Gye Greene's Thoughts

Gye Greene's Thoughts (w/ apologies to The Smithereens and their similarly-titled album!)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

DIY Blastix or bundled rod drumsticks

Earlier I posted a blog entry on home-made drumming "brushes" -- which were actual dishwashing brushes.  I also made some mega-heavy, Taiko-style drumsticks.  This current blog entry is somewhere in the middle of that range of exploration:  some homemade "bundled rods" or Blastix.

Bundled rods are basically thin dowels, bundled together and used as drumsticks.  They're partway along the continuum between drumsticks and "brushes".

My thought was: instead of paying $15-$25 (horrors!) on a factory-made "bundled rod" drumstick, how hard would it be to make my own?  And, would it sound OK?

For raw materials, I bought a pair of bamboo sushi mats from Daiso, a retail chain where everything in the store is AU$2.80.  I also bought a pair of bamboo placemats from their competetors, Danda, where everything is also AU$2.80.  My basic outlay was therefore $5.60 per pair of drumsticks.

However, I also ended up paying $7.19 for a roll of decent-quality green duct tape (green tape is more interesting than silver or black).  Technically it was "cloth tape", with embedded threads for strength.  Since this project only used a few feet of the roll, I'm not sure how much of the total cost of the roll I should assign to the DIY Blastix:  maybe 30c?

And I also used a bit of glue.  More on that later.

As you can see from the photo, the two types of mats happen to be the same length.  This is useful for comparing the sound of the two materials, as the length of the material is held constant between them.

As you can see, my hand width indicates that the finished product should be missing the top two rows of string, but the lower rows might as well be retained in the final product:  it makes the rolling easier, and provides a bit of substance under my grip.

In addition, my approach is to remove only the second-from-the-tip row of string:  retaining the row on the end helps to keep the bundle together, and because it's at the tip, it should be pretty easy to remove after everything is assembled.  In contrast, the "second row" would be a nuisance to try to remove, post-assembly.

The weight and cross-section of the sushi mat is different than the black-stained placemat.  I think both are bamboo.  However, the placemat strips are round in cross-section, and thinner than the sushi mat.  Here you can (hopefully!) see that the sushi mat has a series of half-circles (or maybe 1/3 circles?).

I decided to roll the mat with the curved portions outwards:  it would make a smoother exterior, which would be less likely to dig into my hands.

Here's a shot of the sushi-rolling mats, with the second-from-the-
top strings removed.

Note the heavy-duty waxed paper, to keep the excess glue off my workbench.

Handy hint:  the waxed paper is actually the bag from inside a dried cereal box.  It's heavier-duty than "regular" waxed paper.  Because the inside of the bag tends to have cereal dust, I write "outside" on the outside of the bag, and make sure that the clean "outside" of the bag is what touches my workpiece.

This photo shows the gluing pattern that I used:  a strip down each side, along the thicker "ends" of the placement, and then one stripe of glue along each interwoven string.

I'm just using regular white woodworking glue (PVA, I believe).  However, it's the "Exterior grade, water-resistant" type of glue:  I figured there was no point in building something that a hot summer's day would destroy.

After laying down the glue, I held the mats tightly to the work- surface, and rolled them as tightly as I could -- being sure to keep the ends nicely aligned.

Note that I intentionally rolled one mat clockwise, and the other counter-clockwise.  This resulted in a "matched" set of sticks that were mirror-image of each other.

Then I took the green "cloth tape" and wrapped each stick twice:  two layers along the "upper" string's glue-line, and two more layers on the "lower" string's glue-line.  "Upper" and "lower" refer to my hand placement on the stick.

After gluing, I further aligned the sticks by forcefully tamping down the butt ends against the workbench.
You can see the size of my fist, relative to the project:  the upper band of green tape is peeking out between my fingers.

There was still a little alignment work to be done, so I also tried to tamp it down a little bit with a mallet.  It helped a little.
(The mallet was created by my late paternal grandfather, BTW:  it's my "go to" mallet, and ends up getting used on just about every project that involves striking against wood.)

Finally, I set up my creations to glue up overnight.  I placed them in an old cake pan, in case the glue dribbled.  I also placed them with the tips pointing up, so that the excess glue would drain away from the tips:  I wanted to ensure that the "bristles" could move freely, rather than accidentally get bound by glue.

Here are the (near-)final products:

For the purposes of illustration, I took the picture partway through unravelling the end string.

Finally, here's what they sound like:

One of these days I'll purchase a set of actual Blastix or "bundled rods", and compare them to my home-made devices.  Eventually.  :)


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