How to make a Ply shell Mould.

So here are the steps to make a ply shell mould, it is pretty simple and it should only take you two three days to have a working mould come out of it. If you have any issues or questions feel free to leave a comment.



MDF – the thickness is your choice. But generally I would go for 16mm or 18mm, the amount you will need will vary on mould size but I will let you work that one out.
BendyPly – or MDF, something to line inside to make a smooth cylinder.
L Brackets
Wax – of the candle variety
Glue – just wood glue, or PVA would be fine


Drill – with screw-driver attachment
Router – with straight bit
Jigsaw/table saw/ hand saw – doesn’t really matter what type as long as it cuts.


1) Grab a book or blank piece of wood and work to work everything out. You need to figure out the size of the drum you wish to figure out and work back from there. This will get you the size of the circles you need to cut, the height (depth) of the mould (worked out by the thickness of the MDF) Also plan out the process and how you are going to do it, this will make everything run a lot smoother. Remember a drum is not the exact diameter described. So a 14” drum is more like 13.875” remember this when planning out your circle jig.

2) Once you know the size of the drum you wish to build you can the cut up the MDF to the correct size (I plan this before I buy the MDF and get the shop to cut it for me) if you are doing a 14” drum allow for about 2” either side to create the support (making an 18”x18” square.)

3) Now to make the Circle Jig. It is quite simple really. Get a piece of MDF and your router. You need to attach the router to the MDF, each router has different screws in different places so if your router has a removable base plate – remove it and trace it onto the MDF. Once you have drilled the holes, attach the router with a ¼” plunge bit and plunge the hole into the MDF. Next you will need to make the hole for the centre of the circle. To get the location of the hole you will need to draw a line through the centre of the hole you just plunged. To get the length you will need to get half of the diameter of the drum then add the thickness of the bendyply.

4) Mark the centre of the MDF squares and drill a hole. You can screw the circle jig onto the square, or what I do is take the drill piece out of the drill and use that as a centre piece, providing the drill bit is thick enough – too small and it will snap.

5) Make sure it’s clamped and then check the clearance to make sure the router will spin freely without getting caught.

6) Remember safety when using the router, dust mask (as MDF makes fine sawdust) goggles and ear plugs. Use tight fitting gloves if you wish, but loose ones will pose more of a threat then they will keep you safe.

7) On the first piece plunge slightly take the circle jig off and measure the circle. Make any adjustments with the with the jig plunge slightly again, measure and if this is right go ahead and cut the circle out. (as you can see I needed to make a few adjustments)

8) Next cut up the spacers, and lay up the mould with-out glue. Check it’s the right height and make any adjustments. Glue all the pieces together and then to make it a nice cylinder put the bendyply in the middle and the force should move the pieces into place – then clamp. When stacking the MDF only allow for 1-2” in-between. Generally I only stack one piece in-between the circles. So that’s either a 16mm or 18mm gap between the circles.

9) After the glue has cured, get out some sand paper and fix up and bumps etc from the mould. Then glue the bendy ply into place. I generally don’t measure the bendy ply, but if you do it right it shouldn’t need force. I add the gym ball just to make sure it’s going around the to conform to the circle perfectly.

10) Attach two more plates either side of the mould, after they are attached cut the mould in half. Once the mould is in half you can cut any excess off from the mould. With this mould I will leave it on as I will be experimenting with a few things.

11) Wax up the inside (this will help stop the glue from the shell making the shell stick to the mould)

12) Next you will need to attach the Hinges and brackets (this will allow the mould to be opened) the two L brackets will form the lock. When you place the two halves together remember to make up for the thickness cut out so that it still forms a perfect circle.


  1. This is inspiring. I’m gonna have to try this now.

    • andyvanzant
    • October 6th, 2010

    Yeah mate, pretty easy to do. reading how I have messed up should give you a head start. I hope to put up more tutorials soon on the whole process but probably wont be doing that for a few months.

    • Leigh
    • April 30th, 2011

    Hi, this is really helpfull im gonna try this, can you tell me though, the bendply you put in to line the mould, what thickness would you recommend, is it 1 ply?
    Thanks, Leigh.

      • andyvanzant
      • May 13th, 2011

      Hmm, I cant remember exactly the thickness. I think its 5mm, which is 2 ply, one thick one with the grain following the bend and the other is thin with the grain crossing. I would recommend something a bit more stable its pretty soft and no dobut loses a lot of accuracy after you have pressed over and over. I have been told that the bendy MDF is much better and stronger. I have also seen some Carbon Fiber moulds made, which would probably be better but I have no experience in these.

    • Chase Wackerfuss
    • July 8th, 2011

    Hi, and thanks for the post!

    Just wondering, how did you go about cutting the mold in half, since it is quite thick? Thanks!

    • Sorry, I have not checked this site much. Bit late (try 12 months, haha) but I just used a jigsaw to cut it into two. From memory it was just big enough.

    • dylan
    • December 20th, 2011

    How expencive is it to create the mould in the first place, and then start to make say 6-8ply maple drums? like cost each, just for the shell no lugs ect… also i was wondering does the bendy ply come in maple or just ply wood or what? im 16 and i really would love to start creating my owne custome drums in my grandfathers shop. So as you could guess im verry new to this whole thing… please email me at and/or, either way please put somthing like (making custome ply drum shells} in bold or somthing easy to see, because i get alot of spam messages from music sites.
    thank you- dylan wagoner

    • Again, sorry for the late reply.

      Its not a cheap option to create a drum. Especially if you dont know what you are doing. Going both ways (ply or stave) there are big set up costs to create the tools needed, then there is the trial and error processes.

      have a look at and (the last is a forum devoted to drum building and where I learnt all of my information when building drums)

      I have absolutely no idea what type of wood bendyply is probably just some cheap wood.

      What you are probably referring to is the veneer to make the actual drums. You can get this in just about any type of timber you can dream of. I even saw artificial timbers that where pretty awesome. Just look at your local wood shop, if your grandfather has a shop, I would say he should know the best places to look.

    • Max
    • August 7th, 2012

    Two quick questions:

    1. What kind of bendply should I buy to make the actual drum shell
    2. Where is the best place to buy this bendply

    Sorry if this is too broad a question, I’m very new to drum making

    • Hello, Thanks for showing interest. I no longer build drums, however in answer to your questions.

      1) the bendy ply is used to make the mould, Its so it will be strong enough and have a smooth surface for the veneer (what will make the drum) and you wont get any bumps or lumps in the surface of the drum.

      To actually make the shell you will need to use veneer. This comes in many different types (adhesive backed, iron on etc) You want to get plain veneer, with no adhesives its usually about 0.6 thick. However you can buy thicker veneer but when I was researching and constructing I found that anything over about 1.2 thick wouldn’t be so easy.

      Then what I did was press two layers of veneer together in a flat press (cross laminating them, ie the grain going vertical on one layer then the grain going horizontal on the next) after I had two layers of flat pressed veneer I would press this in the Mould until I had the desired ply count or thickness.

      This is a long way of doing it, however I didn’t mind as I was producing for myself. You could potentially make multiple sheets and press in the mould all at once, but I found it to be difficult by my self. you can also have all straight grain etc. Really anything that you wish to do.

      2) I can not remember where I got the bendy ply from, I think it was a building supply place. They sold me one massive 2440×1200 sheet. However buying veneer is easy. I am not sure where you are located but most timber specialty shops should stock it (however I found at unreasonable prices) I purchased most of my veneer of off ebay, just off cuts that were big enough to make the drum.

        • Max
        • August 8th, 2012

        Thank you very much for the response. This answers so many questions for me!

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