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Chrome over Brass Ludwig Supraphonic or Ludalloy Shell?

The question of whether or not a drum has a brass shell is a very popular in the drumming community. This article should help you get that answer.

Let's start by saying most popular drum manufacturers prior to 1960 were using brass for their shells. I say "Most" not all! I did have a 60's Sonor that was steel, a 60's Ajax that was steel etc..

So is my drum shell brass? Well, you can do some tests to make that determination. Firstly and the most common method is the Magnet Test.

To do this correctly you will need a low grade magnet. For me a skinny flat refrigerator magnet works best. If it sticks or gives some noticeable resistance then your drum is NOT brass, it is steel. You can do this test on the hoops, lugs and strainer as well to see if they are brass or steel.

If it does not stick then it can be brass, aluminum, or some metal combination that Ludwig used called Ludalloy.

Let's discuss Ludwig a little bit since that is the most asked question about the Ludwig Supraphonic. Is my Supra brass? Here is a little chart to answer some general rules when looking at a supra

Shell Brass Shell Ludalloy
Tone Control Round Knob (small) Baseball Bat
Badge Keystone no serial number Keystone, Blue Olive
Snare Beds Flange Crimped Inward Crimped different
Chrome No pits at all Pits on the shell

I know, I know, you have a (fill in the blank) drum that is brass, but... We all know there are anomalies and situations that do not apply to the general rules of vintage drums! Let's get past that.

It is also well documented that if you have a Supra with a cut down Blue and Olive badge that the drum is more then likely brass.

So I did mention other tests to definitively make that determination, because there are 70's brass Supras and the rumor is that they were special order or endorser drums. They can also be chromed shells that were ordered instead of the Black Beauty shell, which was brass.

This test called the Cutting Test will require a steady hand and a little more work. You will need to take off the head and one lug and look at the hole that the lug sits in. Now, take a very sharp knife and or metal type cutting tool and very, very carefully scrape the metal on the inside of the hole. I say scrape, but more like take a fine cutting sample. You will know right away if you see brass.

I have never done this before and only can mention what I have heard, so this would be a last resort.

Another test is the Weight Test. The brass shell Supras weigh more then the Ludalloy version. How much I do not know for sure, but I have seen and heard the brass drums are around 8-9 lbs or so and the Ludalloy versions are 5-6 lbs or so.

Other then that in some cases Ludwig Stamped a " B" in some shells and a " BR ", I have never seen the stamp and have heard of it on the inside of the shell, by the strainer and just recently someone emailed me because they had a " B " stamped above the tone control.

So with all of that said the reason the brass drums are so popular and sought after is because they are worth more money. Since the vintage drum market goes up and down, I have seen some sell as low as $600 and at one time they usually went for about $1000.

I just want to finish with a re-iteration of the statement that there are drum anomalies in the vintage community that do not fit the criteria above that could be brass. This is not an exact science!


The " B " stamp behind the tone control
Photo Courtesy: Lenny Sanchez from Kyle Tx    




This web site is not affiliated with the Ludwig Drum Company. It is an informational web site for the documentation of the Supraphonic Snare Drum. We have a large collection of literature, articles and photos of this model snare drum. The Supra Snare Drum history section will document the drum from the early chrome over brass (COB) to the Ludalloy version and the differences between the two snare drums. Supra, Supraphonic,Brass Supra,Brass Supraphonic Snare Drums

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