Google “Alternative Drum Wrap” and it is instantly apparent that this is neither a new or novel idea. Here at CompactDrums.com we have dabbled with both Self-Adhesive Vinyl, Concert Posters and Upholstery Vinyl with results ranging from acceptable to kick-butt. Our DIY Mini Bop Drum Kit is one example of “contact-paper” type vinyl as drum covering. Each of these alternative materials can obtain impressive results with the aid of a few tips and tricks, to ensure a successful application.
Why not simply use actual “real” Drum wrap you may wonder? Two reasons: A set of “real” drum wrap for a typical drum kit will set you back at least a couple of hundred bucks, if you snag a killer deal. This is a worthwhile investment when restoring a valuable vintage kit, or personalizing a high end kit, but hardly for that kit you scored on craigslist for $150, or even a new imported kit for $300. The second reason is simply to dare to be different. “Personalizing” has a much deeper meaning if executed with non standard methods and materials.
Re-wrapping your craigslist-find, or budget entry level kit is also an excellent opportunity to make a few other improvements that will bring the tone of your kit closer to that of a mid or higher level kit. With the shells stripped anyway, take the time to seal and finish the shell insides. The effect on the projection and sound is well worth the effort and takes personalization to a whole new level. When re-assembling, stuff cotton balls in the lugs if they are the type with springs and maybe even take the time to cut isolation gaskets out of craft foam or inner tube. See our DIY Mini Bop Drum Kit for more on this. Also if the subject kit uses hollow post mounting that inserts into the shells, stuff the tubes with foam and cap the ends with wine-corks, dowel or whatever you may have handy.
Click any image for a larger view
Alternative Drum Wrap Materials
Sticky-back vinyl comes in a few varieties. Not all are suitable as drum wrap. Generally speaking most Sign or Vehicle-Graphics Vinyls are both durable, look great and selections are just about limit-less. For vinyls with a wood-grain or other themed effect, make sure to obtain product suitable for furniture, kitchen counters and cabinets. One example brand is “DC-FIX”. Avoid the dollar-store varieties and vinyls intended for book covering, drawer lining and other lighter duties.
All vinyls share the same two disadvantages, although these can be overcome with a couple of tricks. The first is that no matter how meticulously applied, they have a tendency to wrinkle at the lugs when tightening the T-rods. This is caused by the lug’s ever so slight movement away from the centre of the shell under the increased tension. The second is that while being very scuff, wear and scratch resistant, gouge resistance is not nearly as impressive.
Wrinkling is best avoided by obtaining maximum adhesion. If the existing wrap is adhered all the way around the shells and not just at the leading and trailing edges, leave it on. The vinyl sticks to the slick glossy surface like nobody’s business. Just make sure to properly clean the surface first. If the wrap is only adhered at the edges, we recommend removing it. To check, simply see if it is possible to lift the wrap away from the shell along the bearing edges or at the mount holes. Just insert a small knife or screwdriver and carefully pry. To obtain maximum adhesion with the wrap removed, the shell will need to be sealed and painted with a glossy paint or finish. Tung-oil is a good choice as it’s a sealer and glossy clear-coat in one. A low-cost method is to seal with a mixture of white glue and water and top-coat with an oil based high gloss finish. Tremclad or other “rust paints” are great low-cost options. (The same methods are suitable for the shell interiors too.) Isolation gaskets made with craft foam also aid in preventing the wrinkling by facilitating the lug’s ability to “slide” across the vinyl surface.
Gouge resistance is best addressed by clear coating over the vinyl. We use a water based poly-urethane but any clear coat should have equally good results. the advantages of the water based are shorter drying times, allowing more coats in a shorter time and less need for ventilation. Apply at least four coats. Clear coating also greatly improves the appearance. Note, some vinyls with metallic special effects, like sparkles and holographics aren’t actually vinyl, but “Mylar”. These are MUCH harder to clear coat and will require special clear coats formulated for “Mylar”. (“Mylar” is a trademark like “Kleenex”, The generic term is polyester-something-or-other.)
Posters, Newspaper, Prints or just about any Paper
Quite commonly done, but easily overlooked. paper based wrap has about the largest selection imaginable. Concert Posters, Magazine Clippings, Your own Print-outs, Craft-Paper, Tissue Paper, Gift-Wrap (Watch out for “Mylar” gift wrap though as mentioned above.)…. The possibilities are endless.
Rule-of-thumb; The thinner the paper, the more durable the end result. Thicker paper such as wall paper has a fair bit of “sponginess” which in turn makes it more prone to gouging.
The process is simple. Apply with liberal amounts of white glue and spread evenly. White glue dries slowly so take your time to ensure that no bubbles or wrinkles are present, but be careful not to tear the paper as it will get mushy as the white glue penetrates it. Easiest is to apply the glue with a brush a few inches at a time and roll the paper on, using a foam paint roller to smooth it out while keeping the yet un-applied paper taught. Wipe off excess glue as white glue dries clear but very hard. Cover with a few coats of clear and voila’ – Unique, custom Alternative Drum Wrap.
Check out this article with an insane paper collage finished drum kit:
Almost as endless in possibilities as paper, fabric has also been tried and tested as drum wrap. There are two routes to go with fabric. If you would like a textured finish, go nuts and pick the fabric of your liking. Should you however wish to achieve a bit more traditional looking drums, look for a thinner fabric with a sleek surface like satin, spandex, silk or?
With thicker textured fabrics, contact cement would be the adhesive of choice. Apply with a brush on both surfaces, let dry until no longer tacky and roll on your fabric, taking care to keep it stretched to avoid wrinkles. With thinner sleeker fabrics, using white glue in the same manner as with paper is preferred and would benefit greatly from a few coats of clear for a deep lustre and wrap-like finish.
A huge benefit of using fabric is the ease of obtaining and low cost.
Upholstery Vinyl, Leather, Tolex, Pleather
You know those sparkle-upholstered chairs at the diner? Fake snake-skin or crocodile skin? Just about any material used for furniture upholstery, vehicle upholstery, PA speakers, Purses, table cloths, etc., can all be used as Alternative Drum Wrap. Usually these are vinyl or poly-urethane surface with a textile backing. Easiest applied in the same manner as with the thicker, textured fabrics above, with contact cement being the adhesive of choice, but spray adhesive or white glue would likely work just fine too. The sparkly furniture upholstery fabrics (diner style) often have a beautiful deep lustre and gloss and looks just like regular drum wrap when applied, but at a fraction of the cost.
Really? Yes it’s been done too. Copper and other metals can be used as well, but would add substantial weight and may be harder to find in a thin enough gauge. Flashing can also be found in brass colour. The kit pictured is the only known example and the adhesion method is unknown. Construction adhesive seems appropriate though. OK that’s a joke, but some kind of fortified PVA would likely be a good candidate. Weldbond is a brand of fortified PVA common here in Canada.
Roof flashing is easily obtained at most home-improvement stores and is very affordable. Clear coating would likely give it an enhanced mirror-like lustre.
Well… Not real animal fur, but the fake furry fabric stuff your dad stuck all over the dashboard of his old Gremlin, although he’ll never admit it. Or even to ever owning a Gremlin. File this one mostly under the joke category, but like the other examples listed here, it has been done. Should you insist on doing this, contact cement will work fine. Don’t worry about wrinkles or bubbles. They won’t be visible.
Useful Tips & Tricks
Removing old Wrap
Patience is key when removing drum wrap. Too much speed and wood splinters will follow the wrap leaving deep gouges in the shell. Use a heat gun or blow drier to heat the wrap until it warps and gently pry it off a bit at a time. Sometimes sections will go fast, but take care to slow it down again when you reach a more stubborn portion.
A couple of helpful articles on removing hardware and wrap:
Sign and Vehicle vinyl can be bought at most local sign shops, or from sign supply distributors easily located with a google search. Furniture and kitchen vinyl is commonly found at home-improvement stores, wall-paper stores and of course online.
Tip: If you want to customize further, a sign shop can cut custom graphics out of vinyl, usually at an up-charge of less than 50 bucks.