by Steven Baretsky

The first step is, of course, to settle the basic design. In our case, the traditional Eagle & Crest, with a few minor additions, seemed appropriate. Considering the variety of drum sizes we have, I needed a way to duplicate the design in difference sizes without a noticeable change in the pattern. Since we were also looking for a "hand painted" colonial look, we didn't feel that decals fit the bill.

I chose the basic design from a file of computer clip-art, and re-designed if for our use. This allows me to scale the print-out to any size I need to fit the particular drums.

The next step was to create the stencils that I used to transfer the pattern onto the drums. Since the design I was using was basically symetical, I decided to split the bird in half and use the same piece for the right and left wings. This not only meant less cutting, but I would also be working with smaller stencils which would be easier to secure to the curved surface of the drum.

The stencils themselves are cut out of mylar stencil sheets. I had considered using a paper stencil material, but felt it would need to be replaced too often.

The Towpath Eagle uses seven different pieces, two of which are dual purpose (left/right).

To end up with a hand painted look, I do only very basic work with the stencils attached to the drum. Using a variety of sized stenciling brushes, I lightly tap a thin cover of paint around the outside edges of the stencil. After removing the stencil, I fill in field areas to keep the color even. When using a L/R piece, be sure to allow enough time for the paint to dry on the other side (I was using latex based paints, so a hair dryer on low helped the process considerably).

After all the colors are laid in, and the paint allowed to dry thoroughly, I go back and apply a solid coat of each color. This time the paint has to be allowed to dry naturally to avoid cracking.

When the colors dry sufficiently, I put the black outlining on with a small liner brush. Details and lettering are also done at this time.

The final result is nearly identical art work on each instrument which still has a "free hand" look.

Considering the time constraints, I chose to use acrylic craft paints (by Plaid). The acrylic base allows a very quick drying time, making it possible to complete an entire drum in one day. Oil based paints tend to dry harder and are more durable, however they would require several hours between stencils and colors. Also, with oil based paints, touch ups could only be done when sufficient drying time is available.

To help make the finished work more durable, I oversprayed the design with a gloss finish, clear acrylic sealer. This also helps retard color-fade by filtering out some ultraviolet light.

One other advantage to keeping the design on my computer is I can include the design on the labels I place inside the drums after completion.

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