Even More Ludwig Dresden 3D Printing Mods

Ratcheting Up

rubright ludwig dresdensMy holy grail of Ludwig Dresden timpani 3D-printed mods has been a fine-toothed ratchet. As anyone familiar with these instruments knows, they have a serious design flaw: the ratchet teeth are too wide, making it impossible to tune the drum accurately using only the pedal. Players (and I was one) have to use the fine tuner to make adjustments on most notes. To make matters worse, while the ratchet teeth are not fine enough, the fine tuner is too fine, meaning a lot of turning has to be done to dial in the pitch. Furthermore, the tuning handle is across the drum from the player and the handle, which is just the standard Ludwig tuning handle, is very short. Another problem is the clutch release pedal, which is not even an inch tall (more on that below). On the plus side, the pedal mechanism is simple and strong. The drums have heavy, suspended copper kettles and sound great if they’re well maintained.

The Fix is In

For many years, Falls Percussion made stainless steel fine-toothed ratchets. I have them and they work great. Unfortunately, they stopped making them long ago. DK Percussion is making them now and they look terrific. They’re not too expensive, either. So why would I bother printing them? Because I love messing around with drums and tech, and tinkerers are gonna tinker.

Several attempts over the years have failed. Modeling the part wasn’t too difficult. Finding a material that was strong enough to hold the pawl on the pedal mechanism was. Early attempts were too brittle and the teeth failed, and some were too soft and didn’t hold.

Modeling Through

I used Tinkercad to model the part, which is a simple yet powerful modeling platform. Prototypes were printed on basic 3D printers to ensure a proper fit and the final product was uploaded to Shapeways.com for printing.

Even then, there was trial and error. Once you upload a part to Shapeways there are many materials to choose from and it is far from intuitive. My first ratchet looked amazing but it was sort of rubbery and way too soft. It was also expensive! I reached out to Shapeways support and they suggested a different material, PA12 polyurethane. My next attempt was more promising. The piece had a nice, slightly rough gray texture and seemed very tough. I put it on the drum and (insert timpani roll here) it worked!

ludwig dresden 3d ratchet

Careful observers will notice that the clutch release pedal (which I mentioned above) is not stock: it’s another mod. My first versions tended to break, so I reinforced them at the front end and have had no problems lately. They are printed with the same material as the ratchets.

The Verdict

I used the ratchets and pedals for a recent concert and quickly forgot they were there. Do I recommend them? The clutch release pedal, definitely. As for the ratchet, stainless steel is always the way to go but if you’re on a budget, there is an alternative. Note that they’re not exactly cheap at around $40 apiece. Also, it takes several weeks to get them after they’re ordered. Still, 3D printing is only getting better and better, so tinkerers like myself will have many more options in the future.


I’m not selling the ratchets or pedals. Use 3D printed parts at your own risk 🙂

Posted on: February 15, 2024, by :