Like a lot of drummers, I have a fondness for those old vintage drums. There's something rewarding about playing on a finely made/restored instrument from the past.

For me this has taken the form of a restoration project on a set of 1965 Ludwigs. This represents something more than an old set of drums for me. I was 10 years old in 1965, the Beatles were happening and, like many young aspiring drummers at that time, I dreamed of getting a set of Ludwigs. Instead, my first kit came from the local Western Auto store with the brand name TrueTone on it.

A couple years later I got my first real pro kit - Rogers Holiday drums (the Dave Clark Londoner kit) in Black Diamond Pearl finish with the very cool Swiv-O-Matic hardware. Man.....I wish I still had THAT kit!

The Ludwig kit I've restored consists of a 14X22 Bass Drum, 13X9 Mounted Tom, and a 16X16 Floor Tom. The finish is Black Diamond Pearl.

I got the drums from the original owner. They were pretty dirty and still had the original Ludwig Weather Master heads on them. Although those heads were toast, they were still pretty cool to see.

The Restoration Process (yes, I was a bit fanatical) :

  • I started by taking each drum completely apart right down to the shell. 
  • Every mounting screw was soaked in mineral spirits then cleaned with a tooth brush.
  • Everything that is chrome (lugs, t-rods, mounting brackets, BD legs and FT legs) was cleaned with NEVR-DULL. All the grooves were cleaned with a tooth brush.
  • Once cleaned, each piece was again cleaned and polished using Maguire's Cleaner and Polishing Wax.
  • The inside of the shell was carefully wiped clean with a slightly damp, clean cloth.
  • The outside of the shell (finish) was cleaned with Maguire's. I gave each drum two coats.
  • The drums were then reassembled using Vaseline at every fitting (including the screws that hold lugs and mounts to the drum).
  • I install new Evans heads ( G1 coated for batter and Resonant Black for bottoms on toms, EQ System 3 on BD).
  • I replaced the original Tom, BD Leg, FT Leg, and Cymbal brackets with new Ludwig P1216 parts. They retro fit into the existing mounting holes with no modification and offer a better design/function over the original, thumb screw tightened against the rod method. I cleaned all of the original fittings (7 in total) and have them safely stored should I ever feel the need to return the kit to 100% original state.
  • I also cleaned and removed the original Tom Mount arm system from the rail mount and stored it. I left the rail itself on the BD. I was unable to position the tom where I wanted it on the rail so I opted to mount it from a stand using an LR256STH Elite Single Tom Add-On Holder W/9.5mm L-Arm/Ball.

This kit was featured in the April/May/June 2005 issue of Classic Drummer Magazine.

Click here to see a few pictures of the completed restoration.

In addition to the '65 Ludwigs I restored, I recently upgraded the 1st snare drum I ever bought (with money I saved from my paper route) in order to make it playable. It's an old Leedy Reliance from the late 20's - early 30's.

I didn't want to permanently modify the drum in any way. However, I wanted to replace the original throw off with a more modern one. This was accomplished by making an adapter plate out of Plexiglas in order to mount a new Pearl throw off (the one they put on their piccolo snares). I changed out the original single-flanged hoops and clips with new 2.3mm triple-flanged hoops. All of the original parts have been carefully stored away in case I ever want to make the drum 100% original again.

Here are some pictures of the updated Leedy Reliance.


The most recent addition to my vintage drums collection (I'm not really a collector) is a 1955 WFL Snare Drum.

This drum came to me in great condition. In fact, I doubt it had ever been taken apart. I'm not sure what model it is. Some have suggested that it is a Pioneer, but when checking Harry Cangany's book "The Great American Drums and the Companies That Made Them, 1920-1969" I didn't see any reference to a Pioneer model made by WFL. It's 5.5x14, six lugs, 3-ply (Mahogany/Poplar/Mahogany).

The drum didn't need much work at all. I had the bearing edges checked by my drum tech buddy and all that was needed was to have to top edge barely "kissed" to true it up. The bottom edge and snare beds were perfect.

There were a few scuffs and dings in the shell (nothing serious). To address those I used Howards Restore-A-Finish (Mahogany) followed by Howards Feed-N-Wax. All of the hardware (lugs, hoops, strainer, butt plate) are nickel plated. To clean them up I used Mothers Mag & Aluminum Polish.

Here are some pictures of the 1955 WFL.

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