Aroostook County man drawing attention with custom, hand-crafted drums

Drummer and drum maker Curtis Collin shows off the first drum kit he hand crafted. Two years and 15 drum kits later, Collin's drums are on tour this summer with Brad Paisley's opening act.
Julia Bayly
Drummer and drum maker Curtis Collin shows off the first drum kit he hand crafted. Two years and 15 drum kits later, Collin's drums are on tour this summer with Brad Paisley's opening act. Buy Photo
By Julia Bayly, BDN Staff
Posted April 14, 2013, at 9:06 a.m.

FRENCHVILLE, Maine — History is full of stories about those who follow the beat of a different drum.

Meet Curtis Collin, a young craftsman from northern Maine who is following his own beat all the way to Nashville, and that could just be the beginning.

Collin, 22, has a passion for working with wood and a passion for music. Two years ago he combined the two with Collin Drums, a business making custom, handcrafted stave drums currently used by metal, Christian and country musicians from Maine to Tennessee.

“In 2011 I wanted to build myself a snare drum, so I did,” Collin said from his basement drum-assembly workshop in Frenchville. “Then I decided to build the whole drum kit and you know, I thought it was pretty good.”

Collin wanted to find out just how good the kit was, so he contacted some fellow musicians for an objective opinion.

“I brought together a dozen fellow drummers from around the state and all 12 said ‘you need to do something with this,’” Collin said. “But when one musician who I really idolize said it was better than the Pearl drum kit he was using, I knew I had to pursue this.”

So Collin did some research on drum styles and began to produce stave-style drums, instruments made much like barrels, with individual wood strips forming the body of the drum.

“Yeah, it is just like a barrel,” Collin said. “But way more precise, with no cracks or imperfections.”

In the world of drumming, stave drums are considered the best of the best, Collin said, known for deep, true sound and far superior to what he termed the “plywood” type drums made with flat sheets of thin wood glued together.

“In the industry, the stave drum is top dog,” Collin said. “You are looking to transfer the sound through the wood and when you have all that glue to hold the plywood together, the sound hits that glue and just stops.”

In a stave drum, he explained, the strips are glued along the edges, allowing the sound to travel from the drum’s head — or skins — down each individual stave without encountering any sound dampening glue.

“There are like 10 stave drum companies in the world,” Collin said. “As far as I know, I am the only one that does 100 percent custom work on stave drums.”

It’s that desire to create the perfect drum that set Collin apart from fellow musicians when he was growing up and playing music.

“While the other kids were trying to be great drummers, I was always fascinated with the drum itself,” he said.

Since starting his business, Collin has built 15 drum kits and 35 snare drums that have found their way into the hands of musicians including Andy Hackett of the heavy metal band Dead Season and Kevin Weaver, a drummer out of Nashville who this summer will tour and play with the opening act for country superstar Brad Paisley.

“This summer, wherever Brad Paisley plays, Collin Drums will be on that stage,” Collin said.

What separates Collin Drums from more established drum brands is the craftsmanship and personal attention that goes into every single drum he makes.

It’s a process that starts when he gets a call from a drummer looking for a new kit.

“I will talk with them and they give me a rough idea of what they are looking for in sound and tone and I can suggest types of wood that will work for that,” he said. “I take what I know about wood and what it can do and customize it for a particular sound.”

Maple, mahogany, birch and ash all produce different sounds, he said, and are the four most common woods he uses, though he can work with many others.

The handcrafted nature of the drums does not stop with the instruments themselves. Collin’s father, Charles Collin, vice president of the business, designed and built all the machines used in creating the wooden pieces of each drum.

“When you order a drum from Collin Drums you are part of the family,” Curtis Collin said. “We make a relationship and a friendship with each customer.”

Throughout the four weeks it typically takes to build a complete drum kit, the customer receives photos and updates of the project.

The complete kits run around $4,000, with his snare drums fetching up to $1,000.

The style, color and look of the drums is limited only by the customers imagination.

“We can do any color or finish on the drums they want,” Collin said. “I have a place where I can get custom hardware so that can be as unique as they want.”

For years, Collin said, drummers had to choose between that unique look or a great sound.

“What I did was say, ‘no more,’” he said. “I want to produce drums that look and sound great — whatever you can imagine, Collin Drums can bring to life.”

Drummers, Collin said, tend to be a unique breed among musicians and are often laid back and quiet.

“They just want to hit their drums,” he said. “They are such awesome people to deal with.”

All of Collin’s drums come with a 100 percent lifetime warranty, and the young man is committed to customer service.

“You break your drum when you are out on the road, that’s when you call me and tell me the situation,” he said. “We will do everything we can to help.”

Collin has some big dreams for his fledgling company — notably to get one of his drum kits into the hands of his favorite group, Godsmack — but no matter what happens, relocating is not part of the plan.

“Collin Drums will never leave northern Maine,” he said. “I may build a new shop and expand, but we will always be here.”

He said he is tired of hearing people say the only way to get ahead in life is by leaving the St. John Valley.

For now, drum making is an after-hours pursuit, as he works full time as a carpenter, but he does envision the day his passion will become his full-time job, working with his fiancee, Olivia Pelletier, the small company’s secretary, and his father.

“I really feel you can do interesting things here,” Collin said. “If you have something you love, do it and follow that passion. I love woodwork, I love music [and] I love to drum. This is my dream.”

To contact Collin or see examples of his work, visit his website www.collindrums.webs.com

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/04/14/business/aroostook-county-man-drawing-attention-with-custom-hand-crafted-drums/ printed on December 25, 2014