Drumsmiths Vol. 3: Ford – “Have you driven a band lately?”Zack Albetta
Ford Drums was born when drummer Jimmy Ford became dissatisfied with other kits on the market and decided to build some for himself. He initially had no intention of ever selling any, but he met Jay Gaylen at a NAMM show, who convinced him to set up shop and became his business partner. They started out doing drum repairs and restorations in 2002 and gradually increased their output of high-end boutique drums.
From the start, Ford drums have been designed with a very specific sound and look. The first thing you notice is the lugs. Jimmy knew that a drum’s lugs are its most distinct visual feature, and the easiest way to tell what brand it is. So they designed their own unique lug, made out of aircraft aluminum with pivoting tension rod inserts. The result is exactly what they intended—that a Ford drum isn’t likely to be confused for something else, inviting the question “what kind of drums are those?”
Sonically, the drums are designed for maximum projection and full tone, with thick shells (at least ten plies) and reinforcement rings on most models. The interiors are also given a glassy smooth finish so that the inner surface is as reflective as possible. The philosophy is that thick shells provide a rigid counterpart to the flexible head. If the shells are thin enough to be at all flexible, that movement will cancel out frequencies produced by the heads. All Ford drums are made out of Keller shells. Jimmy says he’s taken some flack for not building his own shells, but he insists that what is done with a well-constructed shell matters a lot more than who constructed it.
In his early drum-building days, Jimmy consulted with woodworkers and cabinet makers about different species of woods and how to treat them. He says he also learned a lot from people in the automotive industry about colors, lacquers, paints, base coats, and primers. That influence has shown through in the Ford aesthetic, which invokes the American hot rod—eye-catching exterior beauty with a lot of power under the hood.
Jimmy and Jay are particularly proud of their BTS finish, a proprietary innovation. The sprayed-on elastomer coating containing Kevlar creates a hardened shell on the outside of the drum shell, which has two benefits. First, it gives the shell even more rigidity which, in the Ford workshop, is paramount. Second, it is virtually indestructible. It is impervious to drops, scratches, dings, dents, weather, and almost any other damage that can ruin a drum. This makes it ideal for schools, drum corps, touring drummers, or anyone else who needs their drums to hold up to some heavy use.
View the full line of Ford products here.