New Gear 2009: Custom Drums

New Gear 2009: Custom Drums

By DRUM! Staff Originally published in DRUM! Magazine's 2009 Trade Show New Products Report

The DRUM! crew hit the 2009 NAMM trade show with a full complement of photographers, video gear and extra freelance writers designed to help us cover every single new product our readers might see in the coming year. At the end of it all, we had amassed specs and info on more than 450 products. Here's our Custom Drums report. Look for related stories on drum sets, hand drums, sticks, hardware, accessories, electronics...well, you get the idea.


Braving the epic 23-hour journey from their home in far-western Australia, a couple of intrepid members of the Brady clan showed up at NAMM to present the company’s newest custom offerings. Master craftsman and company founder Chris Brady, along with daughter Kelly, gave us the lowdown on these high-end Down Under custom tubs. There were a couple of new ply kits, one of which was the Halls Creek kit in gloss finish, named after a town near the company’s home in Perth. The other was a kit made from spotted gum — an extremely dense native eucalypt that Brady is offering in thinner-than-usual shells for an extra-low note.

Then there was the new yellowish-blonde marri ply kit. Kelly Brady explained that in the southwestern region of Australia, where this wood is quite common, people use either the term marri or karri, depending on the wood’s coloration — marri tends to be more in the yellow-blonde realm, while karri is a little more pink.

Other new kits were the jarrah wood kit with 3mm-thick shells, and a kit made from the distinctively Aussie-sounding wandoo wood.

Showing his determination to take the custom philosophy to every aspect of the craft, C&C owner William Cardwell has just launched the Gladstone Drum Shell Company, named after the town in which C&C is based, Gladstone, Missouri (not after famed jazz drummer Billy Gladstone, as was our first thought), to supply all of C&C’s shells from now on. Until then, there were still a few kits on the floor sporting Keller shells. But that didn’t seem to lessen their “wow” factor one iota. Cool custom details were everywhere, like C&C’s proprietary steam-bent, one-ply, solid maple reinforcement rings, aged powder-coated hardware, and a Gauger floor tom RIMS Mount system modified to fit on a small rack tom to allow it to sit in a snare basket without getting choked out.

Elsewhere, a kit based loosely on vintage Rogers drums sported Slingerland Radio King-reissue snare lugs on the entire kit, along with 10-ply reinforcement rings on the bass and snare, and an eye-popping new Sky Blue Sparkle glitter paint job.

One of the most striking kits at the show was a one-off maple kit featuring Cherokee symbols meticulously wood-burned into its shells. Cardwell had the kit made to honor his grandfather’s Cherokee roots, and to commemorate what would have been his 100th birthday this year.

Other C&C innovations included the tiny Executive Stress Reliever desktop snare, a beautiful satin-finish Walnut kit made for Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock, and the ultimate practice pad: a 12-ply abalone shell with a mesh head made for REO Speedwagon drummer Bryan Hitt.

Craviotto’s Custom Shop Hybrid Fifth Anniversary kit had us drooling, which is why we were devastated to find out the kit was a one-off that the company had just sold to Jimmy Kimmel (yeah, that’s what we said). With shells made from one-ply horizontal bands of walnut/curly maple/walnut, the kit came with matching curly maple wood hoops and clips. That Kimmel is one lucky man.

DC Drums
With Soultone cymbals on one hand and DC Drums on the other, this company is looking to cover all the angles. Custom details are what DC is all about, like the real gold-leaf inlay featured on the logo of the one-off ivory, gold, and black showpiece flame kit on the NAMM floor.

The Australia-based Fiddock Drum Company is moving into steam-bent, solid-shell drum making, leaving behind the stave construction method of its past. The offerings on display at this year’s NAMM featured a new array of blackwood (acacia) drums, which owner and master craftsman Steve Fiddock says produces greater warmth, ease of workability, and low environmental impact, as it grows plentifully all over its native Australia. This year, Fiddock is offering drums in red gum as well, which is another widely available native-Australian species that just happens to have exceptional sonic properties. One thing Fiddock won’t do is cover his drums up in wraps, paints, or other finishes that do anything but accentuate the natural beauty of the wood. After all, says Fiddock, “You don’t put sparkly stuff on a violin, do you? So why should you do that to drums?”

Making its NAMM premiere, L.T.D. targets players with disposable incomes seeking bespoke kits. Ivory, Natural, and Classic Gold Flake are but a few of the finishes from a company that proudly does not do wraps (yep, the individual flakes of gold were applied by hand). A variety of woods, unusual colors, and hand-painted art (the Anglophile in us loved the Union Jack kit on display) make each set one of a kind. For even more ego satisfaction, each drum is unique in a series and bears a number certifying authenticity.

Orange County Drum & Percussion
The arch customizers at OCDP complemented the company’s regular assortment of one-offs with several wildly imaginative novelty sets, including a Travis Barker custom 5-piece with an anvil-weight hybrid 40-ply bottom/20-ply top snare drum, see-through smoky black acrylic shells with assault-rifle graphics, and a doublewide bass drum hoop. Adrian Young’s red sparkle kit showed off its Spartan-helmet toms — concave shell bottoms that conform to the curvature of the bass drum. Last but not least was the Diamond In The Rough, a combination drum set/golf cart designed by ex-Kottonmouth Kings’ Lou Dog — strictly for players who want to improve their swing on the kit as well as the green.

Pork Pie
Owner Bill Detamore, the man responsible for everything Pork Pie right down to applying the paint, had a bunch of new finishes available at the show this year, including a Top Hat And Pig finish, which was a high-gloss lacquer over Silver Sparkle with black image. Pork Pie also had four new sparkle wrap finishes: Pink, Red, Smoke, and MVP (which cheekily stands for “multi-vitamin piss”), each of which were only going to be made available on a very limited run — five each — before being gone forever. This is how Pork Pie offers many of its finishes, like the reddish brown, honey-tinted (nameless) “candy” lacquer finish that was applied to a one-off kit featuring solid, steam-bent maple shells. It’s a catalyzed urethane lacquer finish Detamore made up on a whim. But since he doesn’t remember how he did it, don’t expect to ever see exactly the same thing again. Now that’s custom.

Rocket Shells
The industry’s only carbon-fiber drum maker has gotten out of the musical instrument business to focus solely on supplying other drum makers with their proprietary shells. Rocket’s medium-density/high-compression C-1200 carbon-fiber material with “sandwich construction” contains both uni- and bi-directional fibers with 50-percent more carbon fiber than the company had previously created (0.210" thick). C-1200 has a tensile strength of 600 ksi and, based on a 14" x 5" shell, weighs 21oz. Each shell includes a urethane coating. Available to all custom drum makers.

Rockett Drum Works Poison drummer Rikki Rockett took a moment out from signing autographs over at his namesake company’s booth to show us some of the new goods, which included a foray into exotic woods with the fresh Curly Black Limba and bubinga solid-shell kits, the former of which Rockett himself built and promises to play on an upcoming Poison album. Other offerings were a 13-ply snare drum called the Lucky 13, a snare drum called the Wood Snob, and a whole new Point Custom series for entry-level players featuring Glitter Glass finish, custom powder-coated hardware, and a nice low price tag around $2,199.

Shine used this show to concentrate mostly on its new imported Definition Birch series, but we also spotted a kit promoting the company’s team-up with mixed martial arts outfitters Tapout, a few representatives of which dropped by to check out the logo-festooned shells while Shine owner Sean Staples was giving us a tour of the booth. At the other end, a showpiece kit in red mahogany with Vintage Pearl inlay served as further proof that Shine is still heavy into the custom game, with no sign of slacking off in favor of mass production any time soon.

Custom wunderkind Mike Ciprari took us through a tour of some of the latest fruits of SJC’s creative genius. One was the striking Tree Root kit hand burned by The Academy Is… drummer and, apparently, world-class wood burner, Andy “The Butcher” Mrotek. The kit, finished in Colonial Mustard Satin Fade, featured weathered brass hardware, mini tube lugs, and Revolutionary wood hoops, and each drum was fitted with a completely unique wooden badge. Ciprari said the burning alone represents about 400 hours worth of work.

Next to the Tree Root kit was the hand-inlaid triangle kit featuring alternating teal and baby blue cypress veneer with Aged White Pearl inlay and umbrella hoops, looking like something that belonged under a circus tent, which, come to think of it, seemed right at home on the NAMM floor.

Truth distinguished itself this season as the only custom drum maker building a 14" x 8" solid brass snare, with plans for other heavy-metal shells in the works. Available in black or brass color with chrome hardware and die-cast hoops ($725). The company is now offering its Vintage series kits in a mahogany/poplar hybrid shell with reinforcement rings and rounded bearing edges for that retro sound (45/45 edges still available). This comes on the heels of Truth’s late-2008 announcement that 7-ply bubinga and walnut shells were now available.

Viper Drum
Viper is focusing on the wood in 2009, with 13" and 14" hybrid-shell snares (wood choice is up to you), a stave shell, and an oversize 20–40-ply snare to its usual assortment of shells in a variety of finishes, wraps and signature.

Get the How To Tune Drums Minibook when you subscribe to our newsletter