Late 1970’s vintage, Premier “Elite” Drum Kit (#1) – “Natural” Finish. 14″ x 10″ Tom – hardware, and head fitting

Cleaned, 14″ x 10″ Premier “Elite” Tom shell – Ready for fit-out

My Premier “Elite”, “Kit #1” – takes a selection of some of the “natural” finished shells I recently acquired, and fits them out with new and salvaged hardware, to form a basic 22, 16, 14 configured kit.

14″ x 10″ Premier “Elite” Tom shell – Regularising the inside of the shell

After having scraped away the ugly, hand-applied white emulsion paint from the inside of all the shells – the smoothed inner surfaces are lightly sanded to regularise any irregular sheen from the remaining, original, (polyurethane?), sealer. In this case, some of the previously installed hardware – notably the back-washers from a few of the lugs – have left a slight rust mark. These areas will require a little more attention. The original lacquer sealer has stopped most of the stain spreading to the actual wood – so it’s relatively easy to scrape just the upper layers of the lacquer away, taking most of the discolouration with it. Of course, the affected areas will all eventually be covered again, when the new hardware is installed – but at least I’ll know it’s as clean as I can possibly get it, under there.

The whole interior is then given a light application of Renaissance Wax, which is left to dry for a short time, and then buffed up with a soft cloth. The bearing edges are also given a final check – then similarly treated with the Renaissance Wax. This will help protect the wood on the round-over ply edges and, depending on your viewpoint – (and opinions do vary) – may also assist the heads move more evenly when tensioning them up.

14″ x 10″ Premier “Elite” Tom shell – Cleaning and polishing the outside of the shell

For a used, 40-odd year old shell – the outside is in remarkably good condition, with it’s original badge still well attached. A couple of small dings in the finish here and there perhaps – but nothing really noticeable. There are only a couple of spots where the existing lacquer has chipped off completely – revealing clean, pale birch below – but these were clearly caused by the hardware rubbing against the shell – and will all be hidden again, once the hardware has been replaced. Before final assembly, the shell is cleaned with a proprietary guitar cleaner – one suitable for use on polyurethane coatings, with no silicone additives – and then polished up with a Meguiars Carnauba Wax Automotive compound. I think I’d describe the original, intended finish of the shells to have a “satin”-type sheen. The protective wax polish gives it a shiny – but by no means glassy – finish. No point going crazy with any sort of mechanical buffer here.

14″ x 10″ Premier “Elite” Tom – Preparing the hardware

I’ve sourced, sorted and cleaned various bits of original, “period” Premier hardware whilst I’ve been preparing all of the required shells. The 14″ tom uses eight of Premier’s #440-20 lug boxes. These have a single screw attachment on the reverse of the casting, and so require eight of the usual, standard back-washers. Since these 70’s “Elite” drums are all double headed, (as opposed to the later, single headed rack toms of the 1980’s) – each lug box has two swivel nut inserts, held in place on the slotted assembly by the usual inserts.

The fixings have all been thoroughly cleaned by soaking in WD-40 – with old grease and grime carefully rubbed away, and any rust or other discolouration removed with wire wool. The cleaned components are then given a wipe over with a lightly oiled cloth, and set aside for assembly. The lug boxes themselves are in good, used condition – and a turn at the rotary bench polisher with a bit of fine chrome polish, brings out much of their original “diamond chrome” character.

The lug box components are assembled before installation, and each swivel nut is given a light application of gun oil to its’ internal threads. The pre-punched holes on the shell for the lugs, are all still tight and true – so the lugs mount easily and securely. The heads of the attachment screws are captured by the slotted back-washers, and each lug assembly is secured against the shell, by tightening the attachment screw against the washer.

14″ x 10″ Premier “Elite” Tom – Mounting the hardware

Once all of the lugs are securely attached – the tom mount block (Premier parts number #392-35) is similarly secured using it’s distinctive, long back bracket. I mount the block with the Lokfast wing nut located at the top of the block – towards the batter head. This lessens the chance of it snarling against the L-shaped support rod which, in turn, attaches the tom to the bass drum mount.

I’ve located a few original damper mechanisms, for use on this kit – and they’re all in good, working condition with clean, unworn felts. The last piece of hardware to mount to the shell, is one of these dampers – located in it’s assigned position – as shown in the image above.

14″ x 10″ Premier “Elite” Tom – Preparing the hoop hardware

I’ve sourced two die-cast, 14″ “beer barrel”-style hoops for the tom, and these have been cleaned and brought to a high polish, with a liquid chrome cleaner. The lug mouldings on the hoops tend to corrode behind where the tension rod heads sit up around the edge, and any small areas of rust, like this, are rubbed away prior to final polishing, with a little bit of 0000 grade wire wool, lubricated with WD-40. Otherwise – apart from a few expected, age-related pit-marks – the hoops clean up nicely. They’ll be attached to the lug boxes on the tom with 16 original Premier tension rods, (eight top, eight bottom). These have been carefully cleaned after salvage, and are in great condition. The rods – especially this type of older rod, where the actual threaded length is very short – need to be of the correct length. Consequently – these are slightly longer than the usual two-inch rods, as used on Premier “2000” snare drums and “Elite” floor toms. They’re about 2-3/4″ long from tip to tip – just over 70mm in new money.

The threads of the tension rods will be lightly lubricated with lithium grease before final assembly, and I’ll also be providing an extra thick nylon washer to help in holding the drum to tune, once tensioned. Similar white, nylon washers – each approximately 3mm thick – will be used for all of the lug fastenings over the entire kit. The nylon washers are fitted so that they sit between the usual, thin metal washers of each tension rod, and the cast hoop. Their additional thickness potentially makes the correct length of tension rod absolutely critical – but 3mm is still well within tolerance for these longer type rods, and there’s still plenty of adjustment.

The tension rods have an older-style, slotted head – and this usually requires a special key. This type of fitting was obviously designed with unplanned, “on the road” maintenance in mind, and adjustments can, just as easily, be made with a screwdriver – even the edge of a small coin. However, it’s much easier with a key – and I have a couple of vintage Premier keys – one for use with slotted rods, and another for the later, square-headed rods.

14″ x 10″ Premier “Elite” Tom – Head selection

A quick word on heads. I’m trying to give the finished kit a bit of a “classic” Premier look – (and hopefully, a classic sound too). With a clear reso on the bass – a period-correct “Premier” logo fronts up the kit, and I want to keep that “clear” mylar look over the rest of the kit too. A “classic” Premier kit from the 70’s might also feature characteristic black “donut” patches on the batter heads – but since heads like this are no longer in production by Premier – original examples are naturally quite difficult to source these days. I do have a few old heads set aside – but not enough for this particular configuration of kit. The UK manufacturers “Code” do make reasonable replica substitutes these days – but I have used Remo heads on other drums, and am already quite familiar with their ranges. Remo produce a clear head with a similar-looking, but solid black dot in the centre – and these also appear to match the approximate construction specification for the original Premier heads. It’s a 10-mil clear mylar, with an additional 5-mil, black “control patch” in the centre. The extra thickness in the centre of the head is to help control unwanted, resonant “ringing”, and heads like this are all part of Remo’s “Controlled Sound” range.

The resonant heads are less critical – visually speaking. Normally – the thinner the resonant head – the greater the vibration and response. It’s generally considered that resonant heads should be either thinner, or exactly the same thickness as the batter heads. Thinner heads might offer more detail, but thicker heads should offer a bit more control. (Then again – too thick reso heads would begin to choke-off any resonant effect). Remo’s Ambassador range of heads are contructed from 10-mil thick mylar, which match the construction specifications of the CS range nicely. For that reason, I’ll be using Remo Ambassador Clear resonant heads on this, and all other toms.

14″ x 10″ Premier “Elite” Tom – Fitting the resonant head

Now to fit the heads. Resonant head first – the head is centred over the lower bearing edge of the tom, and the lubricated tension rods are located through the top hoop. The rods are then tightened to just finger-tightness – with careful, periodic checks to ensure that the head remains centred, and that it’s evenly tensioned all round. Since this is the lower, resonant head – there’s no real reason to sweat about the placement of the “Remo” logo. On batter heads, I like to place the logo so it helps visually orient the drum on setup – usually with the damper in a convenient position for adjustment, and the Premier logo badge prominently displayed. With the reso head – it simply doesn’t matter. It can lie wherever it lands.

Once the head is evenly tensioned all around the hoop to an equal “finger-tightness” – the head is tensioned in quarter-turn increments, across and around the hoop, until the head is at quite a high tuning. I’ll leave it there for a little while to “stretch-out” the head, and will properly tension the tom with all of the other drums, on setup.

14″ x 10″ Premier “Elite” Tom – Seating the batter head

The process is then repeated for the batter head. When the tom is installed on a single-tom support post, on top of the bass drum – it will be oriented on the left-hand side of the mount post, with the attachment bracket positioned to the right, the dampener to the left, and the Premier badge located on the next panel, anti-clockwise from the mounting block. To act as my “visual, forward-facing mounting point” – I therefore place the Remo logo so it “faces” me at the “top” of the drum.

14″ x 10″ Premier “Elite” Tom – Completed renewal

The batter head is centred and tensioned in the usual manner. Even finger-tightness first – then raised in quarter-turn increments all round. Again – it’s taken to quite a high tension for an initial period, and again – I’ll properly tension and “tune” it when I can hear it in context with the rest of the kit.

Two down – one to go…

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