A combination of things led to starting this project. A break from drumming but the need to get back into it in some way, my love of all things 60's, and the fact that I enjoy any kind of hands-on DIY project. Oh yes, then there were the photographs. I had been home and had been looking through old photos with my mum when I came across a number of photos of my dad in bands he was in during the 60's and early 70's, 'The Continentals' and 'Cripple Joe'.
There he was, long hair, flared jeans and barefoot, and
playing a great looking kit in a black/silver pearl type finish. I had
no idea what make it was although I have since found out it was a
'Kawai' (the Japanese company more famous for their pianos). However, I
immediately decided I had to have a similar 'vintage' kit. There are more photos of dad on the 'Vintage Band Photos' page of my site.
Soon after that I spotted an auction on eBay for 'Vintage Premier shells and spares'. The seller had stripped the kit of its original gold sparkle wrap many years ago but had never got round to completing the project and was now selling the shells and boxes of lugs, brackets etc. The kit was in 20/12/16/14" sizes and apart from hardware and heads it looked to be all there. By searching on the web I found 'http://vintprem.moonfruit.com' which is a site devoted to vintage Premier drums. From the information on the site I was able to identify the kit as being from the late 50's or early 60's. Perfect !! An £80 bid (plus £20 P&P) secured it and a big heavy box arrived on Christmas eve
The first thing I did was empty everything out and do an inventory, noting down every hoop, lug, bolt and bracket and how many of each there were. Happily nearly everything was there and the rest of Christmas eve was spent polishing the metalwork which all came up really well. Premier kits from this era are renowned for their 'diamond chrome'. The shells were also very nice, very thin, only 3-ply birch, but with beech reinforcing hoops. A good compromise between sound and strength. I inspected all the bearing edges and they were true and undamaged, a bonus as the kit had been in this stripped state for about 15 years according to the seller.
Here's everything as I got it
The next step was one of the most important ones. I joined the Mike Dolbear forum on the web. It's not the busiest forum but it has a separate 'vintage' section with other members being most friendly, helpful and enthusiastic. A forum like this is THE place to ask questions, opinions and really gain a lot of knowledge from others. I've also been sent parts free of charge, and have since been able to do the same for other forum members. It's a really friendly and helpful community.
I had already decided I wanted a finish similar to my dad's old kit. There weren't many places in the UK who sold wrap and the few I found were quite expensive. After asking for advice on the forum I was directed to ST Drums in Germany. Gerd is a vintage drum enthusiast and has turned it into a business, selling many hard to find spares, building and restoring drums, and selling many many different finishes of wrap. I chose 'Special Grey Pearl', which looks fairly similar to the black diamond pearl finish that Premier offered in the 60's and also similar to my dad's kit. It was also cheaper than a lot of other wraps, at 60 euros (approx £45) a sheet. Two sheets may have been enough but I ordered three to be on the safe side (a good call, as I later wrapped a 14x14 tom and another snare with it) and a pot of glue. Gerd also included a comprehensive instruction leaflet (he also has instructional videos for wrapping drums on his site!)
The wrap arrived and looked fantastic but the shells still needed a little work before wrapping. Two of the shells still had old glue residue on them. Trying to sand this down is a pain as the sandpaper quickly gets clogged up. I used 'Lift', a medical plaster remover that my nursie wife 'borrowed' from the hospital which is a type of citrus oil. I didn't think it would be as good as some stronger chemical stuff but it was great. The old glue just rubbed off and the oil didn't stain the shells at all. I also sanded the inside and outside of the shells at this point and started scraping the old paint from the wooden bass drum hoops.
Now the kit was ready for wrap. The glue supplied was a contact adhesive, meaning it has to be applied to both the wrap and the shell and left to dry for half an hour before putting the two together. It stunk and I would recommend using a mask when using this glue. The most important thing at this stage is to make sure the wrap is cut to the right size, and that the wrap and shells are clearly marked so you have a starting point, and an overlapping finishing point which will be covered by a lug. Once you start sticking the wrap down you only really get one chance !!
The kit halfway through the wrapping process
The instruction videos on www.stdrums.de are very easy to
follow, and show in detail, what I am describing here. Well
recommended! I had a few clamps but did find that the edge of the wrap
wasn't stuck down properly. I found that using a ring of cable-ties and
tightening this gradually around the edge did a great job, and when the
glue was dry (24 hrs later) the edge was stuck down evenly all round. It's best to leave the wrapped shell another 24hrs before mounting hardware. I had all lugs, bolts, mounts etc. separated in bags and already polished up so that helped. I put a little grease on all the screwthreads when putting them on. I also wanted to make gaskets for the mounting brackets so they would be snug and secure. I did this on the bass drum spur mounts, floor and the small tom mounts. For this I used a thin black rubber floor tile (58p from B&Q). It's self-adhesive on one side so I stuck each mount on and cut around it with a sharp blade. When the mounts are on you can only just see the gasket, it finishes it off nicely.
Shells wrapped. Note the cable-ties to secure the edges of the wrap on the floortom
Now the drums were ready for fitting the heads (skins). Originally these Premier drums would have had smooth white 'Everplay' heads fitted but trying to find a full set would have been difficult. I opted for Remo Coated Ambassadors instead, top and bottom, as I knew these were still available in the old 'pre-international' sizes (12" is slightly undersize, 16" slightly oversize). I also found out that bass drum was pre-international, which dated the kit to late 50's. I managed to find some smooth white Ambassadors in the 19.5" size and these fitted the bass drum and hoops perfectly. I also sprayed the hoops, although they required a lot of filling (wood filler) and sanding. I gave these many coats of satin black 'plasti-cote' spray and then cut some wrap material for the inlay. The original colour of the hoops would actually have been a matt grey but I didn't know this at the time, however, the black looks really nice so I've left them like that.
Hoops filled, sanded, sprayed and inlayed.
I also found out that the spurs on the bass drum were positioned incorrectly and made the drum unstable. Someone would have added these at some point as the drum would originally have had clip-on spurs. New holes were drilled and the spurs placed correctly (using pictures on the Vintage Premier Site as a guide) and the old holes were filled with wood filler with a covering of wrap on the outside. The snare also posed a problem. It was badged a Hi-Fi which I believe did not have a parallel snare action. However, the shell was drilled and slotted for this and it looked original so I did try to obtain a parallel mechanism for it. These are like hens teeth and apparently not too practical. So after a fruitless search I settled on the vintage style throw-off and butt-plate that would originally have been on a Hi-Fi anyway. Using two large washers I was able to attach the throw-off through the slot and only needed to drill two small holes to attach the butt-plate. (This snare has since been replaced with a late 50's Super Ace, which was missing its wrap, so was wrapped to match)
At this point the kit was nearing completion but still required a 12" pre-international head (I had damaged the one I originally bought) and the correct eylets to replace the badges. And the bass drum head required a period logo. The head and eylets were ordered from Supreme drums and fitted a treat. When fitting the badges I used some silicon sealer underneath, this was to stick them down properly and keep them from rattling or vibrating. As I wasn't 100% sure of the age of the kit, I wasn't sure to go with the 50's 'script' logo or the 60's logo, but I felt that the kit was probably on the earlier side, and so the script logo would be more fitting, aswell as being the prettier design in my opinion. I found some pictures on the web, printed them out, traced onto the back of some vinyl (fablon) and cut the letters out. I am aware that the original logo would have been much smaller but not being able to find out exactly what size, I just used the logo the size it was as it came out of the printer. The style is the same and I am happy with it for now.
To complete the kit I bought a set of vintage pre-'67 flush-base stands, a period correct Premier 250 bass drum pedal and a 70's vintage Premier stool. The original stool for this kit would probably have had a red vinyl top, but I preferred the black top to go with the kit. I also acquired a pair of Premier hornbeam sticks, which apparently used to belong to the late Kenny Clare. I also had an original Premier cymbal arm clamped to the front bass drum hoop. This was a period accesory. Using anything bigger than a splash cymbal on it puts stress on the bass drum hoop though, so I have since removed it. The cymbals are all Zildjian A's from different eras.
Complete and set up with period correct hardware and 'A' Zildjians
The whole thing is not a 100% accurate restoration, but more a sympathetic restoration, meaning that I have tried to be as period-correct as possible, but where I have not been able to do that, or I prefer something else, I have done that instead. The kit sounds great too, very warm, open and resonant, it definately has that vintage vibe! Since completing this restoration I have restored/refurbed another few kits and drums. I'm certainly no expert, but have learned lots along the way, see my 'Drum Project Tips' page if you're thinking of trying anything similar