From DRUM! Magazine’s December 2017 Issue | By AJ Donahue
Forged in the pyres of central Texas, Promark’s FireGrain strikers have passed the ancient trial of flame and come through sterner for it. These scorched spears, hewn from this realm’s mightiest hickory trunks, received the eternal kiss of white-hot light as means of protection against the withers of battle beats. Flame-hardened exteriors purportedly offer a weapon less prone to the chips and splits common to percussive combat, and one that also delivers firmer, more focused blows.
The legend of FireGrain grows with each new moon, and as the keepers of these great books, it is our sworn duty to learn what truth lies within the lore. Onward.
The Markers of Pro have issued their seared armaments in a near record host that … all right, this is exhausting. FireGrain sticks are available in oval-tipped Classic 7A, 5A, 5B, and 2B sizes as well as acorn-tipped 5A and 5B models cut with the company’s Forward or Rebound taper.
Promark shipped over a pair of the Classic 5A FireGrain sticks for this review. Dimensions are consistent with those of the company’s untreated models, so the demo duo came in at an expected 16″ by 0.551″. It’s been a while since I’ve spent any time with Promark’s standard 5A model, and I was surprised by how front-forward they feel. Long-ish oval tips, hearty shoulders with a medium-short taper, and thicker necks offer a hefty stroke with a lot of control.
It’s hard not to be overly charmed by the FireGrain look. The flame-painted exteriors are streaked with varying shades of cooked and uncooked cocoa that combine to create a sort of luxurious vibe. It feels very fancy, like a boutique drum finish or something. Has someone already applied this kind of treatment to a drum shell? Let’s get on that.
Trial By Combat
While the visual component is definitely appealing, the main attraction here is the actual physical result of flash-frying each stick. If my limited research is any indication (I blow-torched a bunch of telephone poles a few nights ago), flame-broiling wood helps rapidly oxidize the surface, creating a carbon coating that, after the process is repeated several times, can produce a harder exterior. Now, because fire cooks all of the moisture out of timber, I have to assume it actually makes the wood more brittle, as well.
That said, I’m not sure Promark’s process follows that exact model. If I were to guess, I’d imagine the company’s burning process isn’t quite so taxing on the wood. I say that for two reasons. First, the kind of repeat treatment I’m talking about would likely make these sticks cost a lot more. And second, the FireGrains did seem to have some of the qualities Promark suggests.
For example, they produce a sound much more in line with that of a heavier stick, which I have to assume is the result of the harder surface. This is particularly true on cymbals, where the FireGrains deliver sharper, more cutting tones than standard hickory sticks in the same size.
Regarding the company’s claims about increased durability, it’s hard for me to genuinely attest to that after this review period because I wasn’t able to actually track side-by-side wear against another pair of Classic 5As. That said, after two months of regular play and a bunch of hard-hitting rehearsals, they’re still in relatively good shape. I don’t break a lot of sticks, but I do have a fairly heavy hand, so I wear them out at a decent pace. Maybe a few more months of rigorous testing would have yielded some clearer results about how much the flame treatment truly impacted their durability, but as of the end of this review period, they’re showing about the same amount of wear and tear I would expect from standard wood sticks.
Promark’s FireGrain treatment offers a unique, striated look that can add some real visual flare to a performance. More importantly though, the FireGrain models produce a denser and heavier sound than comparable untreated hickory sticks. They feel no different from untoasted alternatives, but they definitely pull a brighter, more potent sound out of cymbals. I found it difficult to truly measure any real increase in durability, but they’ve held up well through testing. Promark might be on to something here. Go light a bunch of your sticks on fire and find out.
Visit Promark at www.promark.com.
Watch Promark’s presentation of its FireGrain drumsticks at Summer NAMM 2017: