be demonstrating construction of a single ply, screen mesh head. However, you can adapt this idea to include more plies or different materials as you see fit.

    As with every DIY project, your mileage may vary. There's no exact science here so expect a little trial and error to get the fitment you like. The good news is each head costs a couple of bucks at most, so you can afford a few mistakes.

    This project will require:

    A tool for scribing large diameter circles (I made a tool by punching holes into a thick PVC report cover)
    A pen, pencil, or marker to mark the material (I use a silver Sharpie)
    Straight pins
    Scissors
    A sharp knife
    Super glue (I use Loctite gel because it has more open time and control)
    Screen mesh (or your material of choice)
    1/4" plastic tubing (I use ice maker supply line from Lowe's)
    A sewing machine with strong thread (I use nylon quilting thread)

    Here are the steps with pictures: (Don't make fun of my pink magnetic cutting board. It's a priceless piece of tech in my DIY arsenal.)

    Step 1: Wrap the plastic tubing around the drum shell you're making the head for. Try to keep it level and make sure nothing is between the tubing and the shell. Make a mark that allows about 1/8" of overlap and cut the tubing.

    Step 2: Cut a 2 inch length of tubing and slice it in half, down the middle. You will use this to plug the joint in the hoop you will create later on.

    Step 3. Scribe three concentric circles onto the material as shown in the pic below. (It can be helpful to draw the lines on both sides of the material) For my example I'm making a head for a snare with a shell that is 14" in diameter. In my layout, the smallest circle is 14" in diameter, the next largest is 15" in diameter, and the largest is 15.25" in diameter. Make (1) layout for each head ply you want and then (1) more which will be used to create the ring in the next step.



    Step 4: Cut around the outside of the largest circle to create a disc of material which will be used as a head ply. Remove the center from one of the discs to create a ring which will be used to create a pocket for the plastic head hoop. Basically, you will have two lines showing, with 1/2" of space between them. This is the "No Sew Zone" and will eventually become the pocket for the plastic head hoop. You should leave 1/8" - 3/16" of material on each side of the lines where your stitches will be placed. Your result should look like the picture below.

    P.S. If you use care when cutting out the center portion of the ring, it can be used as a head ply on a smaller drum later.



    Step 5: Align the ring on top of the disc(s) and insert pins as shown. The goal is to hold the work but not interfere with the guard on the sewing machine.



    Step 6: Sew between the outside line and the edge of the disc. Go all the way around three times to create a strong seam and be sure to reverse the machine to lock the stitch when you're done. All of the stress from tightening the head will rest on this seam so make it a good one.



    Step 7: Turn the head inside out. Work your way around flattening the seam and reinserting the pins as you go.Again, place the pins where they won't interfere with the guard on the sewing machine. If you draw lines on both sides of the ring you will have a guide line for sewing in the next step.



    In the next step, DO NOT SEW ALL THE WAY AROUND. We are creating a pocket for the plastic tube to fit into and we will need access to insert it after the sewing is complete. I leave about a 1" gap to insert the tubing through. (notice the silver marks @ 3:00 on the picture above)

    Step 8; Use your fingers to press the seam flat as you sew around the head. I stay as close to the inside of the ring (near the pin heads) as I can. The two silver marks represent my starting and stopping points, so be sure not to sew all the way around. Reverse the machine after starting and stopping to lock both ends of the stitch. The goal is to create a pocket large enough for the tubing to fit into.

    Step 9: Insert the tubing into the pocket using the access hole and work it all the way around. If the pocket is too tight, this step will give you trouble. When you're done you should be able to poke both ends back through the access opening.



    If you haven't already, cut the 2" length of tubing in half length ways. This will be used as the plug in the next step. When inserted into the plastic tube, the plug will form into a smaller tube forming a bond across the joint in the hoop.



    Step 10: Put a drop or two of super glue in one end of the tube. Insert the plug halfway, twisting as you go.

    Step 11. Put a drop or two of super glue in the other end of the tube and insert it onto the plug completing the joint in the hoop.



    Step 11. Give it a test fit at this point because the wet glue joint can provide some adjustment if necessary. Do not tighten the hoop at this point. It may seem a little ill fitting at this point because it doesn't have it's proper shape. Give the glue time to cure, which can take an hour or so inside the tubing.



    Step 12: Wait for the glue to fully cure and turn white. Then you can tighten the head. I like to leave it on for a while allowing it to develop shape memory, then I remove the hoop, re-seat the head and then tighten it to my liking. Here is the head installed on the drum with the cake pan installed underneath.



    If you've read to this point, thank you, and I hope you enjoy.
    Attached Files
    Last edited by bwilburn79; 03-18-14, 02:36 PM. Reason: Added info
    Roland TD12 module / DIY Kit in progress, Gretsch Blackhawk A (soon to be E) kit.

  • #2
    I'm still no DIYer (so I can't really give any further advice...) but let me just say this:


    Nice work!


    .
    .
    Greetings from Switzerland,
    - Dänoh



    "My best friends' name is J-SON. They used to call him 'Mr. Parse.' He has an 'Error'..!"

    http://www.vdrums.com/forum/core/cus...ar33631_4.jpeg

    Comment


    • #3
      Looks good and thanks for documenting. You are obviously a DIY purist lol! However, Im still not going to try it because Im too scared lol. I will keep buying the ZED triple X heads which are dirt cheap.

      Comment


      • #4
        That's a great writeup. I just used a portion of that same process last night to repair my tom 3 in my kit…the 1/4 tubing. Nice trick with the cutdown insert. You can use a spray catalyst to avoid waiting (available at any hobby shop).

        What I need is a mesh like you have, it has a great double threading. Is that pet screen? Currently I'm using the fiberglass gray stuff which came with my used e-foundation kit, and I need to revamp it, it's a little too forgiving and light, would like something more 'solid'.
        - - -
        Remo Practice set conversion, DIY cymbals, PD-7's & PD-9's, CY-5, Sonor Hi-Hat stand, Roland TD-6V, Zoom RT-123, CB700 snare, Simmons SDMP1 Tunes: https://soundcloud.com/artly-there

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Meshopotamia View Post
          What I need is a mesh like you have, it has a great double threading. Is that pet screen?
          The mesh I use is sold under the name New York Wire. It's called "Sun Guard 90" and is available at Lowe's. It comes in rolls as small as 3 ft. x 7 ft. for about $16. I've tried several variants but I keep coming back to this one. I purposely left this info out of the write up because the product may not be available everywhere.

          Originally posted by Meshopotamia View Post
          Nice trick with the cutdown insert.
          I'm glad you like it. Even though it's plenty strong, and the least expensive option, I feel like it's the weakest element. I've been thinking about alternatives. I'm sure there's a internal splice for a vacuum hose or some element of a sprinkler system that's just begging to fill this role. It needs to be as strong as the tubing itself, somewhat flexible, and preferably contain grooves to help distribute glue evenly.


          Something like this:
          Attached Files
          Last edited by bwilburn79; 03-18-14, 09:24 AM.
          Roland TD12 module / DIY Kit in progress, Gretsch Blackhawk A (soon to be E) kit.

          Comment


          • #6
            NICE!! Never though about sewing machine. My wife has my mom's that she never uses.

            I went the route of using leather revolving punch every inch. Weaved 5/16" tubing through the holes. Now I f can only get better volume out of my DIY trigger using Pet Mesh. Maybe I'll try the Sun Guard 90 or check it out and compare thickness.
            Yamaha Absolute Birch;Yamaha Oak Custom
            Paiste Cymbals; Zildjian Hybrid Cymbals
            DIY vdrums

            Comment


            • #7
              I've sewn all my heads with a machine. It's the best application for heads IMHO. I use a salvaged drum hoop which can be quite cumbersome to sew around using the machine. I like your take on this project. Looks much simpler at the machine. Never really been a fan of the plastic tubing though because of it's flexibility and the seam...but in DIY...whatever works is always the best solution.


              Great job!
              8 piece DIY Acrylic, 2x2Box DrumIt5, Gen16 4xDCP, DIY Acrylic&Gen16 Conversions, Sleishman Twin-QuadSteele hybrid, Gibraltar&DrumFrame rack, DW9502LB, Midi Knights Pro Lighting
              http://www.airbrushartists.org/DreamscapeAirbrushRealm

              Comment


              • #8
                Thanks for the info on the mesh type and maker. I may be in a spot currently because most of my set is Remo practice pad based and the rims are very flexible as to tensions. Might have to hold up until I can remake using A2E approaches and metal.

                Ideally an inexpensive wire or other material that fits inside the tubing closely removes compression possibilities, but it's not been an issue really for me yet.
                - - -
                Remo Practice set conversion, DIY cymbals, PD-7's & PD-9's, CY-5, Sonor Hi-Hat stand, Roland TD-6V, Zoom RT-123, CB700 snare, Simmons SDMP1 Tunes: https://soundcloud.com/artly-there

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by fulrmr(Daniel) View Post
                  I've sewn all my heads with a machine. It's the best application for heads IMHO. I use a salvaged drum hoop which can be quite cumbersome to sew around using the machine.
                  Tell the truth Daniel, your wife sewed all your drum heads. Lol. I read your thread, a long time ago, and it's one of the reasons I tried the sewing machine in the first place.
                  Roland TD12 module / DIY Kit in progress, Gretsch Blackhawk A (soon to be E) kit.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by bwilburn79 View Post

                    Tell the truth Daniel, your wife sewed all your drum heads. Lol. I read your thread, a long time ago, and it's one of the reasons I tried the sewing machine in the first place.
                    hehehehe......Yes....when I said "I've"...I meant her. Thanks for reading...glad it inspired you.
                    8 piece DIY Acrylic, 2x2Box DrumIt5, Gen16 4xDCP, DIY Acrylic&Gen16 Conversions, Sleishman Twin-QuadSteele hybrid, Gibraltar&DrumFrame rack, DW9502LB, Midi Knights Pro Lighting
                    http://www.airbrushartists.org/DreamscapeAirbrushRealm

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'm excited to say that after reading this thread, allanjohn asked me to submit photos and a write up for an upcoming edition of digitalDrummer magazine. Additionally he requested that I build a 12" drum head for him to include in a head-to-head test. I decided to photograph and document building the actual head that I'm going to send to Allan. I tried to be concise and descriptive with the steps and I believe it turned out better even than this thread. I also took pictures that don't include my pink magnetic cutting mat.
                      Roland TD12 module / DIY Kit in progress, Gretsch Blackhawk A (soon to be E) kit.

                      Comment

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