Ludwig Top Hat and Cane Restoration Set

donnbennett

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I've been working on restoring a 1941 Ludwig Top Hat and Cane "Swing Sensation" set for the last couple of years. Good things take time. This is definitely a good thing and DEFINITELY taking some time! Some of you may have seen some of y posts lookin for some of the missing pieces.
Very few were ever made and only about 15 of these sets are known to still exist today. By some strange twist of fate 6 of these sets have come my way. I sold one to U2 producer Daniel Lanois, one to Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones and one to actor Johnny Depp. I still own 3 of these sets. This set includes a 26" bass, 11, 13 and 16" toms and a 7x14 snare drum. The set actually began as 2 sets. I got the bass and snare from one party and the toms from another. Fortunately they all match perfectly. The toms came from the daughter of a mid-western drummer named Henry "Hank" Andrew Leja who had recently passed away. I purchased them from her about a year ago. Initially she was only able to locate the 13 and 16" toms. I was thrilled when she contacted me earlier this summer and informed me she had found the missing 11" tom. The bass and snare came from a store also in the mid-west that had had them in stock for many years.
Some of you may have seen this set (still in progress), still missing the 11" tom and the bass drum rail mount, at the Chicago show last May.
Although all of the drums were in extremely nice condition for thier age, each of them had had some sort of modification that needed to be restored to it's original condition. All the drums needed a good cleaning and polishing. I sent the set to drum restoration artist Jack Lawton. He masterfully filled extra holes and buffed and polished the shells and hardware. It took a long time but he did an amazing job. You cab see in the photos how he finished the repaired holes with matching pieces of vintage wrap and in some cases artfully re-created the drilled through Top Hat pattern by hand. I just received the missing 11" tom and sent it to Matt Sinyard of the Bonzo Drum Company to be restored.
You can also see in the original photo from the 1940s the hoops on the 11 and 16 toms are wood and the 13" tom is metal. I had never seen a Top Hat set with wooden hoops. How or why this set ended up with a combination of wood and metal hoops is anyone's guess. I figure it was just yet another Ludwig anomaly. They were probably out of metal hoops the day they finished the set and so they used whatever was available at the time. I plan to put wood hoops on all of the toms so they match. I'm still hunting for a pair of era correct 13" wooden hoops and a set of nickel claws and rods. Anyone have some ?? You can also see in the photos taken in the 1970s some of the "modernizations" taht Jack Lawton so skillfully restored. I expect to have the 11" tom completed before too long. That will be the final piece in restoring this set to it's original magnificent condition. I will definitely post photos of the set once it's complete. Watch for updates and please let me know if you can help me with any of the parts I still need. The set will be for sale once it's complete. I don't know the price yet. I'm going to wait until it's complete before I even start thinking about that. Enjoy!!
Donn
 

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69OysterBlue

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Don:

Those are very special drums and I can only imagine the patience that is required to restore these properly.

The hole patches in the wrap are great.

Thanks for sharing the pictures. I look forward to seeing the finished project.
 

W&A Player

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Those are some special drums, Donn. They'll be in high demand when you offer them for sale. Two things came to mind when viewing the pictures:

1. Removal of bottom heads in the seventies took place with drummers playing all types of music..........yecccchhhhhhh.

2. That band leader should have considered taking on a less offensive stage name. Or maybe that was his stage name for porn movie sound tracks?
 

Bunnyman

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Top hat and cane kits do something to me- the initial reaction is that they were gaudy. But they fascinate me, as well. I think the rarity puts them well out of reach for me financially.

I wonder how many were produced originally and how many people who stripped the wrap are beating themselves with a sledge hammer?
 

wflkurt

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Very cool project! I absolutely love that old black and white photo! Seeing shots like that are so cool. When you got the toms and floor tom, were you able to find out where the original bass and snare drum went? Just curious as to what may have happened to them. Good luck with the rest of it.
 

Rich K.

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W&A Player said:
Those are some special drums, Donn. They'll be in high demand when you offer them for sale. Two things came to mind when viewing the pictures:



2. That band leader should have considered taking on a less offensive stage name. Or maybe that was his stage name for porn movie sound tracks?
Ted Fucmann! Didn't notice that before.
 

W&A Player

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Rich K. said:
Those are some special drums, Donn. They'll be in high demand when you offer them for sale. Two things came to mind when viewing the pictures:



2. That band leader should have considered taking on a less offensive stage name. Or maybe that was his stage name for porn movie sound tracks?
Ted Fucmann! Didn't notice that before.
"We call the act........The Aristocrats"! Extra points for knowing the joke that leads to this punchline.
 

donnbennett

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Thanx!! I'll keep you posted as things progress. Having that old photo from the guy and his set in their glory really has me inspired get them back like new. When I send his daughter a photo of the finished set I think it will really make her happy.
 

curotto

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Nice job Donn!
Amazing that you have come in contact with so many of those drums/drumsets.

Mike Curotto
 

donnbennett

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curotto said:
Nice job Donn!
Amazing that you have come in contact with so many of those drums/drumsets.

Mike Curotto
It amazes me too!! I honestly have never really pursued finding them. They seem to find me. Go figure!!
 

donnbennett

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Yep. That's the original owner, Hank Leja back in the early 40s. That's also him in the lower photo taken in the 70s. He died recently and I got the drums from his daughter.
 

Troyh

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Donn, thanks for bringing back another wonderful set, full of history and mojo! Please keep us informed and I would love to hear about the daughter's reaction when she sees the completed set.
 

marko52

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My son & I were in Donn's store one time, several years ago; I glanced into his office & saw a pile of th&c drums in there--looked like 2 sets, at least. I was used to seeing great, old drums at Donn's, but this was a real surprise....marko
 


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