Mark Hanna pushes a saw through a piece of quilted maple.

Mark Hanna pushes a saw through a piece of quilted maple.

Oso couple known for their high-end, hand-crafted drum sets

OSO — To most people, a tree felled by a windstorm or cut down for construction looks like firewood.

To Mark and Teresa Hanna, it’s treasure.

At their home in Oso, they transform hardwood trees from the North Cascades — most of which were destined for a fire pit or wood chipper — into high-end custom drum sets.

Mark Hanna, 47, worked at an engineering company in Kirkland before starting a home business so he could spend more time with his wife and two teenage daughters, Lily and Cami.

Music runs in the family. Mark Hanna has been drumming for 40 years. Lily plays guitar, bass and keyboard. Younger sister Cami is a drummer in the Arlington High School jazz band.

Mark Hanna plays hard and has broken dozens of drums over the years. He learned how to take his sets apart and put them back together.

Now he builds them from scratch with his wife. They started their business, Sway Mechanika, in October.

So far, they’ve finished three full kits and a number of individual drums. It can take hundreds of hours to finish a kit.

They haul trees from construction sites or people’s yards after they’ve been cut or blown down.

Teresa Hanna, 43, checks Craigslist every Monday and after windstorms to see who is selling hardwood. It costs less and is better for the environment to use local timber than to buy imported wood, she said.

The woods they use include maple, cherry, elm, black walnut, London Plane and red alder. When they want exotic wood for accents, they go to a specialty store in Seattle.

Most drums are made with plywood, which has more glue and veneer than the Hannas’ stave drums. They cut wood into rectangular pieces, glue them together and form them into a circle for the body of the drum. That gets sanded and finished before the drum head and accents are added.

Mark Hanna cuts material and puts the drum together. Teresa is in charge of sanding and finishing. They’ve become an efficient team, but it didn’t start that way.

When Cami got her dad a drum magazine for Christmas three years ago, he noted a picture of a beautiful stave drum. When he showed it to his wife and suggested they make something like it, she was hesitant.

“I told him there’s no logic in taking a round object, cutting it flat and then making it back into a round object,” she said.

Their first snare took about 80 hours and there were times when they thought the project would drive them crazy.

Now Mark and Cami have tracked more than 250 hours of playing time on that snare. He takes it apart to monitor wear and test durability.

Mark Hanna likes to experiment with materials and designs. When he cut a quilted maple recently, he drummed his fingers over the board to get an idea of the tone.

Each type of wood sounds different. Hard maples have a punchy, ringing quality that cuts through in a live performance. London Plane has a deep, warm, round tone.

It’s not just the type of wood that matters. The tone can change based on how the Hannas fit the head of the drum onto the body, piece together the staves or place the hardware.

There are companies that sell drums at lower prices, the Hannas said. The risk is that bulk manufacturers may care more about appearance than sound. It’s important to have drums that are made by a drummer, Teresa Hanna said.

Prices for their drums vary based on the quality of wood, size and amount of custom work. They have some inventory but most of their work involves making instruments to a drummer’s specifications. Typically, a snare costs between $500 and $900.

The Hannas hope to keep their business small but expect to add employees as they get orders. They’ve shown their drums at events, including Woodstick in Tacoma and Day of Percussion at the University of Washington. They also played at Darrington Day last month and plan to be at Oso Mill Days on Friday and Saturday.

When they’re not at festivals or events, the Hannas take their music outside at home. Mark and Cami like to get a rhythm going on sunny summer days.

“They fill the valley with their sound,” Teresa Hanna said.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439;

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