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Brass Ball Drums

Stave-Shell Snares

Innovative snares with a concave contour.

Every so often, established drum shell designs are revisited for different reasons—to achieve increased resonance, to offer distinctive appearances, or to incorporate unconventional materials for construction. From the mind of a career woodworker in Buda, Texas, Brass Ball Drums is making uniquely shaped stave-shell drums with some fresh ideas about mounting lugs and hardware.

Poring Over the Options

Thirty-plus years into a woodworking career that involved everything from carving signs for historic Austin music venues to outfitting an upstate New York library with ornate columns and cabinets, Brass Ball founder Cliff Scott was asked by his son to build him “the best drumkit ever.” Scott began researching the common goals of existing drum companies: shell resonance, minimal hardware-to-shell contact, reliable hardware, and beautiful finishes. He saw more opportunities to experiment within the solid/stave-shell design because, as Scott says, “It causes the wood’s cell structure to allow for the greatest shell response.” He considered trying a single-ply shell, but attested that “the method produces extreme stress on the wood’s fibers.” He also avoided using block-shell construction because he felt that a horizontal grain is less conducive to shell response.

Rethinking Hardware and Shell Shapes

Scott also observed that many lug designs left an oversized footprint on the outside of the shell, and there were too many screws and washers inside the drum. He arrived at a ball-shaped lug and a concave shape for the exterior shell wall that’s thick enough at the point where the lugs are attached to eliminate the need for interior screws. The lug is positioned on a nodal point of the shell, and the inside of the shell bows inward slightly.

The Review Drums

Scott sent us two 5.5×14 snares to check out. One had a quarter-sawn bubinga shell outfitted with Brass Ball’s proprietary lugs and a unique strainer that mounts to the lugs and has a fine-adjustment knob on the butt plate. The second drum was straight-sawn bubinga with center-drilled tube lugs and a stock strainer (not shown).

Both snares came with double forty-five-degree bearing edges and Evans G2 Coated batter heads. It’s speculation whether it’s the shell’s contour, the hardness of the bubinga, or a combination of both, but if I were regularly playing stadiums I would definitely consider using one of these snares. When playing a gig in a dry room with a ten-piece band, I could still hear every ghost note. Rimshots had some serious authority that would satisfy the heaviest funk and metal players. The bubinga drum with Brass Ball’s hardware sells for $625, and the one with standard hardware goes for $425.

Brass Ball’s snare mechanism is a simple but clever design with the fine-tuning knob positioned on the butt plate opposite the throw-off lever. This might be an issue if you often turn the snares off and on and adjust the snare tension mid-song. But the design is a noteworthy innovation because the throw-off is removed from the shell itself to maximize resonance.

These Brass Ball drums are gorgeous. If you favor handcrafted drums, premium hardwood shells, or unique artisanal designs, give these a look and listen at brassballdrums.com.

Stephen Bidwell