Buyers' guide: British custom-built drum kits

5 best British kits from £1000

Highwood Exotic Ply kit

What could be better than buying a custom made drum kit from a British craftsman? The UK has a handful of custom makers whose products are the equal of any drums made anywhere in the world.

The trouble is that many drummers fall for the razzmatazz of American makers, especially when they see their latest hero playing an in-yer-face, extravagant kit in a lurid finish.

"Unlike many America builders, who buy ready-made shells and custom finish them, British builders mostly craft their own shells from scratch"

The British custom makers highlighted here are generally more low key, but they're every bit as good. Plus they're usually cheaper, partly due to lack of shipping costs, and they may be right on your doorstep.

Made to measure

Search custom makers' websites, phone for a chat, arrange a visit, see what they are doing and what they can offer. If you're impressed you can get a kit handmade to your exact specification.

Unlike many America builders, who buy ready-made shells and custom finish them, British builders mostly craft their own shells from scratch, using a variety of different methods. So, as well as the usual ply construction, here's your chance to get a unique solid block, stave, or steam-bent single ply snare or even complete kit.

5 best British custom-built kits from £1000

5. KD Drums

KD uses a variety of different construction methods including ply, segmented, stave, steam-bent and one-piece solid to produce yet another beautiful range of individual drums. While KD's standard ply drums are made from premium Canadian maple, an absolutely amazing variety of exotic hardwoods is suggested for the stave and solid drums. (Read the full)

4. Jalapeno

Lancastrian Dave Nuttall has established this respected line of drums over the past decade. A lot of careful thought has gone into the design and construction: shells are dry moulded from Finnish birch with the outer and inner plies running vertically for better projection. The rugged lugs are hewn from solid brass. (Read a review of Jalapeno's pack-away series kit)

3. Richmo V-Series

Richmo is Alan Gilby, the man who sold the 'resonator' twin shell concept to Premier in the 1970s. Alan's always thinking up new ideas for his handmade kits. The V (Vibrant) series has incredibly thin 3mm shells with reinforcing rings. Not the greatest finish, but Alan's always affordable and inventive.

Next page: Highwood Exotic ply range and our top pick


2. Highwood Exotic ply range

A relatively new company, Highwood custom-builds four different drum series. The Exotic Plykithas 5.5mm Finnish birch shells with an outer veneer of figured walnut, or any other species you (or they) can get hold of. Highwood also does great-sounding single ply steam-bent snares at tempting prices. (Read the full review of Highwood's Custom Exotic Ply Series Kit)

1. Noonan MR10-8 kit
£2091 (typical four-drum shell pack)

Gary Noonan makes some of the most beautiful drums available anywhere. A stickler for detail and a totally uncompromising character, no-one knows more about making drums. Plies, solid, stave, block, steam-bending, exotic veneers, spun and cast metals...Gary does it all superbly.


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