When we started Nordic Shells a couple years ago, we knew one of our main business principles needed to focus on quality. We mention quality and different grade woods all the time, but what does that really mean?

We decided to take a moment and expand on what quality really means for us, our customers and their customers. And to begin, it all starts with the wood. Sourcing the best wood possible ensures that we can make the highest quality drum shells. To help explain just how much thought goes into this process, we sat down with our favorite wood supplier, Don Sadler.

Don is one of the most sought-after wood sourcing experts in the country. In addition to supplying us with top tier woods, he also sources woods for companies like DW, Gibson, Fender, Heritage Guitar and many others.

Nordic Q&A with the Lord of the Logs, Don Sadler

Nordic: How long have you been foresting?

Don: I’ve been at this for 32 years. When I was 16 years old, I started peeling bark off Bird’s Eye Maple trees with the dull side of an axe blade, and we’d send the veneer to Germany. Shortly after that I started running dry kilns and saw mills, then moved into veneer mills.

Nordic: Where do you scout for trees, and how many hours a week are you in the woods?

Don: In the winter, I’m basically out from dawn until dusk four days a week buying logs. Winter is a better time to buy logs because the sap content is lower and there are no leaves. I used to primarily focus around New Brunswick, NY all the way back to Michigan, but now I’m mostly working in Michigan and a little in Indiana.

Nordic: What types of woods do you specialize in, and what are some of the qualities you look for in a tree?

Don: Maple, Curly Maple, Bird’s Eye Maple, Walnut and Cherry are a focus when I’m in Michigan. Poplar & Gum are a large part of my focus in Indiana. These are woods that I know I can source at high grades and process at a premium level. The characteristics may vary slightly by species. But with Maple, for example, I look for a nice smooth brown heart, even growth rings, no bumps, and straight as possible with no sweeps.

Nordic: Can you walk us through your process a bit? How long does it take to ultimately reach the consumer?

Don: It’s quite a process. It’s a blend of art and science, because you want to make sure each step is done correctly, but also that you are working with the wood to achieve the best result. It takes an average of three months from initial tree selection to cutting and milling before it gets to the end user.

  • First, I traverse the forests of the Midwest and select the most premier logs.

  • From there, I determine which mills I’ll use. This is an important decision because there are special cuts from different mills.

  • The wood gets cooked for two days in water, then cut and placed in a press dryer.

  • Finally, the wood gets clipped at the mill and sent to my warehouse or the client.