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The Design

Hello folks, my name is Jeff Kirsch. I started building in 1998 out of a desire to produce my ideal drum kit experience. I couldn't find anything on the market that filled my needs, regardless of how much I spent. So, with ten years of cabinetry experience and blind determination, I set off to study drum construction. The goal being to find the perfect blend of reliability, flexibility in tuning, good stick rebound, easy of set up, and most of all, the sound of wood from the shell. Every brand seemed to have one part of the equation correct but most were building largely for looks or structure. The more I researched, the more I realized that drums weren't being built with the same considerations as other acoustic instruments. From guitars to vibraphones every acoustic instrument has physical requirements to function. Instrument builders cannot just place parts where they look cool. The bridge, nut and frets of a guitar go where they have to go. Marimba keys require exact mounting locations or they can't resonate and sustain. These instruments function on strict laws of physics that are being ignored by most drum companies.

I decided to let these laws design my drums. Once I did, a whole new world of possibilities opened up. I noticed first that the drums tuned with such ease, I could finger tighten the tension rods and get my first note. Tuning range was also dramatically increased. I no longer had to search for the place where the drum wanted to be tuned. I could tell the drum where to tune. And once a drum head was broken in, retuning went from between songs to between gigs. Most interesting is how the overtones became balanced and controllable. When a drum shell is allowed to breathe, it adds a low end warmth to the overtones. This make the overtones into a balanced and enjoyable voice instead of a harsh ping. The most important improvement was in the toms. Finally, they were as loud and present as my kick and snare. I could not just hear my drums...I could feel em. I've been in love with that feeling...and drum design...ever since. It's that passion and motivation I share in every drum I build or repair.

This year for 2015, I'm pre-building four simple models in small batch runs. These are limited runs from 5 to ten kits in a particular theme. Modern, Recording, Vintage and Travel. These drums are crafted with hard working players in mind. They're designed to be work horse kits with the optimum musicality and strength at the fairest possible price. Generally, these drums are stained in a custom mixed color and coated with a high quality, satin instrument lacquer finish. Every kit is unique, hand crafted and has it's own individual voice, like a painting or sculpture. Building these kits at our own pace helps keep labor, supply issues and stress low, making them our most affordable option.

The Portland Modern  
series are built from non-reinforcement hooped, 8 ply maple shells. This shell type produces the most consistent sound. It's thin enough to respond dynamically to a drummers touch while being thick enough for years of solid reliability. The thickness of this drum shell generally has a fundamental pitch that's perfect for its tuning range. PM kit's and snares incorporate a modern edge form with round over outside cut and straight inside cut. Combined with the open sound of maple, you can expect these to have a higher high, lower low and booming sustain.

Where we consider the modern maple sound to be "digital",  the birch Portland Recording are all analog. Maple and birch are very closely related and sometimes interchangeable in the drum industry. Our maple and birch shells are built from identical procedures to the same thicknesses. The difference is very subtle but birch has a slightly less high and low end response and a very slightly shorter decay. Think maple with a quarter of a moon-gel. The way to really expose what birch does is using a fully rounded, hand drum type bearing edge. The PR edge is directly inspired by the original Yamaha Recording Custom. Though they only made this edge for a few years, it's possibly the best sounding and tuning edge ever recorded.

Portland Vintage models are built from a serious love of vintage drum design. Inspired by the work of some of the most known brand names as well as some forgotten ones. We use a variety of woods including maple, birch, poplar and mahogany to accurately reproduce many vintage shell configurations. Most of these drums are built with a Rogers or Camco theme. Combinations of 6ply birch shells with 6ply and 8 ply maple re-rings. The PV series also includes steam bent shells made famous by the Radio King and Broadcaster.

Portland Traveler are full three or four piece kits that fit in a single case without compromising sound. The travel kit is nothing new. Most of the time, portable kits are built more for packing up rather than sounding good. They're usually very bizarre sizes. And then there's the clamps. Noisy, rattling parts that never hold up and make a good drum unusable. I wanted to make a fully functional, traditionally sized kit with the ability to pack away in one case while also being checkable on a plane(under 50 pounds). Models come in Jazz(10, 14, 18) Night Club(12, 14, 20) Rock(13, 16, 22). And the not checkable Super Rock(13, 16, 24) and Doom(14, 18, 26). 

And of course we'll be building the
Portland Custom
 series. These drums are all you! If you can imagine it...we can build it. Working with a host of local talented artisans, we can bring any idea to life. Options include custom paint work from glitters to airbrush designs. We also offer inlay work, wood burning, as well as metal, acrylic, carbon fiber and hybrid shells. We can even reproduce your favorite drummers kit design. You name it, you got it. 

Did you know that some of your favorite drummers are playing Kirsch Drums? Some folks have used their snares and kits in so many shows and recordings, they've become a signature part of their sound. These drums are the Portland Signature In some cases I work closely with an artist to develop their own signature model. Other times, drummers have purchased my work from shops or friends and approached me for endorsement, based on that work. In all, these drums are loved by the folks who own them and they're sharing a piece of their sound with you. Signature Series drums can be heard on stage, T.V., radio and of course ...the interwebs. Because of this, these models let you know exactly what you'll get from each drum.

Shipping Times

Portland Standard, Vintage, Travel and Signature
drums ship within three to seven business days or are available for immediate pick up. Signature models not in stock fall into the custom time line.

Portland Custom  kits generally ship in 6 to 8 weeks. Snares are 3 to 6 weeks.
Depending on finish type and availability of shells and parts, lead times can be narrowed down. I prefer to give "worst case scenario" lead times. I'd rather surprise you, than delay you.

Need a kit right now?
Ask us about our completed models. We may have a set you'll like that's ready to ship. We will also be randomly placing kits in our new ebay store. Call today and see what's currently in stock.


Before we begin your build, we require a 50 to 75% deposit. The remainder will be due before shipping. Deposits can be refunded minus the cost of any modified materials.

Long term care

Over the last 14 years, my friends and I have worked and tested about every known hardware design. If it's available, we've likely tested or broken it. This experience adds up to a knowledge of which parts will hold up to the most rigorous use. Because of this, Kirsch drums offers 100% protection on every drum we build. If you have a problem, we'll solve it. Free. Forever. (or as long as I live)