3D Printing New Parts for Ludwig Dresden Timpani

I’ve owned a pair of Ludwig Dresdens for many years and like them very much. They have some real advantages as gigging drums: suspended, copper kettles, robust bowls, a clutch pedal and a fine tuner, though it’s on the far side of the drum away from the player. Another nice touch is that the clutch pedal can be easily switched to accommodate American or German style set ups. Those are the pluses.

The minuses are considerable. The factory ratchet plate has too few teeth which makes the drums almost impossible to tune with the pedal alone. That’s a big problem. Years ago Falls Percussion made replacement ratchets with many more teeth. They were expensive but worth it and I bought a pair soon after I got the drums. Sadly, they are no longer made. I never liked the stock clutch pedal. It is only a half inch tall and I always wanted one with more surface area for fast pedaling. Another annoyance is that the fine tuner is designed to be turned with the same tuning handle that is used for tuning the lugs. It works but is too short, especially as it is situated across from the player.

I decided to start by seeing if I could improve on the clutch pedal and fine tuning handle. I have access to 3D printers in my day job as an academic technologist. The first step would be creating a 3D model to print. I tried scanning the original clutch with two different 3D scanners but never got a good result. I decided to model one in software. After trying several different CAD programs I settled on the most basic one: Tinkercad. It is free, intuitive and fun to use. Even so, it was tricky. The pedal looks simple but it has several subtle angles to it. I used a digital caliper to measure the clutch and transferred the measurements to my model. I printed out several versions before getting one that was exactly right.

Here is the finished pedal on the drum. (The holes are just for grins.)

The fine tuning handle was simpler, though I still had to print out several versions to get it to fit right. Here is the final version on the drum.

The next project will be to print a Falls style, fine toothed ratchet. Stay tuned!

Hart of the Wud EP Drops on Bandcamp

Hart of the Wud for 4 Marimbas and PercussionI’ve released three tracks of my composition “Hart of the Wud” for four marimbas and percussion ensemble as a free EP on Bandcamp. I decided to up load a partial album since recording and mixing is a long, slow process. Eventually there will be six movements in total.

The pieces are all inspired and take their names from the novel “Riddley Walker” by Russell Hoban, which takes places in a futuristic post-apocalyptic world that has suffered a horrible, civilization destroying calamity. The people who survive live an iron age England with only the dimmest notion of the glories of the past. They stitch together a crude religion based on “Punch and Judy” and the legend of St. Eustace. The entire book is written in a fanciful, phonetic pidgin English. The titles of my pieces all come from that: Connexion Man, Down That Road with Eusa, Sharna Pax, Arga Warga, FoolsCrcl9wys, the 1 Big 1, etc.

All tracks were recorded in my basement using a pair of Oktava condenser mics running into a Presonus 1818VSL interface and then into a Mac running Reason 8. Every other sound is played live except for a few samples which I made myself from instruments that I borrowed from friends. It is a painstaking process since I am my own engineer and have to work in small chunks. It is very rewarding when it all comes together. The charts will be available for sale on my site for live performances.

String Timpani Tuning Gauges with Magnets

My Ludwig Dresden timpani came without tuning gauges, but it hasn’t been a problem. I’ve been using string timpani gauges, or as I like to call them, GravityGauges┬«, for many years. These are simple tools that let you avoid expensive and often inaccurate mechanical gauges, drilling holes in your drums and other unpleasantness.

The traditional method is to tie or tape a piece of string (I use nylon masonry line) to your drum’s pedal and then drape it over the two tuning lugs in front of the drum. The string is weighted, that’s the gravity part; I use eight ounce lead fishing weights with moleskin wrapped around to minimize any noise. A mark on the string moves across the tape to indicate the pitch. (See fig. 1 – 26″ drum) The tape is functional, but funky and has to be replaced often. If you click on the pic to enlarge it, you can see how I’ve added new lines to account for the inevitable drift of the notes. Also, the tape loses its stickiness and can leave a gummy residue on the counterhoop.

string timpani tuning gauge with tape

Lately I’ve come up with a better solution: magnets! It seems pretty obvious in hindsight, but it had never occurred to me before. I ordered thirty small industrial magnets from Amazon and got to work. I decided to paint them with a flat white primer and then hand draw the letters with a fine Sharpie. I could have ordered vinyl letters but they would have to be very small and also, I didn’t want to wait. Here’s how they look on my 29 inch drum.

String timpani tuning gauge with magnet letters

It’s not a perfect world, as you can’t get the magnets too close to each other as they are very strong and will jump together. That’s why I don’t have accidentals between the notes. I don’t mind this, as the accidentals are generally halfway between the whole tones. Note that I’ve used Bb. I find it’s more often used than B natural and it’s not too close to the C.

Here is how they look on the 26 inch drum. On both drums the high notes are on the inside and the low notes are on the outside.

String timpani tuning gauge with letters

I’m very happy with my new and still very cheap gauges. They are easily adjustable, don’t leave a residue and don’t move when you don’t want them to. If you don’t have gauges and don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on them, this is the way to go.