About Our Custom Drumsticks

about our custom drumsticksAbout our custom drumsticks

Here is a little bit of information about our custom drumsticks that you can customize to your own specifications.

Although percussion instruments have been known to humankind for centuries, the modern drumstick is a relatively new invention. It has evolved into its present form only in the last 50 or 60 years.

Over the years, the major drumstick manufactures have changed the process of making drumsticks to better suit their manufacturing needs. These changes were not made to make a drumstick any better and if anything, it has not only weakened the drumsticks, but has taught drummers that this new standard is the best way to make sticks. This is false and at Rich Sticks we’d like to educate our drummers on a few facts about drumstick making and drumstick care.

Let’s start with the wood

For most regions of North America, hardwood lumber destined for manufacturing into products such as furniture, cabinets and millwork is carefully kiln dried to 6-8 percent moisture content. This moisture content has also become the standard for drumstick manufacturing by the major drumstick companies for a few reasons.

  • It makes it easier and cheaper to buy wood without having it dried to custom specifications.
  • It is cheaper to transport lighter wood or dowels.
  • There is a myth that it keeps a straight dowel or drumstick straighter for a longer period of time.

The truth is all drumsticks can warp. Even the straightest drumstick can warp after playing with it for a while or if the conditions are not right. If the conditions are not right, then the manufactured product could lose moisture, shrink and possibly warp, resulting in an unacceptable appearance and undesirable drumstick.

Moisture Content for Rich Sticks

Ever play a gig and look down at your snare drum or on the floor and find chips from your drumsticks starting to collect? This is because you are using sticks from a major manufacturer that are dried to the standard 6% moisture content. At Rich Sticks we believe that a higher moisture content of 10%-12% is optimal for creating a longer lasting drumstick and a better feeling stick. Sticks from the other manufacturers that are dried to 6% will chip, flake and eventually crack much sooner than a stick made with a higher moisture content dowel. Rich Sticks tend to dent before they start to chip and flake which will allow you to get many more hours of use out of a single pair.

When the wood is dried to 6%, it is lighter in weight. Ever pick up a pair of sticks and they feel like they are made of balsa wood?  One of the reasons is because they are too dry. These lighter sticks will vibrate and feel very uncomfortable when playing. The density of a drumstick should be as close to the density of the bones in your forearm (ulna and radius) as possible. If the sticks are too light or too heavy, this can cause medical conditions such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Tendonitis.

Another great characteristic to having higher moisture content in Rich Sticks is that there is a certain level of elasticity to the wood. They are more flexible and forgiving when struck hard. Our custom drumsticks will lightly flex when struck hard where other sticks from the other companies would be so stiff that they will break. This is a quality that many drummers rave about when they play our sticks.

Wood Releases and Gains Moisture

The Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC) of wood is the moisture content which wood will eventually equalize to, given a fixed temperature and relative humidity. If the temperature and relative humidity change, the moisture content of the wood will change.

With changing temperature and relative humidity, wood is constantly releasing or gaining moisture. This change occurs slowly. At a set temperature and relative humidity, wood will eventually equilibrate to a certain moisture content or EMC and stay there until environmental conditions change.

Optimal Conditions for Rich Sticks custom drumsticks

At 70 ° F and 55% relative humidity, the EMC for wood is approximately 11%. An acceptable range for Rich Sticks is 65° F – 75°F and 50%-60% humidity. These are also the conditions that are very comfortable to human beings and typical of conditions in homes. Although it takes a fairly long period of time for the sticks to change when not in these optimal conditions, it is still best to always return them to these conditions when possible.

At all costs, try to avoid storing your sticks in your cold car in the winter time or even in your hot car in the summer time. Don’t stir your stew with them or see what happens if you put them in the microwave. If the conditions are comfortable for you, then more than likely the conditions are right for your drumsticks. Remember that it takes a long period of time (weeks-months) for the moisture content in your drumsticks to change so be certain to always return them to the optimal conditions when not in use or being stored.

Wood Color and Markings

Because the drumstick is white doesn’t make it any better. Many manufacturers today are teaching drummers that white sticks are better. Why? It hits the same no matter the color. 95 percent of our drumsticks are made out of hickory and not all hickory is white. Because drummers today are insisting on whiter wood for their drumsticks, many manufacturers have begun bleaching their wood. At Rich Sticks we absolutely refuse to do this.  Not only is it harmful to our environment and to our employees, there is no benefit to doing it other than lightening the color of the drumsticks. One major negative outcome to bleaching a drumstick is that it dries and weakens the wood. Why would you want to do this? Color in the wood is beautiful and at Rich Sticks, we will never bleach our wood.

Hickory heartwood is brown or reddish brown in color and is often sold as “Red Hickory”. The sapwood is light in color and sold as “White Hickory”. Our custom drumsticks come in both colors and you may find a mix of both colors in your order and we hope that you love the color just as much as we do.

Although we avoid having knots in our custom drumsticks, we do however allow small amounts of pitch streaks.  Pitch streaks are excessive amounts of resin in localized areas of wood. They would appear as small dark brown or black thin lines in your drumsticks. Other drumstick companies will sort these sticks out and junk them or paint over them to use with their colored drumsticks. Here at Rich Sticks, we think they look beautiful and they do not change the overall strength of the drumstick at all. It is not often that you will find these streaks in our sticks but if you do, you now know what they are.

Weight and Pitch of Drumsticks

Many of the other drumstick manufacturers today are teaching drummers that it is best to have your sticks weight and pitch matched.  In the 50’s through the 70’s, drumsticks were not weight and pitch matched but today, the other companies have led drummers to think that these paired sticks make you a better drummer.  This is false and in fact, many drummers today would rather get their sticks unmatched. All wood is different and even though the dimensions from stick to stick are exactly the same, the weight and pitch may be different.

When it comes to weight, our sticks are relatively close.  Before a stick is made at Rich Sticks, we weigh all of the dowels.  If they are above a certain weight, they will be used for a playing drumstick. If it is below a certain weight, it will be set aside to be used as a non-playing stick (merchandise or B-stock). The other companies will use light or heavy dowels when making sticks and simply match the light sticks with other light sticks for their drummers to use. The sticks will vibrate and be very uncomfortable for the drummer and most likely will break much faster.

Drummers play with two different hands that have different strengths and many drummers even play with different grips that use different muscle groups. Drummers also play different instruments with their right hand than they do with their left hand. A stick that may be perfect for your right hand may be too heavy or light for your left hand. Many of our drummers want to choose which stick goes in their right and which goes in their left. At Rich Sticks, when we have orders of more than 6 pairs, we ship them loose in the box so that the drummer may pair his/her sticks for themselves. For orders of 6 or less pairs, we will closely but not perfectly match sticks for our drummers and put them into sleeves.

The finishing touch

We finish all of our custom drumsticks with beeswax or lacquer  (unless you prefer them “nude”). Most drumstick manufacturers finish their drumsticks with lacquer and we now offer this option as well. Beeswax seals and protects our sticks, holding in the precious moisture and providing superior grip for any playing situation.

Summary

Here at Rich Sticks we want to bring back some old-school drumstick making and integrate it with some of the new, more modern processes. We want to educate our drummers so that they know the truth about wood and the process of making a great custom drumstick. Don’t believe all the hype from the major drumstick manufacturers. They want you to think a certain way about how a stick should be made because it benefits their processes and saves or makes them more money. We want what is best for our drummers and not what will make us more money or makes our job easier. We want to provide our drummers with the best custom drumsticks possible at an honest price.

Rich Sticks