New Project – Premier “1026” Snare Drum. Disassembly and strip-down. “What do we have here?…”

After a little research into a half-decent candidate for “my very first snare”, I settled on a relatively pristine Premiere “1026”, chrome on steel snare – which is still in it’s original “Pro Case”. Judging by the construction, condition, and the distinctive, (and very dated looking), Marshall “valve” sticker on the side of the case – this is an early 1980’s drum, with what look like the original heads still in place. Apart from a few marks here and there, and a little corrosion evident on the pressed steel, triple flange hoops – the drum is in excellent condition. The chrome looks bright, and this should clean up well. Considering the drum’s reputation as a “solid but unflashy” performer – this should provide great value for what I paid for it, and prove a solid platform on which I can develop the necessary rudiments.

Early 1980’s(?) Premier snare, with original(?) batter head

Although the drum is in quite reasonable condition – it could really do with a good clean, and I also want to replace the heads with something a bit more up to date, and “standard” – whilst I get to grips with the basics. The best thing to do, will be to strip the drum down completely into its’ component parts, and then clean everything properly before re-assembling – replacing any parts I need to, as I go.

Stripping down any object into a collection of separate components always helps build a better understanding of how the whole works. Often small faults become apparent, which may otherwise pass un-noticed. The process will be a good education as to the basic components and construction of a modern snare drum and, with luck, my (somewhat limited), knowledge of motorcycle metal and chrome repair will come in handy. In taking the instrument apart, and putting it together again – I’ll also have to learn how to change and tune the heads, and adjust the snare mechanism properly.

Early 1980’s(?) Premier snare, with original(?) “Active Snare System”

So – what do we have here then?… The top batter head might well be original. A distinctive Premier “Black Dot” head – although the coating is now well worn. The coating has deteriorated and flaked off in places. On the underside – the resonant head is, once again, probably original – a clear, (actually – ever so slightly cloudy), Premier SD head. Through the skin, I can see a few patches of rust on the bead edge of the drum, as well as a good amount of collected dust and gunk trapped between the heads, the shell and the hoops. I don’t think this has been apart in a long while – if ever.

Since I’ve spotted a little corrosion – mainly on the lower rim, underneath the clear head – it’s probably a good idea to check the bearing edges on both sides. With the skins still tensioned, (and both of these heads have been tuned quite high) – pressing with the fingers around the edge of each rim allows me to check that there aren’t any low spots or dents, which might make future tuning difficult. The bearing edges need to be level, smooth and consistent all the way around. Apart from a few obvious light spots of rust on the lower edge – both bearing edges feel OK. I can check for level again later, by laying the stripped shell on a flat surface and visually checking for any distortion.

Removing the “Active Snare System” – Butt side

Instead of the usual, exposed snare wires – this drum is fitted with an “Active Snare System” element by Rhythm Tech. This seems to hold the snare wires under a constant tension within a framework – so I’m not entirely sure how the tensioner is supposed to be adjusted here. The unit seems to hold the snare wires a fixed distance from the head whatever the tension – and, after a little research, I read that the framework helps keep the wire tension consistent right across the head, (rather than the wires dropping slightly lower in the middle of the drum head when the tension is reduced at the strainer). In this case – I’m not sure the tensioner is properly adjusted – since the snare sounds similar with the throw-off lever in both “on” and “off” positions. A little extra research reveals that this is a “Marmite” sort of upgrade to the usual, bare wire snare system – with some users both for, and against. I think I’ll look to re-fit the drum with a standard set of snare wires, and learn how the thing sounds with a more “vanilla” sort of set up. I don’t think they make the Rhythm Tech. units any more, so I’ll keep the Active sytem as an option in the “spares box”. Who knows – it might get some use in the future.

Removing the “Active Snare System” – Strainer side

The Active Sytem is held in place, like most standard snare wire units, with some snare cord at both the butt plate and strainer ends. Each end is secured with a loop of cord, which passes under a clamp piece. Both clamps are loosened by slackening off two screws. All four screws look a little corroded – so I drip a little oil around each, before slackening them with a securely fitting screwdriver blade. The slot in the head of one of the screws has deformed a little, (presumably it’s been forced at some point) – so it’ll pay not to make this any worse than it already is. If I back the screws all the way out – I discover that the two screws in each clamp are of different length. One short – one longer. Why this is, I don’t know – but since it’s the same on both sides – maybe there’s a point to it all. Anyway – just to play safe – I keep the clamps in place, with the screws in their original locations, pull out the snare cord, and detach the Active System.

Premier 8-lug, “Triple Flange”, pressed steel drum hoops

Next – it’s on to the heads and hoops. The hoops used on the 1026 snare are pressed steel – rather than older style, cast examples. Although the chrome on each is in relatively good condition – there’s a fair bit of pitting and rust evident around a couple of the tension rod heads. This will need a bit of extra attention, but it isn’t in a particularly exposed and visually obvious position, and it will hopefully clean up reasonably well.

Detuning the drum heads with a square drum key

The two drum heads are clamped in place by the hoops, and are stretched – each with eight, square head tension rods. These are slackened, (using a vintage Premier drum key) until the drum heads are completely slack. The rods can then be unscrewed and withdrawn from the lugs by hand. This completely releases the triple flange hoops, so that the heads can then be eased off the bearings, top and bottom.

Carefully bagging and storing the components for easy reassembly

Although the eight tension rods for the top hoop are exactly the same length as the bottom eight – the top rods aren’t screwed into the lug swivel nuts quite as far. It’s likely that the rods will all be interchangeable – but I might as well keep each set separate. It’s always good practice to bag all of the components up anyway – and to keep good records of exactly where everything goes.

Removing the hoops and drum heads

Once the heads are removed – there’s a lot of fluff and gunk left attached around the bearing edges. Everything will be getting a good clean later – but there’s no sense leaving all that crud on there. Whatever easily wipes off is removed with a clean rag, and the hoops are then wrapped in protective tissue paper, and stored. The heads look shot – so they’re destined for the bin.

Checking the condition of the drum interior

Now I can get a good look at the inside of the drum shell. I can see that the construction is, in fact, welded – with the seam rubbed back and covered by the plating – invisible from the outside. The interior metal is in pristine condition, and all of the interior fittings look to be completely untouched. The mirror-like surface makes it easy, at this stage, to rotate the shell and check for any distortion. I can see that the shell has been pushed out of shape slightly – most likely by being lowered carelessly, or even dropped onto the strainer mechanism. This has pushed the shell in, around one of the retaining screws. Fortunately – the damage doesn’t appear to have affected the chrome plating at all, and it’s quite a gentle transition. If I’m really careful – I might be able to gently encourage the shell back into it’s original shape, without causing the plating to de-laminate.

Elsewhere – on the outside of the shell – there’s a tiny dint, where it looks like something like a screwdriver has left a tiny, but sharp, indent. There’s a little consequential damage to the chrome around the dint. This might be harder to push out – since beating the metal might fracture the chrome plating, and cause it to flake away. However – the area is quite small and inconsequential. If I choose to leave the damage untouched – it won’t be that noticeable. Much will depend on how well the rest of the cleaning up goes. If it remains the only flaw – I may have a go, and see if I can make the drum as close to “new” as I can. If I only manage a “sympathetic” restoration overall, and there are a few other “character marks” left behind – then I’m much more likely to leave things as they are. I’ll see how noticeable the mark is after cleaning. The outside of the chrome shell is in really nice condition – with very few marks, and most should easily polish out. I’ll clean the chrome first, and then make a decision on the dint repairs.

Removing the eight drum lugs

With access to the drum interior – I can now remove all of the eight drum lugs from around the perimeter of the shell. The retaining screw of each lug is secured against the inside of the shell, using a coin sized, slotted washer. These spread the pressure against the inside groove of the reinforcement bead, and help prevent overtightened screws from distorting the metal.

Separating the swivel nuts and retaining plates

All of the lugs appear to be in excellent condition. Premier drums used to be proud of their “Diamond” chrome, and it was, supposedly, “the same quality as the chrome you’ll find on a Rolls Royce”. These lugs will need little more than a clean over and a buff up, to return them to “as new” condition. The swivel nuts, however, are a different matter. Each lug has a swivel nut at each end – into which the tension rods screw. These lugs appear to be made of a cheaper alloy, and they’ve dulled with time and corrosion. They might clean up. I’ll take a look again when the drum is being put back together. Replacement nuts are readily available – but with restorations – it’s often preferable to stick with original parts, especially if they’re still doing a functional job. Looks aren’t always everything, and the corroded nuts are still doing a good job, forty years after the drum was first constructed.

On these Premier lugs – the swivel nuts are held in place, within specially cast slots in the mouldings. Their positioning is doubly secured – with each nut passing through a shaped retaining plate. This keeps the nuts from falling back into the lugs during assembly, and keeps them in line with the tension rods. All of the nuts and retaining plates are separated out for cleaning, and the lugs then wrapped in protective tissue, and stored away with everything else.

Removing the butt plate

The only components now left attached to the shell are the snare strainer mechanism, and the butt plate. Both are held in place with small screw nuts – each will a star shaped washer to keep them tight against the internal reinforcement bead. The butt plate is removed first, and the assembly, with it’s clamp plate and screws, is bagged and stored intact.

Strainer mechanism removal

The strainer mechanism is attached to the shell in exactly the same way as the butt plate – although the two retaining screws are vertically oriented, with the upper screw nut partially obscured by the strainer tensioning screw. The lower retaining screw can just about be accessed with the tensioner still in position. However, the strainer adjustment screw needs to be completely loosened, and the sliding tensioner released from its’ slot, before the adjuster can be rotated horizontally. This allows easy access to the upper retaining screw. Once the mechanism has been removed – it’s reassembled, bagged and stored for separate assessment and cleaning. A little bit of gunk here and there perhaps – but otherwise, it looks clean, and appears to function correctly.

Components stored away for easy re-assembly

All of the components are bagged and stored away. I find it helpful to set up individual “project boxes”, and since I’ll likely be working on other drum projects at the same time – having similar parts kept separate for each drum – will helpkeep things from getting complicated. For chromed, cast pieces – like the lugs – I find it useful to wrap them in tissue paper before storing. This stops the components rattling around and helps protect the chrome finish. I’ve also found that it seems to help stop the pieces “sweating”. In cold weather – if parts become moist due to humidity in the atmosphere – the moisture can condense on the surface and cause the surface to “mist-up”. Any moisture in contact with meatl will obviously, given time, bring about corrosion. Whilst the tissue paper doesn’t exactly offer a full protection against the issue – it does seem to insulate the pieces slightly and, theoretically, should allow any moisture to wick away. Ultimately – the components won’t be stored like this for too long anyway, and they’ll be thoroughly oiled and cleaned before reassembly.

Stripped down Premier 1026 snare drum – Shell and hoops

The original ProCase which came with the drum is showing signs of age, and although it’s still functional – I think it’s probably going to be better, in the long run, to purchase a replacement. The original case offers quite basic protection – and it’s possible that the slight indent at the strainer may have come about as a result of the drum being dropped whilst in the case.

I have a few other bits and pieces to store – drum throne, snare stand etc. – so the ProCase will be useful as a “traps” case, to keep smaller pieces of hardware together.

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