By Tim Kane
In conclusion of this two-part series on the most common top 10 drum hardware problems, I hope to guide you through potential solutions by discovering unique spot repair innovations.
6 – A shell game
One of the largest problems at a gig or practice that can be a real downer is when a piece of hardware actually tears away from your interior wooden shell and/or exterior lamination. Stress is the most common culprit such as when too much pressure is applied to a tom hoop while its mount is integrated with a shell. Another common issue involves continuously over tightening a tension rod, ultimately warping your shell’s beveled edge and causing lug screws to eventually tear through the shell. While it is easy enough to replace lug screws and tension rods, the more difficult challenge is repairing the cracked wooden shell itself. The best medicine to avoid this is to ensure you have the proper washers under all your lug screws.
As an amateur drum repair guy myself, I’ve found the easiest way to fix a cracked shell – minus just sending it back to the manufacturer or a local drum shop – is by removing all the hardware and injecting wood glue into both sides of the cracked wood and then clamping both sides together to dry. Rather than writing a 2,000-word diatribe on this complex topic here, a really well prepared article on cracked shell repair was recently featured in Drum Magazine that you should check out.
7 – Why so tense?
Mentioning tension issues, there are several other potential problem areas to consider. Using the wrong sized tension rods in their lug receptors (also called swivel nuts) causes stripping. Given you do have the right size screw or lug, unfortunately not much can be done once the stripping has occurred in the receptor chamber itself. An ounce of prevention here is certainly worth a pound of cure.
Before writing off that piece of gear, however, it would be wise to remove that tension rod from the lug’s swivel nut and see if the teeth are in fact stripped. Use a headlamp or hand held flashlight to probe for strippage inside the receptor. If detected, replace it immediately, as putting the same stripped rod back in its swivel nut will only advance the dilemma. If the swivel nut inside the lug is damaged, you will need to take your drumhead off and unscrew the lug from the shell’s interior to replace it. You can buy swivel nuts that fit most drum kits in that will spare you the expense of replacing the entire lug.
The good news is you can play a gig or practice without a tension rod or two, if need be. If your stripped swivel nut is an important top batter side element of your kit, I suggest you borrow another lug for the time being from a bottom resonant side drum until a replacement arrives.
The other problem that often occurs with lugs on older, vintage kits or even some new beginner level sets is the metal spring inserts produce excessive noise. Most drummers describe it as a “weird boinging sound.” The best way to fix this sound problem that can wreak havoc in a studio or while mic’ed up live is to literally take the lug off its shell and stuff the inner cavity with cotton or cloth so that it surrounds the spring insert, and reattach the lug to the shell. Trust me, the noise will be gone or greatly diminished.
7 – YOU’RE SCREWED
Stripping is also common among screws used to fasten your hardware stands’ components together. Prone to grime buildup, the particular screw most impacted is your cymbal stand wing screws.
First, it’s always a good idea to carry screw and nut spares. Two problems occur when a stand’s screw becomes stripped. Your stand will either be stuck in its fully extended position, or unable to be extended to the desired height. While playing and then transporting a frozen stand is no big deal, duct tape is certainly your temporary friend for stands that can’t be adjusted.
The problem with stripped screws is the receptor hole most likely is also stripped and needs to be re-bored by a professional machinist or drum shop tech. And often times that can cost as much as simply purchasing a brand new replacement boom stand or boom arm.
8 – WHAT’S UP YOUR SLEEVES?
We’ll keep this topic short. While most everyone knows – or at least should – not to place your cymbals directly on the metal mount without a nylon sleeve in place first, the reality is sleeves do get lost – even our black flanged base threaded varieties. I’ve used anything from gaffers tape to a plastic straw for the quick fix until I can order replacements. That’s much better than causing irreparable damage to your cymbal.
9 – BEING THE CLUTCH PLAYER
The hi-hat stand gives drummers immense pleasure and can cause a great deal of suffering as well. If you break even one component of your hi-hat stand during a performance, you basically lose the transmission drive powering your drum kit. I bring two hi-hat stands – or at minimum a second clutch – to every gig or practice just in case. The reality is not all drummers own two hi-hat stands. Before you can fix the problem, however, you need to know what it is.
Starting at the top, you should first check to see if the upper and lower clamps of your clutch are separated. If those are ok, your next step should be to see if the upper pull rod that essentially lifts your hi-hat cymbals up and down has separated from its bottom pull rod counterpart. You will need to take the stand’s upper shaft off to access the rods. If they are screwed together fine, your next process of elimination involves inspecting the hi-hat’s chain or strip that connects to your foot pedal. Check. Continuing down your stand, the hi-hat foot pedal is the final element to review. If your pedal is swaying from side-to-side, you have probably disconnected or broken the heel plate’s Y-shaped radius rod away from the frame.
While there are no easy answers when hi-hat parts break, duct tape can get you through, including taping your top hi-hat cymbal directly to the pull rod for the time being. Doesn’t look pretty, but neither does a drummer playing without a hit-hat.
10 – Ground control to Major Tom…
Finally, my top 10 drum hardware problems conclude with a salute to errant tom-tom support. The so-called tom-tom sway is really a thing of the past. Still, stuff breaks. I own an extra tom-holder for my kit just in case. Nothing looks worse than a tom-tom falling off your kit or suddenly taking a dive mid-song. I’ve found some product models’ tom mounts employ small wingnuts to secure the mount tilter. Replacing that nut with a rack system T handle definitely tightens things up and avoids potential stripping and weak connections.
If the tom clamp is beginning to lose its grip, a proven get-me-by is to cut two 1-inch squares from a plastic coke bottle and put them in the jaws of the clamp that grip the rotation ball. And if all else fails, use the top basket portion of a back-up snare drum stand attached to either a boom stand base or universal grabber clamp to hold your tom-tom up for the time being.