Lincolnshire craftsman Robert Daniels makes just one or two drums a year. They're all one-offs, usually commissioned by star clients such as Gilson Lavis, Evelyn Glennie, Andy Gangadeen, Eliza Carthy and Johnny Kalsi.
The drum is nominally 14"x12", made up from 40 narrow staves of solid cherry wood, about one inch thick. Robert does everything by hand, using vintage tools. The vertical staves are rub jointed together - "no biscuiting, no dowelling". They are put into a circular mould and planed to fit by eye, so each stave is slightly different, the last stave becoming a locking piece.
Once the glue dries, the shell is sanded smoothly circular inside and out. "It's organic, I don't use chisels, so it ends up undersized, nearer to 13 1/2" diameter," Robert explains. Each bearing edge is a graduated curve, which flutes over to the outer wall. There's a large air hole, roughly 1" in diameter, which is smoothly rounded in the same way.
The cherry starts out grey, so it's stained using Van Dyke crystals, turning it a dark ruddy brown. The crystals are crushed, burnt walnut shells mixed in with an acrylic furniture varnish resulting in a translucent quality. Beeswax is then applied for sealing.
Solid stainless steel lugs were made by precision engineer Alan Turner. Because the shell is not an exact size, and since the tension bolts must line up precisely with the holes in the cast metal hoops, the single, large central spacers were calculated to bridge the gap once the shell was finished.
A Trick throw-off and Tama Starclassic copper snare wires with brass end-plates complete the job.
It's advisable to find a hefty snare stand before grappling with this beast. Playing a drum this deep is a novel experience. Striking the batter you notice a fractional time lag before the snares on the bottom respond. Marching drums this deep often have top head snares and high tensions giving a hard, rattling sound. But that would be a travesty with this superb shell.
You want to luxuriate in the resonance and depth, carve out thick beats of warm and dark timbre.
It's ultra-sensitive - you can play a press roll over those curved edges. There's a healthy ring as you move towards the perimeter, particularly with rim shots. Put your ear to the sound hole, tap the batter and you'll hear a deep growling roar. Tension holds perfectly at the lowest tuning, the drum remaining sensitive with a thick central slugging beat.