Keeping Time With the Little Drummer Boy
Performing for thousands of people at a live concert, when Motley Crew drummer Tommy Lee hits his snare drum and the tip of his drumstick breaks off causing a scar or even a hole through the instrument, somebody gets a call to build a better drumstick tip.
For Lee — and countless others like Mick Fleetwood, Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, Def Leapard’s Rick Allen, and Bon Jovi’s Tico Torres — the call ultimately ends up in a big barn in the middle of the country near Ben Wheeler, Texas.
Marching to his own drum, Jeff Dalrymple uses the dying art of building his own tools — rather than relying on computerized manufacturing — to create durable, effective drumstick tips in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit different playing styles.
Dalrymple is the exclusive manufacturer of tips for Ahead drumsticks, a popular brand preferred by drummers all over the world for their comfort, ease of use, sound, and shock absorbency.
Initially starting with small quantities of two sizes of tips in 2003 for the company, the orders increased significantly over the years.
“The quantities kept increasing and different styles of tips were added and we now manufacture close to 200,000 tips a year,” Dalrymple said.
Starting with 10-foot lengths of plastic (nylon and delrin), Dalrymple puts five of those at a time in his machines. He uses tools to remove material to create the desired profile, drill and thread the top, and cut them off to finish the end radius.
“We complete a tip every 3.6 seconds,” he said.
After the tips come off the drilling machine, he washes them with soap and water and then puts them in a lingerie bag and places them in a clothes dryer. He has a dryer in his shop but says it’s more convenient to use the one in the home he shares with his wife Mary.
“I try to keep the process simple,” he said. “We’ve gotten used to the noise – we just close the laundry room door.”
In their leisure time the Dalrymples often check out the drummers on TV or at live concerts to see if they are using his tips and quite often they are.
“I have seen the drummer for Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney and many others use these sticks (and his tips),” Dalrymple said. “It’s fun to watch and see a little piece of myself up there.”
The drumsticks and tips are in music stores all over the world. Within the region that includes music stores in Paris, Texarkana, Longview, Tyler, Lufkin, and Nacogdoches.
Besides drumstick tips, Dalrymple makes numerous other obscure items in his country shop that are just as vital to others as stick tips are to drummers. A few of them include fasteners for military aircraft, cabinet knob pieces, special screws for computers, and nuts for joint replacement devices for animals.
Whether building an important piece for an animal or airplane, or outstanding drumstick tips, Dalrymple doesn’t miss a beat in doing his part to keep the world in tune.