Way back in 2008, I took a really crappy Pearl Export 5 piece drum kit and refurnished it. Although I don’t have very many pictures documenting the project, I can assure you that it turned out way nicer then the original. This can be a great way to get super sweet looking drums- simply buy a kit that’s been trashed and refurbish the drums. In my case, I got the kit for free and ended up selling it for around $500. And only spent about 8 hours of labor.
Here are some steps to follow in refurbishing your drum kit, especially if it has a yucky looking plastic liner instead of a wood finish.
1. Remove all of the hardware, heads, screws, etc… Make sure you carefully remove the brand tag, I used a little razor blade to carefully take of the “Pearl Export” tag, so that I could reapply it at the end. A drum kit is worth a lot more, when you know its brand.
2. Carefully peel off the plastic liner. You may have to use a razor blade, but make sure you don’t cut into the wood underneath the liner.
3. After you have all the plastic off of all the drums, you’ll want to go through and sand them down. However, make sure you don’t sand too much. Most drums have 5 or 7 plies of wood, and it can be really easy to go down into the next ply, which won’t look good in the end. I like to use a fairly fine sandpaper (all by hand). After I go over each drum, I wipe them down with a damp clothe. This pulls up the fibers in the wood, so that you can re-sand again and get the drum nice and smooth. I normally wait about 2 to 3 hours after I wipe them down.
4. After you have the drums nice and smooth, tape off the edges so that only the outside of the drum gets painted.
5. Go to your local hardware store and pick up a nice wood stain (I like red and orange colors) and a water-based lacquer. (Although water-based lacquer isn’t as durable, I prefer it because it won’t yellow as it ages.) Also grab some 3″ or 5″ foam paint brushes.
6. Find a long broom handle or board, thread it through the drums, place either end on blocks or chairs so that you can easily turn the drums as you are staining.
7. Start staining the drums. Make sure you go with the wood grain, and don’t use so much stain that it forms drops or beads to the bottom of the drum. I suggest using 2 or 3 coats of stain with 6 to 8 hours drying in between, rather than trying to do it all at once. Make sure you apply the stains evenly, and before you leave them to dry, check for beads and extra stain.
8. After you have stained, you’ll want to start applying the lacquer. I normally do between 5 and 7 coats, and let them dry for 1 hour or more in between each application. Make sure you use the foam paint brushes to spread the lacquer very evenly. Depending on how the lacquer dries, you may want to use an ultralight sandpaper to have the final product be nice, smooth, and glossy.
9. When you are satisfied with how your drums look, reinstall all the hardware, heads, labels, and test them out! There is a very good chance that they will have a higher quality sound, and much better resonance, now that you have wood without the plastic wrap.
10. Go play! And let me know how your project turned out! Have any questions, suggestions, or comments on refurbishing a drum kit? Let me know!