1970’s Premier “2000” Snare Drum (#2). Complete re-build from parts – Wrapping a damaged shell

Project #2 of my Premier 2000 series takes a damaged shell, and will be a build which uses some of the many, duplicate 2000 snare parts I seem to have amassed lately. Since the sympathetic restoration of snare #1 will require a few of the parts which are in “better” condition – this additional rebuild is a chance to bring together some of the other, “B grade” components – and see if something can be “conjoured from nothing” – so to speak. Starting with the shell…

1960’s / 1970’s Premier 2000 snare shell. Has seen better days

The chrome on aluminium shell for this additional build was obtained as an unbadged, undated, surplus piece – apparently sold by a “breaker” for “parts”. In terms of its’ condition – it has certainly seen better days, but is still in much better condition than the one other remaining shell in the trio. (That shell is in extremely poor condition, and will probably have to be completely refinished. In doing so, it will eventually provide the basis for a third 2000 snare build).

The shell displays much of the typical pitting and flaking which seems to plague many Premier chrome on aluminium bodies. Apparently it’s a problematic pairing, from a metallurgical point of view – although some later examples do seem to age better than others. For that reason, and since the damage here can be evaluated to a level somewhere in-between the two other numbered and/or dated shells, I’m estimating that this is probably also an early 1970’s example.

It appears that at some stage, it has had quite a bit of polishing and/or wear. The finish is bright – but there’s a slight yellowing in places where, presumably, the plating has been thinned, and an underlying base metal from the plating process, (copper?), is just showing through. The surface is pitted and scratched quite badly in some areas, and there are also one or two areas where the plating shows a fine “texture”, which doesn’t appear to be in the chrome – but, rather, underneath it. Probably – again – the underlying substrate showing through. There might once have been enough of a chrome coating to completely “flood” the detail.

All in all – this isn’t a bad body, and it would still likely make a good “beater” or “players” drum – but I’ve been wondering for a while now, if it’s possible to “wrap” a metal shell with a brand new covering? It’s done all the time with wooden shells – I just wonder if there’s any technical reason why I can’t cover up the worn shell, and give the re-built drum a bit of individual character, whilst covering up a few unsightly blemishes? With a couple of other builds to compare the end results with – this might be an interesting experiment.

It looks like Premier’s Mahogany Duroplast – but it’s really just a photograph

I’ve obtained a wrap for the snare, from UK Drum Wraps. It’s a digital copy of something similar to Premier’s classic 1960’s finish – “Mahogany Duroplast”. This was the finish which was used on Ringo Starr’s Premier kit from his days in the Hurricanes, through to when he first joined the Beatles – before Ringo was lured away to the “dark side”, (and his black oyster pearl Ludwigs). As far as I know – Ringo never played a 2000 snare, (he used a Premier Royal Ace Piccolo with his Duroplast kit), but if he had stuck with the UK brand – he may have eventually joined Keith Moon as an ambassador for the new 2000 design, which made it’s own first appearances in 1966. The wrap copy doesn’t look exactly the same as the original Premier Mahogany Duroplast, but has similar hued, diagonal brown stripes. UK Drum Wraps calls it “Premier Mahogany Duroplast Effect“. The repeat on the design is sufficient for a 5 1/2” drum like this. I wonder how it’ll look on a floor tom?

The wrap isn’t a typical drum wrap – in that it’s clearly a digital copy which has been printed onto vinyl, rather than a full, layered plastic or celluloid skin – like the famous “Delmar” wraps, which are highly regarded, highly expensive, and extremely difficult to find – especially here in the UK. Since it’s essentially a digital print – I know the colours may fade a lot quicker than on other wraps, and the softer vinyl may scratch and mark more easily – but this stuff is ideal for experiment, (and it’s relatively inexpensive). Not only is it simple to apply – attaching to the shell with only a strip of double-sided tape – but crucially, it’s also quite thin in comparison with a regular plastic wrap. This important difference makes wrapping the metal shell a reality – since the hoops usually fit quite snugly, and don’t leave much room for additional layers of finish. Why would they? – Who on earth would want to wrap a chrome drum anyway?…

Premier 2000 snare shell. Clean on the inside…

Just in case the whole enterprise is madness on my half – I can always strip the wrap again, if it doesn’t work out. So – I may as well start out with a clean shell. This shell has already been quite well cleaned, but a little extra care won’t go amiss. I’ve checked the inside for an original date stamp – but if there was one there once – it’s already been rubbed away. With no “provenance” to preserve, as such – a little bit of Autosol liquid chrome cleaner brings the aluminium interior up to a nice shine.

Premier 2000 snare shell. …clean on the outside

The outside then gets the same treatment. The end result still looks OK – even though the pitting and flaking is fairly marked (including a massive peel where the original badge must have been attached with glue). Some people like this sort of thing – those marks are badges of honour and “character” – but it’ll still be there – even if the wrap turns out to be a flop.

Applying a drum wrap – Locating the visible seam

Drum wraps are carefully sized for the shells they’ll attach to. They’re usually supplied with the length correct for the circumference, (including a slight overlap), and sized to cover out to each of the bearing edges. I’ve asked for this wrap to be cut down slightly from a standard 5 1/2″ wrap to a little over 5″ – because I don’t want the edges to stray too close to the rounded edge. Normally, a thick plastic wrap is applied right up to the edges of the shell, and then the edges of the cover are filed down and rounded, so that the transition into the bearing edge isn’t too abrupt. This helps the heads to seat properly, and prevents any sharp edges from potentially damaging the drum skins. In this case, I’ll still ease the edges, ever so slightly, once the wrap is fitted – but by leaving the wrap a quarter of an inch or so short at either side – I can additionally try to keep the edges well away from the head where it’s stretched taught over the metal. True – this will leave a visible transition at either side – but once the hoops and heads are on, everything should be hidden from view.

In applying the wrap – the challenge is to wind the whole length onto the shell absolutely straight, and to try and place the overlapped “seam” somewhere where it won’t be noticed too much. The pattern on the wrap is nicely designed so that the spiral lines of the print tend to visually match quite well – but even so – it’s a good idea to try and place the seam behind one of the lugs. It will hopefully be hidden there, both by the lug box and tension rods. Furthermore – fixing the lug over the join will help keep the glued overlap extra secure.

I’ve never actually wrapped a drum – but I’ve done similar sorts of things before. Logic tells me to prepare by walking the process backwards – trying to prepare everything as well as I can, before the one-shot process of actually sticking the wrap to the shell. If it goes wrong – there’s no “undo” function with this. The wrap comes with a protective cover, and the cover has a “peel off” reminder label at one end of the wrap. I’ll call that end “A”, and this will be the end that overlaps the other – and will therefore provide the visible edge. I want to align this edge exactly half way over one of the lug box mounting holes. I’ve already chosen the lug I want – it’s the one which will be close to my left knee when I’m sitting at the drum. One which is normally hidden away from anyone looking in at the kit, from the front.

Applying a drum wrap – Preparing to fix the wrap to the shell

The lines on the design run bottom left to top right, (so I don’t think it actually matters which way up the print is), but I double check the orientation of the shell, and line up the wrap the way I want it to go. I take end “A”, and lay it exactly where I want it. Then I temporarily secure it’s position with a couple of tabs of masking tape. Then – working slowly around the shell – I drape, (without stretching or forcing), the wrap tightly around the shell until I get to about half way round. There – I secure it with a couple more tabs of tape. Continuing round – end “B” of the wrap eventually arrives back at the starting point and overlaps edge “A”. I can now assess how well the whole thing is in line, and how straight it fits on the shell. In this case, it turns out I need to refine the alignment slightly – but it’s important not to force or twist the wrap anywhere, or it may begin to gap around the edge and distort. Instead – I lift any tape at the ends of the wrap, and make the tiny adjustment required, at the half-way point. Once the wrap is flat to the shell and aligned correctly all the way around – I replace the tabs towards the ends of the wrap, (I’ll have to get to the adhesive fixing tape underneath each end, and so need to keep a suitable length at either end untaped for now). Then – I secure the wrap around the rest of the drum, and provide a few more tabs at various points around the circumference – checking, as I go, that the wrap is tight to the drum all the way around.

Applying a drum wrap – Securing the wrap to the shell, and punching the openings

The wrap is physically attached to the shell with just a strip of double-sided adhesive tape underneath end “B”. To enable this – end “A” needs to peel back enough to slip end “B” underneath it – with the sticky tape exposed. This needs to go right. It’s important, when flexing each of the ends, not to crease or force the wrap – but to let it flex gently and naturally. Therefore – any temporary fixing tabs of masking tape need to be far enough away from the ends, so to allow for a gentle flex.

Once end “B” has been pressed down and properly adhered to the metal shell – the protective covering can be peeled back and trimmed away, so that end “A” can be stuck down over the top, in it’s intended alignment with the lug hole. The adhesive strip under end “A” is exposed, and the wrap is stuck and pressed firmly down. (Don’t press down with a side to side scrubbing action – or you may mark or scratch the vinyl). This creates the overlap, closes and secures the wrap. If everything has gone right – the wrap should be straight and tight to the drum, and the edges at either side should be in line, with a consistent metal “border” all the way around. If it’s gone right – the seam should be located right at the centre of my target lug hole.

Cutting the openings…

I can now find out how accurate I’ve been, by punching my chosen lug hole, (together with all of the others), through the wrap – to match exactly the holes already drilled in the shell. The wrap is already quite firm on the shell – but I want to ensure that absolutely nothing can move while I cut the holes. It seems like a logical idea to tape both edges of the wrap, all the way round the circumference at each side first. Once done – I can cut, or drill the openings.

Applying a drum wrap – Wrap secured, and openings cut

With thicker plastic wraps – drilling seems to be the preferred option – using the original holes in the shell as a guide. However – this vinyl is much thinner. When locating the openings – by punching small holes out from the inside – the vinyl stretches and distorts slightly. I decide, therefore, to cut the holes with a sharp scalpel instead. The edges of the pre-drilled holes in the metal shell are a little bit rough, and the metal to metal contact makes it a bit more difficult to follow smoothly – but the blade is super sharp, and I manage to open and carefully pare back the wrap to follow the exact edges of the original openings. It’s a little bit tricky – but I take it slowly, so I don’t slip and scratch myself, or the printed vinyl. (Actually – there is one, tiny slip – but it’ll eventually hide behind a new Premier logo badge).

Premier 2000 lug boxes, swivel nuts, inserts and mounting washers

I’ve managed to track down a full set of lug box components for the build. A set of eight #35-20 lugs, together with all of the various bits and pieces required. The lugs are in good condition, and only really need a good wipe over to restore the shine of the chrome. A little liquid chrome cleaner, and they virtually look as good as new. There’s a little bit of pitting, and a few scratches here and there – but nothing of any real consequence, considering their age. The attachment washers are in as-new condition, and all of the swivel nuts and other inserts clean up nicely after a good soak in WD-40. Once all of the internal threads are cleaned off, and any oxidation rubbed away from the outsides with a little 0000 wire wool – all of the inserts are wiped clean with a lightly oiled rag, and any excess cleaned off with a paper towel. The threads are then given a light wipe of gun oil on the end of a cotton bud, and everything is ready for re-assembly.

Applying a drum wrap – Fitting the external attachments

The lugs are attached to the shell one by one, with the swivel nuts and insert plates set in their captive positions. It’s necessary to peel back the protective plastic wrapping on the wrap first – but by gradually working around the drum – each lug helps to further secure the wrap firmly in place, all the way around the midline of the shell.

Premier Flobeam end plugs

Finally – the end plugs for the Flobeam system can be re-fitted. They’re made of a medium density black plastic, and clean up well enough with just a dip in hot water and washing-up liquid. Once carefully dried – I realise they’re actually different. Not only that – they have a clear “up” and “down” orientation. I really should have taken note when I pushed them out…

After comparing the parts with others I have, in different states of assembly – and by checking the exploded diagram, I eventually work out that the plugs are oriented with the attachment screw taps towards the top. The butt plate side plug has just a vertical slot – but the throw-off lever side has the extra two cut-outs alongside. On the photo above – the lever side plug is on the right.

Finished wrap with all external attachments fitted (except the dampener mech and Premier badge)

The inserts push snugly home, into the cut-outs on each appropriate side of the shell, with the throw-off lever plug at the nine o’clock position. The flanges further help to secure the wrap to the shell. All of the remaining tape which has helped secure the wrap in place, and all of the protective film is now removed. The edges of the wrap appear to be slightly burred and sharp – presumably from when the wrap was cut. By using the metal edge of the drum as a physical edge to follow, I hold a sharp blade perpendicular to the wrapped shell edge, and guide it around – angling it so that it scrapes away at the burr, and gently “eases” the edge of the wrap so that the thickness of the vinyl tapers away, over the outside few millmeters on each side. This is trickiest at the overlaps – but I think it will ultimately help to soften the edge, and ensure that there’s nothing sharp to snag or cut the head when the tension is tightened. The end result is quite pleasing. The chrome lugs stand out, and it’ll look the part once the hoops are re-installed and the heads are on. Sound-wise – the wrap appears to slightly dampen the “ring” you get when the metal shell is tapped with a knuckle – so this may have an impact on the sound produced. Whether is still produces the chracteristic 2000 snap – I’ll have to see…

Wrap overlap as seen “end-on”

The finish of the printed vinyl wrap also looks good, although I’m not sure, ultimately, how resilient it’ll be. The wrap is relatively thin – but thick enough to hide all of the bumps underneath, as well as to completely conceal the overlap. The only thing is – I wish the vinyl edges weren’t so clean and white. It’s not important towards the bearing edges – but when looking in at the overlap “end-on” – there’s a clean white line. Parallax means that the tension rods will only cover it up precisely when viewed straight-on. I’ve worked with similar printed vinyls before – and have occasionally coloured the physical edge with a spirit marker pen – using a chunky felt tip to “sit” on the edge as it’s drawn along. The same thing might work here – but it’s much harder now that the ends have been glued down. Still – it’s a minor quibble. I might have a go, and see how I do with a fine “Sharpie” – but it’s not the end of the world if it stays as it is.

So – my original question – “Can you wrap a metal drum shell?” – The answer appears to be yes… so far. Now – I need to build the drum up, install that Flobeam again, and see what happens when I fit the heads and hit them…

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