Bart’s First Custom Drum Set Build

I just got this email from a friend in Hungary and wanted to share his experience with you! Bart’s first drum set is a beauty:
Bart's first custom drum set buildBart did an incredible job on building his very first custom drum set. Great job Bart!

The first custom drum set that bart made

Below is an email conversation/interview that I had with Bart. He has lots of great drum building tips so make sure to read all of it!

I’ll be writing a short little blog post about your first build pretty soon. Can you tell me some more details about the build? How long it took, what problems did you run into when building it, how did you address the problems, how do they sound? etc… If you want to tell me anything that other drum builders would find interesting or useful I will post it on the blog! I can’t wait to see the other drums you build!
-Philip Ellis

Hi Phillip,
Well let’s start with the 2 major obstacles, time and money…

I started the project as I call it Canto-Drums about 10 months ago.The big dream however to make my own drums started about 25 years ago but that time it was impossible to accomplish what you can achieve now, there was no Internet, no Ellis books, shells, hardware, etc. Those were very difficult to get, and if you could get it they were very expensive…..to be honest it still is today!!

With all the experience of the last 25 years, as a drummer-musician, working in a drum shop, hanging with the drum dudes, organizing drum events, collecting every prospect, checking out in detail all the brands, books whatever to be known about drums (let’s say in general “drum addiction”) to merge that in the idea what I saw was still missing in custom drum building…I don’t want to say I will make something better because I could not ever reach the level of fine drum craft we see today from all the new innovative Custom builders out there ( a big respect for Craviotto, Brady, Ayotte, Le Soprano, Tamburo, Spaun, Rockett, Shine, C and C, San Fransisco Drum Company, Artisan drum works (not to forget my friend in Belgium at LIGNUM DRUMS!) and the many hundreds of others ….

But I saw the need for an affordable custom drum, classic look, classic sound, practical in use and to fill the need for small sized drums…

The truth is that many good hardworking-drummers don’t have the wallet to afford a 5000 dollar drum set (they spent it on booze and woman….joke of course).

At this moment I did achieve my goal, my drums look classic, they are affordable and the jazz kit sounds very jazzy ,the 5MM tom/floor tom birch shells give enough deep-resonance and sound vintage, especially with the Fiberskyns, I tried with
Regular coated ambassadors and that opens up the spectrum really, the set in it’s total is very tune-sensitive, that’s a mark!
The snare drum (12MM birch) is very sensitive too,works well with a low as well as a high tuning, blends in well with the whole kit and doesn’t over power the rest .

The bass drum 18×16 ( 8MM birch !!) is killer, has extreme low-end for an 18”, tried it with the P3 smooth white front-P3 Fiberskyn batter (i cut 1cm from the inner tone control rings to give it a little more head) no holes yet on the front.I still want to try it with coated ambassadors and coated emperor to see if it really lives up the standard of a Bop-bass….

OK, about timing and troubleshooting.

It took me about 10 days to finish the first set. For me patience was the golden rule….you need TIME and PEACE, any rush or frustration will run into almost irreversible mistakes!

I took time to search for shells and wood hoops, ordered at 3 different places to see the quality and try them,all shells I ordered had small mistakes, some went back to the seller some I fixed myself,although 2 sellers made good shells I still had to lay a finishing touch to the 45 bearing edges (that’s why they sound so good now ), I prepared the shells with a 400 grit sanding and 000 steel wool.

I took time to try different tests with water based staining, lacquers, etc (of course not directly on the shells). I came upon the hard wax oils, you don’t need to spray, no compressor machines needed, no brush just cloth needed and very very light 000 steel wool sanding between layers, no 5, 6, 8, 12, 17 layers only 3 to 4 then waxing, polish and ready, the results are stunning.
The only negative thing about hard wax oil is you need to work slow to not have stripes and stains (if you do it with a cloth) let the oil soak in by slow rubbing, work very very thin layers and you have to respect the 24 hours drying time between every layer!
Even waiting a full week after the last layer to let the oil set in and get hard isn’t a bad idea before you start to assemble the hardware…also to let the oil set in and sink before waxing or polish. To be honest, the hard wax oils are not the cheapest but work very easy, compared to aerosol techniques or staining and lacquer, and you don’t need to put on a lot so it saves a lot of money and energy.

I took time to search for hardware and ordered from different brands. I had to wait over 2 months for the lugs to arrive !!!
Placing the lugs wasn’t a real big deal, precision is still the key, I used plastic spacers on all the inner screws so no metal is touching the shells, it’s not that important but it makes a difference.

Placing the bass drum spurs and floor tom legs gave me some sweating moments but worked well, good measuring is the key. I put the floor tom brackets a little higher with the thin 5MM shells, to not have the pressure on the lower part of the shell and to not interfere with the tension-tuning capacity of the resonance head…….there is some logic in that …..isn’t there??
I also changed the rubber feet on the floor tom legs with Pearl rubber feet.

The Gibraltar Rail-Mount is a nice piece but very heavy, there is a rubber spacer to protect the top of the shell when mounting it but the bottom piece that lands on the inside of the bass drum shell is metal so I cut out the same form from a wood ply and used it as a spacer and stabilizer for the Rail mount (especially with thin shell bass drums you need to do that to eliminate any risk of tearing up the shell!)

I bought a set of standard tools to work on the drums, no extreme tools, machines, etc…just basic, I spent a little more on wood drills…that’s a good advice…

I used all of the advice, and techniques I found in Philip Ellis’s book to be a great help, and I searched all the blogs and sites for advice!

I bought the lug layout maps from ST-DRUMS in Germany, glued them on a hardboard and they work perfect.
Good masking tape, good pencil-marker, accurate measuring, creativity and drum passion are the final ingredients to make it happen.

I am 45, made my first 2 sets and I am more excited than ever about drum making.

My next one will be a wrapped set, that’s again a new adventure…
Greetings,
Bart

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