6 1/2×14 Conquistador Stave-Shell Heartwood Snare
by David Ciauro
Ed Mendel, founder of Ancient Tree, uses river-reclaimed heart cypress and heart pine to handcraft stave-shell drums. The snare on review here is made from longleaf pine heartwood that was between 200 and 500 years old before it was harvested. It was then preserved for another 150 years on a riverbed, hence the term river reclaimed.
Heartwood holds a special place in American architecture. “Longleaf pine was the wood that built America, and it was almost harvested to extinction,” Mendel says. “It can still be found on the floor of Mount Vernon, where it has been walked on for over 200 years.” Today you’re more likely to have a run-in with Bigfoot than come across river-reclaimed longleaf pine heartwood. Drums produced from such a special source therefore enter a unique niche of being appreciated equally as musical instruments, works of art, and labors of love.
What exactly is heartwood? Mendel explains, “A tree has two components: sapwood and heartwood. Heartwood combines tight graining and more resins—the more the resin, the harder the wood. Sapwood has 4 percent resin, and heartwood has 25 percent. The wood we use has at least eight growth rings per inch compared to sapwood, which has four. Longleaf pine grows only one inch in diameter every thirty years, and river-recovered logs are actually drier than freshly cut trees, because the wood is filled with oleoresins and does not take on water.”
Before testing the Conquistador, I removed the batter head to check out the quality of the craftsmanship. The vertical-grain lines were so vivid that they appeared as though they’d been painted on, due to the near complete absence of any knots or imperfections. Combine that with the superb smoothness of the rounded bearing edges and snare bed, and I thought, If this drum sounds equal to how it looks, we’re in for a treat.
The Conquistador comes with an Evans Power Center Reverse Dot batter and Hazy 300 bottom, PureSound twenty-strand wires, powder-coated and custom-milled aeronautical aluminum lugs and 2.3 mm hoops, and a Trick three-step throw-off. The price of the drum, which includes $109.20 in options, is $910. Conquistador snares with chrome 2.3 mm hoops cost $785.
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