Recreating the Originals
The modern Jenkins-Martin “Blaemire” line of shells are exact duplicates of the originals in every way. Faithfully recreating a product which was developed more than 50 years ago, and made with materials of the era, was undoubtedly the biggest challenge we faced. With the help of composite industry experts we were able to dissect original shell fragments for technical analysis. Through specialized testing, chemists at Ashland were able to determine the exact resin formulation used by Allen in the 1960s. From this analysis we have been able to source modern resin materials which are exact chemical equivalents of the 1960’s Blaemire formula.
PPG professionals in Pittsburgh were able to identify the size and type of glass that was originally used by Allen. We were pleased to find that PPG not only made the glass in the original Blaemire shells, but the same product line was still available and remained largely unchanged throughout the years.
Determining the composition of the shells was one thing, manufacturing them in the distinctive Blaemire process was more of a challenge than we anticipated. Our initial efforts revolved around finding a manufacturing source who could meet our specifications. We met with several potential sources, each with proven capabilities, but we ran into an unexpected problem. Once we explained what we were doing, and how it needed to be done, we got the same answer from each, “You’re doing it wrong!”. We quickly found that our attempts at explaining our process were falling on deaf ears.
The heart of the problem was that each engineer we spoke with was viewing our drum shells as they would any other product in the composites world. Which is to say, they were most interested in taking our design and making it stronger, or lighter, or cheaper, or all the other things that composites engineers view as important. What they could not grasp is that we were after a specific acoustical result. A result which could only be achieved by our unique methods.
Undeterred, we regrouped and assessed our options. We were clearly fighting a losing battle with outside manufacturers and it was becoming increasingly apparent that we would have to be in direct control of the molding process to guarantee the results we were after. It was at this point that we decided to take a significant and fateful step: we began designing and building our own molding equipment. This gave us the opportunity to customize everything to our exact needs. The equipment was designed to mold shells by the same method as Allen did in his garage. We were also able to include more modern mechanical features which facilitated a greater capacity, precise repeatability, ease of use and production throughput.
The fabrication of the equipment took several months but the decision to bring the molding process in-house paid huge dividends. We suddenly had full control of our own process and could experiment and test until we got it exactly right. With this new equipment and autonomy we were able to produce prototypes across a full range of diameters and refine the process until we had a perfect match of the original Blaemire shells.