PinchClip Review

Every once in a while you stumble across something so simple and so useful, you just stop and ask yourself:  why didn’t I think of that?  Straight from the fertile mind of William “Bill” Feldman, comes a simple accessory that almost rivals the paperclip, and it’s just for us drummers.  PinchClip was designed to replace wing nuts and other conventional “nuts” for cymbal stands, accessories, and hi-hat clutches.  In just about any situation that you’re using some sort of screw-nut or have a lip to attach to, you can apply a PinchClip.

Just squeeze the PinchClip together with your fingers and place it on the threaded rod of the cymbal tilter and forget about it.  Not only will it cut down on the time spent messing around with a wing nut, it will also allow you to properly adjust the space between the “nut” and the cymbal.  This small detail will allow you to decide on the fly, how you want that plate swing, or not to swing.  PinchClip grips so tight I literally picked up the stand with the plate attached, by the PinchClip, and took the entire assembly for a walk around my studio!  No problem!

The next little trick I tried came directly from Bill.  He suggested I attach the PinchClip to the bottom of the hi-hat clutch, replacing the screw nut.  One thing I really don’t like is having the bottom nut of the clutch work its way loose in the middle of a tune and fall off.  You know the game:  the top plate stops moving and you no longer have hat control.  This worked really well for me, and when it was time to set up and then tear down, the task was done in a moment. You can also apply it to the top position of the clutch, essentially replacing that nut as well.

Bill Feldman is a working architect who studied product design in college and just thought there was a better way to set up and tear down his drum set and save time in the process.  PinchClip works very much like a binder clip and is made of specially treated spring steel and is available in a vinyl coated red or black color.  At some point in the future, I would expect additions colors to become available.

I must say, I think this is one of those little gadgets that’s very much worth your consideration. Not only did it work as well as advertised, it looks really cool, too.  Anywhere you use a conventional nut, you could probably apply a PinchClip.  Just think:  no more wasting time and effort searching for those dropped wing nuts concealed in the dark and cluttered mess of a stage following a gig.  You might even save enough time tearing down to beat the singer or even a horn player out the door for change!

From Lancaster County PA……Thoughts from the Shop.

Brian Hill


Outlaw Drums Wooden Kick Drum Beaters

This is one of those reviews that is easy to write because the product is so simple that it either works or it doesn't. It either does what the manufacturer says it does or it doesn't. This one works! CUSH pads are an alternative to the felts you use on your cymbal stand. They are made of a proprietary elastomer material, and are designed to allow the cymbals to ring longer and truer without muffling the sound or overtones. They don't collapse or take shape and always return to the original shape.

Read More

Castle Drums

Growing up in the shop of a Master Craftsman and Industrial Arts teacher, my Dad taught me a lot about making and fixing things. I learned about metal, leather, printing, mechanical drawing, and woodworking, among many other things. But the most important thing he taught me was quality. While making my rounds at the Nashville Drum Show, I saw many drums that were made with top-notch quality. But even amongst all the quality instruments that were present, some stood out a little more than others.

As I approached the Castle Drum Company’s booth, I at first thought I needed to get more sleep because the drums seemed a bit skewed. Taking a closer look I realized that my vision was fine and the drums were indeed, a bit skewed. David Cheney, the Master Craftsman behind Castle Drums, had come up with something special and a bit different. David had spent over a quarter of a century in fine woodworking as a maker of cabinets, building case work and furniture. Working with odd shaped and intricate pieces, his ability dictated a higher level of thinking about wood and the possibilities therein.

As many of us find as we become older and more proficient in life, we tend to start to figure out what we like and how we want to spend our time. David decided at one point that combining his love of woodworking and drumming might pacify that angst. After all, drums certainly can be made of wood. The one thing that he knew was that he did not want to be just another guy out there painting and assembling drums: he wanted to set himself apart from the rest of the herd. For that, David would have to dare to be different.

Keeping some of the principles of basic physics in mind, he rationed that if you could channel the sound waves of the batter head down to the snare head in a more efficient manner, you would have a more resonant snare response. Turns out he was right. By funneling the sound waves by way of a slightly conically shaped shell, that energy would become somewhat concentrated onto the snare head. With the application a vertical stave construction shell, the grain of the wood is also in turn aiding in directing the flow of sound waves toward the bottom snare head. This inner vertical grain direction also contributes to providing a little “extra” in bringing out the low-end fundamentals of the shell.

David sent me two drums to review for Not So Modern Drummer magazine: The Keystone and the Watch Tower models. Both drums were very similar but couldn’t be more different in some respects. Each shell had a 7/16” thick stave construction, six inches deep with a fourteen inch batter head. However, the shell tapered down to a thirteen inch diameter for the bottom snare head.

David told me that they did some sound testing with results indicating an average of “20% more bottom head movement, and about three decibels more off the resonant (snare) head than other drums.” These drums are very snappy and produce a great snare response with lots of volume.

The hardware on each drum was chrome plated and included triple flanged hoops, an RCK throw-off and butt, as well as tube lugs. Snares were 16 strand and Evans heads were applied top and bottom. The vent hole was left un-reinforced. Both drums came with very nicely worked 45 degree bearing edges, but, for that “vintage sound,” rounded edges are offered on request.

This Keystone model is made of Bubinga wood, while the Watch Tower drum came in White Oak. Tung oil was applied to the inside of each shell while the outside is nicely lacquered. In playing with different tunings, I thought the Bubinga drum was considerably brighter than the White Oak. The Oak had a much more porous and open grain while the Bubinga was a very tight grained wood; thus resulting in the expected and predictable timbres of each shell. Both drums exhibited a wide tuning range, both high and low. As always, I switched out the plastic heads for pre-mounted calf-skin heads from CT Pro Percussion. The calf skins worked out really nice as they added that warm and earthy sound and feel they’re known for.

I find both drums exceedingly versatile in application. However, the main difference in the two models was that the Watch Tower model has a series of vertical slits in the shell. This plays well with another basic principle of the physics of sound associated with drum design and engineering. Drums are thought to usually project sound mostly from the top and the bottom heads, throwing the sound vertically up and down. They do, however, have an inherent tendency to throw the sound horizontally through the shell. In opening up the lateral sides of the shell via the slits, the Watch Tower drum distributes the sound in all directions. My initial reaction to this is that I think this particular model is exceptionally well suited to the environments of orchestra, concert band, jazz or any “un-miced” small group situations.

The Castle Drum Co. uses a variety of hardware to choose from and includes, but not limited to: RCK, Trick and Dunnett throw-offs, die cast and triple flanged hoops, a variety of lugs, snares and heads. Wood ranges from maple, white and red oak, birch, ash, and mahogany. For something special, try an exotic wood such as zebrawood, purple heart or bubinga. If David can find it, he just might build you your next favorite drum in your choices of dimension and hardware.

I find these drums are in fact fun to play and easy to tune. They tune like a fourteen inch drum but snap like a thirteen. The stick-to-head response is really nice, offering an ease in playing involved passages at lower volumes. Back-beats are exceeding fat and full of rich snare sound. Sensitivity of snare response at the lower volumes is again, very good. As far as the higher volumes: they’re loud!

One of the more surprising and pleasant characteristics of the solid shell was that the effective strike zone was at least double the diameter of most other drums I’ve played. This certainly makes the drum much more forgiving than many if a player tends to play with a wider, wilder strike-zone. The slotted shell (Watch Tower model) did not have quite as wide a strike-zone as the solid shell due to the characteristics inherent to the open design, but was still exceedingly responsive across the head non-the-less.

In examining the Keystone model made of Bubinga wood in particular, I had a very hard time locating the individual wood segments as the joints are tight and the grain is matched as close as possible. After giving these Castle Drums a good go, I would really like to take a look at the furniture David Cheney makes. If the quality is even close, I think anyone who has any of his work must be very pleased. The craftsmanship and quality on these drums is of a very high standard. David’s passion and enthusiasm is very evident and the pride he puts in each drum is extraordinary.

Take a minute and visit the Castle Drum Co. on line. There is a very well made video with David in the shop and more models and options to ponder. If you’re looking for something unique and well made with extreme snare sound and response, not-to-mention a really big, fat back-beat, these drums deserve some real consideration.

From Lancaster County, PA…....Thoughts from the Shop.

Brian Hill


Outlaw Drums: Heart Pine Reborn

Anytime I come across an early American drum, I’m interested.  When the drum in question can be somehow identified, I’m really interested.  But how often do you come across a drum maker that identifies the origins of his drum making story to a civil war soldier and his house?  Now you have my attention.  Michael Outlaw attributes the origins of the drums he builds to an old dilapidated building he saw on the verge of being torn down and destroyed back in 2006.  Looking for something different to build with, he asked for some of the wood from the house and took a load of it away to his shop.

The wood came from the former home of Charles Edward Wilder, who as a youth in the 1860’s, enlisted in the 17th Georgia (GA) Infantry as a private.  A large portion of the 17th GA’s service was as part of Benning’s GA Brigade in Hood’s Division, Longstreet’s Corps, operating in the Army of Northern Virginia.  Wilder fought in many of the Civil War’s most notable battles in both the Eastern and Western Theaters.  Surviving the War, Wilder received 10 acres near Albany, GA from the State for his service as that was about all that was available to the returning veterans for any means of compensation.  The land was rich with virgin long leaf pine trees suitable for building.  Charles Wilder built the house from the wood of those trees in the 1880’s; the very same house Michael Outlaw procured wood from to build the first Outlaw Drums well over 100 years later.

Why is the wood so special?  Most of it dates back toward the 1600’s.  These trees grew at an exceptionally slow rate of growth.  They were virgin American trees that typically lived over 300 years and could grow to over 150 feet high.  The resin in the wood was thick and the grow rings tight.  Harvested from houses, mills, and barns built before 1900, the wood has had plenty of time to age and dry naturally.  This results in very special sound quality characteristics that new growth wood just doesn’t seem to have.

Hailing from Sylvester, Georgia, Michael Outlaw, the master wood craftsman behind Outlaw Drums, combines his skills as an accomplished furniture maker with the drummer within him.  I’ve found in researching the company that Michael has done a fine job in marketing the brand, so I’ll try not to be too redundant in what he has already made available.  His presence on the web is solid and informative.  He includes the history, current reviews, process, galleries, sound bites and videos.

I first ran into Outlaw drums at the 2014 Nashville Drum Show.  The display was very eye-catching, built to resemble the old shacks the wood for his drums originated from.  But it was the drums within the booth that weren't something I could just walk away from.  They were beautiful!  Something I don’t think I’ve seen before was the textured wood on the outside of the shell.  After taking a good look I started tapping.  They sounded as good as they looked.  By the end of the show, Michael ended up sending a drum and a wooden bass drum beater home with me to review for Not So Modern Drummer Magazine.

The drum I picked was one from the Heart Pine Reborn group; a stave construction combination of new growth maple and old growth heart pine. The shell measures 5”x 14” with 24 half inch thick staves of pine and maple equally alternating.  The combination of the two woods made a great sound; lively and solid no matter how I tuned it.  It also contained that “thump” I’ve come to love in those old growth, stave constructed drums that makes them sound like much beefier tubs.

The sensitivity and snare response was also incredible.  Everything from a hard hitting backbeat to ghost notes came out crystal clear regardless of tuning.  Cranking it up brought out very crisp, solid notes.  Low-end tuning brought out even fatter sound qualities.  Very quiet playing still netted great snare response, again, regardless of the tuning pitch.  No matter how hard I hit the drum, I couldn’t get it to choke; performing very well in the big rooms and outside situations.  With snares off, the drum has a great sound, full and clean.  The lively-ness of the drum without the snares on sounded great with Latin tunes.  My personal opinion is that this is a top-notch, all-around “go-to” drum

Since the overall vibe of Outlaw drums tends to pull on the heart-chains of my American history “Jones,” the notion to try a calf skin head naturally came to mind.  I generally keep a few mounted skins in my shop that I receive from CT Pro Percussion for just this purpose.  The sound of calf skin on this drum was truly exceptional.  Very warm and responsive, the drum took on the tone of a much older sounding instrument while remaining quite sensitive and crisp over-all.

This particular model came with chrome plated hardware including triple-flanged hoops, tube lugs, vent grommet, and a George Way “beer tap” throw off by Gibraltar.  Top and bottom feature Evans Level 360 heads along with sixteen-strand Puresound snares.  The Outlaw Drum badge is solid brass and made to reflect the U.S. Forestry Service badges in honor of the history and repurposing of this native American wood.  The bearing edges are a double 45 degree design.

Each Outlaw drum I played had a uniquely individual sound quality.  This is in part to the actual lumber used as well as the combinations of wood, dimensions, heads, and hardware selected.  Wood choices include, but are not limited to, White Pine, Maple, Oak, Vintage Cypress and Fur, Sapele, Lyptus, Southern Yellow Pine, and of course…..Heart Pine.  There is a full and ever-changing selection of wood and hardware finishes also available for your choosing.

Complete stave constructed drum kits are available in a variety of sizes and finishes to match any snare they make.   There is also a line of kick drum beaters affectionately known as the “Hammer.”  This wooden beater will bring exceptional power and massive thump out of your kick with its incredibly dense wood, each with three angled impact choices.

Michael Outlaw has hit a complete home run as a drum builder, all while managing to bring the history of the wood that has touched countless lives in countless ways back to life in the voice of a drum.  From out of the Southland, these drums look good enough to be thought of as fine American furniture.  There is even a hand-cut nail still attached in the wood shell from when it was part of a building.  Closer inspection of the interior found an old nail hole still present in the old wood.  If the history is still with the wood when comes into the shop, there’s good chance it will still be attached when it leaves the Outlaw Drum Shop as a drum.  All-in-all….this drum just sounds great!

 From Lancaster County, PA…....Thoughts from the shop. Brian Hill