Stave snare shrunk in size [photos] - seeking advice

ockidocki

Member
Hi everyone,

I have a stave snare that I hadn't used for over a year. I moved to a colder country and I think the exposure to colder temperatures may have caused the shell contraction.

There is now a noticeable lug splay, as you can see on the pictures. I've been advised to put thicker lugs spacers. Should I also get 13" snare wires, as these are almost touching the snare beds? Do you suggest some other approach/solution to the issue?

I haven't tried to tune and play the snare as it is, as initially I was worried that tuning/using the snare in this state may damage the shell. Maybe I should try it nonetheless?

Thanks a lot for your help.
 

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Andy

Administrator
Staff member
To answer with certainty, I'll need a bit more information. Stave constructions are more prone to radial shrinkage due to their vertical grain orientation. The reasons can vary. In some cases it's due to incorrectly cured wood stock, very occasionally it's just a curved ball thrown by nature, but the driver is always drying out in one form or another. It's not due to temperature, but likely caused by a drop in relative humidity in your new location.

Questions:

1/ How old is the snare - what's it's history?

2/ Where did you used to live, & where do you live now?

If you moved the drum back to your previous area, it would likely recover it's form to some degree, but maybe not at all - it's a crap shoot. You can use spacers behind the lugs & fit smaller wires, but in it's present form, it will always be compromised. The greater likelihood is the shell is scrap in terms of regaining optimum performance. There is almost nothing you can do to satisfactorily permanently improve the current condition in your present location. Placing it in a warm & humid environment may offer some slight improvement - that may be permanent, but likely not if you remain in a low relative humidity environment.

I don't advise playing the snare in it's current condition. The shrinkage is quite severe. Further damage to the shell is possible, especially at higher tensions, but the sonic results would likely be disappointing. You will certainly find tension screw / lug performance compromised.
 

ockidocki

Member
To answer with certainty, I'll need a bit more information. Stave constructions are more prone to radial shrinkage due to their vertical grain orientation. The reasons can vary. In some cases it's due to incorrectly cured wood stock, very occasionally it's just a curved ball thrown by nature, but the driver is always drying out in one form or another. It's not due to temperature, but likely caused by a drop in relative humidity in your new location.

Questions:

1/ How old is the snare - what's it's history?

2/ Where did you used to live, & where do you live now?

If you moved the drum back to your previous area, it would likely recover it's form to some degree, but maybe not at all - it's a crap shoot. You can use spacers behind the lugs & fit smaller wires, but in it's present form, it will always be compromised. The greater likelihood is the shell is scrap in terms of regaining optimum performance. There is almost nothing you can do to satisfactorily permanently improve the current condition in your present location. Placing it in a warm & humid environment may offer some slight improvement - that may be permanent, but likely not if you remain in a low relative humidity environment.

I don't advise playing the snare in it's current condition. The shrinkage is quite severe. Further damage to the shell is possible, especially at higher tensions, but the sonic results would likely be disappointing. You will certainly find tension screw / lug performance compromised.

Hi Andy, thank you very much for your thorough answer. To answer your questions:

1/ How old is the snare - what's it's history?

The snare drum is about 7 years old. I used it for a while, when I was in a band and living stably in my hometown. I don't recall it having any issues, but I can't guarantee that - I may just not have noticed them before, or they may have been more subtle back then. Then, briefly after starting to use it, my life changed quite a bit, I had to start traveling regularly / living abroad for education and work, and my drumming equipment had to stay stored away in my hometown. The snare drum has been mostly stored in a closet for years.

Recently I moved to a new city with a more permanent situation and decided to bring my drumming equipment with me to use it regularly. I stored the snare drum and other equipment for a couple of months in my new location until I got a rehearsal room. That's when I checked the snare closely and noticed the lug splay.

Since I haven't been monitoring the snare regularly, due to my traveling over the last years, I'm not sure when the issues "begun", so the recent change of location may or may not have been the trigger for these issues.

2/ Where did you used to live, & where do you live now?

I used to live in Madrid (Spain) and I now live in Copenhagen (Denmark). The snare has been in Copenhagen for about 3 months.

I will try with the thicker lug spacers and fitting smaller wires. There's also a drum workshop in Copenhagen that I've been told is good. I will also visit them to ask for their advice soon.

Thanks again for your help!
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Relative humidity in Copenhagen & Madrid is similar - if anything, Copenhagen has slightly higher relative humidity compared to madrid, especially during the summer months. Although colder temperatures can equate to slight temporary shrinkage, it's unlikely to explain the level of shrinkage you have here.

Given what you've revealed about the drum's history, the shrinkage is likely to have happened over an extended period of time. If it was stored in an environment of low humidity, that may well have accelerated the process. Air conditioning with humidity control can sometimes have this affect. Unfortunately, this likely means the shrinkage is permanent. I think you're best trying the lug spacer + 13" wires route, & seeing if this equates to a useable instrument. Good luck!
 

Tommy_D

Platinum Member
First, you need to get the drum to a room that is a normal temperature (somewhere in the 70 degree F / 21 degree C). Then I would take the heads off (if you can) and remove all the hardware so its a bare shell. Put the shell in a garbage bag with a loosely folded up, damp paper towel laying right in the middle and tie it off. Give it a day or two, then re-wet the paper towel and do it again. I would do this at least 4 times then check the shell's diameter. It will take about a week to go through the process, but the shell should have absorbed the moisture from the paper towel and hopefully expanded just enough to be within normal tolerances.

Overall, stave/segmented/solid/block construction drums are more susceptible to expansion/contraction than a normal ply drum because they don't use all the glue to seal the wood from outside temperature/moisture changes. This unsealed wood will do what regular wood does, absorb and release moisture with the environment it is in. So, unless you plan on sealing the entire shell (inside and out including bearing edges) your drum will always be susceptible to expansion and contraction.

If you take the drum to environments it is not normally used to, it can cause problems in the long run. If you can keep the drum stored in a place that is ~70F/21C degrees and has a relative humidity in the 40% range the drum should be just fine as it is.
 

ockidocki

Member
Hi guys,

thanks for all the advice.

@ PorkPieGuy: I only feed them organic food (no pesticides), they receive no antibiotics and are given access to the outdoors. The standard stuff to keep them healthy! ;) (I wish your comment was true though!)

@Andy and Tommy_D: You suggest different approaches. Andy suggests a "coping approach" where we accept the shrinkage and deal with it as good as we can. Tommy_D suggest a "restoration approach" where we try to get the shell to expand back. I'm pretty ignorant about this stuff, so I'm not sure which approach could yield better results. What do you think?

Thanks again for the wealth of advice!
 

Tamaefx

Silver Member
Those lugs don't have swivelling part ? Are the screw damaged or bent ? Are the tube lugs slightly bent (it seems on the picture but it could be optical effect).
Some rubber gaskets may be the solution but if the screws or the lugs are damaged it is another story.

90's Premier had - on purpose - 6mm undersized shells, so I guess you can play your snare that way once the lugs are fixed and a shorter snappy snare underneath.
 

Tommy_D

Platinum Member
Hi guys,

thanks for all the advice.

@ PorkPieGuy: I only feed them organic food (no pesticides), they receive no antibiotics and are given access to the outdoors. The standard stuff to keep them healthy! ;) (I wish your comment was true though!)

@Andy and Tommy_D: You suggest different approaches. Andy suggests a "coping approach" where we accept the shrinkage and deal with it as good as we can. Tommy_D suggest a "restoration approach" where we try to get the shell to expand back. I'm pretty ignorant about this stuff, so I'm not sure which approach could yield better results. What do you think?

Thanks again for the wealth of advice!

Well, Andy is more of an expert on this than I am, but I just went through a similar situation to yours with my stave shell and I did what I posted above to fix my problem. I then sealed the drum inside and out (including edges) to limit the woods expansion/contraction.

I honestly don't believe you will have any issues trying my method first. If nothing happens with my method, you are in no worse situation and you can do what Andy suggests. Both ways you will have to completely disassemble the drum to combat the shrinkage.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Well, Andy is more of an expert on this than I am, but I just went through a similar situation to yours with my stave shell and I did what I posted above to fix my problem. I then sealed the drum inside and out (including edges) to limit the woods expansion/contraction.

I honestly don't believe you will have any issues trying my method first. If nothing happens with my method, you are in no worse situation and you can do what Andy suggests. Both ways you will have to completely disassemble the drum to combat the shrinkage.
I agree - there's no harm in trying, & even a modest improvement may offer benefits, but here's a bit more detail / clarification.

Multiple ply shells will always respond less to relative humidity than any form of non ply shell, not because of a glue barrier or other sealing mechanisms, but because of the glue bond between plies preventing the plies from moving in relation to each other, & that relative movement between plies is necessary in order for the shell to shrink. Ply shells can still suffer from shrinkage issues though, but this normally manifests itself in the form of delamination. Glue & other sealants don't prevent shrinkage, but they can substantially delay it's progress.

Grain orientation is everything. For clarification - If movement is going to occur, a vertical grain shell (stave / hollow log) will predominantly move diametrically, which can have a significant impact on the drum's viability (as in the OP's drum). A horizontal grain shell (segmented) will move predominantly in the vertical plane, which results in minimal - no impact on the drum's performance. A horizontal grain shell (steam bent) will also move predominantly in the vertical plane, but that can sometimes additionally equate to an uneven distribution of forces (warping).

Some shells will move in cycles depending on relative humidity. Some will shrink & never return as the lignin resets to it's new position & resists further change. There are significant variations in behaviour depending on the shell structure, the wood species, the wood quality, & critically, how the wood was cured in the first place.

Bottom line - in your shell's current condition, pretty much anything is worth trying, as it's close to useless in it's present condition without some form of corrective action. Completely sealing the shell will guard against the shorter term affects of significant humidity changes, but will never prevent the long term progression via multiple natural mechanisms.
 

mpthomson

Senior Member
Would a shell shrink absolutely evenly in this way and also leave the lacquer unmarked, as that wouldn't be able to shrink?
 

Rattlin' Bones

Gold Member
That seems like 1/16" inch or more? And evenly? Is this a joke or a fake, or did OP just not notice how poorly the drum was constructed with too-short lugs? New rim? I ain't buying it. I don't have any furniture that has ever shrunk to that extent. Or guitars or other wooden instrument. The neck of a violin doesn't shrink like that. This does not all add up.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
That seems like 1/16" inch or more? And evenly? Is this a joke or a fake, or did OP just not notice how poorly the drum was constructed with too-short lugs? New rim? I ain't buying it. I don't have any furniture that has ever shrunk to that extent. Or guitars or other wooden instrument. The neck of a violin doesn't shrink like that. This does not all add up.
It does add up. The degree of shrinkage in this construction is significantly more noticeable than in a furniture or other application for two reasons:

1/ The relationship between shell thickness cross section & diameter. If each stave shrinks by 5%, the affect on a large diameter is amplified.
2/ The shrinkage across grain rather than longitudinally.

Permanent shrinkage is often brought about by poor consideration / execution of curing the boards / lumber stock, but occasionally by quirks of nature too.

Certainly, makers of violins & quality acoustic guitars typically pay far greater attention to wood quality and curing techniques / times compared to drum construction companies, & that's true of all types of shell.
 

GruntersDad

Honorary Lifetime CEO
Staff member
Was the drum made with relatively new lumber that had not seasoned or dried out sufficiently? The more I work with and read about woodworking, bringing lumber into the climate where it will be used, the more important. That being after a significant seasoning time. Just my guess.
 

Les Ismore

Platinum Member
I don't think the drum shrank; I think maybe the rims actually grew.

What have you been feeding them?
Do you walk them often?
When was the last checkup?
Have you had them spayed/neutered?


Actually the heads not the rims expanded, kinda like the moon produces its own light. The OP's drum deffinetly deserves a lug splay citation.




Wow, stave drums should include a care and feeding instruction card, and a mention of the altering effects that may arise due to 'quirks of nature'.

A quirks of nature clause within the guide for your new stave drum(s).



...........................
 
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ockidocki

Member
Hi guys,

Thanks for all the great advice.

Since both Andy and Tommy_D think that trying to get the shell to expand may work, I'll probably go down that path.

I'm gonna take the snare to a drum workshop in my area this week, to get an extra pair of eyes on it, and then take action.

I'll keep you posted about whatever I do with the snare and the final results.
 

Bigdumbdrums

Senior Member
I know it's been over 4 years but I have experienced the same shrinkage with a stave shell. It is currently 13 & 3/4" in diameter. It shrunk almost 1/4"! I noticed it when trying to tune it one day after not using it for a while and every tension rod was difficult to turn, even when not under tension with the rim/head.
I read all of the responses and using spacers, moisture, and shorter wires will help, another idea is to wrap the drum. That won't add much but you could add a veneer of maple and then wrap with a quality Delmar wrap to gain 2mm or so. It's an additional layer of something that will help in the overall effort to get those lugs and tension rods back in the proper alignment.
 
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sacco

Senior Member
Multiple ply shells will always respond less to relative humidity than any form of non ply shell, not because of a glue barrier or other sealing mechanisms, but because of the glue bond between plies preventing the plies from moving in relation to each other, & that relative movement between plies is necessary in order for the shell to shrink.
I hope nobody minds if I do not answer directly ockidocki's question, but I guess that this post can be of some utility in the frame of the topic. Based on my experience, I fully confirm Andy's opinion. I have been playing stave sets since 1991 (!) and currently I have in the same room a Yamaha Absolute Hybrid Maple (ply shells) and a 1991 Tamburo Original maple kit (stave shells). When the weather changes and becomes wetter, for example, the Yamaha stays mostly the same (same sound, same sustain), while the Tamburo has to be slightly retuned, mainly because the toms lose sustain and become mute, so to speak. And this happens from one day to the next, not over a period of several days or weeks. Changes to the Tamburo happen also in the opposite situation (drier weather).
 

Cmdr. Ross

Silver Member
I wonder now if this is a cautionary tale for people to consider before buying a stave built?
I've heard of "curing" the wood before building it, but this is crazy. I'd hate to drop coin on say a Pearl StaveCraft snare only to have it end up like this in a few years. They're based in Japan & I'm in the US Southwest. The temp differences are night & day, so would my new drum end up like OP's?

Much to think about for sure.
 

Bigdumbdrums

Senior Member
I wonder now if this is a cautionary tale for people to consider before buying a stave built?
I've heard of "curing" the wood before building it, but this is crazy. I'd hate to drop coin on say a Pearl StaveCraft snare only to have it end up like this in a few years. They're based in Japan & I'm in the US Southwest. The temp differences are night & day, so would my new drum end up like OP's?

Much to think about for sure.
Yeah, I have to agree. I have 4 stave snares and this has happened to 1 of them (so far). All from the same builder who has since moved on to a different life and career. I think the one that shrunk may be a total loss unless I glue a veneer to it, add a wrap, lug spacers, etc. But then I'll have ended up hiding the beauty that is the wood he chose. The snares that have no shrunk are great sounding but moving on, it may be solid or ply shells for me.
 
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