Shell design and construction
It starts with the drum shell itself. Carolina Drumworks produces two series
of snares. The Silver Series drums incorporate the durability and sonic control
of ply shells made of all maple or birch. The drums in the Gold Series use solid
wood in stave, segment or steambent single ply configurations, each with its
individual characteristics, in a number of different woods.
Ply shells are known to be the strongest and most durable, as well as the most
predictable in sound. Using thin plies of wood with varying grain direction reduces
the fragility that can sometimes result from the grain of the wood, and thinner
shells can be used allowing greater resonance. With more diversity of plies,
the tone of the shell becomes less dependent on the characteristics of a single
piece of wood.
Stave shells are made of blocks of solid wood, often from the same piece of
lumber, arranged in a circular fashion similar to a barrel. This reduces the
percentage of glue found in the shell; while glue doesn't decrease resonance,
it is neutral in its tonality and doesn't sound the same as the wood. Stave
shells offer the advantage that all the grain in the drum runs vertically,
providing the most rapid and consistent transmission of vibrations through
the shell. Because they are more vulnerable to any inherent weakness in the
grain of the wood, stave shells are somewhat more fragile than ply shells.
Contrary to popular misconception, the glue joints are actually stronger
than the wood itself, so a crack in a stave shell, rare but usually the
result of dropping the drum, tends to happen along the grain and is easily
repaired. Stave shells are generally thicker than ply shells, although
there are plenty of exceptions regarding both. Segment shells are similar
to staves in nature, but are made up of smaller blocks stacked together;
grain in segment shells is horizontal, making glue joints more challenging
and more frequent, but resulting in interesting visual patterns.
Solid steambent shells are single pieces of solid wood bent into circular
shape. They have only one seam, so they provide the purest tone of any shell.
They can also be made thinner than stave shells, generally a quarter inch
thick with additional reinforcing rings at both edges to strengthen the
shell and support the shape. Steambent shells generate great tone and
resonance. They are not likely to split, but they will not stand up to
impact as well as a ply construction. These solid shells can be especially
beautiful when a striking grain pattern runs all the way around the drum.
Carolina Drumworks not only creates drums using these different shell
constructions, but also modifies our designs and techniques to allow for
individual shell characteristics. For example, both steambent and stave
shells are more susceptible to expansion or contraction due to extremes
of temperature or humidity, since solid wood with its parallel grain will
react more strongly to these factors than multidirectional plys do.
Contraction around hardware and the screws holding it can actually inhibit
shell resonance by creating tight pressure against the hardware. So we use
a 1/32" larger hole diameter when drilling these shells to allow variance
in the shell without affecting the sound of the drum.
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