Questions and Answers/FAQ
We will answer all questions that come to us and many of them are found here with their answers. Should you have a question we can answer contact us though our contact page. The following information is found useful in learning more about our drums.
Question: Why are Hawaiian Koa drums so expensive?
Answer: Actually, their not. If you were buying a Curly Koa guitar it could cost upwards of $25,000. It's rarity and beauty is the reason for it's cost. The species exists naturally nowhere else on earth. Hawaii's Koa is not endangered because of our controlled cutting and replanting programs. Volcano Percussion obtains it's Koa thru salvaging left over dead trees. It is the most valuable of Hawaiian hardwoods. It was historically the material of choice for carved ocean-going canoes as well as all the Kingdoms wooden implements. Koa wood is the most prized cabinet and furniture wood in Hawaii. Highly figured Koa is only found in 10% of the trees today. This wood is sought after for use in fine furniture, musical instruments, turnings, yacht interiors and fine architectural finish materials globally. It has a exceptionally rich appearance that shames most woods next to it, displaying a deeply reflective glow when finished with oils or modern lacquers.
Question: You say the staves are doweled together with biscuits. What are biscuits?
Answer: Biscuits are wooden splines shaped like a flattened football inserted into a matching saw cut in the edge of the stave. Can be viewed on our Anatomy Page.
Question: Why do you use Stainless Steel on your drums?
Answer: It’s forever! Stainless Steel is 1/3 stronger than chrome plated steel. It prevents possible bending or braking of lugs, as well as it can never rust or peel. We are the only company in the world that makes mirror finished stainless steel hardware for congas and bongos. Mirror finishing intricate parts like face plates and crowns is an art. That’s why you don’t see it in industry.
What’s the Difference?
Question: What’s the Difference between “Custom Traditional” and “Natural Fusion congas?
Answer: “Custom Traditional” hardware is all handmade stainless steel buffed to a mirror finish. “Natural Fusion” hardware is also stainless steel, except for the crown, lugs and nuts, which are chrome plated mild steel, like most other companies.
Question: Why don’t you put metal bands on your drums?
Answer: First of all, our drums don’t need bands to hold them together. Second, the wood is to beautiful and valuable to cover up. The beer keg look isn’t us.
Question: I hear about buffalo, bison, bull, cow, kid and steer skins. What’s the difference?
Answer: Buffalo is actually water buffalo from Asia. Bison is another name for buffalo. Cow is female, but many times used as a general name for cattle. Kid is Calf. Steer is a castrated bull and Bull is the breeding male. The last 4 are definitely BI-products of the meat industry. The water buffalo is questionable. Our conga heads are all kid, cow, steer and bull, made to order in Texas and hand picked for every drum. Bongos are usually kid or a combination of thin steer hide and kid. We don’t use Water Buffalo, horse or Mule and Jackass, because it’s questionable as to why these animals became available as hides. Lastly, the source of the hides is of utmost importance due to the possibility of contracting Anthrax from unprocessed or poorly processed animal hides. Our tannery is U.S. documented for meat BI-products that are tested and treated.
Question: My drums have a lacquer finish and I’m told it’s the best. Why do you use acrylic polymer and what is it?
Answer: Lacquer is good, but it has a tendency to crack and yellow under different weather conditions. Acrylic Polymer is the finest. It flexes with temperature and humidity changes and with extreme cold, as well as being resilient and prevents abrasion. Acrylic Polymer is a urethane based product. That’s why it is used as the top coat on all late modeled automobiles as well as many of the finest guitars in the world.
Question: I saw the inside of your drums and their finished and with no glue lines. Why?
Answer: First of all, it improves the sound. Secondly, a bead of glue does not improve the strength of the joint, like in welding.
Question: Is Mango a hardwood?
Answer: Yes. Mango is a hardwood and our woods have quite a bit of burl and curl which increases the hardness beyond normal technical considerations. Mango’s strength and hardness is the same as ash, except it’s much more valuable than ash or oak and is much more beautiful than cherry and creates equivalent sound characteristics and is lighter in weight.
Question: Why don’t you make your drums out of solid logs like in some other parts of the world?
Answer: What is happening to our rain forests in South America and Indonesia is a Global disaster. The cutting and burning of the forests for personal greed should be stopped. In the U.S., we’d be stopped by environmentalist’s just for lathe turning logs, because 85% of the log is lost to waste. Three stave drums can be made from the same log that produces one log drum. We cannot afford to throw away this valuable resource in the name of personal desire. The aboriginal concept of hollowing logs is an excellent idea for personal use within a tribe, but it doesn’t “cut it” in today’s highly populated world of mass production without proper forest management and still it would be a waste of wood. Take the Japanese for instance, they now make their famous Taiko drums with staves as opposed to huge log hollowing. They call it Eco-Taiko. They are showing they are truly “Stewards of their Land”. There are techniques that save interior wood in lathe turning, but they are confined to cylindrical turning to be of any benefit in savings of material.
Question: What oil or lotion do you recommend to use to soften my dry drum heads?
Answer: The truth is, if your playing or practicing like your supposed to be doing, you don't need to oil the heads. The oils from your hands will do the job for you in the best way. When confronted with a used dry head, sometimes do to quality or age, we've been using a product called Brazilian Nut Dry Oil. www.naterra.com Sold at Walmart. This is one perfect oil for any skin. Made of Shea butter, Brazilian nut oil and vitamin E. It leaves no oily residue and even smells kind of sexy! If you don't care for a little sexy smelling conga drums, try looking for shea butter without fragrance. Highly recommended.
Question: Can you recommend an oil for my lug bolts that doesn’t drip all over the drums?
Answer: We’ve given up on penetrating oils long ago. Try pickup some Napa Sil-Glyde Lubricating Compound in the 4 oz. tube. The hole in the tube is perfect size to stick the tip of the bolt into about 1/2” without taking the bolt off of the drum. One application will keep you for 2 weeks playing 5 nights a week.
Question: I’m going to be traveling a lot with my drums. Hard cases are expensive. Can you suggest an alternative case for me to use?
Answer: First, always use insulated bags. Then go to a big box store and buy Rubbermaid 40 or 50 gal. containers. Get some bubble wrap and wrap it around the bag and duck tape the container closed. Cost: $25.00 for your hard case. It’ll fly or float.
Question: Can you recommend an inexpensive stand for my conga drum?
Answer: Not a good one. Play sitting down or we recommend L.P. collapsable or their Futurrlite stands Their the only ones that fit all 6 V.P. drums.
Question: My drum heads in the past have been very thick. I wasn’t particularly happy with their sound. Was it because of the thickness or the kind of skin used and what thickness do you prefer for your drums?
Answer: You probably had Water Buffalo heads. They could also be very dry. For a thick head to have excellent sound reverberation, it is necessary that it be a naturally tight rigid hide. Meaning tuff. In the case of all thickness of skins, they must be rigid but not dry. Our skins are chosen with so much care that most of the time we only get one skin per hide side, when it’s a 20”or 22”. Our skins range from 30 to 75,000’s thick, according to drum size and we don’t bleach white, which rots the skin and dries out the oils.
Question: I visited your booth at the Winter NAMM Show and tried out your drums. I love the sound and of course the looks, but my question is, “ how can they be so comfortably light and still have such wonderful sound? I thought drums had to be a very hard heavy wood to have good tonal qualities.
Answer: It sounds as though you have had oak drums. As an extreme example, let me remind you of the fine tonality received in the past by the original Philippine Mahogany Gon Bops drums of the 60’s. You can’t get much lighter than that! Now, with our drums we experiment with different woods for their tonality. We’ve found that mango for instance, has great tonality due to it’s curls in the wood. A curl is nothing but wavy grain which in essence is a knot. It increases the hardness of the wood, which in turn helps to create it’s tonal values without the overall weight. Our drum average weights is 28 lbs.
Question: My friend from Puerto Rico and I saw and played your drums at NAMM. They sound Excelente! He commented that they’re shaped and sound similar to his original Timbas Ismael congas of our homeland. Perhaps that’s the reason for their great sound. My question is, did you model your drums after the great Ismael Ramos drums?
Answer: By our memories, there is a distinct similarity, but not the same. The Jazz drummer Carl Allen once said, “You’ve got to understand the legacy that you’re building upon, before you can even begin to contribute”. Thank you for the complement. Tom
"LONDON (AFP) - The drum-maker from Hackney in east London, had been in intensive care for several days but his condition deteriorated overnight and he died around lunchtime, The Homerton University Hospital said. Health Protection Agency (HPA) staff have sealed off his flat and are due to inspect his workshop this week to test for further signs of the disease, which can cause a skin infection or, as in this case, be inhaled into the lungs. Seven people who had been in the room where the animal hides were prepared have been given antibiotics as a precaution, but HPA officials said no-one else has developed symptoms of anthrax. Anthrax is a highly contagious infection that usually only afflicts livestock, but can be transmitted to humans who handle or eat infected animals. Anthrax inhalation is very rare. Officials stress there is little risk to people playing animal hide drums, only those making them, and Britiain has tough regulations on hide imports. The last death of this kind in Britain was in Scotland in 2006, when 50 year old Christopher Norris, who made artworks and instuments including drums, died after inhaling anthrax. A subsequent report said it was likely Norris died after playing or handling anthrax contaminated West African drums at a drumming workshop.