Tag: overhaul

Premier Series 1 Timpani (Job No: 1228)

When I overhaul a set of timps, there is a lot of work involved over a period of days or even weeks. My approach is to fix everything properly; I am after all a professional and that is what I am being paid to do. However not everyone is as conscientious, and in the end, you get what you pay for. So when I work on timpani, I am fixing problems associated with wear and tear, and the dogs dinner that the previous person made of the job. The posts on timpani pick out examples of problems I encounter, rather than me writing, and you reading the same thing every time I do a set of timpani (which is why I have coloured this bit blue).

Very frequently I get jobs in to do that have obviously been repaired by someone else in the past.  We all have different standards, budget constraints, levels of knowledge, skill and methods.  All that I accept, and it is useful for me in order to evaluate what I do.  However sometimes I almost laugh in disbelief at what I am seeing.


I can see why they have done this – the base casting has practically worn away, but ignoring the facts that it won’t work, and it has been done really badly, it looks bloody awful.

Removing all of that mess in itself is a job.  What it reveals is the state of the castings prior to the last repair.  To me it looks like no preparation was done at all.


So all the sharp edges need to be filed smooth, and some of the bits that look solid, are in fact like tin foil.  What I need to do the job properly is solid metal.


Now at least when the repair is done there will be clean lines and it will look good as well as actually doing the job.  All it takes is a little bit more effort and time, and respect for other peoples property.

These will now go out to be aluminium welded, so the post will continue.

Premier Elite Timpani (Job No: 1215)

At the top of Premier’s timpani range are the Elite series.  I like the Premier design, there are a few issues like they don’t sound the best on the (mass produced) market of orchestral kettle drums, but they are in second place.  What I like about Premier drums is the old style pedal mechanism.  The other great feature on Premier Elites is the universal tuning adjustment, or crown wheel.  The only real issue with the Elites are the extended collars.  After discussion with leading timpanists, we think at 1.1/2″ it is a bit too big.  However, I have yet to prove the hypothesis, it’s just from observations. 

I will expand these points in a specific blog post at some point.

When I overhaul a set of timps, there is a lot of work involved over a period of days or even weeks. My approach is to fix everything properly; I am after all a professional and that is what I am being paid to do. However not everyone is as conscientious, and in the end, you get what you pay for. So when I work on timpani, I am fixing problems associated with wear and tear, and the dogs dinner that the previous person made of the job. The posts on timpani pick out examples of problems I encounter, rather than me writing, and you reading the same thing every time I do a set of timpani (which is why I have coloured this bit blue).

These drums have been sent in for overhaul before things have deteriorated too far.  The mechanism is very dirty, but not rusty.  What they do obviously need is a bit of work on the copper bowls.


One type of problem are big dents in the bowls.  This is no big deal, and is the sort of thing I just repair as I am going along.  They look bad, but in terms of time it doesn’t take too long for me to knock out (5 to 10 minutes)


The finished thing.  There is a happy medium with this work.  If there is a hard corner, then that will always be visible unless the bowl is completely refinished because the copper and the lacquer have been over stressed.  With the dent, I find it is a case of the more you do, the worse it gets, so I take my time and consider each blow with the hammer.

The second type of damage that happens to the Premier copper bowls, is when the bearing edge is dinted when they are struck with the handle of a timpani mallet.


As the handle strikes the edge it pushes material inwards in the centre, which raises the edges.  In the drawing this effect is exaggerated.


At the top there is a playing dent, lower down looks like a flight case has been dragged over the drum.  This is what happens to percussion instruments, no care and certainly no respect of the fact that they are musical instruments.

After taking off any sharp edges that are above the line of the profile (positive), the negative indentations can be filled.


The filler comes above the profile, so can then be cut away to the desired level.  It is then polished up.


After all repair work is done, I polish the whole of the bearing edge to a shiny finish.  What I am after is a smooth surface that the skin or plastic can slide over.  Any marks can create a scraping noise as the head passes over them, which due to the tension and resonant chamber, is then amplified.

1.1/2″ Tubular Bell (part 2) (Job No: 1206)

The first part of this post is 1206: 1.1/2″ Tubular bell (part 1)

In the first part of this post, which is the first day of work on the instrument, I made the cap, and the tube, and joined the parts together.  On the second day, which gives everything 24 hours to settle down, I tune the bell.

Tuning is a simple job of gradually shortening the length of the tube to raise the tone to the desired pitch.  When they are made in mass production, all the tubes are cut to standard lengths then chrome plated.  This is why they are never in tune, even the fundamental (the overall length) is at the wrong pitch.  Obviously my standards are a lot higher, and the fundamental is bang on the correct pitch, what I find out in the tuning process is whether my tweaks to the design have worked.  In this case I was delighted.

There are two main tones in a tubular bell: the fundamental and the strike tone.  The strike tone is the “clang” when the bell is hit, and it is this pitch that is hard to get correct.  On this bell I was within 20 cents of a perfect octave, which means I might have cracked the problem.  I have to replicate the bell now, and then work out the solution for the other 19 bells!

Once tuning is complete, I just clean the bell so it is shiny.


1″ Chime Frame (Job No: 1224)

Many, many years ago, just after leaving college and whilst working for Impact Percussion, I made a couple of their frames for 1″ chimes.


I have been asked to make something similar.  This is a good opportunity for me to revisit the whole concept, and make it how it should have been made in the first instance.

There are fundamental design issues that are easy to address, and repairs that I have had to make to the other frame’s components that I can just make properly in the first instance.  However there is one issue that really needs to dramatically change.


The way the bells hang over the bar makes them difficult to play without hitting the bar.  Pretty obvious really, another example of a schoolboy error, and an example of just why I had to set up by myself all those years ago.  When working for a boss, they have to be pleased first, before the customer.  Working for myself, besides my own job satisfaction, ultimately it is my customers who have to pleased.

So, the first stage is to get drawing to see how much room I have to play with, then make a mock up to see if my ideas work.


On my larger frames, where I have more room between bells, I used replaceable bell hangers because they are prone to be damaged and are difficult (therefore expensive) to repair.  The gap between the bells are too narrow on this frame, so I am having to use the more traditional hook.  These hooks enable the bells to sit higher than the bar to solve the main complaint.

There are differences to my approach however.  Everyone else goes down the path of least resistance, and just uses a flat bit of metal to mount the hooks on.  The problem is that they bend very easily, which causes all sorts of problems.  I have used right angled metal to give rigidity in both planes, however due to the space restrictions I have scalloped out a section around the bell.

Now I know the design will work, I can start making all the components.


Premier Pro Symphonic Timps (Job No: 1209)

Premier Pro symphonic timpani are just like elites but with a standard collar. Gibberish! Elites are top of Premier’s range of timpani, they have a fine tuning wheel under the bowl, and the counter hoop is three inches oversized, meaning three inches bigger than the bowl. This is the extended collar. Therefore the Pro symphonic timps are identical with the exception that the counter hoop is only one inch bigger than the bowl, which is referred to as “standard”. The use of the term collar originates from the days when calfskin was predominantly used on drums, and it is the amount the head is stretched down below the bearing edge.

When I overhaul a set of timps, there is a lot of work involved over a period of days or even weeks. My approach is to fix everything properly; I am after all a professional and that is what I am being paid to do. However not everyone is as conscientious, and in the end, you get what you pay for. So when I work on timpani, I am fixing problems associated with wear and tear, and the dogs dinner that the previous person made of the job. The posts on timpani pick out examples of problems I encounter, rather than me writing, and you reading the same thing every time I do a set of timpani (which is why I have coloured this bit blue).

The heel on the base casting is prone to wear. It is the third point of contact the the floor, the other two being the casters, so when the drums are moved the heel can drag. As the heel wears away the tuning mechanism beneath the base casting starts to foul against the floor, which obviously is a problem. Easy fix, just screw a bit of something to the underside of the heel. And this is what happens to that solution:


As can be seen, one has survived, one has fallen off leaving steel spikes, and one has been gone so long the steel spikes have worn completely away. A 30% success rate is just not acceptable to me, neither is having those steel spikes! Why have they come off? The answer is simple, the repairer didn’t know what they were doing. As the plastic heel drags on the floor it is applying a sheer force to the screws, and screws are very weak in that direction, so they “sheer” off. Secondly, plastic is softer than aluminium, so it is never going to last (durr)!

So the first major obstacle is trying to get the sheered, hard steel screws out of the soft aluminium which is not easy, and can sometimes take an hour. A frustrating, horrible job. Then I have a new block of aluminium, to bring the thickness back to original, welded to the castings.


From the top side, it can be seen that the heat from the welding burns the paint.


Which is then cleaned up and masked off, ready to be painted.


As the drums are moved about, the struts can work loose, so they need to be tightened up. This requires a bit of feel – it is a steel screw into an aluminium casting, and aluminium doesn’t hold a thread very well. I commonly find screws that have stripped their threads due to being overtightened. Now sometimes I strip a thread, but I replace the bolts. The problem is exacerbated by the wrong bolts being fit in the first instance – Yes that is a manufacturing defect regardless of age. Because I am a genius, I buy the longest screws that fit!


As Premier were developing the timpani various improvements were made. One issue was that on the larger drums, the heads were at such low tension, they had insufficient power to lift the pedal mechanism. Other manufacturers have a balanced action to overcome this problem. Premier went the same route and fit a spring to help lift the pedal. This is seen between the mechanism and casting on the left hand side.

This spring was also insufficient in power, so a more powerful spring was fit in a new place. This is what I have retro fitted to this mechanism.

The casters that are fit to Premier timpani don’t work. The route cause of the problem is that the casting was designed at least forty years ago for casters which have long since become obsolete. It is the brake lever on new casters that catch the frame. Premier fit spacers to lift the casters (bad idea from a mechanical engineering standpoint) and even ground away part of the casting.

Being a self proclaimed genius I use casters that fit, and they are the same as used on ludwig drums. However they are not available in europe, so I have to import them by the hundred. Once I have converted the drums to accept them, replacing the casters can be done by the customer.

Premier Glockenspiel (part 3) (Job No: 1226)

This post continues from 1226: Premier Glock (part 2) and started in 1226: Premier Glock (part 1)

The base board gets a fresh coat of black, whilst the frame has its third coat of varnish.

The whole lot is then glued and screwed together.

Now I cut the new felt, gather all the note pegs I will need and re-assemble the whole glockenspiel.

Above is a picture of the instrument back in its case.  I am very pleased with the end result.  Notice the extra note on the accidentals – this is a high E flat I made in 1220: Glockenspiel Notes

Bergerault Vibraphone (part 4) (Job No: 1214)

This post continues on from 1214: Bergerault vibe (part 3) and started with 1214: Bergerault vibe (part 1)

The inner two note rails are only supported at the high end of the vibraphone by a metal bracket.  Onto this bracket is also mounted the motor.

Because I have increased the depth of the two outer rails this bracket no longer fits.

So I just modified the design a little, and welded new outer supports in.  Now it will also be stronger, and certainly welding is a lot stronger than brazing which is how Bergerault make their instruments.  Welding is fusing two like metals together, so essentially it becomes one piece, whereas brazing uses a different metal to join the two elements, like glueing them together.

Now this bracket is on, the top frame is rigid, all it needs is the motor unit.  Then I can put the legs on the vibe, and put the notes back on.

It’s both satisfying and dissatisfying to see it all finished.  On the one hand it is good to see a finished instrument, especially when the job has been so involved.  On the other hand it looks just the same as it did when it came in, which is the point, but still I can’t really see any evidence of all the work I have done.

Bergerault Vibraphone (part 3) (Job No: 1214)

This post continues on from 1214 Bergerault vibe (part 2) and starts with
1214: Bergerault vibe (part 1)


The above image shows my progress with the Bergerault vibraphone over the last three days, from the left; prime, undercoat, top coat.

This is the moment, before I put the new note rails into the instrument, to sort out any problems with the inner two note rails.


Unsurprisingly, these rails were also loose.  Like the original outer rails, these also have a single tenon towards upper side of the rail.  This is supplement with a tiny bracket at the bottom.


As Paul the Porter pushes the instrument at the top, there is greater friction at the wheels making the instrument rock from side to side.  The leverage exerted by the very long rails on four octave instruments is enough to break open a single tenon joint, especially if it is located at either end (top or bottom).  Again this is a design flaw; a demonstration of a lack of knowledge, forethought, and expertise.
I go to museums and see objects made literally hundreds of years ago that demonstrate the type of joint needed to resist a particular force.

Once the glue is dry on the inner note rails, I can then glue in the outer rails.


If you look very closely at this end of the outer note rails, there are two holes.  This is an idea that I ripped off those museum pieces.  It’s called a pegged tenon joint.  Back in the day, they would have used a wooden peg, today I use a big screw.  This screw ensures that the tenon cannot be pulled out, and massively increases the strength of the joint – why wouldn’t I do it, it took less than five minutes.

At the end of the day, I will remove the clamps and do one final coat of paint so that it will be finished for the final assembly.

This post continues in 1214: Bergerault vibe (part 4)

Premier Glockenspiel (part 2) (Job No: 1226)

This post continues on from 1226 Premier Glock (part 1)

The first thing I do when building a glockenspiel frame is mark out where the notes will be.  From these marks, I know where the note pins will be going, so can position where I want to fix the note rails to the base board.


Now I can drill clearance holes through the base board, and counter sink them on the underside.  I have only ever met a few people who use clearance and pilot holes; coincidentally I also have respect for their work.  Most people can’t be bothered (good reason!)

The clearance hole allows the screw to pass straight through the base board, so when it goes into the note rail, it will pull the two parts together.  If no clearance hole is used, the fixing will screw through the board and rail simultaneously and therefore not pull the two parts together.  This is really very basic knowledge, and should be a given, sadly it is not.  Next time you need a tradesman, see if they use them, if not, find a new tradesman (good luck!)

The next step is to get the note rails on, and mark them out for the note pegs.


I then remove them to drill the pilot holes for the note pegs.

Pilot holes are used to stop the wood splitting.  They are the same size as the core of the screw to be used, so that only the flutings cut into the wood.

After the holes are drilled I put in braces front to back to support the note rails and prevent them from falling over.  At this stage I put the notes on to have a look at everything.


I like the combination of the oak on a black background, so I will varnish the frame.

This post continues in 1226: Premier Glock (part 3)