The Ludwig Acrolite

ludwigvondrumcrazy

Senior Member
Since the Acrolite generates respect among those who have played them I thought I would give an overview of its “career” for those who may not be familiar with the venerable 404 (5 x 14) which is still readily available.

I won’t clutter up this thread with all of the descriptions throughout the years since they pretty much remained the same, but will show a number of images of the Snare so you can get a better feel for how they should look from the different eras. The Acrolite used the same Shell material, and was built using the same process & equipment as the Supra Phonic 400 with the only difference between the two being that the 400 was drilled for ten Lugs and was chrome plated with the 404 getting eight Lugs and having an Anodized finish.

I will also be adding some information “along the way” based on things I learned while reconditioning both Acrolites & Supra-Phonics. This information will only pertain to Drums I worked on that I knew to be original since things have a tendency to get swapped out over the years, especially Strainers, which can generate some confusion so please keep this in mind if looking at an eBay listing, or even a Ludwig Catalog, that doesn’t jibe with “the facts.” Ludwig had a tendency to reuse images for their Catalogs even though things had changed and overlap, in their process, the introduction of newer style parts with the older style, as opposed to having a clean “breakpoint.” Because of this please don’t think what I add is “carved in stone,” it’s just what I have come across on the “originals” that I have worked on and I’m learning something new all the time…............

The 404 entered Ludwig’s stable of Snares in 1963 and is shown below in the first Catalog it appeared in, the "New for '63" supplement to Catalog No.62. This first production version is commonly reffered to as a "protoype" but considering it was a Student Snare and offered in a Snare Kit the possibility exists that there are quite a few of these 404's with the "orange peel" anodized finish still kicking around.
Note: Rims also made from the same material as the Shell (aluminum.)





EDIT NOTE: The New for '63 supplement info. added 04/03/2008

Below is how it appeared in Catalog No.64 (released late 63.) Note smoother finish and the fact that they dropped the aluminum Rims, which didn't hold up well to the tension a Snare's Rims are subjected to.
For the first six years, 1963–1969 the Acrolite sported the Keystone Badge & P-83 Strainer…………………



As shown below in Catalog No’67 (released in late ’66)
This image is mis-leading since it's transposed, so it shows a mirror image with everything "backwards."
The Throw-off Arm, Badge & Baseball Bat Tone Control Lever are actually positioned the same as shown in the previous image.



Throughout the 1960’s & into the mid-70’s the Rims on both the Acrolite & Supra Phonic were much thinner than they are today and in my opinion give the Drums from that era a more open, or resonant, quality. I know a fellow who worked at Ludwig throughout the 60’s and he told me that they were 1.6 mm, which seems about right.

The 404 as shown in the No’71 Catalog (released in late ’70) the year after receiving the Blue & Olive Badge & “Black Face” P-85 Strainer.
It was around this time that the “Baseball Bat” Tone Control was changed to the Round Knob…………….



Below is the Acrolite in the 1974-75 Catalog.
Note that the P-85 had twelve holes for the Snare Cord, which it did from 1969 until right around 1978 when it went to two holes……………



The next image is from 1978 and matches, to a T, the Acrolite I am currently working on, still Anodized, with the “new” two hole P-85 and “Pointed Corners” Blue & Olive Badge. Ludwig rounded the corners on the Blue & Olive Badge on all their Drums the following year, 1979. It was right around the time that Ludwig went to the “two hole” P-85 that the Rims got a little heavier, how heavy is a good question. They aren’t as heavy as they are today, which are probably a 2.3 mm., but seem heavier than a 1.9 mm. I have a 1975-76 Supra-Phonic 402 and just finished up a “twelve hole” 400 last week that has the thinner Rims, which is what I base my opinion on for the switch to the heavier Rims……………………



The next shot is from 1984 and shows it with its “new” Powder Coating, which Ludwig switched to that same year. In my opinion the Powder Coating “chokes” off the sound of the Acrolite when compared to the Anodized Shelled 404. When you factor in the heavier Rims, which also choked it off some, you can see how the Acrolites of today differ from those dating from the 1960’s & into the mid-1970’s with the “older” style having a more open, resonant sound, as well as a broader tuning range. As mentioned, the above opinions are my own and are based on using a Remo Coated Ambassador Batter Head on both the Anondized & Powder Coated 404’s……………………



The next image is from 1988 and shows how the shade of the Powder Coating can differ some, which is also true of the Anodized Shells, some could be lighter than others. If trying to determine the age of an Acrolite, or Supra Phonic, by its P-85, Ludwig did add a small rubber Grommet to the threaded part of the Tension Knob in the very early 80’s and switched to the “Chrome Face” P-85 around 1984. With that said I have seen “Black Face” P-85’s threaded for Plastic Straps on known original Drums that date after 1984 so this could be a case of Ludwig using both types, Chrome & Black Face, during the same time frame……...........



In 1993 Ludwig switched over to the “Black Galaxy” Powder Coating which they still use today. In 1994 they also started offering a 6.5 x 14, the 405, as shown in that year’s Catalog (1994) below. There have been reports of a 6.5 x 14 Acrolite being made during the 1960’s or 1970’s but those, if this is true, would be few & far between………………



1994 Description below: Note 6.5 x 14 (405) has Ten Lugs



One thing that has been constant with the Acrolite over the years is that even when Ludwig dropped the Tone Controls from the Supra Phonic, as well as their other Snares, around 1998, which are making a come back, they always kept them on the Acrolites………………….
One thing I won’t try to pin down and that is when Ludwig switched to the Black & White Badge on the Acrolites. I have read that this happened in 1984 but can’t confirm this since I haven’t worked on enough Drums from that time frame. With that said, the 1988 Catalog image still showed the Blue & Olive with 1994 the first time that the Black & White Badge shows up in their Catalogs……………

I hope this information sheds a little light on a Snare that a large number of Drummers started out on and many still hold in high esteem……………

LVDC
 
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Sah

Junior Member
great post! I own a Ludwig acrolite 1970s B/O badge and it sounds great, I'm glad I bought an acrolite.
 

Les Ismore

Platinum Member
Nice imformative post 'ludwigvondrumcrazy'.

the only difference between the two being that the 400 was drilled for ten Lugs and was chrome plated with the 404 getting eight lugs

Actually no drum manufacture 'drills' metal they 'punch' the holes out, Ludwig is no exception. Drilling stresses the metal, is costly (bits, clean up etc.) and makes a messy hole that takes another step to clean up. Wood shell's are 'drilled', metal 'punched'. Ludwig made a run of 200 10 lug 404 Acro's, hope you can post a pic.

Ludwig should seriously consider jumping on the 'vintage reproduction' band wagon ala Fender Guitars. With a little bit of creative thought (just use the Fender marketing template as an example Ludwig), Ludwig could regain a big chunk of the market share, as no other drum company can match their storied history. Ludwig could easily knock the rust off their crown and have the other drum manufactures lining up below them.

They're dabbling with the Bonzo reissue, but need to get serious with some cool reissue 60's kits and snares. Bowtie lugs on sets, bring back the original gold sparkle wrap etc. Largley unchanged metal snares could be reissued vintage pretty easily with a few original spec parts. They would definitely create a new/renewed interest in Ludwig and further complicate the the vintage sceene which they're not getting a piece of. Go Ludwig! Its time to shine once again.
 

ludwigvondrumcrazy

Senior Member
I’m glad that this thread, which I have been considering for some time, is serving a useful purpose. You’re more than welcome………….

To add a little more about the Blue & Olive Badge, some of the first installed on Acrolites & Supra-Phonics, which would have been around 1969-1970, were trimmed down to fit Shells already “drilled” for the older Keystone Badge (hole lower on the Shell.) These “trimmed down” versions will be missing the bottom portion where one would commonly find the Serial Numbers. In 1971-‘72 Ludwig also used B & O Badges without Serial Numbers, but this only lasted for a short period of time and when they started back up with the Serial Numbers they had seven digits as opposed to the six they had before the “Blank Run.”

Also, when Ludwig started rounding off the corners of the B & O Badge (1979) you may find some that appear to have had their corners “snipped off,” which probably indicates, since some are "snipped off" more than others, that they were doing this manually to utilize existing Stock………………

LVDC
 

ludwigvondrumcrazy

Senior Member
Nice imformative post 'ludwigvondrumcrazy'.

the only difference between the two being that the 400 was drilled for ten Lugs and was chrome plated with the 404 getting eight lugs

Actually no drum manufacture 'drills' metal they 'punch' the holes out, Ludwig is no exception. Drilling stresses the metal, is costly (bits, clean up etc.) and makes a messy hole that takes another step to clean up. Wood shell's are 'drilled', metal 'punched'.
Thanks Les………………

I hear ya on the drilled versus punched and you are absolutely correct, Metal Shells were / are generally punched for holes, it was just a figure of speech that I used since how they got there really had no bearing on the issues at hand. Having spent 15 years as a Quality Person (floor level) at a GM V6 Engine Plant (Buick Motor Div) where I had to “Root Cause,” i.e., what exactly is causing the problem, Quality issues I do have some experience in Manufacturing, more than I wish I had actually…………..

With that said, most of the holes on the 1970’s Ludwig Stainless Kits I’ve done looked as if they had been drilled. While I can easily work the insides of most Metal Shells without worry of cutting myself, or tearing up my paper towel, I had to consciously watch myself around those on the Stainless Shells, which is always a royal pain since there are so many to deal with. I’m sure that this “jagged” condition was of no concern to Ludwig since they were going to be covered up by the Cup Washers anyway……………….

LVDC
 

Salicete

Senior Member
Nice work, I bow at the feet of the Acro-Master!

Seroiusly, that was well organized and quite informational, thanks!
 

ludwigvondrumcrazy

Senior Member
Re: The Ludwig Acrolite & Assorted Ramblings

Thanks Salicete & latzanimal, you are both too kind, seriously……………

When I went by my friend’s Drum Shop today I found something waiting for me, something that came in on trade, another 404 to work! While this is neither here nor there, since it is what it is, I thought I would show what I found while giving it the old once over.

Here’s how it came in, no Heads or Snare Wires with a Tone Control that was defective right from the get go, which is the first I’ve come across that wasn’t right. The Felt was glued off location so this was probably a “Supplier Issue.”



While it may be hard to tell from that shot, it has to date after 1984 since it has the Powder Coating, but here is where it gets interesting and goes back to the “not carved in stone” comment in my original post. I'll get a better feel for this during / after tear down by the "witness marks" on the washers, but it appears as if this, at least part of it, is the original Strainer. It does have the 7/8” (distance from Shell) Bracket & P-32 Butt Plate so that dates those parts to after 1977, or thereabouts, and also has the Rubber Grommet that showed up a little after that date. Here’s what I found most interesting, it has twelve holes that should have been, for this time frame (1984 or after,) only two, or possibly even the Chrome Face tapped for Plastic Straps. The possibility exists that the “twelve hole” portion could have been a “swap out” but we’ll never know that for sure.

This next shot just shows the Rounded Corner Badge and a side view of the 7/8” Bracket, which, prior to 1977 had been only ½”
Ludwig did install Aluminum Flat Washers between the Shell & P-85 Brackets on both the Acrolite’s & Supra-Phonic’s for a time prior to the height change. The 404 I’m currently working on (two hole) and the 400 (twelve hole) I finished up last week both had these Aluminum Washers.
I have yet to find them on the 7/8th inch Strainers………….



Here is the Strainer that doesn’t fit the Powder Coating.
There is a good possibility that Ludwig, or their Supplier, “found” some boxes of “twelve hole” parts and put them back in their process, but that’s just a guess on my part……. …….




This next image just shows the two Nylon Washers under the Tone Control (TC) Knob, the most common version I find on Ludwig’s, however, some only have one. The “Pointed Badge – Two Hole” Anondized 404 I’m currently working was a little different from the norm in that it had only one, thin, metal Flat Washer, that I will replace with Nylon(s) for a couple of reasons. First and foremost is to prevent a “Rattle Point,” with the second reason to stop the chafing that the metal Washer was causing on the Shell in this area. I know that the metal Washer was original because the TC hadn’t been removed prior to my doing so. Ludwig “knicked” the threads on the TC Shaft to keep the “Barrel Nut” from vibrating off and because of this I had to develop a method to get them off without too much hassle. I picked up a deep, approx ½” Nut that I use to chase the threads a few times to condition them before trying to remove the “Barrel Nut,” which works great.

To better explain this I just went and took the second shot using the Powder Coated 404 and if you look carefully you should be able to make out the “Lud-knick” about two threads in from my “Conditioning Nut”………………….





Since I mentioned both Tone Controls & Rattles I would like to include a little advice based on what I’ve seen pertaining to these two issues. The “newer” style Ludwig TC’s use a Nylon Washer between the Felt Plate & TC Arm, whereas the “older” style utilized a Leather Washer. The Leather type allowed the Plate to pivot some while the Nylon doesn’t so the newer style doesn’t allow the Felt to make flush contact with the head until it has been compressed down at an angle, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make. Where I’m going with this is that if storing Drums with the older Leather Washer TC’s for any length of time I would recommend taking the pressure off. I have found that if the Leather Washer is compressed for long periods of time they have a tendency to dry out in a compressed state and when the pressure is released you can end up with a loose, or sloppy, Plate that not only can, but will rattle. I usually fix these rattles with thin close cell foam, cutting a “key-hole” shape into it that I then work between the Plate & Arm positioning the hole part (of the key-hole) around the Plate Rivet. By leaving the Leather Washer in place it tends to help hold my fix in place. Here is a shot of one the TC Plates off my 1979 Big Beat, as you can see this one has not been stored under pressure over the years and is still nice & tight, just the way I like to see them………………



I hope that all this doesn’t come off as aimless ramblings from someone who has breathed in too many “Flitz Fumes,” maybe I have, it’s just kinda nice to actually explain some of the "nuts & bolts" to others who may get something out of it. I know it sure beats the heck out of doing it day after day for months on end. When I’m finished with the two 404’s it’s on to a 400, then a 1971 Metal Shell Rogers Dyna-Sonic before moving on to a Big Beat Outfit (12, 13, 16, 22.) Who knows what will show up at my friend’s shop in the meantime, the Hit’s just keep coming……………….

LVDC
 
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Les Ismore

Platinum Member
I hear ya on the drilled versus punched and you are absolutely correct, Metal Shells were / are generally punched for holes, it was just a figure of speech.......

I was all but certain you knew they punch the holes on the alloy shell's ludwigvondrumcrazy, just brought it up for all who didn't, its a nice little fact. Keep the great Ludwig information coming. Any pic's of a 10 lug 404?
 

ludwigvondrumcrazy

Senior Member
Any pic's of a 10 lug 404?
Not a one Les, I wish I did. Any idea when this would have been?

I do have a photo or two somewhere of a Prototype 404 as well as an Acrolite Outfit Ludwig put together, but finding them, well, I'd rather clean Drums................

I've read somewhere that Ludwig produced two Acrolite Kits, one in the late 1950's & the other sometime in the 60's. Having some experience with their Stainless, a person would most defintely have had to keep the reso heads on (Flashback to the 70's) or run the risk of an out of round condition considering the Shells would have been Aluminum. If they had produced an Acrolite Kit I wonder how many would have survived the 1970's without a bunch of egg shaped Shells being the result of that era's (for the most part) "Hitting a Cardboard Box with Two Dead Trout" sound...................

LVDC
 

Les Ismore

Platinum Member
Not a one Les, I wish I did. Any idea when this would have been?

Believe it or not, one was on ebay. If I remember correctly it was said to be early-mid 60's. I don't remember the $elling price and I should've lifted the pic's. A run of 200 were said to be made and dolled out to thos connected, according to the description.
 

Mendozart

Platinum Member
This is a great post LVDC! Even though I don't own an Acrolite (yet), I take pride in the ownership of my Supra 402 even more. I have been seriously looking at some Acros on ebay and your post has armed me with an immense amount of info. Thanks LVDC.
 

rockinrider

Senior Member
Re: The Ludwig Acrolite & Assorted Ramblings

...
I hope that all this doesn’t come off as aimless ramblings from someone who has breathed in too many “Flitz Fumes,” maybe I have, it’s just kinda nice to actually explain some of the "nuts & bolts" to others who may get something out of it. ....

LVDC
Well, LVDC, I, for one, consider your "ramblings" very interesting and informative. It received my first Ludwig set in 1969. I was a 4 piece white pearl jazz set with a 5" wood snare. I played that set regularly until 1980 when I bought a Roger's 5 piece. As I look back, the Ludwig was a far superior set to the Rogers. As always happens, I regret selling that kit!

I look forward to your informative posts. Keep 'em coming!
 

Cymbalrider

Pioneer Member
My first drum was a gift and it was a 1970s Ludwig Acrolite. I still use it along with the maple snare that came with my Mapex Pro-M.
 

ludwigvondrumcrazy

Senior Member
Since this thread is still generating comments from time to time (on the side) through this and other sites I thought I would give it a bump.
People do indeed use the search function.........

LVDC
 
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Les Ismore

Platinum Member
Here, here Harry! And if people really knew what you had to go through to upload these pic's. Not only informational, but archival, this thread deserves to 'come up for air' .

Speaking of pic's, how bout some shots of some real 'down and out' Acro's? You know, the ones that have been left for dead, had a hard life, ready for the parts bin... but underneath it all are tough as nails and ready to cut concrete with a little (or maybe lots of) tender lovin care. Lets see some real basket cases! Forget the bling, can you say oxidation?
 

ludwigvondrumcrazy

Senior Member
Speaking of pic's, how bout some shots of some real 'down and out' Acro's? You know, the ones that have been left for dead, had a hard life, ready for the parts bin... but underneath it all are tough as nails and ready to cut concrete with a little (or maybe lots of) tender lovin care. Lets see some real basket cases! Forget the bling, can you say oxidation?
Some time after the New Year I'll have some real down 'n outers to deal with, three that I know of for sure. Missing Lugs, lot's of tape residue, who knows what all is going on with them, but I'll eventually find out. I've been gathering the parts I'll need but for sure will come up short.........

Even thinking of those is putting the cart before the horse since I still have a 1971 Ludwig Big Beat to put to bed and want to get a mid-80's Hammered 400 out of the way before tackling those old Acro's. The 404's are ones that have been hanging around a friend's Drum Shop for years so have been the "go to" Drums when Rims, a Lug, or Strainer was needed. Robbing Peter to pay Paul..........

LVDC
 

criz p. critter

Silver Member
Totally interesting and informative thread, LVDC. Thanks for taking the time to do all that typing! I've been thinking a lot lately about getting a Supra, but now I'm considering an Acrolite, too... Sometime later in the new year, once my finances recover from Christmas, that is!
 
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