Roger Arrick .com

Building Tube Toms
by Roger Arrick

21 Apr 2023

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These tube toms are modeled after TAMA Octobans which are a set of 8 tuned toms of varying lengths, 6" diameter, made out of acrylic. Now many manufacturers make 6" tube toms under various names, and in various lengths.

Tube toms are nice but they can be an expensive addition to a starving drummer's kit (Insert drummer joke here..). These instructions will show you how to make your own just like I did. I don't play for money so I'm not starving :), but I built these just because I like to build things.

Don't forget to see the awesome gallery at the bottom of this page.


Tubing is the most expensive part of this project, and often the hardest to buy. The size is completely up to you. Longer and wider toms make lower pitches, but that's controlled by head tension also. Tube toms are almost universally longer than a typical tom on a drum kit, sometimes as long as 24", and by far the most common diameter is 6" (150mm). Here is a 6" and 8" tube I bought on Amazon - well packed to prevent scratches.


Most tube toms are 6" (150mm) diameter but you can also make 8" and even 10" diameter toms if you can find the acrylic tubing. Typical tom dimensions are usually given height first, then diameter, but with tube toms the sizes are usually just given as the length and the 6" diameter is assumed. Alex Van Halen used 6" and 8" on some of his kits. I suppose they were custom made since I'm not sure I've ever seen 8" tube toms offered as a standard product by any vendor.

It's critical that the diameter is measured as the OUTSIDE DIAMETER. A 6" tom must be 6" OUTSIDE DIAMETER or it won't fit standard drum heads and hoops. 6.25" or 5" outside diameter is not what you want, although I've heard of people using 5" with some mods to the lugs to account for tension bolt angle.


The length determines the natural pitch of the tom but head tension can offset much of that. If you had 4 tube toms, all 15" long, you could tune them completely differently from each other. Lengths are a personal choice and might be mostly determined by how much material you're willing to buy.

Tama Octobans come in these lengths:

Low pitch set of 4:
  23.5" 600mm
  21" 536mm
  18.5" 472mm
  17.5" 443mm

High pitch set of 4:
  15.5" 390mm
  13.5" 343mm
  12" 301mm
  11" 280mm


The two most common shell thicknesses are .25", 1/4" (6mm) and .125", 1/8" (3mm) - approximately. The toms I've made use the thinner 1/8" wall. The thicker .25" wall tubing is about twice as expensive since it contains twice the material. Yes, they will sound a little different. Just like length, the choice is yours.


Most of the material I've seen readily available is clear acrylic. It should be possible to get various colors but I haven't found a good source for that. The PVC I've seen is not the right outside dimension.


Getting tube is expensive, sometimes difficult to find, and expensive to ship. If you live near a big city I'd suggest looking for a local plastics supplier and see if it's something they stock. Some suppliers will even make cuts for a charge. That might be worth it if you don't want to do that part - but you'll still have to cut the bearing edge and drill holes for lugs and mounts.

Buying online is the way to go. Amazon and other places have it, but I'd suggest seeking out a dedicated plastic supplier to compare prices. You might get lucky and find 'drops' at a discount - these are left-overs from cut-offs.


Back when I built my first tube toms in the late '90s, 6" acrylic 1/8" tube was about $10/ft. In 2022 the price is more like $25/ft.



You'll need 4 lugs per hoop. You can buy lugs, tom mounts and hoops from a drum part supplier or you can salvage parts from an existing drum - often that's much cheaper, and you can sometimes get hardware that matches the rest of your kit.

Most tube toms are single-headed but there's nothing preventing you from making double-headed tube toms - they would be unique but double the hardware and double the work. Here's a double-headed 6" diameter by 8" acrylic tube tom that I wrapped to match my Tama Swingstar kit with lugs salvaged from an older drum.

Tenson Rods/Bolts

Each lug needs a tension rod which is a bolt, usually with a square head. There are several different 'standard' thread pitches avaiable so make sure they match your lugs. #12-24 is a common thread size which is #12 diameter and 24 threads per inch. You often can't tell by just looking so be careful. If you put a bolt with the wrong thread in a lug it will ruin the threaded insert. Buying the lug and bolts together from a supplier, or getting them all included in a used tom is the way to go. A typical tension bolt for a tom is anywhere from 2" or 2.5" long.


Mounts are how the drum connects to a stand. They usually use 2 bolts going through the drum shell, and some sort of wing nut to tighten the drum to the stand rod or tube. There are several kinds of mounts available, but since tube toms are fairly light-weight, most will be sturdy enough. The rod that holds a typical tom is about .42" (7/16") (10.5mm) diameter, but there are also tube mounts.


Every 6" tom I've seen has 4 lugs. Most 8" toms also use 4 lugs, but it's possible to have 5 or 6. This pattern will have to match the hoop. And you'll need to know this before you start drilling. The safest method is to have all of your parts before drilling starts.


A whole book could be written on this. It's up to your personal preference. On most of the tube toms I've built I've used Remo black dot heads, but I'm not claiming they sound the best. My Tama kit has Remo ebony heads and I like them fine. The drum head is responsible for a lot of how a drum sounds. Standard head sizes are 6", 8", 10", 12", 13", 14", 15", 16", 18", 20", 22", 24", 26" and so on.


Here are some vendors I've found, in no particular order, that carry the things you'll need including lugs, tension rods, mounts, hoops, and heads. April 2023. But again, consider salvaging used drum hardware since they are readily available on Ebay, Reverb, MusicGoRound, and elsewhere.

Building the Tube Toms

1. Cut Tubes

First, be super careful with the acrylic since it scratches easy. Always work with it on a bath towel, carpet or foam.

Next, pick the lengths you want. This might be somewhat determined by the lengths of tube you can get. For example, if you buy a 36" tube, you can get a 10", 12" and 14" from it. I chose 10.5", 13.5", 17.5", 22.5" lengths for my first build.

Measure 3 times, cut once.

Cutting the tubes is difficult because acrylic can crack and scratch. Get help holding it still and use a fine tooth wood saw to make the cut. A hacksaw will also work. Cut slow and gently. I made a box using 2x6's lined in fabric to hold them. Stuff a small pillow or cloth inside helps support the tube while sawing. If you're going to cut free-hand, mark the length 4 places around the perimeter and put masking tape on the cut line. The cut should be as straight and perpendicular as possible to the tube sides so the drum head touches evenly and completely all around to produce a good tone. Check for square by placing the tube on a flat surface and using a square. It doesn't have to be perfect. Remember, the plastic distributor may cut it for you for a small extra fee so at least ask.

2. Prepare the Bearing Edge

First, use a knife to remove any large pieces of plastic stuck to the edge.

Next, tape down a full sheet of 220 or 320 grit sandpaper on a flat surface and move the tube around on it to smooth the edge. Do both ends even if you'll only be putting a head on one side.

It's possible to put the drum head right on this surface but that won't produce the best sound. The best way to prepare the edge correctly is to use a router and a 45 degree bit. There's debate whether to put the bearing edge on the inside or out, I put it on the outside. Reverb has an interesting article covering bearing edges if you want to dive into it deeper.

Routing the edge is a bit nerve-racking but not too hard. Use left-over scraps as a test piece. If you damage the edge somehow, it's ok, you can re-cut it and start over without losing too much length. Use tape around the part that touches the router bit's bearing, if it has one, otherwise you'll end up with scratches. When done routing, use some sand paper and lightly clean up the edge, or run it on the flat sandpaper again. You don't want a super sharp edge.

3. Drill for Lugs and Mount

Exactly where to drill and what size depends on the lugs. Most lugs need 2 holes each and most 6" rims will need 4 lugs evenly spaced around the drum. The distance from the bearing edge to the first hole will be determined by the length of your tension rods. Use a flexible seamstress ruler and mark where each lug should go with a Sharpie. The distance between lug mounting holes will be 4-3/4 inches if the tube circumference is 18-3/4 inches. You'll also need holes for the stand mounting hardware. There are special drill bits designed for acrylic but I was able to use a standard bit successfully. Go VERY SLOW and let the material cool if it starts to gum up.

On longer tube toms it's difficult to know exactly a good balance point is for the mount location. I drilled a series of holes for different locations along the tube which can be seen in this picture:

4. Paint, Cover, or Go Clear

Well, what's it gonna be? I sent my first set to a painter for a black splatter coat. My second set I left clear. And the 6x8" tom I made for my Swingstar kit was wrapped in automotive vinyl wrap. All look great.

If you choose to paint, consider spraying an adhesion promoter made for plastic first.

Consider vinyl wrap for cars. I've done this and it works very nicely, very easy to install, not expensive, but not as durable as the thicker plastic of a real drum wrap. The additional benefit is that it just pulls right off! I used VinylFrog but do a web search and you'll find many car wrap vinyl vendors.

Oh one more thing, if you're trying to match a vintage wrap from a manufacturer, you'll probably never get a close match unless it's a solid color like black or white. Even matching the sheen is difficult. So, it's best to wrap the whole kit, and it's not hard.

There are many sources for real drum wrap which is a plastic sheet about the thickness of 10 sheets of paper. Here are some drum wrap vendors as of 2023 -

5. Mount all the hardware

First you'll have to poke holes through the wrap. This is super easy with thin vinyl wrap used on cars, you can even see where the holes need to go. For real drum wrap that's thicker you might consider drilling after applying the vinyl, otherwise I'm not sure how you could puncture at the right place.

Most lungs and mounts have a threaded extension that extends into the drum shell 1/8" or so. If you have thin shells like 1/8" then the screw might now rest flat against the shell on the inside which would cause a rattle problem. Use a rubber or nylon or fiber washer to fill that gap. Use a large flat washer to spread out the pressure, it's possible to crack acrylic tubes. Here's another place where buying a used drum comes in handy - it already includes all that stuff.

6. Send me a Picture

If you build a set, email a picture to be included in the gallery -- Roger AT Arrick DOT com

My Tube Toms

Here are my 6" and 8" tube toms I use with my amber Vistalite kit. They use Remo black dot heads. The lugs and mount were salvaged from older Tama drums, and the stand is fresh from Sweetwater. Click on the video to see how they sound. This video is just from my cell phone.

Here is the first set of 4 tube toms I made in the late 90s. They are painted black with an industrial splatter coat. Remo ebony heads. As you can see from the second picture I placed one next to the floor toms which gives me the option of doing runs between it and the larger toms for interesting fills.

Back in 2004.

Pictures from Tube Tom Builders Around the World

The following pictures were sent to me by people who built their own Tube Toms.
Click on pictures to see a larger view.
Send yours to Roger AT Arrick DOT com

From John L.

My wife Jen just made me these awesome green octobans! 6" acrylic tubes.
Thanks for the help

From Mike W

Hi Roger! I wanted to submit some photos of my homemade Rocket Toms! (I call them Rocket toms after the Pearl aluminum shell drums)....yes these shells are ALUMINUM and quite inexpensive $12 a foot for 6" OD tube I think I spent about $45 for the tube. The sizes are standard 11", 11 3/4", 13 1/2" & 15 1/2" (high pitch Tama specs) I had built a set of Clear acrylics about 5 years ago here they are pictured with my Tama my old front yard.

The Rocket toms are covered with Chrome Ultracoat R/C model airplane covering by Hangar 6...the iron on adhesive on the back of the covering does not work on aluminum...and spay adhesive bubbles up...looks very bad...what to do...Wallpaper paste on the tube and a lot of smoothing and patience paid off nicely! Standard Krylon black spray paint on the inside.

The stand is kind of a crazy idea I had using diamond plate aluminum plates purchased at Home Depot and some knurled 9.5mm floor tom legs cut and threaded at the base, mounted on a Tama Stagemaster straight cymbal stand...the bolt in the middle is for mounting a mic in the center of the 4 toms .All the hoops and mounts were bought from Drums etc. and Drum maker...the DW Lugs were an ebay purchase (Thank you so much for providing those links...used them many times in the past several years)

The Aluminum has a very nice ring quality....can't wait to wail on these...just finished them at 10PM this evening so that will have to wait until tomorrow. Thank you so much for your site...I have wanted a set of these since I was in my early 20's and now I have 2 sets 😉

Thanks again I hope this set of Tom will find it's way to your Tube Tom site...feel free to email me for info on the 6" OD pipe if you want.

From David W.

Here's my 4-piece set with acrylic and hardware all sourced on ebay. Stand designed and made by myself. They sound great with Evans heads.

From Joe

Here's my set.

From Sonja

This set was commissioned by the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, AZ, for their Experience Gallery, which is the hands-on area of the museum. They wanted a set intended for their younger visitors, hence the choice of rainbow heads and shorter stands. I call them the Lollipop Tube Toms. These are made from 6" O.D., .25" wall acrylic, and range from 8" to 21" long. I had the bearing edges chamfered on a machine lathe to fit the heads a little better, and I built a fixture for drilling the holes uniformly. Thanks so much for your site, and for posting other folks' photos. It was a great starting point!

From Omar

Hi Roger! Your website inspired me to made these. One is 13-1/2" and the other of 17-1/2" long.
Regards from Mexico!

From Brian

Great site on building octobans! Here's my contribution.

From John

Love your instructions and photos. Here is a picture of mine. I used 5" PVC at 10.5, 13.5, 16.5, 19.5" lengths. The 5" PVC is 5.6" OD and the head is 6" so I cut a 1/2" wide ring of 6" PVC and made an outside ring on the 5" PVC. After cutting the bearing surface the OD of the drum is 5.95". Because the body of the drum is smaller, I'm using bass lugs to keep the rods nice and straight. I'm using 6" Remo Emperor suede heads and the Inferno wrap that is on my bass shell.

Since I am using 5" PVC which is 5.6" OD and the head is 6", I cut a 1/2" wide ring of 6" pvc and did an outside rering of the 5" pvc. Cut the bearing surface and now the od of the drum is 5.95" ready for the head and hoop. Because the body of the drum is smaller, I'm using bass lugs to keep the rods nice and straight.

From Sean

Thanks for the advice on the 1/4 inch bolts It worked great. I found your site about 4 months ago and since I have always wanted Octobans and never could afford them. I decide to build them like you did. It took awhile but I finally finished last week I decides to go with 8 They start at 10," 12," 14,"16," 18," 20," 22," and 24" which works out to be the 2 6 foot pieces of acrylic I ordered. I used 1" aluminum square tubing which a friend welded for me. for the Octoban rack. I ordered and old tama post holder off Ebay and got the bottom half of the stand off a friend. The whole project did not cost that much but the paint was expensive. I had to paint them! what a pain in the butt. The prep, priming, and painting took the most time, the rest was easy. ANY way thanks for your inspiration I attach 6 pics if you want to use them on your site.

From Willis

Hello Roger, AS others on the internet I found your inspirational site on building tube toms !! and I actually read through your time line of drum sets that have come and gone. You are not alone. My first set was a Ludwig 3 piece put together by buying a snare, bass drum and a cymbal. But once I tapped on the snare for the first time it was "love at first site" to drumming. I have been hooked ever since.

I am now building what I call "my last set ever" I bought one Mapex tom for a sample color and have been searching ebay and other sites looking for a piece by piece purchase. I did purchase a few years back an 8 pc concert tom set on ebay, no name brand, zip stripped them and stained to match the Mapex Trans Cherry. 16 coats of high gloss conversion varnish. Nice filled finish. I am a custom cabinet maker / finisher / IT security analyst, 25 years of finishing at my last job.

On to my set of Hexagons...I went with 6 toms rather than 4 or 8, figuring I could tune them to a 6 string guitar.. or at least that/s my concept. They were very easy to cut as I have a friend with a complete wood working shop and a professional table saw. I started at 10.5" long and added 3" on each. Once again finished to match Mapex trans cherry, 16 coats of conversion varnish. Perfect match I can say. I bought a piece of the 6" OD piece acrylic tubing but when I put a Remo head over the tube it was way too tight. So I scrapped that and went with 5 inch Schedule 80 PVC, I veneered them with maple, stained and finished them in the aforementioned varnish. I used a 45 degree chamfer bit with a 3/4hp router for the bearing edge and it cut like butter. I used stands I had from the 8 pc concert tom set as I am replacing them with Mapex TS550a stands.

I'm a big RUSH fan as well.. Neil is amazing to say the least.

From Eddy

After I saw your ideas and ways of making octobans, I decided to make some of my own! I spent a lot of time building them, but finally they are complete. Thanks for your advice and inspiration, it was very helpful.
Regards from Croatia.

From Ed

I found you website to be an inspiration. This is my first attempt at tube toms. They worked out great. You're right......acrylic is VERY east to break. You must take your time. I cut mine 15", 18", 21", and 24". The color is actually dark burgundy. The flash made the pictures look brighter. I hope mine make it to your site.

From Jeroen

Hello Roger, I was browsing on the net and hit your site. I made these tube toms. They are to expensive to buy so I manufactured them myself in a period of 2 weeks. My profession is mechanic/electronics and my most favorite drummer is of course MP! I made them with PVC (thick 3.8 mm) 160 mm2 cut and re-designed to 150mm2>>>6 inch. I got the exact lengths from the Portnoy site. The sound is unbelievable, almost exact as his!! I am very happy with them And i was forced to restyle my drumkit but as you see on the picture, that was easy!! Octo's fit everywhere if you want them to.

From Mike M.

Hello Roger. I finally got my toms finished. I'm still messing with the stand and where to put them in my kit. I got the tubes from SD plastics which they cut at no charge. I actually have two more toms since I had to buy the minimum of 12' of tubing. I went with 28, 26, 24, and 22" lengths. The other two are 22, and 18. The hardware came from I have a total of about $300 invested for six toms.

Thanks again for the advice and the great website.

From Christophe P.

When I saw your site a few months agow I was inspired to make them myself. After a long search I finaly found the right tubes. I chose for an acrylic transparant tube, so I can paint them in any color I want (I'm planning to buy a new kit in white). Depts : 600 and 535 mm (replica of Tama octobans). On the upper part of the photo you can see pearl octobans which I have for a while. On the lower part you can see the new one. They sound much better und look much better. I'm planning the renew my pearl octobans and replace them with homemade.

Thanks for the help and inspiration and greetings from Belgium,

From Wotto

Hey Roger. Firstly, thanks for your site- it inspired me to have a go at building some Octobans. They turned out brilliantly !! I have also started a page at my web site showing my step by step on how I did them.

From Philip

Hello Roger, I made two octobans of 8" diameter and 18" and 22" depth, from PVC-pipe. I am using Remo Emperor heads and don't really like the characteristics of the sound with that particular head, but the overall sound an versatility of the octobans is great. I went through quite some (financial) trouble to get them in the same colour as my drum kit, I play a Tama Superstar in Custom Ocean Fade, which isn't blue or green but not quite turquoise either... So I went to a paint store and had a spray can custom mixed. The lighter parts are a thin layer of the ocean fade colour, the darker parts are another one or two layers. The gradient is not quite as smooth as the original, but they now look like high-end, expensive pieces of equipment. Now all I need to do is DIY a stand for them, but that shouldn't be a problem, I already have some tubing that fits the brackets, if I bolt that onto a regular cymbal stand I will have a good stand for my octobans.

Thanks a lot for the website with the useful advice!

From Frank L.

Roger, I had been exchanging emails with Eric about our experiences building Octobans and he suggested I email you a picture of mine. Because I started with 3' lengths of extruded tubing, I got 9 drums in 2" increments from 8" to 24". So I ended up with a "Nonaban" set instead of "Octoban" set. In terms of mounting, it allows you to stagger them. My key learning that I would like to share is to cover the entire tube with contact paper to protect it. Even do a strip around the inside edge if you plan to use a router for bearing edges. Do not overlap the contact paper, as this will affect how the router cuts the bearing edge. Thanks for your early guidance and good luck to your readers!

From Paul S.

Hi Roger, I wanted to say thanks for posting your pics and instuctions on the web. It was quite inspirational and very helpful! I decided to just build two. One 13 1/2 and one 17 1/2. I didn't crack the plastic at all. I did find that you were not kidding about having to be really careful with the materials.

From Gary

Roger, I decided to take a chance & build a set of three Octobans to replace my Roto toms, but I will still use the roto toms only in a different spot. Three octobans side by side instead of two on top & two on the bottom. If this works out good & they sound good, I already have a buyer who will buy them from me for the price I payed for them with no profit. If I like them, I will plan on building a set of 5 high pitch with 6" heads & a set of 2 low pitch with 8" heads & rims (hoops) one difference in yours & mine will be, mine will be clear (see through) that is what the guy wants should he like them & buy them from me, if I build a set for me , I will get the shells in translucent yellow or amber to mach my set. I got the tubes from a plastic place in California which cuts them to any length you want them for no charge & I got the hardware from the place you got your lugs from all of which is on order & I should get all the material in 7 - 10 days. Wish me luck & I will send you pics of them when the are done

From William

I was looking online a couple of months ago, and you inspired me to build my own set of octobans. I ended up just using schedule 40 pvc 5" I.D. pipe, which is about 5.6 OD- Fine. It worked. They sound awesome, and look awesome.

From Thorn

I came across your site a while back. You mentioned you wanted to see other's home made octobans/tube toms, so here you are.

From Henning

Hello. Thanks to your site I decided to build my own octobans. For the well-known reasons that firstly the ones from TAMA are unbelieveably expensive, and secondly I thought it could be fun manufacturing them myself. And, I was right, because it worked out well and they sound good. Since you give very detailed information and useful advice I didn't have much difficulty building them. In Germany, the only possible outside diameter of the pipe is 150mm (others would be 140mm or 16mm), since inches are unknown here! So, the pipe is 2mm too small which causes the head to give little wrinkles at the rim but fortunately that does not weaken the sound significantly.

Mine are acrylic as well (as you can see in the picture ...), but I didn't paint them as I prefer that "vintage-look". The sizes are 600mm and 660mm, which is approx. 24 and 26,5 inches. Thanks again for your very useful and helpful site!
Best wishes,
Henning (Berlin, Germany)

From Alexandre

Hi Roger, after visiting your home page I decided to build my octobans. I used 2 drain pipes e 2 set of Brazilian 6" percurssion instrument called "Tamborim" and a old cymbal stand to mount them. I will buy hoops and lugs (It's hard to find 6" in Brazil) soon for professional looks. Thanks for ideas....

From Eric

Hey Roger, Well, here it is! My first attempt at making an acrylic tube drum. Thanks to the info on your website and a little experimentation, I have the confidence to make a complete set. I'll send more pictures as soon as I receive the rest of the acrylic tubing and get them assembled.

End of gallery


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