Budget custom drums: is it even possible?

JonnyFranchi$e

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Thinking about some of the "boutique" guitar pedal companies. They start up and make really decent stuff for a bit more than the cheap mass produced stuff. Then eventually they become a thing and overcharge. But if you catch em on the way up u can get some great value. Not unlike stock market gambling I suppose.

Then I'm thinking about drums. Is there any US garage startups where i could call and talk it through, order a 4 piece shell pack, and not pay through my eyes?

Quick google search suggests no. And it makes sense.

It seems like materials, tools, etc would make this impossible. Without the benefit of mass production in a (probably overseas) factory, the only way for a new builder to make money is to cater to the boutique, unobtanium market. Pay 4x what you would for similar drums off the shelf. I'm not knocking it. It's cool to get gear from a private custom builder. This whole post is because i think it would be neat someday to get a one of a kind custom kit from a human whose name I know.

Just wondering if anyone knows of any small builders who try to focus on regular budget customers? Is it even possible? Especially if anyone here has built drums. Discuss...
 

JDA

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Baltimore Drums used to be like this..
plus being in the right place at the right time... (does that happen anymore?...)
(dealer couldn't move them) That was the day I showed up with a trade .. and got a (18/12/14)

Taye in a way was like that too; but they seemed to have faded.
All you have left is Pearl Vision a Mapex Identity
and a Ludwig Neusonic Neurotic Neusonic something
 
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JonnyFranchi$e

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IDK guys - not looking for anything specific, or wanting to move on anything right away. I just don't know anything about it. Was thinking maybe someone would pipe with "you know, my cousin just started making custom drums," or "I make custom drums, lemme tell you about it," or "check out this builder, he's cheaper than most but his stuff is good" - maybe something i wouldn't find in the depths of google.

Mostly just curious.
 

Tornado

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The difficulty in making the metal parts and in making plywood shells dictates that most startup "builders" have to buy shells from Keller (nothing wrong with that, some well known companies do), and buy off the shelf hardware. This instantly makes their costs high because they can't buy or manufacture at scale, and then the end product is just kind of generic. And I don't mean generic in a bad way, they can be amazing. But just amazing in the same way as a lot of other drums. The question "why?" is the question indeed.
 

Santino

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I'm probably wrong, but what I'm hearing is, "Can I buy a custom kit for $1k and flip it for $3-5k in a couple of years?". Doubtful. Most boutique drum kits don't seem to hold their value like the established brands from what I've seen.

My frind lost slightly more than half the purchase price on the resale of a beautiful SJC kit.

The entire forum is eagerly awaiting the dumping of A&F kits in a few years. (I'll show myself out.)
 

JDA

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IDK guys - not looking for anything specific, or wanting to move on anything right away. I just don't know anything about it. Was thinking maybe someone would pipe with "you know, my cousin just started making custom drums," or "I make custom drums, lemme tell you about it," or "check out this builder, he's cheaper than most but his stuff is good" - maybe something i wouldn't find in the depths of google.

Mostly just curious.
That was mostly 10-15 years ago.. you had Fortune, ..collectively we could name 10 brands.. that had a good 15 minutes..of fame (some warranted) and then faded into oblivion.

But some newer guys might still be around. There's always Pork Pie..

Others will know others..

 

retrosonic

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As stated above, the issue is that a boutique drum builder is really just an "assembler". They buy the shells and buy the hardware on the open market, and assemble the drums.

Where this *might* work is if the builder is a painter, and could paint some really inventive images on the shells. That would certainly be custom, like a custom car paint job.
 

Tornado

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DannyPattersonMusic

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I own a 7drums kit, they are a small custom brand based in San Antonio, TX.

They use Keller shells and off the shelf hardware but they do a few things that make them stand apart from an "assembler"; they don't use traditional air vents and the screws for the hardware sit flush with the shell so the internal surface is flat and makes the shells very light weight.

They also do a payment plan for the kits: 25% down, 25% upon delivery and you have 24 months to pay the kit off (interest free).

 

kallen49

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I live in Burlington Ontario, near Toronto. So does my friend Paul Dickenson who has been building custom drums for over 20 years under the name Udrum. He also does repairs and restorations as well as working as a drum tech and playing locally. I recommend him for any drum restoration.
When I asked him about building me a 20” bass drum a couple of years ago he said it could be about $500.
The Can $ was about .75 to a US $ at the time. The cost of quality parts and a fair price for his labour make custom drums expensive especially compared to the cost of used drums which are plentiful here.
Note the cost of living is high in the Toronto area, average house price in Burlington is 911 k.
Geography must affect what a drum builder must charge.

Soon after he found me a great deal on a virgin 1969 Club date that was trashed which I restored and is my main bass drum. Paul is a great guy.

And so is Josh Allen of Inde who has already posted in this thread.
His designs are brilliant and note he works in Michigan which I guess helps him keep costs lower.
Check his site or his ytube page. See the Wayfarer kit, I’d buy that if I could.
 

dboomer

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Jonny ... you really need to define what you consider low cost with a number.
 

JimmySticks

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There was a thread here about a member going into contract with what appeared to be a very small builder and he went through hell with this guy. It might all turn out well in the end, but I think the moral of the story is to be careful with a guy building drums in his garage or something similar. He could be a master craftsman, but a terrible businessman. Sometimes it’s better to pay a bit more for somebody that has already built his reputation.

Pork Pie Customs are very good as well. Super responsive to all your needs and reasonable IMHO...
 

underratedcowbell

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As others have said, apart from the shells (and often not even that since keller entered the equation) custom drum builders are mainly assemblers as they rarely make their own hardware. In europe there are some exceptions with builders making stave sheels, steambent or carved from one piece shells with woods or composites that stay away from the beaten track of maple and birch, namely exotic woods, oak, beech, poplar... This builder in Germany has some great stuff and its relatively affordable: https://stdrums.com/en/c/shells
 
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OffbeatDrumCo

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So there are a handful of points that I'd like to make, and hopefully shed a little insight from a "boutique" drum builder perspective.

When I started building drums it was for myself, not a business, just a fun DIY experiment based on my own interests and the manufacturing equipment that I had at my disposal. The first drums that I built were a learning experience, I loved them because I had made them, but they definitely reflected where I stood on the learning curve. I look back at some of those shells now and see nothing but a mess of flaws and things that I should have done differently or better. (I feel I should mention that I wouldn't dream of selling any of those early builds, I'm just trying to make a point here).

Some of the first drums that I sold were priced a lot lower than some of my current products, but that's because they were of a lesser quality and I didn't have a very good grasp on how my time and money were being spent while building drums. They were a fair price for what they were, but they weren't exactly some diamond-in-the-rough.

As I continued to build, the quality of the pieces increased, not only the shells that I was building, but the materials that I sourced. Instead of ordering small quantities of material and paying set-up fees I could start to order in bulk and better control the quality of the material I was using. I could invest in better processes. Instead of cutting sheet metal on a brake press I could afford to have material processed by laser or water-jet. I bought better tools for my workshop. If anything my profit margin is the same now as it was when I started building, the price has increased but that is a direct result of the cost of building a better quality drum that I'm proud to put my name on.

Just wondering if anyone knows of any small builders who try to focus on regular budget customers? Is it even possible? Especially if anyone here has built drums. Discuss...
Bottom line. In my opinion I don't think it's possible to find a craftsman who is going to build custom shells from scratch for a "budget customer". If for no other reason than the fact that it takes so long to produce a drum kit combined with the cost of the raw materials that you've priced yourself out of your own target market. Add on to that the cost of equipment and the normal overhead of running a small business and it's just not likely to be a cheap option unless somebody is really bad at running a business.

To anybody looking for a "custom" drum set for a reasonable price I would recommend sourcing your own hardware (DFD, DrumMaker, donor kit, etc.) and finding a company who will build and finish shells for you, so all you have to do is assemble the drums yourself. I think Precision Drum Co. and DrumMaker.com can do that. Nordic Drum Shells or USA Drum Shells might as well?
 


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