Solid Wood Drums

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  I started building stave drum shells in 1997. I have also worked as a custom cabinet builder for the past thirty years. I have worked in a number of cabinet shops and furniture building shops in southern Ontario Canada including my own shop. Over the years I have learned a lot about building all kinds of pieces of work.

            This experience has helped with the art of drum building. Over the years I was always trying to come up with my own jigs and things to make my work better and easier to do. When I got into drum building I kept trying to make my own jigs to help with production and the quality of the drum shells.

             If you like building things and trying to do the best job you can do then you will love drum building. It’s a never ending learning experience and a very challenging  job. Be prepared to make many prototypes and make many changes to the way you build drum shells over the years.

            It takes a lot of experience to be a good drum builder; the same applies to building anything. Experience is what will make you a good builder, reading will help a lot but without the experience of building shells you will not get anywhere. Its hands on experience you need to succeed. When I made my first drum shell I sanded it round with a belt sander. I made a system where I clamped the belt sander to a work bench on its side and made a jig to hold the drum shell and rotate it against the sander. As primitive as the system was the drum shell turned out pretty good. The sound and action of that first drum was what got me hooked.

            It wasn’t long after that I bought a lathe and started to learn how to do woodturning. If you search the internet you will find different ways of rounding off a drum shell. Some people use a router with a home made system to turn the shell and some people sand them round. I guess you can be creative and use what tools you have at hand to make drum shells to start off. I think there are as many ways of making a shell as there are drum builders. Every one does it their own way and adds their own touch to their product. There are a lot of great builders out there you should try to learn from all of them.
            The most important thing you can learn is to work safe. Safety when working with machinery should be your main concern. If you take chances when working with woodworking machinery then one day it will catch up with you so don’t do anything you think is unsafe. I took a furniture building course at vocational school many years ago and the instructor’s main concern was to teach us how to work safely with the machinery in the shop. I still try to follow hisway of doing things today.

            Always try to protect your eyes, ears, and lungs also. Learn to work safe with all machinery so you can enjoy a long and safe career as a builder. Be sure to read the owners manual with any tools or machinery that you buy. They always have good tips on how to use them and tips on using them safely.

            I grew up as the youngest son of a cabinet and furniture builder. Some of the best memories I have are as a young boy watching him build things. He would work and I would sit quietly and watch his every move, I loved it he was so creative. I spent my childhood trying to understand how he could build so many different things out of his head. I was always amazed by the work that he did and I always tried to understand how he knew to do all the things that he did.

             It wasn’t until years later and a lot of time spent building things that I came to understand it was his lifetime of building experience that made him the builder that he was. You will find there is a lot of problem solving involved in building drum shells. How you solve these problems will determine how good your drum shells turn out.

             It doesn’t matter how much experience you have there will still be problems to solve. Sometimes it is best to leave what you are working on and work on something else for a while and think about how to solve the problem you are having. It takes a lot of patience to be a drum builder so just keep working on it and you will be successful in the end. I don’t measure my success by how many drums I can sell I measure my success by how good of a job I can do and how much I have learned along the way. I am successful because now when someone wants me to build a drum for them I know I can build a high quality musical instrument for them that they will get years of enjoyment playing.

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