Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Nokes & Nicolai Separate Tension Orchestra Drum

Pictured here is an exceptional example of a Nokes & Nicolai Separate Tension Orchestra Drum along with the corresponding catalog page from "The American Drummer No. 6", ca. 1918.

Lee's Nokes & Nicolai Separate Tension Orchestra Drum

Nokes & Nicolai American Drummer No. 6, ca. 1918

Nokes & Nicolai's wooden shells were typically single-ply maple but were also available in rosewood, mahogany, and bird's-eye maple (seen here) at an additional cost. This shell measures 3" x 14" and utilizes three solid maple re-inforcing rings inside. The seam in each re-inforcing ring is placed equidistant from the other two to give the shell added stability. The hoops are formed from single-ply maple with the Nokes & Nicolai black enameled brass badge tacked onto the top hoop. The shell's air vent is lined with its factory original rosewood grommet.

Nokes & Nicolai 3 x 14 Shell with Re-inforcing Rings Bird's-eye Maple Shell

Nokes & Nicolai Separate Tension Rods Disassembled
(click to enlarge)    
Nokes & Nicolai's separate tension drums employed a unique tensioning method allowing each head to be tuned independently by adjusting the tension rods with a wrench near the center posts. Stamped metal hooks attach over the wooden rims and house swivel nuts into which the tension rods feed. The posts are formed from milled brass and allow the rods to turn freely. Tight fitting stamped metal caps cover the posts giving a more finished appearance while keeping the tension rods in place when not under tension. All of this drum's hardware is nickel plated and is fairly well preserved.
Nokes & Nicolai Separate Tension Lugs Complete
(click to enlarge)

Some early examples of the Combined Snare Strainer and Muffler (pictured below) used by Nokes & Nicolai had the words "PAT. APLD FOR" stamped into the outward facing plate used to clamp the snare wires into place. Later examples had no wording suggesting that no patent was ever granted.

The mechanism is a true snare throw-off capable of fully disengaging the snares from the bottom head or 'muffling' the sound of the drum. The strainer is attached to the bottom hoop with two small wood screws, one on each side of the semi-circular snare gate. This drum is outfitted with reproduction wire wound silk snares from Adrian Kirchler.

Nokes & Nicolai Snare Strainer
(click to enlarge)
Nokes & Nicolai Snare Strainer
Nokes & Nicolai Catalog No. 5

Do you have a Nokes & Nicolai snare drum? I want to hear from you! Send Lee an email at lee@vinson.net. And for more on the early 20th century drum makers of Boston, Massachusetts, please visit BostonDrumBuilders.com

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Nokes & Nicolai All Metal Drum

Nokes & Nicolai's American Drummer No. 6, published ca. 1918, describes the No-Nic All Metal Drum as follows:

    Our All Metal Drum is the wonder of the age because it has been constructed on a systematic basis. The drum that will outwit all others for its extreme sensitiveness, snap, clearness and brilliancy, and at the same time with an unlimited volume of drum tone (and not tinny).
     These drums are designed after a great many years' experience in all kinds of metal and now we can safely guarantee them to be the best ever and can assure you perfect satisfaction.
     The shell is of solid 1/8" aluminum, cast counter hoops, steel flesh hoops (heavily coppered to prevent rusting), 12 separate tension self aligning rods, 2 Rogers' or No-Nic transparent heads, 12 waterproof (or gut) snares, snare strainer and muffler.

The No-Nic All Metal Drum was listed as being available in four sizes ranging from 3" x 14" to 6" x 14" but the smallest of those sizes appears to have been the most popular based on how frequently they appear today. Surviving examples in original condition are fairly uncommon.

Lee's Nokes & Nicolai All-Metal Drum ca. late 1910s

Of the four examples in my personal collection, three appear to have been altered in some way. Each of the drums featured here differ slightly from the catalog artwork in THE AMERICAN DRUMMER (ca. 1918), Nokes & Nicolai's last known full product catalog. (There is no metal drum listed in Catalog 5, circa 1914.) So changes must have been made to the design of the drum over the ten or so years during which it was manufactured including the move to diecast counterhoops and an updated snare throw-off.

Nokes & Nicolai All Metal Snare Drum

Nokes & Nicolai All Metal Drums are easily recognizable by their thick aluminum shells, star shaped vent hole configuration, and logo stamped shell and hoops. The drums are tuned by way of twelve separate tension lugs which are adjusted at the side of the drum using a wrench. The aluminum shells are crudely riveted together at a seam using a narrow overlapping panel, also made of aluminum.

Air Vent Holes

Shell Seam (inside view)

Shell Seam (outside view)

Do you have a Nokes & Nicolai snare drum? I want to hear from you! Send me an email at lee@vinson.net.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Lyon & Healy / Ditson Connection

A month or two back I brought in an Oliver Ditson drum which cleaned up well. (See the first set of pics below.) Then, a few weeks later a nearly identical drum shows up on ebay only it has a York badge and a Lyon & Healy label!!!! (See the second set of pics below.) The similarities between the two drums are uncanny. It just goes to show how much jobbing / relabeling was going on in the early 1900s when you could buy literally the same instrument from at least three different companies who were clearly sourcing from the same builder - whoever that was!

Both drums match up well the 1910 Ditson catalog. (See the third picture below.) The rosewood veneered hoops on my Ditson are very Haynes-esque so it is possible they were made in house in Boston by Ditson, but otherwise, neither drum strongly resembles those from any of the other Boston builders of the era. My suspicion is that Lyon & Healy may have been responsible for both of these instruments. Ditson had helped to establish P.J. Healy and George W. Lyon in Chicago in 1864 so it's completely possible, if not altogether likely that some sort of working business relationship persisted over the years. After all, the label in my drum reads "Specially Made for Oliver Ditson Company", not by Oliver Ditson.