Making a tipper
Violin bow tippers
The tippers of choice for top end players come from violin or cello bows. The key points here are that they are thin and dense. Bows generally are made of a hardwood Rosewood or Pernambuco (Thanks Marty :). A cello or double bass bow will be thicker and heavier than a violin bow. Tipper diameters range from 10mm to 6 and weights range from 7 or 8 grammes to over 20g
A bow will have a natural curvature to a greater or lesser degree. It's very much a matter of personal taste, some players like that, others avoid it. The sticks will also taper to varying degrees. The part of the bow from which the tipper is taken will make a difference in terms of both curvature and taper. Bows vary in weight and weight distribution, each tipper will have a different 'action' from the next.
The best length for a top end tipper I am told, is the span between your thumbtip and your fingertip when fully spread plus an inch or so. 9" seems to be standard, My own preference is a light stick of 6-7". From a single bow it is possible to get two or three tippers depending on how long you wish to make them. A standard bow will yield 2 x 9" sticks and a shorter 'bo' stick usually 6-8". In the image above I have a 10" heavy curved tipper from a cello bow and a thin 7" straight tipper from a violin bow. The smaller one is my baby and favourite for the popcorn drum. .
Barbeque Skewer Tipper
The ubiquitous barbeque skewer tipper is in my experience, the second most used piece in the bodhrán player's arsenal. It is dead simple to make and costs pennies. It takes 5-10 minutes to put one together using household materials so it's easy to experiment with different weights, lengths & numbers of skewers
You will need
- 1 packet of barbeque skewers (about 70p for 50)
- string or rubber grommet for holding the skewers together
- PVA or other wood glue
These tippers are made from groupings of 7 or 19 skewers. These numbers provide for the roundest shaped tipper with a central rod and concentric rings ofrods
Pick the straightest and roundest skewers from the pile and lay them side by side with the cut ends lined up together. Skewers are normally around 11-12" long and will need to be cut to size. Mark the appropriate length and cut them using scissors. Be careful of your eyes and those around you because the pointed end will fly off if you don't hold it as you cut.
When they are cut, feed them through the grommet or bundle them together and tie/whip as tightly as you can with a piece of string. Take one of the cut-off pointed ends and push it through the middle of the bundle, take another one and do the same from a different angle. This exposes the central rod.
Use the wood glue and drizzle or brush it between the skewers, being careful to get plenty against the central rod. This is structural work and will keep the tipper intact.
Remove the pointed bits of stick and the glue will ooze out from between the rods. Roll the stick between your fingers to work the glue between the rods, it's a little messy. Wet your fingers in the water and spread this along the shaft of the tipper. How much of the length you wish to cover is up to you. If you cover it all it it will dry hard and will play more like a stick than a rod.
If you only glue the central part then it will be looser and more 'rattly' at the ends. It's cheap, experiment! If you need to brush more glue on then fire away, I tend to cover mine most of the way and then wipe it off with wet fingers, this helps the glue move between the sticks and really binds the rods firmly together. The tipper is touch dry in 10 minutes but leave it for at least 30 minutes for the central rod to set in place.
Alternatively you can do the central glueing bit and leave it loose to use grommets or rubber bands to adjust the degree of 'rattle'.
Good luck & happy tipping.
The Drumstick tipper is made, as the name suggests, from the end of a drum set stick. simply cut it to length. Easy peasy.
I'm also experimenting with adding rubber tips on the 'butt' end. There are two main reasons, firstly, it gives a warmer sound if played as the bottom end, however mostly because it feels like a better weight balance. This is for my own bo form of top end where the tipper is all below the thumb, I don't know of anyone else yet who uses this style of tipper and grip so I'm unsure of anyone else's experiences.
I used a 7a stick which is quite thin for drumset, there are thinner available. This tipper is heavier overall than my normal tippers and I use it for practise. The use of a heavier stick for practise is commonplace to promote control because it takes more control to play with. The benefit is that when you return to the lighter stick it's all much easier.
This tipper reminds me of those I've seen played using the closed fist style of top end play