Premier “1026” Chrome on Steel Snare Drum. Cleaning and re-assembly

I disassembled the Premier “1026” snare a while ago, and with a number of other drum projects now on the go – I need to get it back together before the workshop fills up with spare parts. Fortunately – there’s not too much deep cleaning involved with this, presumably 1980’s example, and a good going-over with a standard chrome cleaner should get most of the shine back.

Chrome-on-steel snare shell – Tapping out a dint

But first, I want to try and straighten the shell out a bit – where it’s apparently suffered a light drop, onto the strainer. It’s the sort of thing that can happen if the drum is loose inside it’s carrying case, and the case then gets dropped. There’s no real impact point visible anywhere – but the shell under the strainer has disorted, and pushed in slightly. One of the attachment points seems to have taken the brunt of the force, resulting in two small, pin-point dints. These will mostly be concealed once the strainer is re-installed, but a slightly larger, indented area around the main impact points needs to be pushed out a little – at least so that the reflection from the shell of the drum isn’t quite so much of a visual giveaway.

I’m concious that I can’t really beat out the indent with a regular hammer. I don’t want an area with that “Arts and Crafts hammered look”, amidst all that shiny chrome. However – it’s probably my only real, practical option. I’ll need to try and spread the force of any hammer blows – so that they don’t show through from the inside. I have my Dad’s old, leather “knock off” hammer – which has slightly softened edges, and shouldn’t be quite as harsh on the steel shell. I’ll also be protecting each side of the shell with thin pieces of flexible plastic. I’m hoping the density of plastic might further spread some of the impact force out on the inside whilst – on the outside – a separate piece will also act as a kind of anvil surface, to prevent the metal deflecting too far. To avoid damaging the chrome plating, I have a thin strip of clean, 3mm felt to act as a protective cushion, and so that sits on top of a thin but dense, plastic cutting mat. On the inside – I have a flexible, transparent plastic strip, (actually a spare railway drawing curve I have lying about). I’ll be able to see through the transparent plastic, while I try and target a few firm, but effective, blows from the leather mallet…

Chrome-on-steel snare shell – Tapping out a dint

It takes a while, whilst I gauge how hard to hit, and gradually tap out the indent – but it seems to work. The sharp impact points are still visible – but are now much less pronounced. The main effect, however, has been to push the larger indent back into line, so the whole area, much better, follows the curve of the shell. It’s still visible if you hunt for it – but by the time the hardware is back on the drum, it shouldn’t be too visible. Certainly, the shell won’t visibly bend inwards and “gap” behind the strainer, as it did before. I could try and tap out the sharp dints completely – but the metal has deformed so much at these small points – that there’s always a risk the chrome plating might flake off due to distortion. Since the worst of the damage has now been ironed out, and since the strainer will mostly cover these impact points anyway – I’ll leave things as they are.

The same general treatment goes for the only other remaining damage of any significance. One other small indent on the shell exterior is gently tapped out with the cushioned knock-off hammer. Again – most of the indent is smoothed – but the sharply indented centre is left as a slightly rounded pimple. It’s small, impossible to photograph effectively – and will likely now get lost, amidst all the reflections.

Chrome cleaning – Autosol metal polish and chrome cleaner

Importantly – the bearing edges of the drum are in good, unmarked condition – with no marked dents or corrosion visible on the playing edges. Only a few small spots along each side, where it seems moisture must have got trapped behind the hoops. All I need to do – is give the shell a good clean, and then try to polish away any sharp edges due to the rust. For cleaning, I’m using Autosol Liquid Chrome Cleaner – but for the more stubborn spots, I may need to resort to something with more cutting action. Fortunately – the rust lies in areas which will eventually be hidden under each of the hoops. If I have to rub a little bit more vigorously here – I should be able to hide any scratches or swirl marks left in the chrome, if I’m careful.

First – I clean the insides of the shell with the liquid cleaner. It’s a wipe-on, buff off affair, and the cleaner is excellent at stripping away the light clouding you tend to get on chrome over time. Gradually – the original shine is returned to the inside of the shell. I carefully clean out under both of the bearing edges, and then buff the finish up to a high shine. All the time – I take care not to press too hard on the inside of the shell, and I also ensure there’s always a cushion of clean felt under the body, as I work around the inside. It’s all too easy to allow fine grit and other debris on the worktop surface to scratch the outside of the shell, whilst you’re working…

Cleaning the outside of the drum shell – Using a padded support rail

…which is why I like to use a padded rail to support the shell when working on the outside. This allows the drum shell to hang in space with the working area, at the top, supported from underneath. In reality – it’s just a bit of 2″x2″ with some bubble-wrap wrapped around, and then braced across an inside corner on my workbench – but it does the job, (for small drums anyway). The chrome cleaner is applied and then buffed off. I can now get a good look at the bearing edges, and discover just what was dirt, and what is corrosion.

Chrome-on-steel snare shell – Minor corrosion around the bearing edges

In reality – after all of the crud has been disolved off the shell, by the solvents in the cleaner – the actual areas of corrosion are very small and localised. Mostly a few spots of pitting, with a little rust and oxidation around. They do seem to have cut through the chrome in places, however, and the edges are quite sharp. I don’t think they’ll necessarily interfere with the drum heads – but you never know. Any sharp edges might, over time, cut into the thin mylar of the heads and – whilst Mylar is a quite hard-wearing material – it’s under considerable tension in these areas. Wherever tensioned mylar meets sharp chrome edges – this could, theoretically, lead to a tear.

So, I need something with a little, (but not too much), abrasion. 0000 grade wire wool is a good stand-by option for chrome, (I use Liberon – it seems to be less scratchy than some others) – but I also use small pads of screwed-up aluminium foil. With water as a lubricant – the foil works to gently abrade the area, and it will dissolve some of the oxidation. Generally – it’s not enough to significantly damage the finish of the chrome – but it can lead to some clouding, and fine scratches in the surface of the chrome. Whilst the aluminum foil seems to be softer than the chrome plating – some of the dissolved corrosion can act as an abrasive itself – and this can lead to swirling and witness marks. Sometimes you can polish this away – but with chrome – it’s always best to assume you can’t, and don’t abrade unless you absolutely have to. In this case – I work gently around the very edges of the drum shell, and make sure the areas that get attention, are areas which will eventually be hidden by the hoops.

The corrosion is worse on one side, than on the other. Gradually, I manage to remove all of the obvious rust spots, and the sharpness of the chrome where it’s split, now seems to have been mostly dulled. In fact – most of the marks have all-but disappeared. The worst of the damage now shows as small areas of light pitting in the chrome, rather than as slightly raised plaques of rust. A careful clean-off removes any loose debris from the cleaning process, and then the whole of the outside of the shell is given another proper clean with the liquid polish, to remove any handling marks.

The result is a wonderful, liquid shine. It’s the sort of thing that looks amazing on a bright, sunny day – and the sun just so happens to have broken through on this fine February morning…

30 year old, chrome-on-steel, Premier snare drum shell – After cleaning

…It’s a beautiful mirror shine – but the lighting reveals every last fault – every fine scratch and speck of dust. Even so, the shell looks almost as good as new.

If only it were easy to keep it that way.

Cleaning the corroded drum hoops

I really wish the same could be said for the hoops. Instead, these show a fair bit of rust and corrosion – especially around the edges, and in-behind where the tension rod heads sit. The light, liquid chrome cleaner won’t work here – and a light touch won’t help much either. Instead – it’s a scrub with Autosol metal polish, and some 0000 grade wire wool. It’s a long fiddly job too. Wherever I can’t get right into the inside angles on these triple flange hoops – I have to resort to forcing in a wedge of aluminium foil, to work the polish in, and slowly remove the rust. Gradually, I manage to negotiate my way around the entire circumference of the upper ring. The hoop is wiped clean, and then given a proper clean and buff-up with the liquid cleaner. Although there’s visibly more damage to the plating on the ring – there’s still enough of a shine to hide most of the remaining marks, in the reflections. Perhaps – long term – I’ll look to replace this ring with an example in better condition.

The bottom hoop actually seems to be in slightly better shape – but my approach is basically the same. Gradually, most of the marks and corrosion are rubbed away, and the cleaned-up hoop is given a final clean and polish to remove any handling marks.

Cleaning the lug boxes

The shell and hoops are safely stored away, whilst I deal with the lug boxes and all of their associated screws and washers. Actually – there’s not really much to do. The lug boxes clean up easily enough with the liquid cleaner. The screws still look reasonably fresh, and the internal washers are almost immaculate. After cleaning and buffing – these are all ready to go straight back on the shell.

Cleaning the lug swivel nuts and inserts

However, unfortunately, the swivel nuts and insert plates are showing a fair bit of corrosion. I think these are made out of aluminium, or some sort of light alloy. There’s a thin coating of a mostly light grey oxide over the surfaces. They clean up well enough with metal polish and some fine steel wool – but there are 40 of these little blighters. 20 lugs and 20 insert plates. They’re small and fiddly, and the work is dirty and greasy. (If I were smart – I’d invent a little machine or jig to do these quicker). Instead, I stick the radio on and work through it all – piece by piece. It takes ages, and I’m burning through my small supply of vinyl gloves. Wearing protective gloves is a good idea when working with oils and solvents, but the wire wool just eats through the fingertips of thin, nitrile-type gloves. Yet – the pieces are so small. Thicker, more robust gloves, are just as useless for manipulating fiddly, small bits of metal. I’m beginning to look at all of the other metal work I’m collecting for my Premier “Elite” kit restorations – counting up the number of lugs, and wondering if I’ve made a smart move here, or not.

Premier “1026” snare drum shell – Re-fitting the lug boxes

The polished-up lug nuts are given a wash in a jar of WD-40. Then, they’re dried off, and the inside threads cleaned out with a bit of twisted-up kitchen towel. Once the lug nuts are clean and dry – I wipe a little bit of gun oil on the inside threads, using a cotton bud.

Then – the eight lug boxes can be re-assembled. On Premier drums, the mouldings are slotted to receive the swivel nuts – each of which then threads through an insert plate. The insert plates hold each lug nut in place, without having to have the tension rods attached. Each lug assembly is then attached to the shell of the drum using a screw and a lock washer. I gradually work around the inside of the drum and attach all of the lugs.

Premier “1026” snare drum shell and lugs – After cleaning

I really should get myself a pair of light cotton gloves for here on in. There’s nothing like freshly polished chrome to display every single handling mark. Every time the shell gets handled – I end up polishing and buffing up the finish again, to preserve that fresh, pristine look. Let’s face it – in the real world, it won’t last long – but I’m starting to develop that same polishing “twitch” I always get with a new guitar…

Premier “1026” snare drum hardware – Cleaning

Next up – the strainer and butt plate get a good clean. First – a scrub with WD-40, to get any solid gunk off – especially where the sliding wedge on the throw-off lever runs. The screw heads which secure the snare cord/ribbon also look like the sort of screws where the heads don’t age well. There’s still seems to be plenty of life left in them, but the finish has dulled considerably. I’m minded that the snare adjustment screws on the 2000 model snare, (an example of which I’m working on separately), are notorious for shearing off. 40-odd year old components aside – tracking down little replacement bits like this can prove difficult. A good soak with WD-40 will make help sure my screwdriver doesn’t strip the slots.

It helps to have an old toothbrush handy, to work the cleaner into all of the various recesses. Once everything has had chance for a good soak – all of the excess cleaner can be wiped off with a paper towel. The separate screws and washers are then removed, and the chrome mouldings given a once-over with chrome polish. Finally, after cleaning the components down once again, and buffing away all of the polish, I use a small paintbrush to deposit smears of gun oil in the necessary locations – preparing the components for re-assembly. I’m using gun oil because a little goes a long way, and it doesn’t tend to attract and accumulate dust and crud the same way that grease does. Because I only use the oil sparingly, it shouldn’t ooze out too much – but gun oil usually cleans up easily enough ayway, and it doesn’t tend to leave too many obvious greasy marks behind.

Premier “1026” snare drum hardware – Reinstalling the butt plate

Now – I can install the final bits of hardware. There’s no damper mechanism on this model – so that’s a separate clean and reassembly task spared. First, the butt plate is screwed into position from the inside – using the original, but cleaned, attachment screws and locking washers.

Premier “1026” snare drum hardware – Reinstalling the strainer mechanism

Finally, the strainer and throw-off mechanism is re-installed. Just as it was removed – but in reverse – the sliding section is kept aside whilst the tensioner knob is rotated, to allow access to the top attachment screw. Once the mechanism is securely attached to the shell, using the cleaned screws and locking washers – the sliding wedge, which has been lightly oiled along the contact edges, is pushed into place and secured at the end of the tensioning screw. I wipe away the few fingermarks I’ve managed to mark the shell with, and then set it aside ready for the cleaned-up hoops, and new heads. The shell has cleaned up well.

1980’s Premier “1026” snare drum shell – 14″ x 6.5″, Chrome on steel

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