Buyers' guide: British custom-built snare drums
British custom builders are blossoming, and their snares are a joy to behold. In fact, they're the equal of any snares made anywhere in the world. The rise of the internet has meant they can display their wares worldwide, and we urge you to feast your eyes on this wealth of British enterprise.
As in the States, some builders buy ready-made ply shells (most often American Keller) and custom finish them. But most British builders also craft their own shells from scratch. So, as well as the usual ply construction, here's your chance to own a solid block, stave, or steam-bent single-ply snare, or even brass, carbon fibre or acrylic.
"Custom builders offer products as discrete or as brash as your imagination allows"
Metal parts are a combination of in-house designs and out-sourced parts. This allows you to specify a top class American strainer or a budget Oriental, generic design. Don't be put off by the latter – quality and reliability are excellent these days.
Use your imagination
As for finishes, custom builders offer products as discrete or as brash as your imagination allows. The end result is a one-off designer drum for a sensible price.
So, search their websites, phone for a chat, arrange a visit and inspect their handicraft at first hand. If you're impressed, you can get a bespoke snare to your exact specification. Here are our top five picks to get you started…
1. KD Drums segmented snare
£450 (14"x5 1/2")
Keith Keough uses a variety of construction methods – including ply, segmented, stave, steambent, vented and one-piece solid – to produce a beautiful range of custom drums. The segmented construction is unbelievably strong and drums can be made in a variety of exotic hardwoods, such as padauk, purpleheart or rosewood.
2. Highwood Steambent Series Solid Maple
£399 (14"x5 1/2" / 14"x6 1/2")
Solid maple, steam bent with reinforcing rings and single-mounting point lugs. Finished in natural Polyx oil, or any fi nish you specify, with Highwood's 20-strand Phosphor Bronze snare wires. The sound is warm and woody, and satisfyingly fat.
3. FVF Custom Drums
£425 (13"x6" block cherry/figured maple)
From his Leicestershire base Francis Smith sets out to build "anything within reason". This means not only solid, segmented or stave wood snares in exotic timbers but also glass or carbon fibre, acrylic, aluminium or titanium, or even composites of wood with fibreglass or metal.
4. Jalepeno Classic/Elite
£375 (14" satin wax)
For consistent quality, Dave Nuttall sticks to classic European premium-grade Finnish birch ply, dry moulded with outer and inner plies running vertically. Available with eight in-house, solid brass lugs, in depths from 4" to 8" and a choice of oil, wax or lacquer finishes.
5. Newell Custom Snares
Chris Newell has invested in fibreglass moulds to form his top-grade Finnish ply shells. Results are indistinguishable from major manufacturers' efforts with angled seams. Bearing edges are cut to a central peak and you can specify an even number of plies, with or without reinforcing rings.