Sunday, August 15, 2010

New arrival: 4x14 vintage wood snare with no markings

It sometimes takes a simple event to overcome overwhelming grief and start writing in this blog again.

The event is my acquisition of a snare drum type that I had long wanted, but somehow had eluded my best efforts to get one at a reasonable price. Thanks to AuctionSniper I managed to grab this baby for $81.00:

There are no markings, and it could very well be made by Walberg & Auge, Lyon & Healy, or any number of early 1900s drum companies. I am guessing the shell was made by Leedy because it appears to be walnut and U.G. Leedy had a marked preference for walnut and maple as drum shell tone woods. Leedy also provided shells to other manufacturers.

Regardless of who made it or the brand under which it was sold, the drum is the early single-tension, free floating design that was the norm in the early 20th century. The reinforcement rings inside the four inch deep shell are the same species of wood as the shell itself, and the hoops are maple.

I particularly like the throw-off design, which foreshadows Billy Gladstone's design:

The drum itself arrived in dire need of a cleaning. There were 90 plus years of dust, dirt and gunk covering all of the parts. I followed my process for cleaning and restoring, and in two days got the drum to a clean (but not pristine) and playable state. The throwoff works perfectly, the tension rods now move freely, and the snares provide a sound that only wound, cable snares from that era can provide. Here is a shot that shows the snares more clearly:

One risk of obtaining these old wood snare drums is too often modern heads will not fit them. I was fortunate that I was able to achieve a perfect fit to the shell and the hoops with modern Remo heads. I had a pair of heads laying around that I threw on it, but my long term goal is to have a set of calfskin heads made for it. In the interim, I am going to order a Remo Renaissance Ambassador snare side head, and a Remo Fiberskyn FA for the batter. This is a departure from my normal head selection, where I always use a thinner Diplomat weight on the snare side, and, when I am using Fiberskyn heads for batter sides I use a Diplomat weight also (when I am using normal coated heads, I usually go with Ambassador weight.) The reason I am planning to use heavier heads on this snare drum is it is extremely lively. That is partly due to the shallow depth, but I am pretty sure the old growth woods used back when it was made is a factor as well. The wood on both the shell and hoops are extremely heavy and dense compared to the same shells from the same species today. All of the old growth wood is gone.

The drum is surprisingly snappy sounding considering the cable snares and the single tension system. One thing is certain: this drum will get played. It sounds too good to spend its remaining days in a display case.


James said...

so why is the bottom head larger, again?

Mike Tarrani said...

It's not the head, it's the hoop. Notice how much taller it is? Before U.G. Leedy 'invented' the snare drum stand, drummers would actually place the drum on a chair. That bottom hoop creates a chamber of sorts that allows the snares to resonate. I tried it out and it works.

Ralph said...

Drum looks great. I recently got a snare drum of a similar era. Posted at DrumForum. Birdseye Maple veneer. Very simple snare tightening system (no throwoff). Original snares were replaced with some metal wires by a previous owner. Top calf head cleaned up nicely.

Michael said...


Is there any descriptive term used to describe the vintage style of the top receiving claws?

I have similar ones on a single tensioned bass drum I recently aquired _ with one missing and hoping to find a replacement _ but its rather difficult to search if you don't have the proper terminology.

I've only recently discovered your most excellent blog, and will express my admiration and gratitude for it _ as I never fail to learn some interesting tidbits of drum history, technique, or new product _ I find it extremely helpful and informative _ and have been recommending it to all of my drum buddies.

So Thanks for sharing it and ...
My Very Best Regards
Michael Jensen

MM said...

I just bought a very similar drum with the same hardware, except my strainer has the Leedy imprint on it. I would say based on my drum it is a Leedy. My snare is a inch shorter and both wooden rims are the same size...otherwise identical.

Fflamman said...

I have a similar drum 15x4 maple with identical tension rods and strainer. it had no snares when I got so I put gut snares and a fiberskin head on it. It's very responsive for the size. it also has a loop to attach a drum sling (probably used as a marching drum considering the size) but also a female threaded plate probably used for some type of mounting. It's a fun drum with a unique sound, in my arsenal and gets played occasionally.

Unknown said...

just came here and haven't read much yet but i arrived at this article after doing a search for vintage throw-offs. i have a metal snare with the same type of strainer and am interested in learning more about it.