Basswood, poplar, and lauan shells

David M Scott

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Poplar (and willow) trees always give me hay fever. :silent: But I really like how their wood sounds between maple plies. I wonder what will happenif someone sandwiches some luan between African mahogany plies?
Speaking of species - I've always wondered what species the gumwood is that Gretsch uses. I've heard it was sweet gum, but eucalyptus is called "gumwood" sometimes too.
I believe it comes down to the old adage. "How much wood would a Woodchuck chuck if a Woodchuck could chuck wood ?"
Feetnote: Out here in the mountains we call them Woodchucks Marmots. So calling non Mahogany Mahogany really isn't wrong.
I really need a small triple Martini !
 

Tornado

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Poplar (and willow) trees always give me hay fever. :silent: But I really like how their wood sounds between maple plies. I wonder what will happenif someone sandwiches some luan between African mahogany plies?
Speaking of species - I've always wondered what species the gumwood is that Gretsch uses. I've heard it was sweet gum, but eucalyptus is called "gumwood" sometimes too.
I think it's American Sweetgum, but:

American sweetgum, also known as American storax, hazel pine, bilsted, redgum, satin-walnut, star-leaved gum, alligatorwood, or simply sweetgum
I wonder how many drum sets someone could sell if they called it "satin-walnut" or "exotic alligatorwood"
 

gra7

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I was thinking about one of these. Could it withstand in a little bit of a higher volume situation? Could you play rock/pop/funk covers with it?
Sorry for the late response - pop and funk for sure, they work wonderfully with an EAD10 too. Rock - maybe classic rock but you will need to at least mic the kick - I don't think they would cut through overdriven guitars so hard rock wouldn't work.
 

FitDrummer

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Sorry for the late response - pop and funk for sure, they work wonderfully with an EAD10 too. Rock - maybe classic rock but you will need to at least mic the kick - I don't think they would cut through overdriven guitars so hard rock wouldn't work.
No worries and thanks!
 

BennyK

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Home Depot has this stuff that opens wood grain and other stuff that penetrates and hardens wood surfaces . On the interior of a softwood shell, it can really make the finshed drum stand to attention .
 

idrum4fun

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This is my custom painted 2006 Pearl EXR kit. The bass and toms shells are 6-ply poplar, using the same air seal process as the high end Masters series. I did have Precision re-cut the edges to a 45-roundover. The sound of this kit is just as good as any all maple or birch shell I've played!

-Mark
 

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David M Scott

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Interesting thread. I am currently having a SD shell bent from big leaf maple, which is a bit softer than eastern maple. Good builder. I am thinking of doing the inside of the shell with shellac in order to get a little more projection. What do you guys think of this approach?
Remember that Shellac is old school, unless there are other new varieties..and over time it crystalizes . Somewhen mentioned that Home Depot has a wood surface hardner that penetrates and that might be a better choice that Shellac. I have used regular Polyethylene but it just sits on the wood surface and many coats are required. There is a pour on variety as well but never used it.
Good luck
 

5 Style

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Well... I'll admit that I'm not any kind of expert, but I try to aviod those drums with the softer woods. I guess that the hardness actually is varable to some degree acording to the quality of the wood that's being used (not only the species). I like the drum to do "more of the work" so that I can get a fuller, ounder sound with less effort so I like harder woods that can do that. I've jst recently decided to upgrade and old stencil Pearl kit that I use for rehearsal with something made of birch (a Premier XPK kit currently on order) as I felt that the sound of the Pearls was a bit too soft...
 

David M Scott

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Well... I'll admit that I'm not any kind of expert, but I try to aviod those drums with the softer woods. I guess that the hardness actually is varable to some degree acording to the quality of the wood that's being used (not only the species). I like the drum to do "more of the work" so that I can get a fuller, ounder sound with less effort so I like harder woods that can do that. I've jst recently decided to upgrade and old stencil Pearl kit that I use for rehearsal with something made of birch (a Premier XPK kit currently on order) as I felt that the sound of the Pearls was a bit too soft...
I Agree. I fixed up an old 60s Pearl Stencil kit for the neighbors kids and it was all Luaun and very soft. It did however have reinforcing rings in the shells which I thought made it a little above an entry grade kit..or maybe the wood was so soft they were required to insure shells stayed as round as possible. Sound wise they were ok actually had better projection than my 1990s Yamaha DP Luaun that cost a lot more. As I commented before, that kit, especially the 20in kick was always flat, with poor projection regardless of heads used. Maybe try the Home Depot penetrating wood hardener mentioned in one of the posts herein.
 

Cauldronics

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Absolutely, all I can say is I have both Tama old-school Imperialstars and Yamaha Rock Tour Customs, both have that Luan "mahogany" flavor and yet as equally equipped and tuned as I can get, they sound completely different. The method and manufacturing processes and their different hardware obviously adds to the picture.
The RTC and Imperialstar aren't the same in shell layup or build, where the Imps are all lauan and the RTC are birch/lauan with a hard resin wrap meant to make them loud and projecting. That probably accounts for how different they sound, and the edges on early (and maybe later?) Imps were (I think) 30 degree rounded off with big fat re-rings in the shell, while the RTC were 45 degree. Big differences. The Tamas lost the re-ring in later editions.

I found the Tama not so lively sounding and had a huge kit of them with two 24s. The Midnight Blue looked awesome!
 

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My late 70s lauan-shelled Tama Imperialstar kit fell flat of my expectations. But so did my Rogers XP-8 kit with its North American maple shells.

I realized that it was due to reading internet lore more than anything else, and willingly taking the plunge into acquiring kits I’d not heard in person much if at all, or that I’d heard sounding great on recordings, which of course can employ tricks of the trade.

It takes only a few fans of a kit to build a positive review while others who might’ve tried it might not take part in the discussion, either because they’re no longer interested in the kit or they see no point in being negative about something another group of people enjoy. That is the influence of internet lore. Those who do discuss it negatively are often outnumbered by those who appreciate it. If you think about it, it’s rare to see almost any kit roundly trashed on a forum. All drums are at least good or useable, a sentiment with which I don’t totally disagree.

It all comes back to using your ears and building up enough real world experience to make sound judgments. I know that I’m more inclined to go with tried and true, trusted choices for drum tone wood than I am to try ones that are questionable. I think that’s the overall truth for most drummers. But nothing can beat sitting down with a kit in your normal playing spot and really getting to know it. That takes time.
A buddy of mine brought his XP8 kit over in hopes of trading me for a snare .
I thought they were sub par especially the bass drum . We took the heads off my Slingerland to try it out and it sounded awful while the Slingerland sounded great ..
I kept my snare …
 

Cauldronics

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A buddy of mine brought his XP8 kit over in hopes of trading me for a snare .
I thought they were sub par especially the bass drum . We took the heads off my Slingerland to try it out and it sounded awful while the Slingerland sounded great ..
I kept my snare …
Were the Rogers mounted on their factory (memriloc) hardware? Those pipes were tone robbers, but even with Rims mounts they left a lot be to desired.

The bass drum was the best part of that kit for me.
 

Houndog

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Were the Rogers mounted on their factory (memriloc) hardware? Those pipes were tone robbers, but even with Rims mounts they left a lot be to desired.

The bass drum was the best part of that kit for me.
Yup , on huge plumbing .
I tried to get the bass drum happening but couldn’t do it ….
We were surprised as the bass drum we pulled the heads off of really thumped hard .
 

audiochurch

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Home Depot has this stuff that opens wood grain and other stuff that penetrates and hardens wood surfaces . On the interior of a softwood shell, it can really make the finshed drum stand to attention .
benny,
do you have a link to this product? i painted my kids’ swingset a few years ago with paint that said it hardens/makes old wood stronger. i used the extra paint on the inside of an old Pearl export tom, but didnt have a chance to rewrap it yet, so i didnt hear the results yet. just curious if it is the same paint i used on my swingset
 

Elvis

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It seems that many here are convinced that Basswood and Poplar are used on only the very low end kits. While I'm sure that they are in many cases, in my experience they are superior to Lauan/Asian Mahogany. Having been in "the commercial wood business" for 40 years plus being a drummer I have a reasonable knowledge of types. There is a standard testing system for wood hardness called "Janka"
The test consists of pressing a .444 inch steel ball into a block of test wood so that the ball sinks to 1/2 it's diameter. They higher the number the harder the wood. So here are the numbers:
Basswood 410
Poplar 540
Lauan 800
So if one were to go by hardness alone then Lauan would be the winner by far.
Yet Lauan is used to make cheap wood panelling, door skins, low end plywood etc.
It's very prone to grain splitting and "fuzzes" when sanded or after paint or stain application. Basswood and Poplar on the other hand makes fine plywood or used solid for furniture framing.
They also take paint and stain and paint very well.
As regards drum shells. I have owned a fair number of kits, admittedly most low to medium priced, and found that those made of Lauan were for all intents and purposes "dead" as far as sound projection regardless of heads used. One MIJ Lauan kit was so bad I stripped it down and had a local body shop spray the inside of the shells with body filler. That improved the sound greatly. And, I had one or two Badge kits with
"white" shells which were either Basswood or Poplar that sounded just fine. Then I got stars in my eyes and bought a Yamaha DP kit that was $700 Can. for a shell pack. It was Lauan but hey, it was Yamaha and it had their legendary hardware.
I changed to quality heads and while it was ok, the sound was always muted especially the 20 inch kick which always had a flat sound no matter what head I used. About 15 years later, 2013, I bought one of the original Sonor Safari kits. It has 9 ply Poplar shells with a 16in kick. I was blown away by the sound right out of the box with oem heads. And of course the hardware was genuine high end Sonor and the wrap very thick and attractive. So, my experience with Lauan was not great yet it has been used with success by most of the major drum manufacturers either straight or blended in plywood with other hardwoods. During the drum rush after Ringo, Ludwig ran two shifts, six days a week just to keep up to orders. I read where Wm Ludwig Jr admitted that in order to keep up production a variety of woods were used and quality varied so much that they painted the inside of the shells white to hide the knots and other imperfections. Yet today those vintage kits are treasured for their sound ?
There is a video on you tube that shows a series of 10 in Toms being played. They range from low to high end price. The overall difference is clearly the head more so
than the shell.
So, are we being influenced by marketing as regards shell material and construction ? Do exotic woods like Burbinga really sound better ? And what about shells made of composite/press wood resin material.
Jeff Hamilton played Remo drums for years with composite shells and they sounded great. And then of course there were the Acrylic
shells that sound just fine, maybe superior to wood in some drummers minds.
Thought provoking isn't it ?
What about "Balau", which is a variant of Lauan?
With a Janka hardness of 1600, I have to think you wouldn't neccessarily get all those "fuzzies" from such a hard wood.
It should cut quite nicely and have pretty fair sound reflective qualities.
 


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