The Winthrop University percussion studio recently toured Ludwig Industries in Monroe, NC. I remember touring Ludwig when they were located on N. Damen Avenue in Chicago while attending graduate school at Northwestern University in 1976. In the early 1980s the entire facility was moved to North Carolina. Many of those old machines I saw in action at the Damen Avenue facility are still in use today. “We had some incredible engineers designing machines,” said plant manager Jim Kinsey. “When we moved to Monroe, we figured ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ so we’ve just kept using those great old machines.”

Some little-known facts I learned on this tour:

Since there is such limited demand for 20″ fiberglass timpani, they don’t use a mold for the 20″ drums. If you order a complete five-drum set of fiberglass timpani, the 20″ will be made of aluminum and painted the same copper color. The original color of the fiberglass is whitish grey, and the original color of the aluminum is a dull silver.

Rack of timpani bowls ready for drilling

Drilling timpani bowl for the tuning gauge assembly

It takes two hours of sanding on a specially-designed machine to bring a copper timpani kettle to the mirror-like finish we are accustomed to.

Completed bowls awaiting assembly

The artisan working on the Black Beauty snare drum pictured below told me this drum was part of Ludwig’s 100th anniversary series. It will be shipped off for special engraving to commemorate the anniversay.

Drilling holes for the snare strainer on a Black Beauty snare drum

Wrapped shells above, vistalite below

Jason Bonham has a new signature vistalite drumset out now. It’s a limited edition of 100 drumsets, and Jason will personally autograph the bass drum heads (did you know Ludwig still makes their own heads?). Some of the shells are pictured below.

Vistalite shells for Jason Bonham’s signature series

Ludwig is making an impressive line of solid shell concert snare drums with the old-style reinforcement rings. They look and sound great! They also just received approval for a new line of oak shell drums and are excited about kicking off production.

Anniversary series concert snare drums

Winthrop students enjoy the display room

We had a fantastic time with the folks at Ludwig. Jim Kinsey was a gracious host and we are most appreciative of his willingness to share his and his employee’s time in showing us around. Great thanks also go to Artie Lieberman for his invaluable help!


One Response to “Winthrop Students Tour Ludwig Industries”

  1. Andrew Worthy February 1, 2010 at 10:44 am #

    That was a wonderful trip! I didn’t know that fact about the 20″ timpani. Very interesting!