Homemade Acrylic Drums

by Jae Allen
Protect your eyes and lungs with goggles and masks when working with acrylic.

Protect your eyes and lungs with goggles and masks when working with acrylic.

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Components of a drum set are typically made of wood, metal or acrylic. Since the 1970s, the Ludwig line of acrylic drums, known as Vistalites, have been popular with drummers for both their sound and their visual appeal. An acrylic drum typically sounds brighter than a wood or metal drum. However, acrylic material is more difficult to work with than wood or metal.

Making a Drum Shell

Almost all drums have a shell in the shape of a cylinder. Drum heads are attached to one or more open ends of the cylinder. The simplest way to make an acrylic drum shell is to find cylindrical piece of acrylic which is a suitable size. A typical snare drum, for example, will have a diameter of 14 inches and a depth of between five and eight inches. To make your own acrylic drum shell from scratch, you will need to heat a sheet of acrylic material and bend it into the shape of a cylinder. Heating the acrylic in an oven can help avoid bubbling and warping. Transfer the heated, flexible acrylic onto a cylindrical object and slowly rotate to create a uniform cylinder.

Finishing the Drum Shell

Once your acrylic cylinder is created, the seam needs to be joined. You can use glue or acrylic welding to attach one side of the seam to the other. Some drum builders glue an additional piece of plastic over the finished seam. However, this method creates a drum which may be prone to cracking.

Installing the Heads

Typically, drums used on a drum kit will have two heads. The upper (batter) head, which is struck with sticks, and the lower (resonant) head. Snare drums always have both resonant and batter heads, as the snare wires must be strung across the resonant head. The edges of the drum shell are cut to create angled bearing edges. The drum head is laid over the bearing edge. Clear, coated and colored finishes are available. Most commonly, the resonant side of the drum will be fitted with a single-ply head, and a single- or double-ply head will be fitted on the batter side.

Installing Hardware

Drum hardware must be added to the shell to hold the drum heads over the open ends of the cylinder and control the tension. Over each head, a metal or wooden hoop is laid. Metal key rods are passed through each hole in the hoop and screwed into metal drum lugs positioned around the drum shell. You will need to mark and drill the position for each lug, then attach the lug with screws. Six to 12 lugs are usually used for snare drums. Use a slow drill setting to reduce the chance of damage to your acrylic shell.

Photo Credits

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