60's three ply mahogany source?

opentune

Platinum Member
We often hear how the mahogany used in modern (and maybe cheaper) drums is actually 'luan' or 'philipine mahogany'. But what is the purported source of mahogany in the classic 50's or 60's three ply drums by Ludwig, Slingerland etc.? Is it African? How does one know or prove this?
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
It is said to have been African mahogany. There really is not much actual prof of the wood sources from the good old days. We always call it, "Mystery Wood"
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
From speaking with many collectors of such instruments, & also carefully looking over a large selection of period shells, I think it's reasonable to assume multiple sources, & certainly a wide variety of qualities. Back in the day, you got hold of whatever was on offer at the time. From what I've seen, even if the wood was from the same continent, it was certainly from multiple locations in the forest. Some examples with very close grain, & some with a very open grain.

Either way, an old 3 ply shell (assuming it's round & with good edges), almost irrespective of original wood quality, will still way out perform a modern 6,7,8 ply shell in terms of resonance.
 

opentune

Platinum Member
From speaking with many collectors of such instruments, & also carefully looking over a large selection of period shells, I think it's reasonable to assume multiple sources, & certainly a wide variety of qualities. Back in the day, you got hold of whatever was on offer at the time. From what I've seen, even if the wood was from the same continent, it was certainly from multiple locations in the forest. Some examples with very close grain, & some with a very open grain.

Either way, an old 3 ply shell (assuming it's round & with good edges), almost irrespective of original wood quality, will still way out perform a modern 6,7,8 ply shell in terms of resonance.
Thanks for replies. I was just wondering if one can tell form wood grain alone whether its african. Likely not, without being a botanist or looking microscopically at lignin or cellular structure.

I have noticed on some of my old 3 ply drums, either when un-wrapping, or on inside barren shells, a stark difference in grains, even between th einner adn outer ply of mahogany, or between 2 different drum shells.

Reason I ask is a I just bought a couple of 1950's 'Gracy' MIJ 3 ply drums for next to nothing. Supposedly the wood was cheap (i.e. luan), but their grain is not unlike those in any of my old Slingerlands, and they sure sing pretty good. Nothing like age on a wood.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Nothing like age on a wood.
Yes, the acoustic properties of wood improves substantially with age, but the more plies you have, the less aging benefit there is.

As for grain structure differences, it's perfectly possible to take wood from two different logs, but from the same forest, and for them to be utterly different. Typically, trees on the outside of the forest will grow much faster than ones further in, hence an open structure in the faster growing trees & a more close grain structure in the slower growing trees. Closer grain usually equates to greater density, & that will afford a different resonant character.

All of that said, many choose mahogany because it offers a mellow tone with good lows. The lower density wood will be more mellow than the higher density stuff, and typically offer a lower pitch too, but it will be a bit more dry in it's delivery.
 

harryconway

Platinum Member
Reason I ask is a I just bought a couple of 1950's 'Gracy' MIJ 3 ply drums for next to nothing.
I had a 60's Gracy kit, and it was made of the cheap Luan/Philippine Mahogany wood. No doubt, your 50's kit was made of better stuff. You have to remember, in the "heyday" of Ludwig, they were selling over 150 kits a day. Chances are .... both Honduran and African Mahogany came into their shop. Whatever they could get. Certainly, Ludwig wasn't gonna shut down their production, because they couldn't get a specific wood. And eventually, Ludwig dropped the mahogany from the equation, altogether. The 3 ply shell became maple/poplar/maple.​
The Luan/Philippine wood is stringy. Amongst my drummer buds, we refer to it as cheesewood. Doesn't even look like real Mahogany. And it isn't. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine_mahogany Also, most every Luan MIJ drum that I've seen has the grain running vertical, rather than horizontal. Even so, some of those drums sound pretty good ....... and a lot don't.​
 
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Deathmetalconga

Platinum Member
From speaking with many collectors of such instruments, & also carefully looking over a large selection of period shells, I think it's reasonable to assume multiple sources, & certainly a wide variety of qualities. Back in the day, you got hold of whatever was on offer at the time. From what I've seen, even if the wood was from the same continent, it was certainly from multiple locations in the forest. Some examples with very close grain, & some with a very open grain.

Either way, an old 3 ply shell (assuming it's round & with good edges), almost irrespective of original wood quality, will still way out perform a modern 6,7,8 ply shell in terms of resonance.
So true. Drummers nowadays are more picky and the industry caters to them. The manufacturer wants to tell the buyer what species, from what nation, and that the loggers who cut it down only ate free-range organic chickens. Only the lowest-end manufacturers have mystery wood anymore.
 
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