Ultimate Slingerland Solid Maple Snare, Part 1 of 2

Converting a late 1950's Slingerland solid maple snare drum, one of the best snare drums of all time, into a modern player's drum.


Snares in 1959 Slingerland catalog, courtesy of vintagedrumguide.com
Snares in 1959 Slingerland catalog,
courtesy of vintagedrumguide.com
This is part one of a two-part story about a legendary drum, the Slingerland solid (1-ply) maple snare.  Branded under a few different names over the years--Radio King, Gene Krupa, and Artist--Slingerland built and sold versions of this drum from 1934-1981.  Slingerland solid maple snares in good condition currently sell for around $600 and up, higher than 3-ply maple-poplar-maple Slingerland snares which also have a loyal following.

Neil Peart played and recorded "Ol' Faithful," a Slingerland 3-ply snare, until 1993, and I always loved the voice of Rush's backbeat.  After owning a Slingerland 6-lug Student 3-ply snare, I decided to search for a vintage 8-lug 3-ply or 1-ply drum and upgrade it to a modern, reliable drum while preserving its legendary tone.  In my mind, this would create the player's ultimate Slingerland wood snare drum.

Recently, Lee County Music listed a 1950's solid maple shell with a black diamond pearl wrap for a reasonable price.  With the BDP wrap matching my new Stone Custom Drum gigging kit, this shell appeared to be the perfect foundation for my new build!

This drum's black and brass script "S" Chicago badge dates it between 1956 and 1959.  More evidence placing the shell in this era--it is drilled for the Super "clamshell' strainer and butt plate, which Slingerland discontinued in 1962 when it introduced the Zoomatic.  It also has three smaller holes for the internal dual muffler, which I don't plan to install.

The 1959 catalog lists the Super strainer-equipped 5.5" x 14" solid maple snare in "choice of pearl finish" as the model No. 153.  It sold for a whopping $87, or $875 in 2022 dollars.

Complete clamshell strainers and butts are a rare find--the levers are nearly always broken or missing.  Even if they were available, I'm not sure a 60-year-old strainer is a reliable solution for a player's drum.  The good news is that in 1972, Slingerland introduced a sturdy strainer with a more reliable AND more sensitive design--the TDR.

So that's the core of my plan for the player's ultimate Slingerland wood snare drum--mating a late 1950's 1-ply solid maple shell with a 1970's TDR strainer and butt plate set!

Side note:  While Slingerland did build wood snares equipped with the TDR strainer during the 1970s--branded as Buddy Rich and Louis Bellson models--I believe most if not all of these drums came from the factory with 5-ply shells.  I have never been a fan of Slingerland's thicker 5-ply shells, even on snare drums.

I found a TDR strainer and butt plate on separate eBay listings.  Unfortunately, I had to shell out nearly $200 to win the bids, but they arrived in better condition than I expected.  Pearl's S-025 snare wires, designed for Pearl's free-floating snares, fit TDR's extended snare setup perfectly, so I picked up a set of those as well for $15.  Puresound's PF1416 snare wires for free-floating snares appear to be the same overall length as Pearl's S-025 and may work as well, but they will set you back $45.  I use the S-025 with my 1979 Slingerland COB TDR snare, so I know that they work well.

My new Slingerland solid maple shell arrived this week, and it's a beauty.  The edges are excellent and there is nearly zero separation between the reinforcing rings and the shell.  The black diamond pearl wrap looks new--in fact, if it weren't for the lighter-colored rings on the portions of the wrap that spent their lives under mounted heads, you might wonder if this shell was re-wrapped recently.  Several lug-to-lug measurements across the shell confirm that it is within 1/16" of being perfectly round.  The only potential issue I see:  The snare beds are slightly out of alignment with the holes for the strainer and butt plate.  For some reason this is not uncommon with these shells, but it might up the difficulty in aligning the TDR gates.

Very impressive for a 63+ year-old wood shell.  More to come about the build in part 2 of this post...stay tuned!

1950s Slingerland solid maple snare shell, front view
1950s Slingerland solid maple snare shell, oblique view

--Darin

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