Late 1970’s vintage, Premier “Elite” Drum Kit (#1) – “Natural” Finish. 16″ x 16″ Floor Tom – hardware, and head fitting

Cleaned, 16″ x 16″ Premier “Elite” Floor 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.

16″ x 16″ Premier “Elite” Tom shell – Cleaned interior of shell

After having scraped away the ugly, hand-applied white emulsion paint from the inside of all the shells – the smoothed inner surfaces have been lightly rubbed over with a fine sanding pad, to regularise any irregular sheen from the remaining, original, (polyurethane?), sealer. In a few areas, some of the previously installed hardware – (most notably the back-washers from a few of the lugs) – have left a slight rust mark behind. These areas 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.

Once it’s been regularised – 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.

16″ x 16″ Premier “Elite” Floor 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. 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 probably describe the original, intended finish of the shells as having a “satin”-type sheen. The protective wax polish gives it a slightly shinier – but by no means glassy – finish. No point going crazy with any sort of mechanical buffer here.

Premier #436-20 lug boxes – two flavours

I’ve sourced, sorted and cleaned various bits of original, “period” Premier hardware whilst I’ve been preparing all of the required shells. The 16″ floor tom uses sixteen of Premier’s #436-20 lug boxes – eight around the top, and eight around the bottom. The original fitted lugs each had two attachment points on the reverse of the casting, and so would have each required two of the usual, standard back-washers. However – Premier appear to have also produced lugs with just a single screw attachment, at some point during this model of floor toms’ production. Some examples appear to use exactly the same castings – but with a domed plug piece inserted into one of the threaded mount points. Both mounting points fit the pre-drilled holes in the shell in exactly the same way – but only one requires a lock washer. So far – I’ve managed to source a dozen of the “old-style”, double screw point type lugs – with four of the newer types making up the set. The newer type seem to function just as well as the originals, and I can only assume changes were made to cut down on the cost of hardware in production. However – once the newer-type lugs are fitted – visual evidence of the “missing” previous lock washers does still remain, and it’s inevitable that some of the “staining” previously noted to the interior, won’t be covered up.

16″ x 16″ Premier “Elite” Floor Tom – Preparing the hardware

Each lug box has a single swivel nut insert – held in place on the slotted, “bullet-shaped” assembly, by a small, perforated insert plate. All of the various components have 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. (It’s all a bit of a chore, to be completely honest). Some of the lock washers are particularly rusty, and discoloured, and where parts are particularly ropey – I do source a few “ready-made” replacements, which are already well-cleaned, and in much better condition. Finally – the cleaned components are given a wipe over with a lightly oiled cloth, and set aside for assembly. The chrome lug boxes themselves are in reasonably 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 set of lugs I’m using is what I consider to be my “B” grade set, (I’m reserving the best for a separate, potentially re-wrapped kit), and these show quite a bit of the usual pitting associated with chrome parts of this vintage. However – the Premier chroming process at this time was second to none, and even lugs which show a degree of pitting can be polished up so that they shine like new.

The lug boxes 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 relatively 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. In the four cases where the lugs boxes only require one lock washer – I space these out regularly around the top of the shell – so it at least looks like it was all part of a plan. If I do ever find four suitable, older-type lugs – I’ll swap them out.

16″ x 16″ Premier “Elite” Floor Tom – Mounting the leg attachment blocks

The “Elite” floor standing tom uses three of the standard tom mount blocks as leg supports, (Premier parts number #392-35). They are secured using their usual, long back brackets. The legs I’m using are a slightly thicker version which came into production some time in the early 80’s, and these require blocks which can accommodate the 11.5mm rods. The legs all have their original, capped rubber feet – which cover the traditional spikes. These are still in good condition – so are retained after a clean. The three legs are set into their blocks, the legs rotated out, and then adjusted to level – so that the drum is stable at a playable height.

16″ x 16″ Premier “Elite” Floor Tom – Mounting the dampener

Finally – the last piece of hardware to mount to the shell, is a salvaged dampener – located in it’s assigned position – as shown in the image above.

16″ x 16″ Premier “Elite” Floor Tom – Preparing the hoop hardware and heads

I’ve sourced two die-cast, 16″ “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 really 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 are the usual short rods – as used on Premier “2000” snare drums. They’re about 2″ long from tip to tip – about 50mm in new money.

With Premier rods – there seem to be a couple of different variants for each of the sizes. The difference being that some of the rods are threaded only over a short, particular portion of the rod – wheras others, (perhaps intended for use over a bigger range of drums), are threaded all the way along the shaft. I prefer the look of the former. When they’re installed, the threaded portions are hidden – leaving only smooth, visible portions. These look smarter, are easier to keep clean, and will tend to pick up less fluff and grot over time.

The threaded portions of the tension rods are 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, 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 proper key – and I have a couple of vintage Premier keys – one for use with slotted rods, and another for the later, square-headed rods.

16″ x 16″ Premier “Elite” Floor Tom – Head selection

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 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’ve used Remo heads on other drums, and am already quite familiar with their different ranges. Remo produce a clear head with a similar-looking, but solid black dot in the centre – and these 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.

With resonant heads – it’s 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.

16″ x 16″ Premier “Elite” Floor Tom – Fitting the heads

Now to fit the heads. Batter head first this time – the head is centred over the top bearing edge of the tom, and the lubricated tension rods are located through the 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. With 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. On the floor tom – that sets the logo in the middle of the panel opposite the dampener

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.

16″ x 16″ Premier “Elite” Floor Tom – Completed renewal

The process is then repeated for the reso head. The Remo clear 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.

With all of the drums now complete, I can look to setting up the kit for the first time – tensioning the heads properly, and padding out the kit with the appropriate cymbals and stands. I have a part of the workshop cleared out to serve as my practice space, and although there’s still adequate work and storage space remaining – it’s going to be a bit of a squeeze by the time the whole kit is up. I reckon a clear 5 foot square area should just about do it – but there’s only one way to find out…

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