How To Make Your Old Drums Look Like A Million Bucks – Part1 Staining

How to make your old drums look like a Million Bucks - Part 1: Staining

|  By: Jay Fenichel  |  Dec 13th, 2018  |  

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This past Summer (2018) I embarked on this journey to restore my old Pearl drum set, on my own with no professional help. My goal was to have a finished drum set that rivals my GMS Grand Master Series drum kit that I bought way back in 1995.

Now that the project is completed, I can finally say that the drums came out even better than I had hoped. I also decided to document the entire process so I can share the entire drum set rebuild with all of my members and followers.

The video attached to this post is Part 1 outlined the first steps that I took to restoring these old drums.

What was my motivation for this project?

I had recently signed an endorsement deal with Pearl Drums (Who I've always been a huge fan of)  One big big issue that they had is that in all of my videos I am using a GMS kit and they'd like me to be using Pearl from now on.  Which I can certainly understand.

Unfortunately the Pearl drums that I want are back ordered and, since I am not a huge name in the drumming world, still pretty pricy ...even with the artist deal.  I decided that the quickest way to convert my setup to all things 'Pearl drums' was to take the kit that I already own and love and make it top notch.

I am sure a new Pearl drum set is on the horizon eventually, but until then why not take what I already have and make it look as good as it already sounds.  After all, I am no stranger to using a little elbow grease to get things done.

Had I been a little wiser back in the day I would have bought a new Pearl Masters kit instead of the GMS, but that's not how life panned out.

Back when I got the drum kit in '95, the GMS warehouse was local... just one town over from where I lived and grew up.  Plus Rob Mazzella offered to make me a custom drum set to any sizes and finish that I wanted.  That was something that most companies just didn't offer back then, especially to a college kid like me.  They weren't any cheaper, but I figured it was an investment.

I was first introduced to Pearl drums through my teacher Kim Plainfield, who was a Pearl artist.  Kim wasn't thrilled that I decided on GMS so he gave me the "Pearl Drums" rundown.  Even though I loved my GMS kit... I never got those Pearl drums out of my head.  (Thanks Kim... you are missed and God rest your soul.)

What Are The Specs Of The Old Pearl Drum Set That I'm Restoring?

A few years later in 2003, I was playing a gig at a bar and some drunken idiot decided it would be funny to take a header right into my GMS drums.  I decided right then that the GMS drum set would become my studio kit and never see the stage of another bar.

I was also teaching out of my Deer Park drum studio on Long Island, NY and figured I needed a knock around drum set just for my private drum students and playing out.

I didn't have a lot of money to spend on gear, so I turned to the local penny savor where I saw an advertisement for a used Pearl drum kit.  It was "Pearl" that caught my eye.  I gave the ad a call and decided to take a chance and check it out.

The seller was a young guy in his 20's on tour in the US with his band from Europe.  They had just finished their last gig and needed to fly back home.

The drum set looked like hell!  It was a busted yellow wrap finish, peeling and cracked.  He was asking $500 the 5-piece drum set which included a:

  • 24" X 16" Bass Drum
  • 12" X 8" Rack Tom
  • 14" X 14" 2nd Rack
  • 18" X 16" Floor Tom
  • 13" X 2" Pearl Piccolo Snare Drum (Non Matching)

He was also throwing in some old Zildjian cymbals (Avedis Hats, a ride, and a crash) and an old throne.  The drum set really looked beaten up but I noticed that the badge on the side simply said "Maple Shell." I had never heard of a Pearl drum set line that was just called "Maple Shell."

Because of that I decided to pull the trigger.  I talked him down to $300 for everything. He was psyched and jumped at the deal explaining that he was flying out tomorrow and if he didn't sell the kit, he'd be forced to just dump it at a music store for next to nothing.

I got the kit back to my studio and went to work removing that horrible wrap.  It wasn't so bad since they were already peeling on every drum.  Once the wrap was off, to my surprise and delight, the shells were in great shape and indeed maple, just like the badge stated.

A quick trip to Home Depot and a couple of hours of staining with Minwax Dark Walnut stain ...and drums looked great.  I decided not to even seal them.  I liked the matte unfinished look.

...And that's how those drums stayed for the next 15 years.  Enduring hundreds of hours of students, sessions, gigs, etc...  I eventually put aside the 24" kick and converted the 18" floor tom to a bass drum, but everything else stayed the same.

That brings us to today... After doing a little research I found out that these Pearl MX "Maple Shell" drum sets were a precursor to the Pearl Masters kits.  They were only made from 1981-1983 and the drum shells are Keller.  Well, after finding that out... it was good enough for me!

I love how the kit came out and can't wait to share the entire process with you all.  Leave me a comment below if you dig the process so far... or if you totally disagree with my approach.

I am definitely a novice when it comes to drum restoration... so if you actually know what you're doing, criticism will only help me get better ...so don't be afraid to let me have it!  Thanks and I'll see you on the next post.

How to make your old drums look like a Million Bucks - Part1: Staining

|  By: Jay Fenichel  |  Dec 13th, 2018  |

Rate this post:


This past Summer (2018) I embarked on this journey to restore my old Pearl drum set, on my own with no professional help. My goal was to have a finished drum set that rivals my GMS Grand Master Series drum kit that I bought way back in 1995.

Now that the project is completed, I can finally say that the drums came out even better than I had hoped. I also decided to document the entire process so I can share the entire drum set rebuild with all of my members and followers.

The video attached to this post is Part 1 outlined the first steps that I took to restoring these old drums.

What was my motivation for this project?

I had recently signed an endorsement deal with Pearl Drums (Who I've always been a huge fan of)  One big big issue that they had is that in all of my videos I am using a GMS kit and they'd like me to be using Pearl from now on.  Which I can certainly understand.

Unfortunately the Pearl drums that I want are back ordered and, since I am not a huge name in the drumming world, still pretty pricy ...even with the artist deal.  I decided that the quickest way to convert my setup to all things 'Pearl drums' was to take the kit that I already own and love and make it top notch.

I am sure a new Pearl drum set is on the horizon eventually, but until then why not take what I already have and make it look as good as it already sounds.  After all, I am no stranger to using a little elbow grease to get things done.

Had I been a little wiser back in the day I would have bought a new Pearl Masters kit instead of the GMS, but that's not how life panned out.

Back when I got the drum kit in '95, the GMS warehouse was local... just one town over from where I lived and grew up.  Plus Rob Mazzella offered to make me a custom drum set to any sizes and finish that I wanted.  That was something that most companies just didn't offer back then, especially to a college kid like me.  They weren't any cheaper, but I figured it was an investment.

I was first introduced to Pearl drums through my teacher Kim Plainfield, who was a Pearl artist.  Kim wasn't thrilled that I decided on GMS so he gave me the "Pearl Drums" rundown.  Even though I loved my GMS kit... I never got those Pearl drums out of my head.  (Thanks Kim... you are missed and God rest your soul.)

What Are The Specs Of The Old Pearl Drum Set That I'm Restoring?

A few years later in 2003, I was playing a gig at a bar and some drunken idiot decided it would be funny to take a header right into my GMS drums.  I decided right then that the GMS drum set would become my studio kit and never see the stage of another bar.

I was also teaching out of my Deer Park drum studio on Long Island, NY and figured I needed a knock around drum set just for my private drum students and playing out.

I didn't have a lot of money to spend on gear, so I turned to the local penny savor where I saw an advertisement for a used Pearl drum kit.  It was "Pearl" that caught my eye.  I gave the ad a call and decided to take a chance and check it out.

The seller was a young guy in his 20's on tour in the US with his band from Europe.  They had just finished their last gig and needed to fly back home.

The drum set looked like hell!  It was a busted yellow wrap finish, peeling and cracked.  He was asking $500 the 5-piece drum set which included a:

  • 24" X 16" Bass Drum
  • 12" X 8" Rack Tom
  • 14" X 14" 2nd Rack
  • 18" X 16" Floor Tom
  • 13" X 2" Pearl Piccolo Snare Drum (Non Matching)

He was also throwing in some old Zildjian cymbals (Avedis Hats, a ride, and a crash) and an old throne.  The drum set really looked beaten up but I noticed that the badge on the side simply said "Maple Shell." I had never heard of a Pearl drum set line that was just called "Maple Shell."

Because of that I decided to pull the trigger.  I talked him down to $300 for everything. He was psyched and jumped at the deal explaining that he was flying out tomorrow and if he didn't sell the kit, he'd be forced to just dump it at a music store for next to nothing.

I got the kit back to my studio and went to work removing that horrible wrap.  It wasn't so bad since they were already peeling on every drum.  Once the wrap was off, to my surprise and delight, the shells were in great shape and indeed maple, just like the badge stated.

A quick trip to Home Depot and a couple of hours of staining with Minwax Dark Walnut stain ...and drums looked great.  I decided not to even seal them.  I liked the matte unfinished look.

...And that's how those drums stayed for the next 15 years.  Enduring hundreds of hours of students, sessions, gigs, etc...  I eventually put aside the 24" kick and converted the 18" floor tom to a bass drum, but everything else stayed the same.

That brings us to today... After doing a little research I found out that these Pearl MX "Maple Shell" drum sets were a precursor to the Pearl Masters kits.  They were only made from 1981-1983 and the drum shells are Keller.  Well, after finding that out... it was good enough for me!

I love how the kit came out and can't wait to share the entire process with you all.  Leave me a comment below if you dig the process so far... or if you totally disagree with my approach.

I am definitely a novice when it comes to drum restoration... so if you actually know what you're doing, criticism will only help me get better ...so don't be afraid to let me have it!  Thanks and I'll see you on the next post.

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