Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Sad State of Stone

By the late 1930s, George B. Stone & Son was all but done as a manufacturer. Long past their heyday of the early - mid 1920s, Stone & Son was now little more than a small time repair shop capable of assembling low end models built of parts sourced from other makers. The Stone Drum School would carry on for years to come as George Lawrence Stone had become quite successful as a teacher and author, but the drum production side of the family business had sunk to a very low point. And representing that unfortunate era is the drum pictured here which was recently offered on ebay by a seller in North Carolina.

The most striking thing about this instrument is just how basic it is from top to bottom. The wooden shell and hoops are simple in construction and may or may not have actually been produced by Stone in house. (This is a topic which was discussed at further length in an earlier post.) The snare strainer is of the rudimentary, old fashioned variety and is not a capable of easily engaging or disengaging the snares from the bottom head.

The tensioning hardware is also quite old school. Simple thumbrods connect through single point, stamped metal claws to threaded claws on the opposite hoop and tune both heads simultaneously. This is the definition of single tensioning which does not provide for the individual tuning of each head. Separate tensioning, where each head can be tightened independently, had been common on higher end models for several decades by this time.

The drum has no butt plate, only a simple fiber snare butt which is held in place against the bottom hoop by the snares themselves. This may have been commonplace in the early 1900s and even into the 1920s for some models by some makers, but by the late 1930s when this drum was put together, using a true butt plate was more typical.

Everything about this drum points to it being an inexpensive assembly project dating from extremely late in Stone's existence. So far from it's prime had Stone's workshop descended by this point, they had apparently even run out of maker's labels to apply to the inside of drum shells. So it had come to this. Someone evidently sat down at a typewriter and pecked out the name and address "GEO. B. STONE & SON, Inc. / 61 Hanover St. / Boston, Mass" on a blank adhesive label, almost succeeding at keeping the lettering inside of the colored margins. This is the miserably poor level of attention to detail to which Stone had sunk in the end.

Late George B. Stone & Son Single Tension Field Drum
Late George B. Stone & Son Single Tension Field Drum Label
The quality level of Stone drums had certainly tumbled a long way, but it is all part of the story of how Boston's largest drum builder rose and fell over an arc of nearly fifty years. It is a shame however that drums such as this could easily give the impression that Stone & Son wasn't at one point a maker of carefully crafted, top of the line instruments capable of stacking up favorably with those from any other maker in the world.

Late George B. Stone & Son Single Tension Field DrumLate George B. Stone & Son Single Tension Field Drum

And as always, if you have an instrument made by Geo. B. Stone & Son, I'd love to hear from you. Drop me a note at

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Stone Master-Model Restoration - Completion

Restoration projects always take some time to complete. In a test of patience, this one took more than two years to come back together. But the end result is a beautiful George B. Stone & Son Master-Model drum.

The drum dates from late 1924 or early 1925 based on its four digit Stone serial number. And at age 86, there were a lot of issues with this drum when it arrived in the summer of 2011. The original finish had been removed from the wooden shell and hoops, and a shoddy coat of goop had been applied in its place. The metal parts were in no better shape. There were several missing claws and nuts, though this isn't too unusual when these drums surface. But the remaining hardware had been poorly replated over the existing original nickel plating, most of which was beginning to flake away as rust was starting to take its toll. So the decision was made in the Spring of 2012 to ship this one off to a couple of experts to have them work their magic.

The maple shell and hoops went to Will Tillman of Drummers Dream in Stewartstown, Pennsylvania. Will is a Cabinetmaker who specializes in the restoration and reproduction of period American furniture and he builds drums as a side business. His experience as a woodworker and his knowledge of period finishes and application techniques makes him uniquely qualified to handle a project such as this one. Will was able to remove the unoriginal wood finishes and then apply several coats of natural shellac bringing the drum as close as possible to its original appearance.

The metal hardware went to Italian master craftsman Adrian Kirchler. AK's handmade metal shells, formed in the tradition of the early 20th century drum makers, are setting a new industry standard and have been featured on special edition models from Ludwig and Craviotto as well as Adrian's own custom made drums. His work as a craftsman is of the highest caliber and, even as his custom drum business has made it difficult to take on restoration projects, he was willing to tackle this project. Aside from stripping and replating all of the original hardware, Adrian was able to make several reproduction claws and nuts to help complete this drum. He was also able to re-blacken the background on the Stone Master-Model badge so that the raised lettering could once again be legible.

Master-Model Badge, Before and After RestorationReproduction Master-Model Claws and Nuts

Master-Model Hardware - Before RestorationMaster-Model Hardware - After Restoration

Now that the drum is reassembled, it is a truly striking example of a blond Stone & Son Master-Model. The before and after pictures tell the story best.

Do you have a Geo. B. Stone & Son Master-Model? I'd love to hear from you! Send Lee an email at