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  • Writer's picturePatrick Olguin

Restoring a vintage 70's Ludwig Black Beauty Snare Drum

Updated: Apr 11, 2023

PHOTO: 1977 Ludwig Black Beauty before restoration (See post restoration pic at the end of the blog).

Any drummer knows the emotions that the words 'black beauty' can stir up. Especially a vintage specimen from the 70's.

This current specimen is in pretty bad shape. Aside from the obvious spray painted butchery, it was also out-of-round. Nothing that a few weeks and a couple of clamps couldn't fix. It was also missing the throw-off, butt plate and the snares, so I threw on a Ludwig millennial strainer and some Pure sound snares, tuned it up, and BAM! I will be searching for some original vintage Ludwig hoops to further dial-in the tone, but in the mean-time, the current hoops will have to suffice.

The next step will be polishing up the body, lugs and the top hoop. I'm currently consulting with a auto body expert on the best approach to stripping the beautiful spray paint finish to reveal the butt-ugly black nickel finish that's hiding beneath. This will be the most interesting part, as I don't want to strip the nickel in the process. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion...

Restoring a vintage 70's Ludwig Black Beauty Snare Drum

(UPDATED 4/10/23)

So, it's been a while, but I managed to finish the restoration. The final steps for the restoration were:

- Removed caulk and other gunk from the inside bearing edge

- Stripped paint and polished shell

- Stripped paint and polished Imperial lugs

- Stripped paint and polished top hoop

- Installed vintage muffler

- Installed badge and grommet

- Replaced the YAMAHA reso hoop with a vintage Ludwig Twin-Channel die-cast hoop

- Changed batter head to a Remo Controlled Sound

- Changed reso head to a Hazy Ambassador Snare Side

PHOTO: Dried-up caulk (and other nasty stuff) that was in the internal bearing edge.

The caulk that was inside the bearing edges weighed about 2lbs, and it took forever to scrape out of the edge channel without damaging the shell. You can still see it in the picture below, which was taken before it was scraped out. I'm expecting the removal to really open up the sound.

PHOTO: Shell, halfway through the paint removal process.

I tried numerous methods for stripping the paint off of the shell and chrome parts. The thing that worked best (by far) was good ol' paint thinner, and it didn't hurt the chrome whatsoever. At one point, I had tried a Dremel wire brush, but was going through them at an alarming pace, they also took a lot of chrome off of the lugs, but it showed how surprisingly deep the chrome layer is on Imperial lugs. It must be 1/8" thick!!! I did the final polishing of the shell and all chrome parts with aluminum foil and water.

PHOTO: One of the Imperial lugs before paint removal.

I found a vintage muffler on It fit nicely and looks great. It looks like there are still a couple of holes on the other side of the shell that could have also been host to another muffler at some point. I just left them there, as they are not that noticeable.

PHOTO: Batter side hoop after paint removal and polishing.

I also found a pointy Ludwig B/O badge that aligns with the era of the drum. The serial number is a bit earlier than 1977 (the earliest pointy badge black beauties), but it's not too far off, and it looks better than a missing badge. The grommet was a breeze to install. I used the flat-head bolt method to flare the interior side and smooshed it against the shell with a hex bolt.

I ended up finding a set of vintage Ludwig Twin-Channel hoops on I only used the snare-side hoop, as the stock batter hoop turned out excellent after being restored. The YAMAHA Power Hoop, that was on the drum when I got it, just had to go.

PHOTO: Completed drum. Post restoration

It took about 3 long days to finish this 2nd part of the restoration, but I'm really happy with the final results. The shell came out far better than expected, but I had expected a disaster underneath the spray paint. Overall, I would give this a 6 out of 10 for beauty, which is better than the 2 out of 10 that it started at. I could improve it to a 9.5 out of 10, but only with re-plating the shell and re-chroming the Imperial lugs. I would rather not take it to this level as I wanted to keep it as original as possible, 'war wounds' and all. Plus, shiny-and-new would always make me feel uncomfortable about leaving new scratches and blemishes while playing the drum in the future.

This drum is ready to be back in rotation for future sessions at Velvet Tone. I guess you're probably wondering how it sounds after the restoration, but I'd like to spend some session time with it before I comment on sonic improvements. So, stay tuned for the next update to find out!

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