Tour of the Gretsch drum building process

AzHeat

Platinum Member
I saw some old ones a while back, then this yesterday in another thread. They have definitely expanded and added some new gear. There's an interesting blend of their history with the modern in that video. Night and day difference in many respects than watching the DW tour. I only bring up DW, due to close ties with them. Not starting anything. There's nothing to start. DW's process is equally impressive, but way different. Good to see Gretsch still gets to be Gretsch. They must be doing something right since 2012 to experience the growth they have had. Coincidently, the Tama factory tour is an impressive watch too.
 

Steady Freddy

Pioneer Member
So.... They buy the shells from Keller, the hardware from Asia like most other companies, and then call them USA customs. What's the custom part? Drilling the shells? Cutting the edges?
 

AzHeat

Platinum Member
So.... They buy the shells from Keller, the hardware from Asia like most other companies, and then call them USA customs. What's the custom part? Drilling the shells? Cutting the edges?
I don't know that their regular US made stuff is all that more costly than others. The lacquered stuff on the other hand. Yup, you'll pay, but there's a process and a half for those, which are very different than most Asian made offerings. Also tons of variety of finishes. That's more than you get in the lower price range lines, but it's true with any.
 

AzHeat

Platinum Member
Don't get me wrong. I think Gretsch drums are great. Just kinda surprised by how little is actually done in house.
Night and day difference between the DW factory tour and Gretsch. That's for certain. Maybe I missed the part about why Gretsch doesn't make their own shells. That part's kinda curious!
 

Steady Freddy

Pioneer Member
The amount of tooling required to make shells is a major expense plus the labor for the machine operators. Probably more cost effective to source out the shells.
 

IBitePrettyHard

Senior Member
It seems like very few drum manufacturers make their own shells these days.

They either use Keller or some nameless Chinese or Taiwanese company.
 

SYMBOLIC DEATH

Senior Member
Did Gretsch ever make their own shells? I know they used to Jasper shells.up till they (Jasper) went out of business. Was there a shell supplier prior to Japser?
 

TK-421

Senior Member
My understanding is that before Jasper, Gretsch did make their own shells. When they outsourced the production to Jasper, they bought the molds from Gretsch. Fast forward a few decades, and I've heard that Keller acquired those same molds once they took over.

Don't know if all of this is true, it's just what I've heard.
 

Bahasadrum

New member
Hey everyone! Hey Jeremy, thank you for putting the link of my YouTube channel. Nice to know you guys!

I think Paul told me that Gretsch has been outsourcing the shell since back then. It was Jasper, but Jasper as a company went bankrupt and then Gretsch decided to move to Keller and he said Keller needed to invest alot due to the difference between the “normal” ply shell at that time, with what Gretsch asked them to make.

If you guys have a chance to visit the factory, I encourage you guys to meet Paul. He’s so amazing and explained me almost everything about Gretsch Drums (included the Silver Sealer lol). He also said that, they’re happy with the situation right now that Gretsch is managed by DW because people from DW appriciate more in terms of R&D. Also, surprisingly he said that Gretsch has it’s own market, different with DW lol.

I have been to DW,Ludwig and Gretsch factory. And for me personally, different companies/factories have their own personality. I found that Gretsch Drums, is so homey and so amazed with the fact that they use NO (or small amount) computer based machine and surprisingly Ludwig is more modern than Gretsch.


Ps : pardon my English, non native English speaker here 🙏🏽
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
Yup, from what I understand, they are Keller, but they are built to spec via Gretsch. I guess there's nothing keeping anyone from buying Gretsch's Keller shells(?) and doing their own thing?

I like that Ludwig uses the same molds from Chicago. There's just something really cool knowing that my shells were made with the same set of molds a Ringo, Ginger Baker, Alex Van Halen, etc. They are also built about 2 hours from my house. :)
 

SYMBOLIC DEATH

Senior Member
Keller does make good shells. Unfortunately, people tend to think that if a drum company uses Keller shells, they think they are just getting their "off the shells" for their drums, and some of the smaller companies do that. Companies like Pork Pie, Spaun, OCDP (early drums), Gretsch, DW (before they made their own shells), and Tama (for their +26" shells IIRC) use/used shells that are made to their specs with regards to the number of plies, ply thickness, and ply orientation.
Smaller companies can't afford to do the custom shells due to the increased cost and order size associated with that.
Also there a ton of small custom drum companies in the early to mid 2000's that were selling drums where everything was "off the shelf" and the company finished the shell and assembled the drums and charged a lot for the drums, which gave Keller a bad name to some in the drumming community. There was also a lot of ugly drums floating around for sale at ridiculous prices.
 

Steady Freddy

Pioneer Member
. I guess there's nothing keeping anyone from buying Gretsch's Keller shells(?) and doing their own thing?
The Gretsch formula Keller shells are only sold to Gretsch. The same is true for other companies that Keller supplies shells to that have a proprietary lay up.
 
To piggy back on what Symbolic Death wrote above - Keller is an amazing company. They have like six lines of business related to cylinder production, and they're the stars of their industry within each line. Even with drum shells, who makes better shells to spec at such competitive rates as Keller? Do they even have any domestic competition in that space at this point? (I'm not talking mom-and-pop shops like C&C and Nordic, both of whom make great shells.)

In an ironic twist - so many drummers long for the days of the Gretsch Jasper shell, well guess what, when Rogers experienced their golden age as drums (1960's and early 1970's) they had switched from Jasper to Keller - so it was Keller making their golden era shells. (Look it up for yourself.) One wonders if Rogers was alive today in the way that Gretsch is and Keller Wood Products went out of business the way Jasper did - would we be longing for the days of Keller shells?

Now why do I even care? Well, for one I love drums and cymbals. Also, I grew up in New England and when most of our parents' manufacturing jobs (for those of us who were working class for lack of a better term) were moving elsewhere - Keller stuck by even when there was a little bit of a lean time for them in the 80's. So yeah - I'm a bit thankful and fanboyish. Yet - I play Yamaha drums. Go figure.
 
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