Thursday, October 27, 2011

2-Ply Drum Shells -- When Did They Begin?

Martin Johncox of Boise, Idaho writes:

I am an avid drummer and would like to settle a disagreement. I think people were playing plywood-construction drums soon after the technology was developed in the 1850s, but some of my colleagues say Gretsch invented ply construction in the 1920s and before then, drums were solid shell or steambent.

I have looked online but there really isn’t much discussion about this kind of thing. Can you please clarify?

So, readers, any thoughts? Please email me at

Hint: I have two drums by Wm. S. Tompkins (ca. 1860) and they are definitely 2-ply cross-grain laminate shells.


  1. HI Ellis,

    Just reading the blog and saw the question on 2-ply shells. I have a 27.5”x 13” 2-ply walnut shell bass drum that some of my in-the-know friends agree on being late 1850’s…..Crude iron rope- hooks and all……

    Brian Hill

  2. Ancient people used ply construction in their shields. This is evident in 1st century AD Roman shields found intact as well as 1st Century BC shields manufactured by the celts. Two examples do not a thriving drum industry make, but it's an insight into how little we know about the extent of the use of these techniques in other eras.

    -An ancient people and drumming enthusiast.


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