08-24-2005, 06:03 PM
Hi- I was wondering what the difference was between poplar shells and mahogany shells. Which is better?
Gary at Precision Drum
08-28-2005, 08:57 PM
I'm actually not an expert in this topic, but I'll share what I've learned. Precision is a Keller shell distributor, and Keller has recently released both Mahogany and Poplar shells. I've also worked on many vintage drums that contained either Mahogany, Poplar, or both.
Mahogany and Poplar are different types of wood, but both are soft - meaning they will produce a "warm" sound. The opposite would be a hard wood like Maple, which would produce a "brighter" sound.
From my observations, mahogany and Poplar are usually not used alone as shell composition. There is usually a mixture of several types of wood, and sometimes several plies of a harder wood like Maple.
"Mahogany" shells are often made with a Mahogany outer ply, several plies of another wood in the middle, and a Mahogany inner ply. The middle may be made up of more than one type of wood, such as Maple, Poplar, Birch, etc.
I can't recall ever seeing a shell with a Poplar outer ply. I would be interested to hear if anyone can tell us of such a shell. From my experience, Poplar is usually used as middle plies of shells - sometime called "filler plies", meaning the Poplar is a soft, inexpensive "filler" for the shell. In many cases, drum manufacturers use Poplar inside their "maple" shells. Hmmmm As well, I've seen many shells with Mahogany outer pies, and Poplar in the middle.
To confuse the issue more, most shells containing these two types of wood also contain reinforcing rings, which are usually made of maple, or another harder wood. So when we try to determine what a "Mahogany" shell sounds like compared to a "Poplar" shell, we have to consider the other types of wood that may be present in the shells, and what their effect may be on the overall sound. DOH Sorry, I can't resist those faces.
Which is better? That's subjective, so it's up to you to decide.
I'm sure many of the vintage drum experts out there have knowledge of the actual shell ply make-up of the major American drum companies shells.
09-02-2005, 01:40 PM
The truth of the matter is that poplar gets a bad rep as a finish wood because it often contains blackish and greenish streaks/blotches of color in the otherwise light-colored grain. It's not as consistent in color as mahogany or maple, so it is not the first choice for inner or outer veneers. However, vintage Ludwig drums utilized a three-ply shell that was constructed of a relatively thick piece of poplar sandwiched between a thin veneer of maple or mahogany. These veneers were really thin and probably just used to cover up the poplar core. In essence, a vintage Ludwig three-ply shell is really closer to a solid poplar shell -in terms of weight. Certainly, a solid mahogany or maple shell would be denser and thus heavier. Also, as previously noted, these old shells had single-ply maple reinforcement rings that were used to give the otherwise lightweight shells more strength and stiffness in order to counteract the stress placed upon shells when they are tensioned.
The only true mahogany drums that I know of are Pearl MMX and they are purported to have a dark, warm tonality. There are countless maple drums out there. That's by far the most common drum shell wood used.
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