Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wood Shell Game

The question of the day when making (or having made) a custom snare drum is, which shell?

Until recently my personal answer would always be Vaughncraft. I love the resonance of steambent wood, and especially love Vaughncraft's selection of woods and quality.

There are other choices however. Global Drum Company makes excellent segment shells as does Rhythm King Percussion, which along with JTP Percussion and Unix Conception, make excellent stave shells. I own or have owned drums made of shells by each of the preceding companies, and have been pleased with each of them.

That is not to say that ply shells - typically by Keller - are not worth a look. In fact, I have both individual snare drums and kits based on Keller shells and love them. That said, until recently I was more likely to go with a Vaughncraft shell or one of the aforementioned segment or stave shells for new builds. Eric Sooy of The Drum Foundry changed that, however, when he introduced product lines that are Keller shells that are shipped pre-veneered or pre-wrapped.

His pre-veneered shells are spectacular, and his prices are more than reasonable. The veneer that has me drooling is this one (click the image to enlarge it):

Wood finish not your look? Eric also offers pre-wrapped shells in most popular wraps. The bottom line is you have choices, as well as alternatives because the pre-veneered and pre-wrapped shells are available in various ply configurations.

Not listed, but favorites of mine are the Keller Vintage Mahogany and Vintage Maple shells, which are available from various dealers. The drawback to the Vintage Mahogany models is the tall reinforcement rings. Apparently the Vintage Maple shells only have 1 inch tall reinforcement rings, but the ones on the Vintage Mahogany shells are entirely (in my opinion) too tall and require some woodworking tricks that I feel are unnecessarily imposed on the builder. The following photo shows what I am talking about (note the notches that needed to be put in the rings to fit lugs):

The rings, however, do not affect the sound. The drum depicted above is one of my best sounding snare drums despite being a ply shell with those reinforcement rings.

My preferred builder, Kevin Smee of Bowie Custom Drum, will be the guy who does my next snare drum, which will be the Carpathian elm burl shell shown above. Kevin has built other snare drums for me in the past (see this post), and will continue to be my builder of choice going forward.

1 comment:

wmarkhall said...

You read my mind, Mike. I was looking at the Macassar ebony veneer from DF, as I wouldn't mind a kit with the veneered finish. However, I'd like shell choices too.
Keller has an interesting maple shell with a thin carbon fiber coating inside that looks interesting.

Good work on the blog!