Make some noise with Finnish birch veneer!

Ville Nikunen

Kumu Drums is creating unique drum sets for the world's best drummers.

Like most stories related to music, Kumu Drums' story also starts from the passion for making noise. Pekka Helanen, the owner and entrepreneur of Kumu Drums decided already at a young age that pots and kettles weren't cutting it for a drum set and decided to start building his own.

"As a kid, I heard this song on the radio that started with a drum fill (Middle of the road – Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep). Learning the drum fill by banging my fingers on the table didn't feel enough real, so I built my first drum set at school when I was about eight-nine years old. Three square plywood boxes with carton drumheads." Pekka thinks back with a smile. "Later, when I got my first real drum set and being who I am, I basically tore it apart immediately to see how it was built."

It was in the '80s when Pekka started taking drum building more seriously leading to the official birth of Kumu Drums in 1984. "I started looking into molding and gluing techniques for two-ply veneers to create a round drum that would sound exactly as it was supposed to. And I got pretty close with my early experiments. It was really troublesome to get knowledge of the techniques as there was no internet whatsoever. I had to go to the library and loan all the American drum magazines they had. Those magazines had articles about drum factories, and by inspecting the machinery shown in those small black and white pictures I managed to reason how drums actually were made. And to my surprise, my reasonings were proved right as I continued my experiments. Nowadays, I have a unique production process for working with wood veneer.”

It's a no-brainer for Pekka to use Finnish birch veneer in his drums. It was already in the '70s when he first came across the idea: "I saw an ad of an English drum set that said: This set is made of Finnish birch. That caught my attention, and there has been no turning back since." The benefits of Finnish birch are outstanding. "The growth conditions in Finland seem to be perfect from an instrument builder's perspective. Finnish birch veneer is hard, yet not too hard so you can create the round shape of drums, the sound qualities are impeccable, the grain is beautiful, and the light color is perfect for dyeing. Finnish birch reproduces all color schemes in the most beautiful way."

Kumu Drums is a known brand globally and most of its customers are pro musicians. "Besides the pros, a big portion of our customers are serious hobbyists who want to have a top-of-the-line drum set that sounds really good. Kumu Drums can also be found in many schools such as Sibelius academy. Finnish Opera has one set, Helsinki central library Oodi has two, and many professional studios rely on Kumu Drums." Pekka lists proudly. "The moment when a customer comes over to my workshop to see and test their drum set for the first time is magical. No matter whether you are a world star or a regular Joe, the excitement level is the same." Pekka adds.

When talking about the future of his business Pekka mentions the important role of veneer producers in providing high-quality veneer for smaller companies creating innovative end products. "It’s important that this kind of special manufacturing is taken into account in the companies producing veneer. It’s often these small specialized companies that come up with innovations that push the boundaries of what can be made of wood veneer. We have not seen it all yet.” Pekka sums with a blink in his eyes.