My Great-Grandfather's Drum Kit

acsunda

Junior Member
So my mom died a few years ago, and as my dad was going through all of her things, these drums eventually came to me. They belonged to my maternal great-grandfather, who apparently played barn dances around rural Illinois in the 1910's/20's (I think). The snare is 14" and is a Lyon & Healy, the bass drum is 28" (not sure about brand, haven't taken the heads to inspect the interior yet). I need to replace the snare wires and throw-off (will probably have to use something a little more modern). Due to existing cosmetic issues, I'm less concerned with preserving them in their present state than I am with making them playable. In other words, I'm not really interested in their monetary value as an antique, and I'm more interested in being able to play my great-grandfather's drums. Anyway, I thought they were pretty cool, and thought I'd share with you all. IMG_6816.JPGIMG_6814.JPG
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
That is very cool. Awesome, I love seeing that. Man those are some high batter rims.

My guess is those drums are really, really light by now. Thanks for taking the time to do this, it's badass.

And look, the original Mapex snare head, in terrific shape too! :p

It looks like turn of the century torture devices in the hardware case.

I think I hear the bass drum saying that it wants to be hit with a big ole fluffy Bomber beater.

Yup, that's what it's saying.
 
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acsunda

Junior Member
That is very cool. Awesome, I love seeing that. Man those are some high batter rims.

My guess is those drums are really, really light by now. Thanks for taking the time to do this, it's badass.

And look, the original Mapex snare head, in terrific shape too! :p

It looks like turn of the century torture devices in the hardware case.

I think I hear the bass drum saying that it wants to be hit with a big ole fluffy Bomber beater.

Yup, that's what it's saying.
Yeah that Mapex head is really hangin in there! lol
 

timmdrum

Silver Member
View attachment 90584
So my mom died a few years ago, and as my dad was going through all of her things, these drums eventually came to me. They belonged to my maternal great-grandfather, who apparently played barn dances around rural Illinois in the 1910's/20's (I think). The snare is 14" and is a Lyon & Healy, the bass drum is 28" (not sure about brand, haven't taken the heads to inspect the interior yet). I need to replace the snare wires and throw-off (will probably have to use something a little more modern). Due to existing cosmetic issues, I'm less concerned with preserving them in their present state than I am with making them playable. In other words, I'm not really interested in their monetary value as an antique, and I'm more interested in being able to play my great-grandfather's drums. Anyway, I thought they were pretty cool, and thought I'd share with you all.
Wow, man, very cool. I get that you don't want to sell them, but if I were you, I would still do two things that are the opposite of what you stated you're planning:

1. I don't see anything wrong with cleaning them up. I don't think it would de-value anything. (I know you said you're not interested in their monetary value, but if you clean them up, you may be even more proud to see the wood grain, and (maybe brass?) hardware shinier, and I figure you don't want to de-value them in the process. Also, cleaning may actually provide more longevity, particularly in the hardware- such as, getting grit out of tuning rods and other screws' threads.

2. Unless you meant that you want to play them in the privacy of your home, I wouldn't. Anything could happen- theft, bandmate backs over or drops something, you accidentally leave a case behind, drunk person falls into them or spills something on them, etc... I'd record with these if you have a project where they'd sound appropriate, and get an antique looking kit for the gigs.
 

dmacc_2

Well-known member
Love it! Great catch!!

I have my dad's original Ludwigs too. I don't recall if they are from the 1930's or 40's at the moment.

Bass drum looks to be similar in size though his snare looks to be a little deeper perhaps and still has the original cowhide head on it.

Like yourself, I wanted the drums to be playable. The bass drum actually didn't need anything done to it but the snare was a mess.

I had no desire to restore to original - much to many people's dismay.

After I figured out what I wanted, I sent the snare drum off to Precision Drums many years ago and they did an amazing job bringing it up to date for me. Cleaned up the edges, installed new lugs, strainer and hoops. Now I can play it anytime I wish.

Nicely done!
 

acsunda

Junior Member
Wow, man, very cool. I get that you don't want to sell them, but if I were you, I would still do two things that are the opposite of what you stated you're planning:

1. I don't see anything wrong with cleaning them up. I don't think it would de-value anything. (I know you said you're not interested in their monetary value, but if you clean them up, you may be even more proud to see the wood grain, and (maybe brass?) hardware shinier, and I figure you don't want to de-value them in the process. Also, cleaning may actually provide more longevity, particularly in the hardware- such as, getting grit out of tuning rods and other screws' threads.

2. Unless you meant that you want to play them in the privacy of your home, I wouldn't. Anything could happen- theft, bandmate backs over or drops something, you accidentally leave a case behind, drunk person falls into them or spills something on them, etc... I'd record with these if you have a project where they'd sound appropriate, and get an antique looking kit for the gigs.
Yea, I don't play much outside my home, I'm more of a hobbyist, so these would most likely never leave my house.

Love it! Great catch!!

I have my dad's original Ludwigs too. I don't recall if they are from the 1930's or 40's at the moment.

Bass drum looks to be similar in size though his snare looks to be a little deeper perhaps and still has the original cowhide head on it.

Like yourself, I wanted the drums to be playable. The bass drum actually didn't need anything done to it but the snare was a mess.

I had no desire to restore to original - much to many people's dismay.

After I figured out what I wanted, I sent the snare drum off to Precision Drums many years ago and they did an amazing job bringing it up to date for me. Cleaned up the edges, installed new lugs, strainer and hoops. Now I can play it anytime I wish.

Nicely done!
Man, I never thought of sending it Precision Drum, that's a good idea. How much did they charge you for that? And yeah, the bass drum looks to be in pretty decent shape. But yeah, as much as everyone here probably cringes at the idea, I'm not averse to taking the shell and hoops and adding updated hardware to make more playable. The idea of playing my great-grandfather's snare way more exciting to me than preservation. And really the only thing that it needs is a throw off and wires. Everything else is in decent shape.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
I wouldn't do anything to them except that which will let you play it-that's part of it's charm. I know your Granddad would be pleased. It would be great to find old pics and some old local paper mentioning events your Granddad played in. Make a photobook of your Grandad, some of his gigs, and now you playing gigs with his kit.
 

Old Dog new Cans

Senior Member
You will be able to tell VERY QUICKLY, whether or not you should REALLY take them apart, etc. I understand what Grunter'sDad and John Wesley are saying. But how cool it would be! You certainly don't want to alter them. Maybe a new snare throw would be. . .ehhhh not the best?

I get it though. ;) (y)
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
it would be a huge loss to history if those got ruined...definitely keep them safe no matter how you end up using them. I am also in the mindset of using them, but the collector guy in me would also be treating them like they were fragile. I know I would not ship them anywhere to have work done. I would be driving them for sure....
 

Woolwich

Silver Member
I’d be inclined to carry out a “sympathetic restoration” as opposed to a modernisation, especially given that you want to play them in your home as opposed to gigging them. Speaking only for myself I’d rather play them within the confines of what they can do as they were played years ago. To me, altering what is in effect an antique for the sake of maybe not even a few hours a week of playing time isn’t something I’d do. If I was going to gig them week in, week out, then treating them as two drum shells to which I would add modern hardware would make more sense as I’d be getting use out of them, but even then there would be a nagging doubt that in a few years time I’d look at what I’d done and wonder what I’d been thinking. Maybe the problem here is that they’re in such good condition, if they’d been stripped of hardware and were scratched and beaten up, then creating a “player’s kit” from what would otherwise be scrap wood would be a great achievement. But these are still too nice! And could in time end up in the hands of someone’s Great Great Grandfather.

But to move on from my negativity. You’ve got your Great Grandad’s sticks in the case :) Now that is so cool, being able to use the very instruments he held in his hands all of those years ago, arguably even more personal than the kit!
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
My take is that they're drums not religious artifacts. A vote to play them. I'd change snare rims and put away the originals. I heard the drums tell me they want to be hit, not put up on a shelf :)

One one hand I'd love to see the drums brought up to speed by Precision, but on the other hand, I think I'd be hesitant in altering the shell.

But I'd probably get over the hesitation. What's better, and untouched vintage drums that sounds bad, or the same drum that sounds amazing?

Not saying the drum will sound bad, but if new edges would benefit the drum, I'd do it. I'm not a fan of putting drums above playing status. They were made to make sound, not be revered.
 

dmacc_2

Well-known member
Yea, I don't play much outside my home, I'm more of a hobbyist, so these would most likely never leave my house.

Man, I never thought of sending it Precision Drum, that's a good idea. How much did they charge you for that? And yeah, the bass drum looks to be in pretty decent shape. But yeah, as much as everyone here probably cringes at the idea, I'm not averse to taking the shell and hoops and adding updated hardware to make more playable. The idea of playing my great-grandfather's snare way more exciting to me than preservation. And really the only thing that it needs is a throw off and wires. Everything else is in decent shape.
I'm a hobbyist these days as well. As I recall it was a few hundred dollars but that included me adding all new lugs/rods, a set of wood hoops, set of flanged hoops and strainer, bearing edge work and holes. They did an amazing job. Went from unusable to totally usable.

I can assure you my Dad would NOT have wanted it considered a viewing piece only. His thoughts were use/play it all. Gear didn't matter much to him. Just the music. He's been gone for 20 years but I still get joy in using his stuff. Still have his hi-hats, ride and mallets (of all things). Sticks, brushes, hardware, etc... are all long gone. He always told me how inferior that was stuff was compared to today.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Love it! Great catch!!

I have my dad's original Ludwigs too. I don't recall if they are from the 1930's or 40's at the moment.

Bass drum looks to be similar in size though his snare looks to be a little deeper perhaps and still has the original cowhide head on it.

Like yourself, I wanted the drums to be playable. The bass drum actually didn't need anything done to it but the snare was a mess.

I had no desire to restore to original - much to many people's dismay.

After I figured out what I wanted, I sent the snare drum off to Precision Drums many years ago and they did an amazing job bringing it up to date for me. Cleaned up the edges, installed new lugs, strainer and hoops. Now I can play it anytime I wish.

Nicely done!
The snare batter has a Mapex head on it and I doubt that Mapex was around at the time these drums were be played.
 

dmacc_2

Well-known member
The snare batter has a Mapex head on it and I doubt that Mapex was around at the time these drums were be played.
Not sure of your point. I could and did put heads on my Dad's snare. Didn't preclude the fact that it was still in bad shape and needed to be re-done. Especially the edges and the inferior strainer.
 

harryconway

Platinum Member
Getting the bass drum up and running should be no problem. If all your tension rods work, add some clamp on bass drum spurs and you're in business. As far as the snare ..... maybe look into a "free floating" design. That will give you all the modern features without having to drill the shell.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
What's funny is the Taiwanese KHS has been around since the 1930's though Mapex founded much later in 80s. I wonder if they made calfskin heads back in the day. Is there a Drum badge to maker?
 
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