How to Refinish Drums

Updated April 17, 2017

You can give an outdated drum kit a classic look by removing the cling film and finishing the wood with wood stain and varnish. Most modern kits are wooden shells wrapped in coloured plastic that ,is glued to the shells. Some drum companies, such as Pearl, only apply a thin strip of adhesive to the ends of the wraps, which makes refinishing your drum set easier. Other companies use a liquid glue to apply the wraps, and the glue may be more difficult to remove.

Unscrew the hardware, using the drum key and screwdriver. Remove both drum heads. Put all the hardware aside. Locate the seam in the cling film.

Slide a knife or a paint scraper under the cling film and carefully loosen the glue. Work slowly and gently, because the soft wood underneath is easily gouged by even a dull tool. If the wrap is only glued at the seam, it should come off with minimal effort. If it is glued in multiple places around the shell, repeat this process at each area of adhesive until the wrap is removed.

Wet any glue remaining on the shell with lighter fluid, white spirits or a commercial adhesive remover. Use the paint scraper to carefully remove all glue from the wooden shell. Wipe clean with a damp cloth and allow to dry.

Sand the wooden shell with medium-coarse sandpaper to remove any light stains or blemishes and to smooth the wood.

Brush on two to three coats of wood stain, allowing to dry between coats according to the stain manufacturer's instructions. Always apply stain in the direction of the wood grain.

Spray the varnish on the refinished drum shell in thin, even coats. Allow to dry and reapply as necessary until you're satisfied with the finish.

Allow 12 hours to 24 hours for the drum shell to dry and then reattach the hardware and heads.


Be careful to use either water-based stain and varnish or oil-based stain and varnish. Do not mix water-based products and oil-based products.

Things You'll Need

  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Drum key
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint scraper
  • Lighter fluid, white spirits or adhesive remover
  • Wood stain
  • Varnish
  • Paint brush
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Leah Newman has been a professional writer since 1999, writing about fine arts both in print and online. She specializes in how-to articles covering DIY projects. Newman holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Georgia and a Graduate Certificate in Children's Literature from Pennsylvania State University.