Step by Step Woond Finishing Technique and Wood Finish Recipe For Custom Drum Builders!

This drum set wood finishing technique and recipe is ridiculously easy to follow as long as you take it step by step. The detail is extreme, not because there's anything complex about it, but because I want to leave absolutely no chance of guesswork. I practically tell you which hand to use to unscrew the cap from the can of tung oil -- and if you have any questions, just ask me...

Warmest Regards,
Bob Coiro


custom made floor tomBetween some advice I found on the internet and a lot of dumb luck, I was able to produce a surprisingly good tung oil finish on my shells. Now, there's probably a much easier, more efficient way to get the job done, so I won't say that mine is the best way to do it. It's just the method upon which I happened to stumble and if you should travel down that same meandering road, you should get to the same destination. This method makes dust and lint in the air a non-issue, so it's great for a workshop environment.

I used Minwax Cherrywood Gel Stain and Minwax Tung Oil Finish. I don't know if it will work with anything else. I do know you cannot substitute Formby's Tung oil for Minwax Tung Oil Finish -- I tried it, it didn't work. The Minwax Gel Stain is oil-based and the solvents in it are compatible with Minwax's version of tung oil (which is really an oil/varnish blend). I used wet/dry sandpaper in the following grits: 220, 320. 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1200, 1500, 2000 and 2500. Grits from 1000 through 2500 can be gotten at an auto body supply store. You can also get 3M-brand #06334 masking tape in the auto body supply store. It releases without leaving a residue. Of course, wear some kind of latex or vinyl disposable gloves and a respirator. I got one for thirty bucks at Home Depot.

I'll describe the finishing process in exhaustive, tedious, boring detail -- not to be annoying but to leave absolutely nothing to the imagination. If someone had done that for me, I wouldn't have had to strip my shells down to the bare wood three times (four, if you count the shell I messed up on the buffing wheel).

Custom Drum Wood Finishing Step 1.) Mask off the inside of the shell and bearing edges with butcher paper and 3M 06334 masking tape (unless you want to stain and oil the inside of the shell as well -- I didn't happen to do it that way). Sand with 220-grit to eliminate the manufacturer's machinery marks on the wooden shell. Always sand in the direction of the grain. Use mineral spirits to lubricate the sandpaper so it will clog up less quickly. Finish up with 320-grit lubricated with mineral spirits. Wait at least one day before going on to the next step.

Custom Drum Wood Finishing Step 2.) Apply a moderately generous coat of gel stain as specified in the directions on the can. Let it sit about ten minutes and then wipe off the excess with a cheesecloth, then buff the rest in with a lintless cotton rag. Always buff in the direction of the grain.

Custom Drum Wood Finishing Step Step 3.) Wait at least one day and repeat step 2. Then wait at least one day before continuing to step 4.

Custom Drum Wood Finishing Step Step 4.) Using a a hunk of cheese cloth or a foam brush, apply a generous coat of tung oil to the shell (and when I say tung oil, I mean Minwax Tung Oil Finish). We want this coat to sink in as deeply as possible to seal the wood and at least partially protect the stain therein from future sanding, so be generous with the tung oil -- flood the exterior of the shell. Let it sit for ten minutes and then, in the direction of the grain, wipe away the excess tung oil with a cheesecloth. Return frequently to buff away the tung oil bleed-back. As tung oil cures, some of it will tend to squeeze itself back out of the pores of the wood and then harden as little pinpoint scabs unless you return to chase the little droplets away. Most of the bleed-back will take place on this first coat of tung oil. If you don't happen to catch all the little droplets, it's okay -- you'll grind them away as there's plenty of sanding yet to do at relatively coarse grits. Wait at least one day before going on to the next step.

Custom Drum Wood Finishing Step 5.) The next several coats of tung oil are sanded in. This will keep your sandpaper from clogging up and it makes dust in the air irrelevant. Paint on the tung oil with a foam brush or a hunk of cheesecloth. Sand it in with 400-grit wet/dry paper. Always sand in the direction of the grain. Wipe the excess away with cheesecloth (in the direction of the grain). There won't be quite as much bleed-back on this second coat, so just return occasionally to chase it away with a cheesecloth. Wait at least one day between coats.

Custom Drum Wood Finishing Step 6.) Mix ten parts of tung oil with one part of mineral spirits. We're thinning down the tung oil with mineral spirits at this point because of the finer grit sandpaper. Tung oil that is too thick will allow the finer grit sandpaper to glide above the wood without cutting it. Paint on the tung oil/mineral spirits mixture and sand it in with 600-grit wet/dry paper. Wipe the excess away with a cheesecloth. Return occasionally to chase away any bleed-back. Always do your sanding and wiping in the direction of the grain. Wait at least a day between coats.

Custom Drum Wood Finishing Step 7.) Mix ten parts of tung oil with one part of mineral spirits. Paint on the tung oil/mineral spirits mixture and sand it in with 800-grit wet/dry paper. Wipe the excess away with a cheesecloth. Return occasionally to chase away any bleed-back. Wait at least a day between coats.

Custom Drum Wood Finishing Step 8.) Mix ten parts of tung oil with one part of mineral spirits. Paint on the tung oil/mineral spirits mixture and sand it in with 1000-grit wet/dry paper. Wipe the excess away with a cheesecloth. Return occasionally to chase away any bleed-back. Wait at least a day between coats.

Custom Drum Wood Finishing Step 9.) Mix ten parts of tung oil with one part of mineral spirits (but if the sandpaper glides over the wood without cutting, add a little more mineral spirits to the mix). Paint on the tung oil/mineral spirits mixture and sand it in with 1200-grit wet/dry paper. Wipe the excess away with a cheesecloth and buff the rest in with a lintless cotton rag. Return occasionally to chase away any bleed-back. Wait at least a day between coats.

Custom Drum Wood Finishing Step 10.) Mix seven parts of tung oil with one part of mineral spirits. Paint on the tung oil/mineral spirits mixture and sand it in with 1500-grit wet/dry paper. Buff with a soft, lintless cotton rag until almost dry. If the buffing gets difficult or feels sticky, immediately apply more tung oil/mineral spirits mixture and keep buffing until almost dry. Return to check for and eliminate any bleed-back with the lintless cotton rag. Wait at least a day between coats.

Custom Drum Wood Finishing Step 11.) Mix five parts of tung oil with one part of mineral spirits. Paint on the tung oil/mineral spirits mixture and sand it in with 2000-grit wet/dry paper. Buff with a soft, lintless cotton rag until almost dry. If the buffing gets difficult or feels sticky as you're buffing, immediately apply more tung oil/mineral spirits mixture and keep buffing until almost dry. Return to check for and eliminate any bleed-back with the lintless cotton rag. Wait at least a day between coats.

Custom Drum Wood Finishing Step 12.) Mix four parts of tung oil with one part of mineral spirits. Paint on the tung oil/mineral spirits mixture and sand it in with 2500-grit wet/dry paper. Buff with a soft, lintless cotton rag until almost dry. If the buffing gets difficult or feels sticky as you're buffing, immediately apply more tung oil/mineral spirits mixture and keep buffing until almost dry. Return to check for and eliminate any bleed-back with the lintless cotton rag. That's the last of the sanding. Wait at least a day before the next step.

Custom Drum Wood Finishing Step 13.) Paint on a full-strength coat of tung oil. Wait five minutes and then buff it in with a lintless cotton rag. If the buffing gets difficult or feels sticky as you're buffing, immediately apply more tung oil/mineral spirits mixture and keep buffing. As the tung oil starts to dry on the shell and on the rag, you'll be burnishing tung oil with tung oil, which is what you want. Buff until the shell feels almost dry to the touch. Wait at least one day before continuing.

Custom Drum Wood Finishing Step 14.) Repeat step 13 until the shell develops a high gloss (probably about four or five times). Let it cure a week before applying any kind of wax. A simple coat of car wax should do it.

Thanks to Bob Coiro for his detailed wood finishing technique. We are very grateful.

You can see Bob's homeade drum set and gorgeous wood finish in more detail here.

wood finishing



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