In the interest of clarifying a common question among our customers, I am going to attempt to explain, in brief, the difference between solid wood shells (such as stave design) and ply wood shells (such as those made by the big guys). First, it is a known fact that plywood is very strong and it is used for that reason. It is also, by comparison, much less expensive than hardwood of any kind practically speaking. However, it’s application in the furniture world is limited- in fact your less expensive furniture is usually a composite board such as MDF, or plywood, with a pretty veneer over top simulating real wood. High end furniture, however, and certainly the kind that is made by master crafstmen is made from solid timber. And it has an appeal and quality about it that is unparalleled.
Ply drums are easiest to make, most economical, and very strong- unless they are too thin. All the glue used makes up a large portion of the total mass. Consequently, there is not a lot of natural shell vibration going on. Solid wood, on the other hand, is very resonant by itself. And, interestingly, the different densities within each species offers a different fundamental pitch to that wood- assuming all pieces are of the exact same dimensions. Consequently, solid wood shells have a more natural singing voice than ply, especially when they are tunedto the note they want to sing in! (the natural note of the shell) A simple illustration of this is evidenced in a marimba. Guess what? Solid wood!! And a definite pitch, right?
Some have expressed the concern of strength in a solid shell(stave) vs. ply. Most tables in high end furniture are edge glued and present no problems when done correctly. Stave drum shells are also edge glued, some even use a tongue and groove joint, though not necessary if done correctly. The staves themselves are very narrow (2-3″ in our case) and pose no danger of going out of round. In fact, a steam bent shell with re-inforcement rings has a far greater chance of going out of round. The shell has been forceably bent(unnatural process). Even plies are forceably bent, though easy to do because they are very thin. Still unnatural, however. Stave design imposes no stress at all, and the grain orientation in our drums are vertical which we also believe enhances the drums sensitivity.
Hope this helps everyone.