5 June 2023
This is my giant RotoTom kit I call RotoZilla. It's built using original vintage Remo RotoToms. Bass drums are 18" on customized stands. Toms include all 7 sizes - 6,8,10,12,14,16,18. Cymbals are Zildjian S-Series. RotoZilla is the centerpiece of my Drum Lab.
RotoToms are low-profile shell-less drums made from circular metal spoked frames. They can be tuned quickly by simply rotating the entire drum.
Remo was one of the big makers of RotoToms over the years but they fell out of favor in the '80s and are now experiencing a revival of interest. Here is the 1976 Remo RotoTom catalog.
RotoToms consists of 2 wheels. Each wheel has spokes from an outside ring to a center hub.
The top wheel is where the drum head and its rim/hoop rests.
The center hub is solid and has a logo label on it.
The bottom wheel is 2" larger than the top wheel.
It has threaded holes around the perimeter for the rim screws.
The center hub is threaded to accept the mounting bolt.
Mounting is accomplished with a 'C' channel track that attaches to a typical 3-legged stand.
Tracks can usually hold several RotoToms.
A carriage bolt (3/8-16) for each tom slides into the track and is secured with a threaded lever.
The bolt does not turn because the square section under its head rides in the track.
The bolt goes through the bottom wheel which is threaded to match the bolt, then to the top wheel which is not threaded. The bolt rests on the bottom of the top wheel and is able to turn.
The whole RotoTom assembly including the rim, the head, the top wheel and the bottom wheel can rotate on the fixed bolt. When rotating, the threaded bottom wheel moves relative to the top wheel changing tension on the head resulting in changing of the drum pitch.
Yes, you can practice bass drum with RotoToms.
My build started by collecting various sizes but one day I came across a large kit with 18" RotoToms on Reverb and bought it. Some of the wheels were chrome and some were black so I painted all of them black to match.
I wanted the toms to be arranged in an arch from left to right so I had to offset the one in the middle using a custom plate and a short piece of track.
Build gallery, from receipt of parts, sandblasting, then painting.
The 18" bass drum mounts started out as Latin Percussion LP388 cowbell pedal bracket. The slots were sanded out to accept the 3/8" RotoTom mounting bolt. Then I beefed up the whole assembly with some 8020 aluminum. These are still a bit wobbly and don't have the stablity of a real bass drum. I've added a 6" square of corrugated foam to dampen the sound.
The 18" RotoToms as bass drums are not like playing a real drum. The head is a bit hard because it's so small and it can wear out your foot. Plus the sound is not very good and takes some getting use to. I'm gonna stick with them but a real bass drum would be better in most regards.
Some of the hub labels on my RotoToms were old or missing so I drew up some artwork in Photoshop and laser printed them. The silver-foil 8.5x11 label sheets are OL177SF from OnlineLabels.com. After printing, I used an Exacto knife to cut the inner hole for the bottom label, and used scissors to cut the outer circle.
Here's the Photoshop artwork as PSD files:
RotoToms mount to aluminum tracks that connect to a stand, then to each tom using a 3/8" carriage bolt. The rounded head of the carriage bolt has a square base which fits into the track's channel preventing it from rotating. A threaded handle clamps the bolt to the track in the desired position. The bolt can freely slide to any position along the track when the handle is loosened.
Several different companies have made tracks but the most common I've seen are 1.125" wide, .75" tall. The slot is .375" wide to hold the bolt. Standard track lengths are 4", 10", 24", 36", but you can cut them with a hack-saw to any length you want.
Remo's track is called RotoTrac. See Remo's catalog page 11 to see the various RotoTrac components offered.
Here's a picture showing the common one in black which is solid, and a lighter-weight/lower-cost version in clear finish - both are aluminum. The light-weight version has slightly different outer dimensions but the slot is the same to accept the bolt.
RotoTom tracks connect to stands in various ways. The original Remo method uses a stand adapter plate, sometimes attached to a block of metal that's part of the stand. Here are some styles of stand mounts -
There are at least 3 different kinds of handles I've seen.
First is the traditional REMO handle that has sharper edges.
And there's the low-cost version with a sheet-metal piece welded to a nut.
Then there's the smooth style which seems to be more modern.
And yes, you can use a nut and washer.
Here's a RotoTom mounting track compatable micro table I made using a small 7x10 aluminum baking pan from Walmart. 1" tall. It mounts to the RotoTom track just like a tom using a 3/8-16 carriage bolt. A 3/8-16 nut is glued to the bottom using a good 2-part epoxy, then everything is painted black. Super convenient place to put your phone and earbuds. I'll document this better on another project page.