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Machine Design

Rim shots never sounded better

Drums constructed with a special manufacturing process have a better sound than ordinary percussion equipment, which generally is made out of plywood.

An eight-lug snare drum built from 24 pieces of Tulipwood by Head Drums Inc. has a density and tonal quality resembling that of highly prized Brazilian Rosewood. A coffee house drum made with the same process measures 14-in. in diameter by 35-in. high. The player can use the top head like a Djembe or Conga and the bottom has a second head that can be played using a bass pedal.

So says Head Drums Inc. ( in Denver. It has found a way to make drum stave shells just a quarter-inch thick. A thinner shell and less overall mass boosts drum resonance and sensitivity, says Head Drums. One result is that drum shells each have a unique sound that depends on the kind of wood used to make them.

The firm says the technique yields drums that are better focused and fuller sounding than those made from plywood, which is used for its strength and low cost.

The firm makes a circular drum shell by shaping the wood and then assembling pieces cut to length in a glue jig. The design is such that the number of wood pieces is a multiple of the number of lugs in the drum. The trick is getting part width tolerances to ±0.001 in. and the bend angle accurate to about 0.02° so the shell will close precisely when glued. The construction technique makes the shell act like a solid piece of wood, thus producing a strong resonance. The thickness of the shells varies only ±0.005 in., which is beyond the typical parameters of the mainstream woodworking industry.

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