BLACK VISTALITE SET-UP SESSION

After finally acquiring an 8-inch concert tom for my Ludwig Black Vistalite kit, I knew it was time to set the whole collection up and see how it looked.  But because I am old and decrepit (and have a steady job), this process took quite a bit of time.  I'm talking like a month and a half.  I had to wait for the drum to come from Florida, clean it up, get a new drum head, find another clip-style tom stand, move other drums out of the way, haul all the other Luddies downstairs and dust 'em off, etc.  Hey, arthritis slows me down, dude.  And I have to work five days a week...like...every week.  So I don't have a lot of free time to spare.

Anyway, after I got everything in order I set up the kit indoors for tuning and/or playing.  You know, I tinkered around on it a bit and took some preliminary photos.  This is how it was set up:


Because my most favoritest drummer in the whole world is Neil Peart, of course I employed what I call his "spiral staircase" arrangement where the toms start small on the left above the hi-hat and circle down across the bass drum and down to the floor toms on the right, increasing in size as they descend.  Here I now have 8-10-12 (single-headed) concert toms, 12 and 13, a 15-inch mounted low like a floor tom, a 16-inch floor on the left and an 18 on the right.  (The snare is an unbranded MIJ white sparkle and does not enter into this discussion.)


So because I know everyone on the planet is just so un-freaking-believably interested in the miscellaneous mounting methods of the misplacedmtnman, this weekend I drug the whole kit outdoors where I had more room to maneuver around and photographed my collection in some additional configurations to see which set-up looks the best.  I'm sure all of you are eager to register your opinions in the comments section below.  Yeah.  That is definitely going to happen.

Ahem.  To continue, all of these are "spiral staircase" configurations with slight variations.  For instance, the one above is a "3-2-3" arrangement with three toms up high, two on the bass drum and three down on the floor.  Here are some others:

CONFIGURATION NUMBER TWO: THE "4-2-2" ARRANGEMENT


Here I have shifted the toms upwards and to the left.  The 15-inch is now up on the bass drum with the 13, the 12 is above the hi-hat with the 8-10-12 concerts, and the 16 and 18 remain on the floor (because there's not much else you can do with those big boys.)


I prefer this set-up to the previous, because now my toms are all in line from left to right and I don't have to "stagger" the three on the floor, but that jump in size from the 13 to the 15 on the kick drum just doesn't appeal to me visually.  I don't hate it, but I don't love it.  If it were a 14-inch, or if this were a double-bass kit it would look better slightly off to the right but the 15 just looks a little bloated sitting right up front on a single kick.  Let's try something else.

CONFIGURATION NUMBER THREE: THE "3-3-2" ARRANGEMENT


Okay, now I have shifted the toms back to the right.  The three concerts are up high and the 12 and 13 are back on the bass drum, but the 15 I have mounted on a snare stand at mid-level instead of down low.  Now the kit looks a little more balanced and is still in line.  Here's a shot from behind:


Eh.  I don't know.  The 15 still looks a little odd.  Maybe I'll take it out of the mix altogether.  Unless I find a 14-inch double-headed tom.  And a 6-inch concert.  In any case, it's time to wrap up this silly set-up session.  It's getting late and I'm losing the light.

CONFIGURATION NUMBER FOUR: THE "HUGIS-BIG-D" ARRANGEMENT


This is what I have now at the end of the day, a "Hurry Up and Get-'em InSide Because It's Gettin' Dark" arrangement.  And I'm too tired to mess with 'em any more tonight.....

SALVAGING SOME STEWARTS

This post will cover a pair of Stewart snare drums that I rescued and restored.  The first is this red sparkle:


The chrome hardware was looking pretty rough on this one, but the red sparkle wrap was awesome, almost an "electric" red.  The drum also had an interesting rattle because obviously something had come loose and was bouncing around on the inside.


And here is the answer.  The felt pads have come off of the Tone Control Assembly.  This is an easy fix with a little contact cement.


Here is the throw side, very much in need of a sound polishing, but with all the parts intact (except for the bottom tension rods).


And here is a look at the dirty old butt and the TC knob.  Again, all the parts are there, they have just badly deteriorated because someone probably left this drum in a storage shed out in their backyard or some other horrific environment very unfriendly to chrome hardware.  Now let's see what happens when the misplacedmtnman manipulates his magic.

The first thing I did was completely disassemble the drum.  Then I polished the shell.  Then I repaired and re-installed the Tone Control Assembly:


Next I clean and re-install the Strainer Assembly:


Then I scrubbed and polished the dirty old butt:


Then, of course, I polished the lugs and in this extreme case, replaced the rims and tension rods which were beyond help.  New heads and wires were put on and this simple project is complete.  The drum now looks and performs like brand new.




This next Stewart snare drum was more of a challenge.  As you can see here, what I started out with was basically a shell with one rusty rim and a worn-out head.  Not much to go on.



These three holes are where the Strainer Assembly should go.  This drum did not have a Tone Control Assembly, nor any holes where one could be mounted, but it did have two screws covering up these holes where the Butt Plate should go:


To make a long story short, here is what the drum looks like after I have tracked down all the necessary parts and brought the whole project back together again:


It now has a proper Strainer Assembly that fits the existing holes.  New top and bottom rims and heads have also been added.  And let's not forget the butt:


Here is a view from the underside which shows that despite missing most of its parts, this snare drum was still in excellent condition as far as the wood shell was concerned.  This silver model even has "re-rings"* whereas the red sparkle above did not.


Now I have two wonderful snare drums with vibrant, sparkly wraps rescued and returned to pristine, playable condition!  Can I get a woo-hoo!?


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*Short for "reinforcement rings," these are those two bands of  wood trim on the inside that help keep the thin shell in round and, as some claim, make the drum sound better.

SOME RECENT "PROBLEM PROJECTS"

Most drums I work on are fairly routine and can be restored without much fuss and bother. Every now and then, however, I come across a particularly perplexing and problematic project that requires a little more focus to channel mounting frustration into determination to get the job done. Here are a couple of recent examples:

I LIKE IT!  HEY, MICA!

Sometimes over-confidence can lead me into trouble. When I came across this old blue-sparkle Mica with a busted lug I thought, "Awesome! I'll snag this drum cheap because it's broken and surely I'll be able to replace that standard 'Slimline' lug with no problem!" It's like in the movies when the guy says, "Leave me alone! I know what I'm doing!" You immediately know something bad is going to happen to him very soon.

Sure enough, after all the parts were cleaned and I was putting the drum back together (using an extra lug I had found to match), another lug broke.  Then another.  Then another!  It seemed this poor old drum just had brittle bones.  I would have to conduct a search for more lugs, which proved to be a more difficult and time-consuming endeavor than I had counted on.


Another issue I discovered with this drum was peeling rims.  Yes, the chrome plating on the rims was actually flaking off like dead skin, revealing the raw metal underneath.  So the hoops would have to be replaced as well.  Needless to say, this project spent a lot of time on hold waiting for parts.


But of course in the end I finally managed to bring it all together and accomplish my goal of making this drum look and play like new again.

"DON'T MAKE A LYRA OUT OF ME!"

This red-sparkle Lyra snare drum has perhaps the absolute coolest badge ever, so there was no way I could pass it up.  Unfortunately, because I was so attracted by the badge I failed to notice the drum's butt which is an interesting and complicated mechanism that is also missing a major part, meaning it is completely non-functional and useless.  In the auction photo here you can see the snare wires are simply tied around the mechanism to hold them in place.  But just check out that BADGE!  That badge is the best!

There was also an unsightly sticker affixed right next to the throw lever, which may or may not be a major problem.  Can the sticker be easily removed?  Will extracting it damage the wrap?  Is there perhaps something worse hiding underneath such as a crack in the wrap or a hole in the shell?  These are always the risks I take when encountering things stuck on drums, which is why I usually try to extricate myself from such situations.

But of course in the end I finally managed to bring it all together and accomplish my goal of making this drum look and play like new again.  I said that once before, didn't I?



As shown here, I was able to remove the sticker without difficulty so that its former presence is now no longer even noticeable.  The shell is glittering-clean and vibrantly vermilion.  (That just means red and sparkly, dude.)

And here is a close-up of the butt mechanism with all its parts and operating as originally intended.  There is a sliding frame with a "pinch plate" that holds the wire strap, and the little thumb wheel adjusts the frame up or down to tighten or loosen the strap.  This was the part that was missing before, but after a bit of research I discovered what I needed to complete this project.

How I manage to proficiently piece-together these perplexing, problematic projects is private, people.  Just enjoy the photos and don't worry too much about it.

RED-SPARKLE 1966 KENT STUDENT SNARE

I decided to try something a little different this time and purchased this drum: a 1966 red-sparkle Kent "student model" snare with single-tension lugs and single-flange hoops.  Most of the drums I have bought and restored in the past were vintage Japanese while Kent drums were made in Kenmore, New York.  I've never worked on any Kent drums before so I thought I'd try this one out.


When I first saw this drum I immediately thought, "Hmmm.  I wonder if I could clean that up?"  The grayness of the hardware indicated that the metal was made of nickel and not chrome.  I've cleaned up plenty of chrome in my time but didn't have much experience with nickel.


Pretty basic throw-off mechanism here.  From what I understand (and have read on the internet), this was the weakest point in the Kent drum-building business as these strainers tended to be the first things to break.  The seller claimed the drum was in "very good" condition and didn't mention anything about the strainer not working so.......


In this close-up (above) I got a better view of the "single tension" lug system.  Each lug is simply a small bollard that secures a single tension rod.  Each tension rod has two clips: one that holds the top hoop and one the t-rod screws into that holds the bottom hoop, "squeezing" the drum together.


And here are two extra bollards with threaded tighteners that are not being used.  A little research revealed that these "student model" snare drums provided these mounts to hold a thin post for a cymbal.  That, to me, was both interesting and challenging.  I would definitely have to track down a rod to mount a cymbal as was originally intended.  That would be cool.


Here is the drum after I have given it a "misplacedmtnman make-over."  All of the metal hardware has been cleaned and polished so it shines again except for a few bad spots along the inner rim which had deteriorated too badly.  A little filth and oxidation I can remedy, but if the degradation gets to the point of rusting there's not much I can do except replace the whole thing.  Since I was not sure I could find vintage single-flange hoops on Ebay and the damage is on the inside of the rim where it doesn't really show that much, I decided to just let it be.  It is always better to retain original parts if at all possible than to replace with new.


And here is the drum fully functional and ready to play in the school band again, equipped with a handy little "side cymbal."

This was a fun, easy project that turned out well.  I would definitely purchase more Kent drums if they weren't so exorbitantly priced on Ebay, but apparently they are rare and desirable among collectors which results in much higher asking prices.  For what I paid for this one I could have bought a nice Ludwig or Slingerland, and the quality of this drum is not any better than a cheap Japanese-made snare.

RECENT PROJECTS FINALLY COMPLETED


Here, finally, is the "money shot" of the Majestic Fibre Gold Pearl kit.  I finished this project a while ago but never got around to photographing it properly out-of-doors so the chrome gleams and the patterned wrap displays at its best.  I'm still hoping I'll find a floor tom to match, but.....


This is the blue-sparkle U.S. Mercury kit complete and ready to play.  If I told you what I paid for those last four bass drum lugs you would think I was insane and foolish and indeed you would be right, but sometimes in order to complete a project you just have to throw money to the wind and break the budget.  In the end I couldn't get too upset about it; to reach my goal and conclude this challenge with the proper parts I had to succumb to the tyranny of the selfish, greedy drum-gutters and accept their fleecing.  This is what they do.  They dismember vintage drums and then sell them off piecemeal so they can overcharge you for each individual component instead of giving you a deal for the entire assemblage.  Heartless, avaricious bastards!  But that's just how it is.  They destroy and I reconstruct, and if that means sacrificing some of my hard-earned cash to restore the integrity and former glory of these poor, abused percussion instruments then I am willing to pay off the rapacious rapscallions.  The sense of accomplishment that I receive from my work is of much greater value than the financial gain the "chop-shop" money-grubbers manage to swindle out of me.

Now if you will excuse me, I have other projects to work on.....

RISING UP TO THE CHALLENGE OF A WHITEHALL


Here I have a Whitehall snare drum with "Tiger's Eye Pearl" wrap* that I acquired in a transaction much too complicated to expound upon here.  I really don't feel like taking the time to explain it all and you wouldn't care anyway, so let's just move along, shall we?  I know you people only want to see the pictures.


After getting over the initial excitement of this rather rare and cool-looking wrap, I began to take notice of the obstacles I would have to overcome to successfully complete this restoration project.  Most obvious was the condition of the Strainer Assembly: not only rusty but missing the little pinch plate that holds the strings or the strap that "strains" the wires.  That little part was not something I could just hop on the internet and order.  That plate is usually unique to the assembly and comes as a component of the mechanism.  It doesn't have a separate part number or come in standard sizes.  I couldn't just order up a pack of those and have 'em handy whenever I needed one.  Nope, that little booger was a major loogie of a problem, pardon the phlegmatic analogy.

Apart from finding a whole new matching strainer to replace the existing, the only other solution was going to have to be the barbaric and horrific act of cannibalizing another assembly, something I absolutely hate to do.  However this was my preferred course, assuming I could find a similar Strainer Assembly with a pinch plate the correct size and with screw holes that lined up, and with screws that were the proper size and had the proper threading to fit the existing holes.  That's a lot of assumin'.


Continuing around the shell with my examination, I then came across this pair of small holes.  This is where the "muffler" should be, otherwise known as the Tone Control Assembly.  Many drummers carelessly remove this mechanism because they think it's unnecessary or superfluous (I guess), but that means there is a plethora of them for sale on Ebay, which meant it was highly likely that I would be able to find a perfect match for this drum without too much trouble.  Also, from my experience I know the two-hole muffler mechanism is quite common and simple to replace.


Now, moving along, what do we have here, class?  Can anyone tell me what is wrong with this picture?  We are looking at a Whitehall drum, remember?  So why does it say "Ludwig" on the butt plate here?  Hmmm.  Improper Butt Replacement Surgery if you ask me.  Egad!  Someone has stolen my butt and replaced it with an impostor!  How embarrASSing!  That must be rectumfied, pardon the anal assumption.

So that's my Distressed Drum Diagnosis: New Pinch, TC-Ass, Proper Butt, Thorough Clean & Polish.  I will also replace the old drum heads, well-worn wires and rusty tension rod washers.


Here is the drum after I have severely serviced it.  The wrap and the chrome are shining like new again, and a new Tone Control Assembly has been installed.  As evidenced in this photo below.....


.....the Tone Control Knob matches the knob on the Strainer Assembly perfectly.  Exact match.  Although there is still a spotty area on the strainer, it looks much better and has a new pinch plate to help secure the strings so the wires underneath stay tight and flush to the bottom head.  This creates a nice pop with no lingering rattle.


And finally here is the new Butt Plate that duplicates the one that would have been on here originally.  Another fine restoration perfectly executed.  My work here is done.
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*Yeah, see?  You get it?  Tiger's Eye Pearl?  Eye of the Tiger?  "The thrill of the fight, rising up to the challenge of".....a Whitehall?  That's some topical humor there.  Quite witty.

FROM "MOTHER OF TOILET SEAT" TO BLACK DIAMOND BEAUTY


I found this badly neglected Tempro Pro snare drum for sixty bucks.  The seller described it as "Black Mother of Toilet Seat over Plywood," which I thought was a little derogatory.  Have some respect.  It may be a pearloid plastic wrap, but here in the Percussion Fortress we refer to it as "Black Diamond Pearl."  And the wood shell is luan (or Philippine mahogany), not just generic plywood.*

Examining the poor quality auction photos I noticed the chrome parts were dirty and beginning to show some rust, but at least they were all present and accounted for.  I could definitely see some potential, so I bought the drum though the asking price was a little on the high side.





Now let's see what this old treasure looks like after it gets the misplacedmtnman treatment:




This project was completed using all the original parts (except for the skins).  All it needed was a little love and attention.....
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*Although it is sometimes referred to as "Philippine Mahogany," luan (or lauan) wood is not in any way related to "true" mahogany.  So, yeah, it is technically inexpensive lightweight plywood, but you don't have to make it sound so cheap and inferior.