We’re only a few months into 2018 and already it’s shaping up to be a great year for small custom builders.
Spoiling us for choice this month is a pair of fine stave shell snares from Cheshire-based brand The Green Drum Co.
Build Founded in 2016, The Green Drum Co. is run by Mick Pauline and his wife, Liz; Mick handles the building while Liz sees to the promotion, marketing and all-important social media side. Up for review is Mabel, an off-the-peg 14"x5" Cheshire beech stave snare and Martina, a limited run 14"x7" reclaimed iroko stave snare with beech inlays.
Mick is an entirely self-taught drum builder; a drummer with two decades of playing experience, he began constructing stave and segment shells some 14 years ago. The fact that he spent another 12 years honing his skills before launching the company says as much about his dedication and integrity as it does about the quality of his finished products.
Mick hand-builds stave, segment and steam-bent shells and - if you ask him nicely - conventional ply shells as well. Bespoke wooden hoops (segment or steam bent) and even wooden lugs can be ordered for each shell in place of the customary metal hardware gracing the review drums.
All of Mick’s creations are given female names to, “emphasise that every single drum is unique; traceable back to forest or sustainable wood supplier and has its own sound and personality”.
Along with the name of the company, this is a clear reference to Mick’s commitment to producing drums in the most environmentally-friendly way possible. There are obvious ways of achieving this - by reducing waste and using water-based glues and finishes (as Mick does), but the biggest single component of any shell is the wood.
So, while Mick offers a wide variety of tonal woods - all with ideal characteristics to fashion drums from - he no longer imports exotic woods. “I read a study into the rates of deforestation in various parts of the world and was appalled,” he explains, “with woods like bubinga being added to the list of threatened species I decided to make a stand to help ensure that these beautiful timbers remain in the wild for future generations.”
This stance doesn’t prevent Mick from working with reclaimed exotic woods, as in the case of the iroko that Martina is made from. Sourced from the top of a workbench that was destined to become firewood until Mick’s intervention, iroko is a tropical African hardwood known for its durability.
As with all reclaimed timber, Mick let the iroko acclimatise in his workshop for a month before working it. In the event, the former workbench yielded enough wood to produce three snare drums. No such limitations apply to the Cheshire beech that forms Mabel, hence its ‘off-the-peg’ status.
The shells for both drums are 8mm thick, beautifully finished inside and out and have reinforcing rings machined from the original staves (rather than glued in after the lathing has taken place). Other than the wood choice and depth, the main difference between the two shells is the number of staves and corresponding lugs.
For Mabel the ratio is 20 staves to 10 lugs whilst Martina’s is 16:8. Bearing edges are cut at a sharp 45° fairly close to the outer edge of the shell with a small roundover; this is Mick’s default choice though he will cut any angle to customer specification if required. Both shells are sealed with a transparent water-based lacquer finish - gloss for Mabel and satin for Martina.
Mick has a range of water-based stains that he can offer on request but, unsurprisingly, prefers to let the wood tell its own story. Chrome tube lugs, 2.3mm triple-flanged hoops, Nickel Drumworks throw-off and butt end and Puresound snare wires dress each shell while Remo Ambassador heads are fitted as standard.
Mabel is first to win facetime with the sticks and comes out of the blocks with intent. The note is pure, sharp and immediate. And crisper than a deep-fried cream cracker.
It’s the sort of sound that connects directly with the inner Copeland - after only a few touches we find ourself gripped by an urge to push ahead and go full tilt into the next flam/fill/rest/playout/still-to-be-written new song. Dynamics are handled with composure and poise; double strokes are smooth and fluent all the way into the edges, rimshots jolt out appropriately while cross-sticking is clear and focussed. An absolute belter of a drum.
After Mabel’s fireworks Martina’s response is more reserved but equally characterful. The note is altogether drier and thicker and the darker tone of the iroko is plainly evident. Tuned up it barks with aggression but is more authoritative in the sweet spot, dishing out bar-defining backbeats and thunderous fills with grace. If this is what environmental awareness sounds like then we’re in.