Restoration Tips

by Ned Ingberman

Table Of Contents

1. The Ideal Wood Filler For Drum Restoration
2. How To Repair Cracks In Ludwig Vistalite Drums
3. Removing Tension Rod Rust
4. Prevent Finish Fade
5. Metal Polish
6. Cleaning and Polishing Vistalite Drums
7. Fixing Bent Rims
8. Professional Drum Restoration Consultation Service



The best wood filler we have found for drum shell repair is “Plastic Wood”, a product made by DAP. With its high cellulose fiber content this wood filler is designed to stay tight. It doesn’t shrink or become brittle – so it won’t crack or loose its bond when the shell flexes or vibrates during tuning or playing, or when the shell expands and contracts with changing weather. When used for bearing edge repair, Plastic Wood even stands up to the intense friction and pressure produced by the drum head. The makers of this product say it “Looks and acts like real wood” and they mean it. Plastic Wood can be sanded, cut, drilled, planed, varnished, painted or lacquered.

This high performance wood filler comes in a quick-drying solvent formula, and a slower drying non-toxic latex formula. We recommend the non-toxic formula. Unlike the solvent based formula, it’s non-flammable, has no harmful vapor and does not require protective dust mask when being sanded. Both formulas come in assorted colors including maple and mahogany.

Plastic Wood can be found in most hardware stores. For information on where to purchase Plastic Wood in your area call DAP at 888-327-8477.

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Plastics distributor and manufacturer, GE Polymershapes, Inc., offers a line of special glues for repairing cracks and breaks in acrylic plastic. Formerly known as “Cadillac Plastics” during the 70’s-80’s, this company produced the acrylic material for the Ludwig Drum Company’s “Vistalite” drums.

The glue, made by “Weldon”, comes in 3 different viscosities:
1) “Weldon 3” – has a watery consistency and penetrates into hairline
cracks. It molecularly bonds (melts) plastic together and permanently
seals the crack.
2) “Weldon 5” – has a consistency of syrup and is used for joining together
3) “Weldon 10” – is thicker than #5, has a consistency of honey and is used
also for joining together breaks.

Both Weldon 3 and 5 are clear and colorless; Weldon 10 has an opaque cast and therefore best when used where it would be least conspicuous – i.e. – on darker colored Vistalites, or for re-joining unglued seams. Before using these products, be sure to read the directions and precautions concerning proper ventilation, etc.

GE Polymershapes can be reached at: phone – (800)274-1000; address – 1218 Central Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55413; website –

Lastly, here’s a tip on preventing cracks. If you remove lug casings or mounts from your Vistalite drums, be very careful when re-mounting them. Tighten the screws and bolts just enough to be slightly snug, but not any more. Over tightening can cause hairline cracks in the shell around the perimeter of the mounting holes.

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You can quickly and effectively remove rust on tension rod threads using grade “0000” superfine steel wool, a Drum Accessory Bit Key and a power drill. A dust mask is also recommended to avoid the inhalation of superfine rust particles.

First, mount the Drum Accessory Bit Key (made by Evans) into your power drill, then set the drill on “reverse” mode. (Note: A home-made version of the bit can be made by cutting off the stem section of a drum key. Place the cut where the stem section connects to the wing section.)

Next, nestle the shaft of the rusty tension rod into a thick wad of the steel wool. Squeeze the wool tightly in your hand. Then place the key on the head of the tension rod and press the trigger.

The tension rod will then start to “unscrew” from the steel wool. When it is almost out of the wool completely, release the trigger and switch the drill’s direction mode to “forward”. Then “drill” the rod back into the wool. Repeat both the forward and reverse steps until you see all of the rust gone. Be sure to squeeze the steel wool as tightly as you can while you’re “drilling”.

For better results, especially on heavy rust, use a vice to squeeze the steel wool instead of your hand. It will also be easier on your hand. When using the vice, be sure to sandwich the steel wool between two thin strips of wood or dense cardboard as a protective bushing to prevent any possible stripping of the tension rod threads due to contact with the jaws of the vice. Use plenty of steel wool, as it compresses down when the vice is tightened.

Each time you “drill” the rod in and out, tighten the vice slightly to compensate for the loss of friction caused by the wearing down of the steel wool. The vice should be tight enough so that the drilling resistance or “feel” of the tension rod is similar to that of a wood screw going into soft wood.

If even the vice and steel wool do not get rid of the rust, remove the steel wool (and protective strips of wood or cardboard). In its place, insert two strips of masonite and follow the same procedure as you did in using the steel wool. The direct contact of the tension rod against the masonite will in some cases do the job when steel wool won’t.

If that fails you might consider re-plating the rod if the rust is too unsightly or using a motor-driven wire wheel. This will strip off the chrome or nickel plating on the tension rod and is recommended only in cases where the plating has deteriorated to such a degree that its removal would actually improve the appearance of the tension rod.

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Continued exposure to direct sunlight will, over time, discolor the mylar wrap on your drums. If you leave your drum kit set up in your home, be sure that the drums are far enough from a window so that direct rays of the sun can not reach them.

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“Simichrome” is a very special soft paste polish made in Germany. This product not only polishes metal to a brilliant luster, but also leaves a protective film. It can be used on nickel, chrome, brass, copper, aluminum, steel, silver… virtually any metal. Although Simichrome is safe enough to polish even Plexiglas without scratching, we don’t recommend it for use on lacquer finished metal drums – such as vintage Ludwig “Black Beauties” or Leedy “Black Elites”. Simichrome is available in 1¾ oz. tube for $7.35 or in an 8.8 oz. size for $22.15. It’s expensive, but a little goes a long way. To find a store closest to you that sells Simichrome, call Competition Chemicals at (641)648-5121.

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Like a window, Ludwig’s Vistalite drum with its transparent acrylic shell gives high visibility to accumulated dirt and film not only on its exterior surface, but on its interior as well. In addition, unlike most vintage drums wrapped in pearl and sparkle patterns, the Vistalite with its non-patterned finish provides no camouflage for dirt. That’s why Vistalites require more frequent cleaning and polishing than most other drums. Using the right cleaning methods and products is essential, otherwise a gummy residue, streaky film or static charge could result – or even worse, scratches and hazing.

“Windex”, a well-known household glass cleaner is a popular item with some collectors. But because Windex does not lubricate as it cleans, dust and dirt trapped between the cloth and surface can leave super-fine scratches in the acrylic. Over time, this can develop into a light grade haze, diminishing the optic clarity of the acrylic.

The best products we have found for cleaning and polishing Vistalite drums and mylar wrapped drums are made by Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze. Their excellent line of products are even approved by the United States military for use in military applications.

“Meguiar’s Clear Plastic Detailer No. 18” is a quick spray-on and wipe-off cleaner/polisher recommended for regular maintenance. It leaves Vistalites sparkling clear and with an anti-static finish. The Detailer is also great for use on eyeglasses and all types of other clear plastics.

“Meguiar’s Clear Plastic Cleaner No. 17” removes not only dirt and film, but light hazing and light scratches as well. Here are some tips for using the cleaner: (1) work it into the finish with a terry cloth and wipe off the residue, (2) apply it by hand and not with a rotary buffer, (3) always use it when the acrylic is cool and in the shade, (4) follow with “Meguiar’s Clear Plastic Polish No. 10”.

“Meguiar’s Plastic Polish No. 10” refines the finish and restores optical clarity. It also leaves a static free coating that repels dust. When applying the polish, follow the same usage tips 1, 2 and 3 as the cleaner.

According to Meguiar’s, the selection of toweling is almost as important as the selection of cleaners and polishes. They explained, “It is impossible to achieve perfect clarity when using the wrong type of toweling. The best toweling is 100% cotton deep pile terry cloth. Synthetic fibers blended into cotton toweling create a slower wipe off because they will not absorb, scratch the surface because they will not soften, and are more prone to create static. Deep pile 100% cotton terry cloth reduces effort and labor time by wiping off excess product faster and protects the surface from being scratched when dust and particles are trapped between the cloth and the surface.”

To remove abrasions that won’t come out with the hand applied Meguiar’s 18, 17 and 10, the company offers an assortment of machine-applied products including more aggressive scratch-removal compounds and “Unigrit Finishing Papers” for sanding. I asked Mike Pennington, Meguiar’s product specialist, if any of the machine-applied products could be used by hand with some measure of success. He confirmed that “Meguiar’s Machine Glaze No. 3”, their light abrasion remover, could be used.

For information on a Meguiar’s dealer nearest to you and for technical assistance on using their products call Meguiar’s toll free at (800) 347-5700.

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FixingBentRims-headerThrowing a wrench into the works isn’t always a bad thing. In the case of a bent drum rim, it’s the way to straighten things out. With wrench in hand and the aid of this article, you can remove unsightly bends and restore a rim to its original contour.

Of the many shapes and forms rim damage can take, the most common is the inward-protruding bend. This occurs in the upper area of the rim above the bearing edge of the drum and protrudes toward the drum head. In this article, we’ll focus on how to restore this particular kind of rim bend in non-cast flange-style vintage rims.
Note: some rims have an inherent irregularity in the shape of their joint. This irregularity can be distinguished from a dent by its rippled or wavy appearance which may extend into the rim flange. In such cases, it’s best to leave it as is. Any repair attempt can crack the weld of the joint.

     To get started here is a list of tools and supplies you’ll need:

  • Adjustable 8″ Crescent®-type wrench
  • Metal shim plate, 1-1/4″ x 1/2″ x 1/8″
  •  1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ piece of non-corrugated cardboard – 1/16″ thick
  • Masking tape

The first step is to customize your wrench. Cut a piece of cardboard the size of the contact surface of the adjustable lower jaw of the wrench. Then use the masking tape to bond the cardboard tightly to the lower jaw’s surface. The cardboard buffers any metal to metal contact between the lower jaw and rim which could otherwise mar the rim.

The metal shim plate also buffers the rim from being damaged by the wrench and helps to realign the rim’s vertical profile. If you don’t have a ready made shim plate, cut a 1-1/4″ section of metal from a 1/2″ strip of 1/8″ thick stock. An excellent source of metal stock is a leg or leg support section of a defunct flat base vintage Ludwig hi hat, cymbal, or snare stand. Metal stock can also be found at a good hardware store. After the shim is cut, file away any sharp edges or burrs and be sure all surfaces of the shim are perfectly smooth.

Lining Things Up

Unlike many restoration projects which require a damaged component to be removed from the drum before it’s repaired, a bent rim is best left mounted on the drum. This anchors and stabilizes the rim to prevent it from shifting or flexing as pressure is applied by the wrench. Be sure all tension rods are snug. Then position the drum horizontally on a table so that you’re facing the inside wall of the bend.

FixingBentRimsfig1Next, position the broadside of the shim horizontally alongside the outside wall of the bend (see Figure 1). Line up the midpoint of the shim with the extreme point in the bend (i.e.: where it is most protruding inward.) Also, be sure the long edge of the shim is resting on the rim flange below it. Holding the shim in place, position the fixed upper jaw of the wrench flush against the midpoint of the shim and tighten the adjustment knurl so that the lower jaw is squeezing the extremity of the bend. Adjust the position of the wrench so the lower jaw is close to or touching the drum head. To firm up the grip of the wrench, gently jiggle the handle forward and backward while simultaneously tightening the knurl.
Figure 1

If you have a Ludwig-type triple-flange rim, and the drumhead is either stretched out or has a deep collar-causing the drumhead hoop to extend fairly low over the edge of the drum-you may need to replace the head with one that has a shallower collar. This will bring the rim up higher above the drumhead, allowing the wrench to get a better grip on the rim. Otherwise the wrench can slip due to the curved edge of the rim’s upper flange.

Removing The Bend

FixingBentRims-fig2Slowly apply forward pressure on the wrench handle while anchoring the drum with your alternate hand. As the wrench handle moves forward, the section of the rim between the jaws will straighten up. To gauge how far forward to move the wrench in order to restore perfect perpendicularity, adjust your line of vision so your view is from above (see Figure 2 on left). From this vantage point it will be easy to assess the vertical profile of the rim.

If in the process, the wrench is extended too far forward, it will misshape the rim causing it to bend outward. This can easily be rectified. First, using the remainder of your cardboard supply, create another shim by folding the cardboard three layers thick. Then position the broadside of the shim horizontally against the bend on the inside wall of the rim with the shim’s long edge against the drum head (see Figure 3 below).


Since most bends span a width greater than the jaws of the wrench, multiple wrench applications are usually needed. For best results when re-applying the wrench,  position the lower jaw at the periphery of the section of the bend previously straightened. Continue to monitor the perpendicularity of the rim between wrench applications.


Holding the shim in place, position the lower jaw against the extremity of the bend and tighten the adjustment knurl until the upper jaw is squeezing the shim. Firm up the grip of the wrench as described earlier and be sure there is clearance space of about 1/8″ between the tip of the upper jaw and the drum head. Then slowly move the wrench handle inward until the rim is perfectly perpendicular.

The last step is a touch test to confirm the rim’s straightness

Place your fingertip against the inside wall of the rim at a point two inches away from the repaired area. In a continuous motion, slowly rub your finger into, across and two inches beyond the repaired zone. As your finger moves across the rim, you should feel a smooth continuity in its curvature.

Restoring the original contour of a rim is not likely to improve the tone quality of your drum, but it will certainly enhance its beauty – and musicians, like all artists, have a special relationship to beauty. A noted Polish poet, Cyprian Norwid, once wrote, “Beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to raise us up.”

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