Aged wood in shells

jdsg

Member
I keep noticing in some reviews and posts dealing with high-end kits that the wood used is "aged". Is this referring to the maturity of the tree before it is converted to its intended purpose of making drum shells, or does it refer to an aging that occurs for the harvested wood that is aged before being used for construction? Would, therefore, buying say a used mid-range maple kit that is a few years older might have the benefits of that aging process in its shells?
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
I am guessing in my semi-educated way that they are talking about wood that has the moisture content reduced. It is with stringed instruments, baseball bats, drum stix, etc
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Aged wood....in my mind...conjures thoughts of 50 YO drum shells, not something less than about 20 years.

I remember another band on a gig once....the guy had a 28" bass drum from the 30's or something and the thing was light as a feather. True aged wood.

Back to your question....I don't know that you can bend wood successfully when all the lignins are hardened. Not sure. If you think of wood as fiberglass, the cellulose (wood strands) would be the "fibers" and the lignins would be the "glue". So when the "glue" (lignins) hardens it loses weight and transmits vibrations much more efficiently. This takes a lot of years to really get going. You have to age wood a certain amount, to an optimal moisture content, to bend it, but I don't think they can wait until the lignins harden, it would be impractical, and I don't think you can wait that long to bend..

Andy would be able to put a finer point on it.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
The short of it is that wood changes with time. A good instrument today may be a great instrument 15 years from now. It may be quite the opposite.

Using aged (either naturally or through an industrial process) wood mitigates this because the wood has already changed. Instrument quality remains more consistent over time at the cost of variety.
 

uniongoon

Gold Member
The aging process cannot start while the tree is alive. What I have learned through reading various sources, after about 30 years, the wood changes at a molecular level. Cells kind of crystallize. I did try bending some walnut which was milled in the early 70's, and it all broke, so there may be merit on what was said about that.

Aged wood is if anything, interesting, often building drums out of antique wood can add some layer to the drums history, or make a cool story to add to the allure of the kit.

Andy and his partner at Guru built a cool antique Mahogany kit using some old church pews. I had great results building this Mahogany from a 100 year old bed.





I also built 4 or 5 snares using that Walnut I found which was milled in the early 70's. There I found an old retired guy who used to woodwork, I was lucky enough to pick his wood collection from his old hobby. The snares were amazing sounding. How much of that magic can be attributed directly to the aged wood, I have no idea, but it sure didn't hurt.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Gosh uniondude, if I never said it before...you make some gorgeous instruments. You are a true craftsman. Much respect.
 

jdsg

Member
The short of it is that wood changes with time. A good instrument today may be a great instrument 15 years from now. It may be quite the opposite.

Using aged (either naturally or through an industrial process) wood mitigates this because the wood has already changed. Instrument quality remains more consistent over time at the cost of variety.
I guess what I was asking about was if there is a possible benefit to buying a used mid-range kit in that the shells may improve with age and acquire a desired "aged" state. Makes sense it could go the opposite direction.
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
No doubt about it, make the drum with fresh wood stock and let it age afterwards. As an owner of several vintage kits I can attest to the fact that drums sound mellower with age.
 

Coelacanth

Member
Typically, vintage or aged wood is denser & harder, less porous, and thus lends itself better to the construction of musical instruments; it's more resonant when compared to new-growth wood. In a sense, new-growth wood is more "spongy" than old-growth wood. (This only applies when comparing same species of wood, old vs. new; obviously, some species of new wood are extremely hard & dense already, like cocobolo, ironwood, etc.)
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
I guess what I was asking about was if there is a possible benefit to buying a used mid-range kit in that the shells may improve with age and acquire a desired "aged" state. Makes sense it could go the opposite direction.
Indeed. This comes up a lot with guitar and other instruments. The neck can literally warp to an unplayable state requiring a major rework at a cost that could exceed the value of the instrument. With pre-aged wood, the wood has already warped before the neck was cut/joined, so it's not going to go anywhere over time.

With drums, I imagine that the focus is tone, as it would take quite a bit for 5 layer plywood to go out-of-round due to wood warp.
 

Jankowske

Senior Member
I keep noticing in some reviews and posts dealing with high-end kits that the wood used is "aged". Is this referring to the maturity of the tree before it is converted to its intended purpose of making drum shells, or does it refer to an aging that occurs for the harvested wood that is aged before being used for construction?
After harvesting. After a certain point, the older the tree is, the less good, usable wood is in it due to rot, insects, wind shake, cracking etc.

Would, therefore, buying say a used mid-range maple kit that is a few years older might have the benefits of that aging process in its shells?
No. Depending on the timber and its desired purpose, "aging" might last a year or less for a drumstick or 5-10 years or more for something like a bow. Aging is done to wood that's been cut more or less close to the size of the finished product. Aging lets the wood dry out and warp. It's better to have a nice dry banana to cut something straight out of than to see something finished and pretty turn into a propeller or a potato chip. Also a lot of wood is "kiln-dried" or kept in very dry, warm rooms to speed up drying, which for many applications is better than waiting for years.

For drums, dry wood is very preferable for resonance. Plywood drums are made in such a way that additional warping after manufacture is minimized. Also the glue between plies is much less porous than wood and probably slows down further drying/aging. The thinner the shells and the thicker the individual plies, the more likely the drum's shape will be affected over time. Also, the better aged the wood was, the less likely it is that the drum's sound will significantly change after 10-20-30 years or so.

What larryace and uniongoon said about "lingnins" makes a whole lot of sense. I would wildly guess that most shaved plies of wood for drums are only kiln-dried before lamination. Using really old cut wood to make a drum makes sense for stave and segmented shell construction.

tldr: Wood is complicated. Buy a drum if you like how it sounds and if you can afford it.
 
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