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.
In the first half of the repair of this vintage bass drum (1233: (pt 1)), I wrote about making a new counter hoop, fixing the shell and making replacement tuning lugs. The lugs are now back from the chrome platers, but more importantly, the drum is now needed by my customer at the end of the month. In order for me to realise the deadline, and fit in with my delivery schedule, I need to finish the bass drum today so it is ready to be delivered at the end of the week.
After selecting a calfskin big enough and then putting it in to soak, I get everything ready to lap the head onto the existing flesh hood that I repaired.
I like to leave the lapping to dry for a bit, so that the skin becomes tacky and starts to stick to itself before I put it on the drum. It will take 48hrs for the skin to completely dry around the hoop, but the playing surface will start drying quickly. So as long as I keep the playing surface wet, I have plenty of time to do the drum and get the head on later in the day.
In 1233: (part 1) I made new barrels for the tension rods to screw into. What I didn’t have was a tap long enough to put in a 2.1/4″ deep thread into the barrel. I had to order these specially, so sent the stuff to be plated during the delay. The video below shows the problem I had. It is a bit boring (in both meanings of the word), but it shows how the thread feels like it is going on and on and on.
Once the threads are cut and checked, I can assemble the drum shell and start preparing to put on the head.
I have mentioned putting on heads in other posts, and explained what I do. This time I remembered to video it!
With both heads evenly set, the drum is now finished, and has plenty of time to dry before Friday.
Today of course is polling day – time for us to support the essentially anti-democratic and self serving political system that we have here in the UK (and aggressively export). We will all (well about 10% of us) go out and give a mandate for 650 corrupt, dishonest and dishonorable bloody idiots to avoid the big issues for another 5 years. Politicians call it voter apathy (because they are a bit thick) but I think that they are wrong; it is not apathy, the general public is more political than ever (the one good thing that ukip have exposed). In our democratic system we have no constitutional ability to change how the country is run. The ability to do that is in the hands of the government, and mp’s won’t vote to get rid of themselves, they won’t even take a pay cut! Rant over.
It is funny how that what I am repairing goes in cycles; this winter I was doing timps after timps, now it is all vibes and drums. Here is yet another little drum that needs a new head.
As usual I forgot to take a before shot, but all I have done is put the new skin in the drink and taken the old heads off the drum. This is the old style fittings where both heads pull against each other, so the tension bolts are as long as the drum is deep, and the lugs are little eyes that they pass through.
Now I have the pieces, I cut the split head off its flesh hoop so that I can reuse the hoop, onto which I lapped the new skin. I do this first so that the lapping has a bit of time to dry out.
Next all the metal work, which is nickel plated, gets cleaned up, and the threads degreased. You know how oil can soak into your hands and make them stink, stained, dry and sore? Well the same happens to drum heads, because it is the same stuff (more or less) that we are covered in. DO NOT USE PETROCHEMICAL PRODUCTS ON DRUMS WITH NATURAL HEADS. If you come across a drum smothered in grease – it has been worked on by a moron!
With all the metal work finished, I now turn my attention to the drum shell. The critical part is the bearing edge, so this gets cleaned and lightly sanded, finishing with an almost polished surface. What I am wanting is a nice surface over which the skin will slide; what I don’t want are fibres of wood standing up like little spikes.
So now I have got the bearing edge how I like it, I now seal it to stop water going in and lifting the wood fibres. Candle wax, being made from paraffin which is an extract of oil is exactly what I don’t want to use to seal the bearing edge. Beeswax would be OK, but I use tallow which is a boiled sheep. I rub this into the wood using friction to generate heat enough to melt the tallow so that it can run into all the microscopic gaps in the wood fibres. I go over the drum a second time but also go down the sides a little so that the inside of the flesh hoop doesn’t stick to the drum shell as it dries. Finally I use tallow to lubricate the threads on the tension rods, and where there is metal to metal contact.
With everything clean and slippery, now the easy part – I put the drum head on, and the job is finished.