With a little practice and patience you will be able to wrap your timpani mallets with ease. Just remember to take your time and everything will work out just fine.
My suggestion is to start by re wrapping some worn out mallets that you might have first and then graduate to building your own pair of mallets from scratch.
The Cartwheel is probably a little easier for most people to do so I’ll start with this type of wrap. However, ball type of timpani mallets are good because they won’t have a seam that you need to avoid when playing. And in general terms you can use a softer felt that will create a warmer tone on your drums.
Before you start wrapping your timpani mallets, let’s make a list of things you’ll need.
- Felt. You can use American Felt or Germanic Felt available from www.steveweissmusic.com. My felt is ¾” thick and I’m going to split it in half making sure that I have one piece that is big enough to cut two equal 3” circles from
- Unwaxed Dental floss, Braided Fishing line, or Dacron kite string. I’ve used Braided 30 lb test fishing line and un waxed dental floss and waxed dental floss. My preference is the fishing line because it won’t break. Some people use Dacron kite string, but I’ve yet to try it.
- Cuticle scissors. They are rounded and can help shape your mallet.
- A voicing tool is a great thing to have. You can buy one at www.steveweissmusic.com or make one with a piece of cork and three or four needles or pins.
- Sharp scissors
- Tape measure. Use a cloth of other type of flexible measuring tape like what a tailor would use
- Needles. You’ll have to learn how to sew if you don’t know already and when you buy needles to use make sure that the eye is not too small. Otherwise you’ll have a hard time to thread it.
- Pre-measured circles cut out of heavy paper or card board. 2”, 2 ¼”, 2 ½”,2 ¾ “, 3”, 3 ¼”, 3 ½”
- Glue. If you’re making very hard mallets with a very thin wrap you will have to glue the felt to the core. I use wood glue for this.
- You might need some Mole Skin or Craft Felt depending on whether or not you want to make your mallets softer
I’m wrapping a pair of mallets that I’ve made with 15” bamboo shafts with cork disk mallet heads that measure 1 ¼” by ½”. I’ve shaped the cork so that the edges are rounded. If you’re making mallets from scratch you can use bamboo shafts or wooden dowel shafts. Wood dowels are easy to find at any hardware store and are great for a heavy mallet. Bamboo is a little harder find but there are places that will sell you shafts on line that are just right. A great place to buy bamboo timpani shafts is from Charles Cai of Bamboo Products of China. You have to buy a minimum of 100 pieces, but they are very nice. Charles can be reached at email@example.com
You can buy bamboo shafts directly from us by visiting the Shop. The shafts that I have available are of the finest quality sanded bamboo which is sanded and sold in matched pairs according to weight and pitch.
You’ll need mallet cores and things like wooden wagon wheels from craft stores, layers of tape, cork (either from Champagne bottles or from www.corkstore.com).
Learn How to Wrap a Cartwheel Timpani Mallet in 11 Steps
The general description of a Cartwheel wrap is that a strip of felt is cut to measure so that it can wrap around the equatorial diameter of the mallet and sewn around the top and the bottom to make a tight fit. This type of wrap is good because it doesn’t use as much felt as the ball type of wrap and it is also a good wrap when you want to use a stiffer variety of felt, but I’ll discuss the felt type later on.
How to Wrap a Cartwheel Timpani Mallet Part 1
How to Wrap a Cartwheel Timpani Mallet Part 2
Measure around the mallet head at its equator using a tape measure. My mallet is 3 1/2” around
Measure the mallet head from the shaft to where the shaft either comes out of the top or where it might if the mallet head is closed and you can’t see. My mallet is 1 1/8 “
Since you want two identical mallets you need to cut one piece that is twice the equatorial length and then cut that in half so that your felt for both mallets is the same thickness. Most felt comes in a thickness of ½”. I’m going to split the felt I need in half making sure that I have enough length in one piece for two mallets. So for my mallets I’m going to cut a piece of American Felt that’s 7” long and 1 1/8” wide and that has been split to a thickness of ¼”. Then I’ll cut the 7” strip into two equal lengths of 3 ½”
There will be a fluffy side and a smooth side to the felt. You can make mallets with either side of the felt facing outward, but for this mallet I want the fluffy side out so I will have a warmer sounding mallet than if I had the smooth side out. Therefore I’m going fold the felt strip in half so the fluffy side is on the inside of the fold.
Now for the first bit of sewing. Dental floss works well but there other choices for what you may want to sew your mallets with. A lot of people us Spider Wire fishing line and others use Dacron kite string. I’m going to use a double strand of un waxed dental floss this time. With whatever you chose to sew with you will sew a fairly tight stitch along the edges of the fluffy side. Make sure to lock your stitch at the beginning with a knot and at the end with a knot.
Once you have sewn the seam, turn the felt inside out so now the fluffy side will be on the outside of the circular band of felt that you’ve just sewn together.
If you’ve measured correctly this band of felt will fit snuggly over your mallet head which you will want to center over the mallet head.
Sew the bottom along the shaft by loop stitching around the inside edge of the felt. Once you’ve gone all the way around pull your floss tight and tie it well.
Sew the top of the mallet felt by loop stitching around the inside of the felt at the top. Once you have gone all the way around you should be able to pull the felt in tightly so that there will be only a little space or hole at the top of your mallet. Tie it tightly and you’re almost done.
Hiding the extra floss after tightening your knots is easy. Put the loose threads into your needle eye and push the needle into the felt at under the floss stitch and pull the floss out through a thick part of the felt. Pull tight and cut closely so that the end disappears into the mallet. This will make a nice looking finished mallet.
There will be a seam in this Cartwheel mallet you’ve made so fluff out the felt with a needle or a piano tuner’s voicing tool and mark the seam with a Sharpie pen or pencil.
I’m using American Felt purchased at www.steveweissmusic.com
Learn How to Wrap a Timpani Ball Mallet with a Butterfly Mallet Wrap in 12 Steps
How to Wrap Ball Style Timpani Mallets Part 1
How to Wrap Ball Style Timpani Mallets Part 2
Measure your mallet head by placing your tape measure at the bottom of the ball where the shaft enters and measure over the top to the other side to where the shaft enters. Since German Style felt stretches subtract about ½” from your measurement. So, if you measure 3” use 2 ½” for your measurement.
Using the appropriate sized cardboard circle that you have cut out trace the circle pattern on the felt and using the cuticle scissors cut out the circles of felt
Split the felt. Most German style felt comes in a thickness of ¾ “ and you can split it in half or any other way. You might want to have thicker or thinner felt cover but normally half the standard felt is what you will use.
To make a nice clean and tightly wrapped mallet I suggest that you do a Butterfly style wrap. After you’ve cut out your circle of felt split the circle of felt half way through all of the way around the circumference. You will now have two circles of felt that are joined together at the center by about one inch of felt.
Sewing is tricky so take your time. Sew around the circumferences of each circle of felt using two separate lines. Don’t make your stitches too big. A good rule of thumb is to have your stitch as long at the felt is thick.
You will have two circles of felt joined at the center and each will be stitched all the way around. Start with the inner circle of felt and pull the stitch tight making what might look like a bag of felt.
Fit the bag over the mallet head and pull tightly. Ideally and if you’ve measured well the bag will very tightly over the mallet head to you should have to pull and stretch the felt until you can pull your threading material in tight to the shaft of the mallet.
Once the inner circle is shaped and tight around the mallet head it’s time to tie it. If you can find a lovely assistant to hold the knot while you tie it that works well or you can tie a loop in one end of your tying thread, line or floss and loop it over something stationary like a snare drum stand, door knob, table leg, etc.
Now pull the outer circle of felt tight around the mallet head in the same manner as the first. You’ll have to pull the fishing line and also stretch the felt with your hand to make a tight fit and then once again put the loop of the fishing line around the snare drum stand and pull it tighter and make your knot.
After you’ve tied the knot thread the ends into the needle and push the needle back under the stitching. Pull the loose ends through the thickest part of the felt then pull tightly and cut the string. The loose ends will disappear back into the felt making a finished mallet with now loose threads showing.
For a nicely finished look, use voicing tool to shape the felt and trim any loose felt with cuticle scissors. If you don’t have a voicing tool one can be made easily by putting 3 or 4 needles through a piece of cork.
How to Wrap Timpani Mallets with Chamois
Chamois covered timpani mallets are very popular these days especially for playing early Classical or Baroque timpani parts. The chamois covering provides a very articulate sound like wood sticks, but they are less “Pingy” in their sound quality. I use my chamois mallets for the music of Handel, Bach and sometimes, depending on the acoustics and nature of the ensemble with which I am playing I’ll use my chamois mallets for Mozart, Beethoven and Schumann to name a few of the composers that wrote timpani parts that demand a lot of articulation.
Take a look at this video to watch as I wrap a pair of chamois timpani mallets
Wrapping chamois mallets is relatively easy and quite a bit easier than wrapping your timpani mallets with felt. The reason for this is that you don’t have to do any sewing; you just tie around the base of the chamois, trim and seal it.
What you will need to wrap timpani mallets with chamois
Go to the hardware store or the auto supply store and buy some chamois in the car washing section of the store. You also need something to tie the chamois around your mallet like braided kite string, dental floss or braided fishing line. I like the kit string, myself.
You can put a chamois wrap around anything that you want. I’ve covered wooden and cork cores and in this video I wrap two layers of chamois over a 1” wooden wagon wheel that I previously covered with a very thin layer of American felt. You can also use Mole skin as an inside layer or craft felt with an adhesive backing.
There is a smooth side and a rough side to the chamois. When you wrap your mallets just be sure that you have the same side on the outside so that your mallets will match each other.
The first thing to do is to soak the chamois so it will be a little stretchy. This will allow you to pull out any creases in the covering so you’ll end up with a smooth playing surface. Once you’ve wrapped your mallets and the chamois dries there shouldn’t be any unwanted creases or folds.
Fold the chamois to double the thickness and place it over the mallet head, pulling tightly to smooth out the material. Then take your string and wrap 3 or 4 turns around the base of the mallet head and pull as tightly as you can. I use a Clove Hitch knot to finish and then I tie another knot with the loose ends that remain.
Once you have everything tied take a razor knife and carefully trim away the excess chamois by running your knife along the edge of your string. Make sure to use a very sharp knife for this.
To finish everything you will need some Krazy Glue, Super Glue or clear nail polish. Simply paint a coat of glue around the string to keep everything tightly sealed and to avoid thing coming undone. I made a pair of chamois mallets over 10 years ago and they’ve never come undone.
Chamois covered mallets from Top to Bottom
Two layers of chamois wrapped over a 1 inch wooden toy wagon wheel with an inside wrap of very thin American felt on a bamboo shaft
Two layers of chamois wrapped over a Saul Goodman #4 wood mallet
Two layers of chamois over a 1 ¼ X ½ inch cork disk on a bamboo shaft.