by Claire Marie Porter
(full story can be found here)
Ethan Feinstein, a drummer of 17 years, wanted a very specific size and sound from his drums—something he couldn’t find in stores. He collaborated with a friend on his first project, a single drum, using resources from NextFab’s North Philadelphia location. After that, a friend asked him to build a full drum set.
Feinstein realized then that there weren’t any custom drum makers in Philly. Feeling it was important to have local, high-quality, handcrafted instruments, he started the Philadelphia Drum Company six months ago.
“Being able to build it with my hands brings me that much closer to the instrument,” he says. “Musicians have a very close bond to their instrument. It’s the tool you use to make your music.”
Feinstein wants to be able to provide that intimate connection for all drummers.
“We make all the shells by hand, using raw lumber,” he says.
Making the shell is similar to making a barrel for aging wine. Usually, a drum shell is made by taking thin veneers and bending them into shape, which puts a lot of tension on the wood, Feinstein says.
He instead uses solid pieces of wood called staves, and glues them together into a 20-sided circle to create the drum shell, then using a jig and router to round out the outside and inside of the drum. It’s a unique process for drum-making
“Then the drum is more officially a drum,” he says.
Feinstein puts on the bearing edges using a table router, and from there, begins the finishing process, which involves sealing and finishing the wood, laser-engraving the badges, punching them out of bronze and setting them into the drum. Lastly, all the holes for the hardware are drilled and filled.
The hardware currently consists of industry-standard parts, but the company is hoping to manufacture its own by next year.
The Philadelphia Drum Company’s primary service is building customized snare drums and sets. All the shells are built by hand using local wood.
Feinstein says the great community of artists and craftspeople at NextFab are integral to his work.
“I’ve met so many people that are becoming part of the company,” he says.
One of the first full drum sets Feinstein built is also one of his favorites. It’s made of black walnut. But, ultimately, each drum he’s made holds a special place in his heart.
“They’re all my children,” he says.