Andrew Johnston uses the stave method of construction to hand build snare drums and kits under the name RePercussion.
As with his Provenance Drums, RePercussion aims to seek out timber with a history to make individual bespoke instruments of the finest calibre.
The snare sent is made from bog oak from the Cambridgeshire fens; carbon dating estimates the oak has been buried for 5,000 years. Stave construction is prized for the way the wood is not stressed (as with ply) and requires less adhesive in the making.
The shell is reduced in thickness by increments of 0.5mm until Andrew feels it is right, testing for fundamental pitch as he goes. The whole process takes a couple of weeks and the present drum is 11.55mm thick. It is 137/8" in diameter by 6¾" deep; it has 45-degree, slightly rounded edges and snare beds 100mm wide, cut to a 2.5mm depth.
This is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship - so expertly finished you cannot see the stave joins. The shell is an almost ebony dark brown with vertical porous grain polished to a smooth yet tactile finish with tung oil. The 45-degree bearing edges are flawlessly worked with a sizeable outer cut and slight round-over on top. The only identifying badge is a 9.5mm sterling silver dot on the outside.
The drum arrives with a Remo Powerstroke P4 Coated batter - an edge-and-centre-reinforced head that subdues the overtones and makes for a crisp, attacking and focused sound.
Tuning up is effortless, the Tama lugs and bolts operate smoothly and securely, the Trick GS007 strainer is classy and the 24 strand Puresound brass coils adding plenty of scrunch.
We swap to a standard Coated Ambassador batter to see how much more the drum might open up. Rim shots now ding, affirming the pure resonance of the shell, and with a touch of top head damping, the drum’s ready for some all-round playing action.
Thick shells harden the note and emphasise the head tone, so batter head choice is crucial. While the ancient oak infers a dark and deep tone, it is maybe not quite as warm as imagined. It remains firm, almost boxy, at high tuning, fattening up nicely when dropped to mid-range.
Tuning right down there’s that hollow, slappy vintage Civil War battlefield clonk. The shell seems sonically detached from the steel hoops - the upside of which is that cross sticks sing, while rim shots are vital, metallic, dazzling.