Restoring A Vintage Olympic Drum Kit

I would highly recommend a restoration to any drummer who has some spare time. The art of dismantling, cleaning and reassembling drums helps us to understand their design and construction on a deeper level and we can gain more respect for the instrument when we put time, care and effort into bringing a drum kit back to its former glory.

This lovely little drum kit on the restoration bench belonged to the late Delvin Stonehouse – A session drummer who worked with the likes of Mike Batt of the Wombles amongst many other artists. This was his personal drum kit – An early 1960s Premier Olympic ’65’ Outfit in white silk pearl finish, which he owned from new when he was 15.

According to Delvins wife, He played with a group called ‘The Waffle’. Cutting their teeth in halls and pubs in his early career. He met and played with Mike Batt in 1968 – the band were called ‘The Fat Ladies Twin’ – with their trademark black and white jackets, they frequently performed at the Railway Inn in Eastleigh. Mike Batt formed The Wombles (Mikes mother made the Womble costumes) but Delvin fell ill with Crohn’s Disease and could no longer play as much by then so could not commit.

The drum kit had been modified over the decades, which is fairly common – especially in the 1970s when many drummers added more tom tom drums to the smaller kits of the 1960s in order to play louder, more popular rock music at the time. Some of the badges were removed and I can only speculate that this was done as to hide the identity of the drum kit as being a ‘budget’ kit. But as many vintage drum enthusiasts may know, Olympic drums were simply drum shells which were not deemed high enough a quality to be used for top line Premier drum kits – these drum shells obtain the same specifications as the top of the range but were fitted with less hardware and sold as budget drum kits.

Here is a list of the restoration work carried out on the drum kit:

General:

  • Replacement tone control knobs sourced and fitted. Aftermarket [incorrect] locations of tone control attachments were retained to prevent further drilling holes in the drum shells.
  • Original Pre-International drum heads were cleaned and reused on the 12″ and 16″ toms due to their excellent condition.
  • All shells were stripped of hardware and treated to a deep clean, polish and wax finish with Autosol. Internal wood of shells were cleaned with wood silk cleaner/Polish.
  • All chromed items cleaned by hand with wire wool and polished with autosol and buffing wheel.
  • Internal screws and nuts were de-rusted in a surfactant mix and mild abrasive rub.
  • Original bass drum pedal, hi hat stand and snare stand cleaned

Snare Drum:

  • The discus snare drum (Model 1108) is a very desirable model being only 3″ in depth with a simple snare mechanism. I cleaned and detailed this drum without stripping it in order to retain the original factory assembly. Evans heads fitted.

Bass Drum:

  • The bass drum was the worst condition shell with many after-market modifications – A Rogers Swivomatic holder had been fitted, which requires an extra hole to be drilled in the shell. A slingerland tom mount had been fitted also. All of these fittings were removed.
  • Bass drum hoops were stripped of original silver paint in favour of a natural oiled finish.
  • Mounts replaced with original replacement mounts in order to blank-off additional aftermarket holes and retain an original aesthetic.
  • Damaged spurs replaced with original replacement parts.
  • Reproduction logo sourced from Premier Drums Forum on Facebook. Aquarian double ply clear batter head fitted.

This restoration took approximately 30 hours over six months not including sourcing replacement parts. The retro look and feel of the drum kit makes for a real delight to play – the photos of the kit are excellent but this kit needs to be seen and played to fully appreciate its beauty.

The replacement parts seemed to just appear at the right time on Facebook forums without having to seek them out – maybe it was meant to be! It was a real pleasure to work on this kit and I hope Delvin would be happy with the results and that this beautiful little drum kit will give another drummer a great service for the next 50+ years.

The natural oiled finish for the bass drum hoops were inspired by both Jamie Corstorphine of the Drum Vault and Darren Hambling, who is a member of the Vintage Olympic Drums Forum on Facebook who also restored a kit of the same finish.

Additional hardware supplied by:

Tristan Head

Joe Cox

Mike Ellis

Jamie Corstorphine

DD Drums, Falkirk

www.vintageolympic.co.uk

Barkeepers Friend

Autosol

B&Q

 

How to select a drum kit for a recording session

In this first part of a series of blogs I discuss the process involved in how and why I selected the drum kit to be used for a recording session.

I will be open and honest about all of the aspects and issues of this particular studio session and my overall experience of being called upon for session work as I feel it may be of some use to fellow musicians who find themselves being called upon or who are already in the studio environment.

Firstly, I would like to say thank you to The Coaltown Daisies for asking me to drum on their second album.  I find myself in a really fortunate position to be considered as drummer for this album and also being able to choose drums from a collection of drums I’ve hoarded throughout my career.

I had envisaged using my vintage aquamarine sparkle drum kit which I had played on the artists first album back in 2013 (recording studio) and had the kit set up in my music room at home.   After receiving the tracks from the artist I set about rehearsing with that drum kit but as time went on I felt that there was just something not quite right with the kit – something about the kit was not hitting the mark for me whilst rehearsing the songs.

Vintage Premier Aquamarine Sparkle Drum Kit

I tried a few different things to change the sound and feel of the kit such as using calf skin heads on the toms, thinking it would offer a nice tonal difference to the previous recordings.  Several types of bass drum heads, mufflers, snare drums and other gadgets started appearing in the music room but the unknown element missing from the sound of the kit was becoming increasingly frustrating.

I had recently acquired a black marine pearl Premier vintage drum kit which I was using in my tuition room and decided to remove the silencing pads and tune it up and as I played this kit more and more it just felt great and sounded fantastic.  I swapped out the aquamarine kit for the black marine pearl kit, which has a larger bass drum and floor tom and replaced the heads with Remo ambassadors.

The matching snare drum for the kit needed a reskin also so I went with what I knew best for these Royal Ace snare drums and that was an Aquarian Modern Vintage head.  This snare drum and head combination provides a focused snap in the centre of the drum and a warm overtone as it’s played towards the outer circumference.

This was definitely the kit for the album so I took it home and swapped it for another vintage kit to be used in the studio whilst the aquamarine kit went into storage until it is needed again. Getting the black marine pearl kit home and set up in our music room seemed to re-ignite a flame in me which helped motivate me to both practice and have fun on the drums. The sound of the drums was of such quality that I felt confident in the overall sound I was producing as I played which in turn boosted my creativity and experimentation in music.

Vintage Premier Black Marine Pearl Drum Kit at the Recording Studio in 2018

The set up was simple with four drums and four cymbals. This newfound ‘simple and quality’ approach began to have an effect on my work ethic, which in turn felt like it began to light up and energise my performance for the tracks during the rehearsals.

Drummers View of the studio set up 2018

In the next part of this blog I’ll chat about my rehearsal process for the album. All the challenges and how we managed to overcome them.

Thank you for reading my blog – feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions regarding drumming!