Category: Miscellaneous

Lefima Tambourine repair (Job No: 1273)

This is one of those little jobs that I sometimes struggle to fit into to my schedule. If you persevere through the (too) long video, you will get an understanding of why I am always behind with my work!


I have two tambourines that the musician wants to be able to use. These are old, and have a really nice retro sound. As can be seen from the photo above, a lot of the jingles are damaged and a good number are missing. The player also wants “calf” heads put on. After discussion, he is getting one goat and one calf skin.

The first thing to make is a pattern so that I can repair the jingles I have, and then make the replacements.


With the jingles complete, the new heads go on. Below you can see the second tambourine in the re-heading jig. I use a lot of jigs; they are a good way to maintain consistency on repetitive jobs, they invariably raise the quality of the finished item, and they make my life easier in the long run. Tool and jig making is one of the corner stones of how I work. “A bad workman blames his tools” because a good workman doesn’t have bad tools.


The finished tambourines, both looking a bit special (even if I say so myself). But actually I have put a lot of effort in to get to this point, and seeing them looking and sounding this good is rewarding – job satisfaction.


Technical Support (Job No: 1275)

It is quite rare for me to work out on site, in fact I normally refuse.  Too much of what I do requires large machines like pillar drills and lathes.  The variety of materials I need, the number of tools and jigs I use, or simply the quantity of spare parts makes working out on site a physical impracticality.  However the main reason for my reluctance is the compromise in quality; the purpose of my development of specialist tools and jigs is to continually raise the standard of my work – if these aren’t accessible then I am forced to roll back the clock, sometimes well over a decade, to how I used to work.  Put simply, I don’t see why I should be forced to do work that I know is wrong.

However, when one of my trade customers, has a big hire job but cannot provide on site technical support because I do all the repairs and maintenance on their orchestral percussion, I become the obvious choice.

The key is preparation – all of their gear went out on site in good condition, and I had no major problems with any of it.  So my massive supply of spare parts and tools that I drove down in the van were only used to sort out the extra instruments that my customer had to hire in!  I remember this situation from my days at Impact Percussion.  Impact sometimes needed to hire instruments from another hire company to fulfill an orchestra’s requirements.  I would have to repair those instruments before Impact could send them out!

Anyway, I learnt a lot about what goes on behind the scenes at big music festivals, walked a long way back and forth to various venues, and drank a lot of iced tea! Oh, and I repaired a few percussion instruments and a lot of music stands.


Bell tree refurbish (Job No: 1240)

It is not uncommon for me to be given a box of bits with a request to make a usable instrument.


As can be seen, this bell tree is on its last legs, or rather stumbling around drunk, spewing its bells and generally falling apart.  This is a nice job to ease myself back into work after the new year.


Having removed all the bells I can repair the frame.  It’s the same old story; percussion instruments are designed and made by people who do not understand basic principles of applied forces, like leverage or motion.  As the top has bent in, the reinforcing corner blocks have acted as fulcrums to help pull the instrument apart.  This is compounded by the manufacturing technique which has used glue and nails.  As can be seen the back is being pulled off the nails (driven up through the base), which means that nails were the wrong choice, because they just don’t work in that direction.


So I pull everything apart, remove all the nails, ready to rebuild it using glue and screws, because screws pull things together providing a mechanical connection as opposed to pinning in place, which is what nails are for.  The second reason for screws is that they provide a clamping force which means that the glue will work better (I also probably use better quality glue).


Whilst the glue is drying on the frame, the next jobs can be completed.  First on the list is to straighten the rod.


Next I polished the bells so that they look the part. 

There is only one sleeve in the box of bits, so I had to make another which will hold the bells in place at the top.

Finally I can reassemble, and finish the job.


Stonophone (Job No: 1048)

This stone has broken into two pieces:

It looks like someone has repaired it before, which complicates matters. First an external clamp is made so that the parts can be squeezed together.
20120927-031402-PM.jpgjig made and dry fit done, ready for the stone to be cleaned and glued.
There are new epoxy adhesives that have been developed specifically designed to integrate with the structure of specific materials. This is the approach I am taking in order to maintain resonance.