Quality Lauan Shells???

Quality Asian Firewood...Yay or Nay?


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jrfrond

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There seems to be rekindled (no pun intended!) interest in Asian Firewood stencil-branded drums. Is it the vibe, the sound or the price?

Vintage Tama Imperialstars were excellent-sounding lauan drums, as were original Pearl exports.

If an American drum company touted QUALITY lauan shells, would you give them a go? Please vote.
 

Dave H.

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I would buy a set if it filled a need for me. I worry more about the sound & hardware than what the shell is made of. Most of these drums have crap hardware on them & I don't like that.

Dave H.
 

AaronLatos

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About to play an old Pearl luan kit with silver dots on a gig tomorrow afternoon!
 

Vipercussionist

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There seems to be rekindled (no pun intended!) interest in Asian Firewood stencil-branded drums. Is it the vibe, the sound or the price?

Vintage Tama Imperialstars were excellent-sounding lauan drums, as were original Pearl exports.

If an American drum company touted QUALITY lauan shells, would you give them a go? Please vote.
JR, were the Gretsch Catalina Mod kits Luaun?? They were the Mahogany Shelled ones, and WHATEVER they were, for CHEAP drums they sounded VAN-tastic!!


Yeah, I'd buy 'em, ESPECIALLY if someone were SMART enough to make 'em HERE in the USA. Why SHOULDN'T they make some of 'em here?? A cheaply made kit with attention to detail.

Hell, not that they're top quality, but the newer Stagg stuff is pretty good for what it is. They've paid JUST enough attention to some of the PLAYABILITY aspects to put them WAY ahead of the other "junk kits" to make it a PASSABLE kit. The hardware and mounts work adequately, shells are round, the heads fit well, they even put some REAL Remo heads for batters so they'll actually LAST a while unlike the paper thin IMPORT heads usually associated with such kits.

I might not go THAT low to BUY a kit for myself, but seriously, you could gig with it, it's put together well enough for that. Absolutely the best "beginner/starter/banger" kit that I've seen.
 

troymiller

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I would buy a set if it filled a need for me. I worry more about the sound & hardware than what the shell is made of. Most of these drums have crap hardware on them & I don't like that.

Dave H.
Copy that. I think at least some of the bad impression that many have from luan comes from the crummy hardware that you typically find on it. While maybe some can, if I was out listening to a band, I couldn't tell the difference between maple, birch, oak, (whatever), and luan. What I hear more is the relationship of bearing edge to tuning and type of head. As long as the drum is in round and has a good edge, I could honestly care less about the material of the shell (as long as it holds up!).

So yes... if I had a need and there was a QUALITY (round shell, good edge, and quality hardware) US made luan kit (that made my price point), I would absolutely check it out - no qualms at all.
 

Coelacanth

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I'm not sure what you mean by "quality luan shells"? The wood itself is softer and more porous, and lends itself well to thuddy-sounding drums. I'm sure one could improve on the typical luan qualities by sealing the insides with some kind of sealer or paint, and one can certainly put excellent bearing edges on them, but the physical qualities of luan are what they are...no?
 

jrfrond

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Vaughncraft has proven that you can turn almost any wood into a decent drum if you pay attention to it. Some of the woods they've bent into incredible shells have been used as filler plies for years, e.g. poplar, gum, basswood. So, taking THAT a step further with ply shells, what if someone took a wood with a bad rep like lauan and made QUALITY shells with it? Tama did it. Pearl did it. Why can't it be done AGAIN, with a high-quality twist on the hardware and shell?

Yes, lauan has a certain characteristic dark and sometimes thuddy tone, which I believe is due more to poor manufacturing than the wood itself. It's a hardwood whose specs, ironically, are close to that of Honduras Mahogany, but the grain is coarse and filled with lots of air space, and not quite as pretty as other woods. However, we have ALL seen this stuff on utility hollow-core doors that we see routinely used in houses, offices, etc. Brownish-red with a sometimes-interesting coarse grain, usually stained brown and coated with polyurethane. However, if a lauan shell is made PROPERLY, with the correct ply adhesives to lend stiffness, and the bearing edges are properly manipulated, along with correct interior treatment (kind of like Tama did with vintage Imperialstars), I think we have a VERY useful, punchy alternative voice here. These COULD be the ultimate recording drums in this digital recording age, specifically because their already fat and punchy tone would require less processing and be more mic-friendly.

Just something to chew on..... :idea1:
 

TommyWells

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J.R.: You know I played the Pearl wood/fiberglass drums for years. (luan.) I also played the Pearl wood drums of that era, (70's. luan.) I played the fiberglass 70's drums, too. (Not luan.) They all had different characteristics. The fiberglass were brighter. The straight wooden ones were darker, but very fat sounding. The wood fiberglass drums were very close to the wood drums. In fact, they were maybe a little MORE mellow sounding. Maybe because the fiberglass was so textured and kind of a diffusing surface, as opposed to the harder reflective surface of other fiberglass treatments. Much more textured than the unfinished luan shells. Anyway, I toured and recorded with those drums for years, and added a couple of maple kits to the stable when the USA made MLX kits came about. 1972 - 1986, as a matter of fact. My first run as a Pearl endorser.
 

dambugg

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I had a set of Tama superstars from the early eighties that sounded great. So no hesitation in buying luan here.
 

Patrick

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Hi,

I expect you could get excellent tom and kick shells, with character.

I have a couple of questions if anybody can advise.

1. Is the lauan tough enough for a snare? I expect Lauan shells would be able to handle the tension on tom lugs without any probs, but wonder if such a relatively soft wood could handle some of the higher tensions that snare drum lugs have to sustain.

2. Can you get a decent and sustainable bearing edge? I have read a few threads about bearing edge difficulties and lauan shells, which may have to do more with vertical grain alignment (again I don't know, hence the question.)

cheers,

Patrick
 

MonkeyGrass

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I just restored/rehabbed a mid 60's Pearl kit with luan shells.

Wow. They have good edges and are completely round. Some suede emperor batters on those bad boys with clear ambs on the bottom and I'm a believer! Couple coated ambs with some felts strips on the kick and it thunders. There are definitely situations where I could see myself using them both live and studio. Matter of fact, I almost used them last week on a track after I got them finished up, just to see how they would translate in the studio. Then I said "Naaaaaah, I'll take the 67 Ludwigs instead!" :idea1: But I think they would have fit the song, I just didn't have the luxury of playing with a brand new kit on the schedule we were on, I had to take what I knew would work and not spend 1/2 a day dialing in drums sounds.

I am 100% in agreement - wood is much less important than bearing edges, true round shells and quality heads/hardware in the overall drum sound. Only with single ply heads, tuned to perfection, in a critical listening environment can the subtle differences in actual WOOD ply and layup be heard, IMO. I think luan has had it's 'rep' ruined by years of shoddy craftsmanship and sub-par hardware. I mean, gum/poplar is trash wood too. And it surely has it's place in drum "history", as we all know. I think with the right interior treatment (granitone/fiberglass coating) and a nice outer veneer you are definitely on to something!
 

AaronLatos

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Simple bearing edge solution: treat the edges with a hardening agent, like some sort of cynoacrylic (ie, superglue!). Cheap, quick, and gets you edges harder and more durable than the vast majority of hardwoods.

Not to go all "green" here, but... our supplies of birch and maple are limited, especially maple of high quality. With technology the way it is, there is NO reason why we can't figure out how to make a fantastic sounding set out of less expensive/quicker growing woods. And as wood prices rise/wood quality decreases, it's going to be increasingly important for drummers and co's alike.

I'll zoom record the Luan set I'm using tomorrow. 13/16/22, Pearl sealed rack tom, unsealed "firewood" stencil floor and bass... and they KILL! They're huge, fat, resonant, punchy, everything you could want in a rock kit, and they tune like BUTTER.

One of my friends put diecasts on his Cat Club jazz kit, and it's scary close to his USA customs now. I'm going to try to convince him to let me help him give the interiors the silver sealer treatment and see what happens.
 

TommyWells

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You have to know the right words to chant while you apply the silver sealer paint, or it won't work right.
:)
 

kip

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any of the old Exports I got to play sounded great w decent heads and tuning...pinstripes gave them a grand punchy sound that i really liked
 

troymiller

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...One of my friends put diecasts on his Cat Club jazz kit, and it's scary close to his USA customs now. I'm going to try to convince him to let me help him give the interiors the silver sealer treatment and see what happens.
Ooooo!... I would be particularly interested in hearing your thoughts (if he'll let you silver-sealer those!)...!
 

kip

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Vaughncraft has proven that you can turn almost any wood into a decent drum if you pay attention to it. Some of the woods they've bent into incredible shells have been used as filler plies for years, e.g. poplar, gum, basswood. So, taking THAT a step further with ply shells, what if someone took a wood with a bad rep like lauan and made QUALITY shells with it? Tama did it. Pearl did it. Why can't it be done AGAIN, with a high-quality twist on the hardware and shell?

i'd guess cause the drum companies want us to think that only high end maple and birch kits are the only good sounding kits.

personally, i always liked the sound of the mid line ( Pearl DLX, World, Export) , Yamaha Rydeen, etc.. far more then the high end models of "100 % Maple and Birch"

a friend of mine had an early 80's Pearl DLX kit and it was just the greatest sounding kit !!!

i went out and found a Maple Pearl kit from the same era, and could never get it to sound good (same sizes)... then i realized it was a totally different shell construction

it's the heads, the hoop/rims and the edge that make the most difference as far as I'm concerned.
 

Bluesman

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You have to know the right words to chant while you apply the silver sealer paint, or it won't work right.
:)
I think it's like an old Apache Indian chant...
hi-how-are-ya...
hi-how-are-ya...
hi-how-are-ya...
 

jrfrond

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First of all, lauan is NOT a soft wood. Besides being a botanical hardwood, it is in the same density and hardness range as maple, birch and mahogany. Therefore, yes, it WOULD take tension readily.

Concerning bearing edges, CA adhesive (Super Glue) works well to toughen porous edges, and in fact, this is what I use on vintage drums to stabilize edges that have gone soft from abuse, wood rot or breakage, etc. Works great! As to whether or not a CORRECTLY-made lauan shell would need this treatment, I do not know..... yet!

Tommy, Pearl, along with Tama, mastered lauan shells a long time ago, as you have cited. Therein lies the basis for my example here. Also, fiberglass resin would make a super internal sealer on lauan drums, as would epoxy or polyester based paints and lacquers.

To further expand on my reason: drum sounds are cyclical. I am finding that many players are drifting from the attack-y, sustain-y "modern" sound and looking for some punchier, fatter, drier tones. For the same reason I believe that concert toms will come back, and many of you already know that Bermuda has recorded some new Weird Al tunes with a Vista concert tom kit, apparently with stellar results.

I believe that the comeback in "stencil kit" popularity is more than us baby-boomers waxing nostalgic. I feel it is fueled by a growing distaste for the transparent drum sound that has been in vogue for such a long time, a tonality that is exacerbated by the inherent deficiencies (or more correctly, the inherent accuracies) of digital recording.

I just LOVE adding fuel to the fire! :-D
 

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