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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 on the sides are purely cosmetic.)

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. For comparison, I’ve added a pic of the original tuning handle on the fine tuner. It’s nice and shiny but far too short.

ludwig dresden fine tuning handle original handle

UPDATE 9/14/18: I wanted to try printing a new ratchet for the tuning pedal but sadly, my first attempt failed. The teeth were not even close to strong enough and stripped out immediately, though it looked very pretty in translucent blue!

By chance I ran into an old friend at a concert. It turns out that he is a machinist and I told him of my quest for a DIY Dresden ratchet. He asked me to send him a print of the ratchet and I did. He turned my floppy plastic print into a beautiful stainless steel prototype. It is not even close to DIY but it works like a dream!

The Trubright ratchet has around 25 more teeth than the Falls Percussion ratchet. I’ve never once had to use the fine tuner with it and the clutch has never slipped. If you are interested in ordering replacement ratchets like the one above, contact me and we will get you a quote.

More 3D Hacks: counterhoop mounted tuning gauge letters.

I’ve used string and weight ‘gravity’ gauges for years. There are many different ways to do it but since I have access to 3D printing, I thought I would try to create some note indicators that clipped directly onto the rim of the drums. After several attempts to get the design and fit right, I can say that it’s been a success. They fit on tightly enough to stay put but are loose enough to slide. Raised and painted letters denote the pitches and skinny accidental indicators can slip between the main notes.