From the January 2017 issue of DRUM! | By Brad Schlueter
Stone Custom Drums raised the bar among custom drum makers several years ago, when company owner Bernie Stone bought the machinery and molds once used to build Slingerland drums, enabling him to re-create authentic versions of the iconic brand’s sound. Stone’s American Classic series offers two different shells, remaking different eras in Slingerland’s history, but the company has done more than just look to the past for inspiration. Its goal is to redefine classic American drum making for the 21st century by focusing on creating drums with lots of tone. Stone’s latest design is called the Verry Cherry series, and it drew a lot of attention at the 2016 Winter NAMM Show for both its looks and sound. Naturally, the entire story piqued our interest. We had to have a look.
As you might have deduced, Verry Cherry shells are made of 100 percent cherry wood, but these aren’t just any cherry drums. Unlike most custom drum builders, Stone fabricates his own shells. You might assume that’s the norm, but in fact, most small companies buy shells from suppliers and assemble their drums using hardware manufactured by still another source. That explains why components on so many custom drums look so similar.
However, SCD is trying to do more than other companies can. Stone visits his wood supplier and hand selects the superior-grade lumber he uses. After the logs are cut, he numbers each ply in the order it was cut, and then reassembles the sequentially numbered plies in the same order while building his drums. The company refers to these as “nature matched” shells.What this means for Verry Cherry kits is that the Great Lakes cherry wood Stone uses all share identical DNA, and were cut from the same tree. He does this to create sets with utmost consistency and ensure his drums have maximum resonance and tone. Stone uses a thicker inner core (known as “Rezo Core” in the company’s unique parlance) surrounded by two thinner interior and exterior plies to create what they call Super Resonating shells. These drums all have reinforcing Rezo Rings (again, Stone lingo) that are made from the same tree as the shells.
The Rezo Core is about 0.125″ thick, and the surrounding plies are approximately 0.0625″, resulting in thin shells that are about 0.1875″ thick. Thin shells are usually superior at producing a warmer low-end than thicker shells will. At approximately 40 degrees with a rounded radius centered over the center ply, Verry Cherry drums all have a rounder bearing edge than most sharp modern edges. Rounder bearing edges enhance shell resonance, and the rounded radius helps control excess overtones.
Starting to see the sonic picture? A warmer low end, enhanced resonance, and overtone control — sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Let’s dig deeper.
One Up/Two Down
Our review kit was built for one of SCD’s customers, who graciously let us intercept it before he received it. Our kit had a 22″ x 16″ bass drum, 14″ x 6.5″ snare, a 12″ x 9″ rack tom, and 14″ x 12″ and 16″ x 14″ floor toms. Since SCD is a custom drum maker, it can create your dream kit in shell sizes ranging from 6″ to 28″, and offer snare sizes from a 12″ soprano to 15″ baritone.
Like A Fender Bass
Since our review kit was built to a customer’s specifications, it had an unusual finish. The buyer wanted the drums to resemble that classic Fender bass guitar sunburst, so Stone named it the “P Bass” finish. That burst ranged from an orange-brown color in the middle to black at the edges of the shells with a light gloss.
Usually, SCD uses UV-cured polyurethane finishes, because they can be buffed to a high gloss and offer more protection from dings and normal wear. However, our set had an optional old school nitrocellulose finish. This type of finish can develop tiny cracks and fissures in the lacquer, like old guitars or furniture, giving the drums an antique look over time.
The gloss with this type of finish isn’t as thick or shiny as what SCD typically uses, although this only boosted the kit’s vintage vibe. The grain of the cherry wood was clearly visible in the center of each drum. The bass drum hoops were finished in a black lacquer.
Stone mentioned that some of his customers have requested that he stain and lacquer the shell interiors, rather than just seal them. Surprisingly, the customer wanted our review drums to have a matching finish on the interior of the shells.
Several other finishes are available, including Natural Cherry, a Cherry Burst that’s red with a natural cherry center, a Blue Cherry Burst with light blue in the center, a Queen Anne Cherry that is a dark reddish-brown, and also a Queen Anne Burst.
Down To Brass Tacks
Since these are truly custom drums, the company offers a variety of options. Shell hardware on our test kit was a mixture of brass and stainless steel, though all brass (more expensive) or all stainless steel (less expensive) components are also available. Our spurs, suspension bands, tension screws, floor tom legs, hoop clips, portions of the lugs, and throw-off were stainless/chrome. Most of the rest of the hardware was brass. All drums were adorned with the Slingerland-inspired oval SCD badge.
Our kit had unique mini tube lugs with brass ends that accepted stainless steel rods. Each lug featured a flattened portion on which the company logo was embossed. If you want to reduce cost, traditional Slingerland style lugs are also available, and offer a classic vintage style.
Toms and snare came with brass “stick chopper” single-flange hoops that are held in place by clips. I’m not a fan of these hoops. As the name suggests, their thin top edge chews up your sticks faster than other designs. Plus, the clips that hold the hoops in place often get in the way of rimshots and rim-clicks. With triple-flange hoops, I often play rim-clicks over the screw, since this position produces a brighter and more cutting tone, something not really possible with this rim style. On this hoop, the loudest rim-clicks were positioned midway between the clips. This type of clip certainly enhances the vintage aesthetic, but if you want something more modern, Stone also offers die-cast hoops, Slingerland-style stick saver hoops, wood hoops, and triple-flange hoops.
Stone used RIMS suspension band mounts on the mounted tom and floor toms to enhance sustain. If you order a Stone Custom kit with RIMS, keep in mind that the floor tom bands encircle the circumference of the shell, with clips that tighten onto the bands to hold the legs. These stick out a bit further than a standard leg bracket, so you might need to go up a size for your floor tom case.
Our snare featured the excellent Dunnett R4 throw-off, which swivels 180 degrees, so you can choose whether to operate the lever from the right or left side, or anywhere in between. The Trick GS007 throw is another solid option for those who prefer it. Beneath the snare were PureSound wires to provide a crisp snap.
Foldout spurs with retractable spikes keep the bass drum solid, and bass drum hoops were held firmly by brass colored die-cast claws (which, regrettably, weren’t lined to protect the hoops). Our snare and bass drum had ten lugs per head, floor toms had eight, and the rack tom had six.
The kit was outfitted with Evans heads. The mounted tom batter was a clear G14 (single-ply 14mil thick), floor tom batters were clear G1 (single-ply) heads, all with Genera Reso’s underneath. The snare had a coated G1 batter over a Snare Side 300, and the kick had an EMAD2 batter (double-ply, premuffled) and EQ3 resonant head (single-ply, premuffled) with a 5″ offset hole cut for microphone placement.
The Sounds Of Cherry
This bass drum was wonderful. Reviewing bass drums isn’t always that easy, since so many have a similar sound and few stand out. This one is among those few. It had great attack and a wonderful bottom end. The EMAD2 head (with its thin muffling ring) was a perfect choice for it.
Our snare was also a great sounding drum. It had lots of tone and sounded good with both sticks and brushes. I was able to get loud rim-clicks and my rimshots easily cut through the din of a band. I loved its woody tone in general, but especially appreciated it under my rimshots. This drum is versatile and sounds good at several different tunings.
Verry Cherry toms had a pronounced stick attack and a relatively short sustain. I rarely put clear single-ply heads on my floor toms because they usually have too many overtones and can sound too bright. I preferred how a thicker G14 head offered a fuller sound on the mounted tom. If this were my set, I’d replace all the tom batters with double-ply heads to bring out more fullness in the low-end.
These drums have a lot to offer any drummer looking for a custom kit without mass produced shells. It isn’t cheap; but the overall sound, features, and range of options combined with cherry wood shells makes for a truly unique and beautiful kit, inside and out.
Street Price As Reviewed $4,470