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  #1  
Old 11-29-2012, 11:57 PM
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Default Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

Hi!

Been reading up on the forums and lurking around for some time, lots of great stuff to be found here.
Thought I'd share this thing I'm working on at the moment with anyone interested.


I have an old Ludwig Vistalite kit that was in a pretty bad condition
that I thought I'd try to bring back to life.
I figured I'd document some of the process and ended up writing a _lot_ of stuff on the matter so bear with me, it's going to take a few posts to get all the text and the pics up.

The process is not finished yet and there is some work to be done still and parts to get.
The shells have lots of scratches and marks that I might try to get rid of at some point.
The main thing is NOT to get the kit looking as new and shiny as possible but to make it sound as good as possible.
Basically meaning recutting the bearing edges on all of the shells. I'm doing some cosmetic improvements
also when absolutely necessary, but as I said the main factor is the sound.

I took quite a lot of pics also but there are no actual "before" pics this time,
since I didn't have a camera available when I started the process.
Also the picture quality isn't all that good but you should get the point.


This is not by any means meant to be a complete step-by-step guide to fixing acrylic drums,
but more like something that I did on the side. It also might be useful for someone in the same position.
There are of course lots of ways to do the work I'm doing, this is just how I'm getting it done.


I had zero experience with working on drums prior to this
but I've done quite a bit of woodworking so I had some idea of what I was getting into.
Besides, not being entirely sure what you're about to dwell into makes for a much more interesting ride..





The kit, to start out with, is a basic clear blue Ludwig Vistalite 22x14 12x8 13x9 16x16,
judging from the serial numbers it's late 70s. The original snare is not with the kit.

I've had the set for about ten years, and when it made it's way to me it was already pretty beat up.
I played on it for a few years and in 2006 I stopped
playing the drums altogether, and from there on the drums had mostly been storaged in different warehouses.
Last year I had the thought of getting back to playing
and eventually I started gathering up the pieces in order to get the set back together.
A lot of the hardware -bass drum legs for example- remains to be found but I'm getting there.




The thing that started the actual restoration process basically was the bass drum.
There was a big crack, almost all the way through,
that someone had fixed years ago using a kind of epoxy or something and the result wasn't either good or good looking.
The crack had started to open up again and I wanted to get
the kit back to a playable state.
Originally I was planning to just glue the bass drum back together and leave it at that but
as I started to break the drums down I had a proper look at the bearing edges and realised they were really nasty.
My first reaction was to just sand them a bit smoother but I soon noticed that that didn't do much good.
These drums would need a lot more work to get them back in the game.


So I got to work.

After removing all of the hardware from the shells I got to work on the bass drum first.
I removed the epoxy completely and, in order to make the gluing process easier, I cracked the shell completely open.
Which was pretty easy since it only had maybe about an inch of acrylic left at the end of the crack holding it together.

Then I applied some acrylic glue - I think it's actually referred to as a bonding material but I'll just use the word glue -
to the crack and pressed it firmly together.
Now since I'm on a pretty tight budjet I'm trying to make do with whatever I have
lying around the house to get the work done.


Hence I used clear adhesive tape to apply the pressure to the seam during the glue-up.
As you know if you ever tried to
snap a piece of clear tape in half just by pulling it apart, it is extremely resistant.
So what I did was, after applying the glue,
I attached some of the tape "behind" the crack and then, while firmly pulling it with my right
hand and really stretching the tape,
I pushed the shell towards the seam with my left hand till I saw the pieces getting together
tight enough for some of the glue to start coming out of the seam. Then I attached the tape on the other
side of the seam while continuing to pull on it hard. Did this many times over until the seam seemed sturdy enough.

Then I let it dry for as long as was stated in the manual before removing the tape. With this particular glue there
was also use of light involved to get the bond strong. Basically, when you're not really familiar
with any given material you're using, just follow the product manual as closely as possible. Can't go wrong that way.



Here is the first batch of pics, more to come soon
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Old 11-29-2012, 11:59 PM
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Default Re: Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

In this picture you see I'm bringing the
saw around to meet up the first cut, all the way around the shell.
At this point the cut is out of line roughly about 1mm but I knew the final sanding would make it completely flush,
so it was all good. Took me approximately 30 minutes for the whole sawing process.
The depth of the bass drum shell was slightly under 14" when I started,
after sawing and sanding it got down to roughly about 13" Which, I'd say, makes it pretty unique.
Not that it really matters tho, as long as it sounds good.
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Old 11-30-2012, 12:00 AM
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Default Re: Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

Damn dude... GOOD LUCK! That's a lot of work in front of ya. I commend ya. Hope it comes out well.
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Old 11-30-2012, 12:00 AM
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Default Re: Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

Here's a close up of one of the edges sawed off, I put next to it a match to better show the proportions.
I think this is interesting because on the bearing edge there are what seem to be round table saw marks,
meaning that the bearing edges were not done on a router as one would think
but instead with the table saw, before the acrylic
was bend to a shell. From my experience, this type of work is usually faster, easier and safer to do on a router.
The only thing that I can think of as to why they would have done it like this
is that the acrylic might have needed a specific kind of router bit that they didn't maybe want to spend money on or that
maybe the acrylic would have made the router bit used in the work "de-sharpen" (I don't know the correct word) too fast
so they chose to use a rough saw blade to do it. Which of course results in what we are seeing here.
I don't know, maybe someone with more experience knows better?

Also looking at this picture it might be that after this project is done I'm going to start working on that match..
Looks like it probably came from the same factory that these Ludwigs of mine were made in.
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Old 11-30-2012, 12:03 AM
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Default Re: Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

Next up was the bearing edges. As you can see from the pictures the quality on some of these is horrible.
While some edges are bearly "rough", some of the edges are a total mess.
Especially in the seam part where the shell meets up. One of the toms had a 3mm gap going from one
part of the shell to the other. On top of the gaps, the finishing is just all around plain awful. It seems that
in whatever factory these were made they either didn't have time after machining
to look at the product for flaws or then they simply didn't care.
When I was working at a factory we checked all the furniture we were making to prevent stuff like this going out.
Times were different then I guess.


TO true the edges I did the followong: First I glued up some rough sandpaper , 40 grit,
to an even surface and started sanding the edges even.
I basically sanded for two minutes most and then vacuumed the sandpaper all over because the plastic dust/brittle
filled the paper up really quickly.

Repeated this process basically a hundred times for both sides of each drum until i got the edge even all the way
around so that all parts of the edge were touching the work surface evenly.
Obviously when I was sanding the edges I constantly measured the depth around the shell to make sure
that the shell was even in depth all around.


After getting the edges true with the 40 grit I glued some 120 grit paper on the other side of the board
and used that to finish off the sanding job.

The truing of the bass drum edges needed some more work.
Or the front edge especially. There wasn't a reso head on the drum at the time when I got it
and I never bothered to put one in. There was some hardware missing and when I was younger I couldn't have
cared less if there was a reso head or not. There were bits and pieces missing from the bearing edge, some chunks
as large as 6mm so I knew sanding alone would have taken too long.

What I did was I opted for the japanese hand saw - the pull-saw - my favourite home tool. I put some yellow tape around
the shell and drew a line on it where to cut along. I held a guiding block to the shell at first
to help me get the first cut straight. After that I gradually made the cut deeper until I got the blade through
the shell. From there on I started sawing following the line that I had drew, first going halfway around the shell
and then going back to the starting point and coming round the other way. Going at it with the japanese saw can
be slightly intimidating since it's pretty difficult to
"correct" the way the saw is going if it's starting to stray from the path. So basically the first cut defines
how the cut is going to go.
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Old 11-30-2012, 12:06 AM
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Default Re: Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

Looks like the previous posts came out in the wrong order...


Here's some more pics
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Old 11-30-2012, 12:13 AM
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Default Re: Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

The hoops were pretty simple to do so I decided to get them done also, even if they have no effect on the sound whatsoever.
First I removed the silver inlays, then cleaned the paint residue off of them
with some nasty smelling stuff. The hoops themselves it seems were also re-painted at some point. I scraped the paint
off with a carpet knife, then sanded it with first a 120 grit and then a 150 grit paper. Put some yellow tape
on the center of the inlay so the paint wouldn't get there,
in order for the glue to attach better for when it was time to glue the inlay back on.
Then I put three small nails on the center of the inlay,
just deep enough so that they wouldn't penetrate out from the other side.
Attached some wire on the nails and hooked it up to whatever I found lying around in order to get the
hoop hung up so that I could paint it from all sides at once. Put a few coats of spray paint, let it dry, sanded with
a fine sand paper then put on some more paint. Basic stuff.

Then I removed the nails and the tape and glued the inlay back on, using clamps with small bits of rubber
on the inlay to apply pressure.
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Old 11-30-2012, 12:15 AM
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Default Re: Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

The most important bit of anything: nutrition!

Looking at this pic it seems to me that the eggs and the bacon joined their forces in order to deliver a flying karate kick
to break up those healthy looking rye breads.. What's up with that?
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Old 11-30-2012, 12:17 AM
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Default Re: Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

Food for the body and food for the mind!
Got to have music on, all the time. I've been especially listening to a lot of Coltrane and STP lately
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Old 11-30-2012, 12:20 AM
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Default Re: Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

The chrome parts I soaked in "spirit vinegar". Let them soak for the night and then scrub them clean
with a microfiber cloth. Got the rust off surprisingly well.
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Old 11-30-2012, 12:27 AM
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Default Re: Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

Today was when I got to actually got to cut the edges.
The bearing edges on the drums were originally 30 degrees. Or more like they were trying to come off as 30 degrees..
I decided to go with a 45 degree inside cut and a small 45 degree cut on the outside.
I did the inside cut in three stages, not having any experience with acrylics I didn't want to rush it.
Working the acrylic proved to be a breeze, no problems there whatsoever. Except for the small plastic flakes that got everywhere tho..
Once I got the cuts done I finished the edge with some fine grit sanding paper soaked in water.
I purposely left the outer cut pretty small, since It's easy to sand it a bit more by hand if there is a need
to change the shape or depth of the cut. At the moment it's like that and whether I need to do any changes
remains to be seen.
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Old 11-30-2012, 12:41 AM
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Default Re: Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

The first two pics are of the bearing edges just after being cut to the final shape, before any kind of sanding.

Then it was time to get to the fun part - assembling the drums and fitting the heads!


Notice - when I put the hardware back on I tightened the screws on the lugs VERY gently,
for I've read that the acrylic is prone to start cracking if you apply too much pressure to it. Don't want to find out.

Put the original gaskets in there under the lugs. I've read about gaskets and resonating issues but these are really thin plastic, I don't think they'll do any harm.

I left some of the parts out for the time being, such as the bass drum tom mount thing. As I said there is still lots of stuff to be done and I don't want to rush it.


For the heads, I Went with Remo. Something about that logo on the head that I'm accustomed to I guess. Just feels right.
Pinstripes for the batters, clear ambassadors for the resos.
Next time I need to change heads I'm going to give coated Emperors a try tho. I'm interested in hearing the difference.

For the bass drum I got a Powersound 3 for the batter.
The thing is that I don't personally really like the open sound, or feel,
of a full unmuffled reso head when playing so I didn't get a new reso head at all.
I took an old Aquarian super kick that I found lying around that was broken and cut it up and put it on the front,
just to be able to have the front hoop attached
without the reso head actually resonating. I'm going to put some kind of muffling inside the bass drum once I actually get to play it.
But all of this resonating stuff is fairly new to me so this is something I'm going to be looking into more sometime in the future. Experimentation is the key!


But, for now I'm just going for that "thump" from the bass drum. Love that sound.
I play heel up mostly and bury the beater anyway so that's the feel that I'm used to and enjoy the most.


I live in a place where I can't really make noise - plus it's 11.30 pm at the moment - so I can't really play
on these things properly yet. Which is kind of frustrating really, since Iäve been working on them for weeks..
I did tune the two toms in the pics and managed to
get them in tune by actually tuning them, rather than by luck and accident. From the slight tapping
I was able to do the floor tom sounds massive, and the 13" found a nice sweet spot that went really well with the floor tom.
I'm going to get the kit set up at my rehearsal space next week, I'll try to get a recording of some kind done then.
Of course I'll get some pics with the kit fully set up, cymbals and all.

As you see the I put the bass drum together with 5 claws on the batter and five claws on the front..
I obviously did not tighten the heads or tune them, it was solely for the purpose of getting to see how it
looks with both heads and hoops in place. So I have no idea yet how it sounds.



Hope you enjoyed the pictures. This has been a really fun process and I'm really looking forward
to getting to actually get to play on these things.

-Poika
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Old 11-30-2012, 01:02 AM
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Default Re: Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

Great job!

I have to say, I winced when I looked at some of the posts. The saw on the bass drum, that crack too. I really wasn't sure where it was going to go.

You've done really well here. Those drums were in rough shape! I've tried cleaning chrome before using spirit vinegar but I didn't leave them to soak overnight like you did. That might be my next job on my bop kit (Pearl Export conversion).

The Vistalites look great now.
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Old 11-30-2012, 01:23 AM
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Haha thanks, I've been doing some serious wincing too with these drums but at the moment I'm grinning from ear to ear..
The japanese saw is actually really good with these kind of jobs, as long as you know how to use it. As with anything, put something with power into the wrong hands and bad things will happen.

The fix of the crack turned out really good. <-- Unlike this sentence..

The vinegar worked out well. If you don't mind the smell or a few hours worth of scrubbing I'd highly recommed it. Doesn't cost too much either.

Last edited by Bernhard; 05-31-2013 at 08:28 AM. Reason: Edited by Arky: merging consecutive posts
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Old 11-30-2012, 02:46 AM
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Default Re: Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

Those edges were unbelievable- looked more like file marks from a rough file than tablesaw marks. Rough as hell though.

What do the cracks look like after the glue up? Still visible/?

Great work and it shows that it can be done with basic tools and a lot of elbow grease. People often make enormous deal out of cutting a bearing edge or trueing up a face of a shell. A flat reference surface is all you need.
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Old 11-30-2012, 09:58 AM
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The crack is visible but luckily it's positioned on the lower part of the bass drum that's facing the floor so you hardly notice it. You can see it on the last picture with the bass drum turned face up.

True, it's not rocket science but it is easy to mess up if you're not paying attention. I have taken my time with it and I made sure to constantly measure and check everything that I'm doing. The only thing that started to feel like a chore was the truing of the edges with the sand paper. That acrylic stuff doesn't really smell too nice when worked on.

Some of the pics came out in the wrong order so they might be a little confusing. The shot of the edge that has the white scratch marks is actually taken during the truing (sanding) of the edges, maybe that is what you meant when saying that it looked like the edges had been filed?

Thanks for the compliment!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vegas Island View Post
Damn dude... GOOD LUCK! That's a lot of work in front of ya. I commend ya. Hope it comes out well.

I hadn't noticed this post earlier. Thanks Vegas Island!
As you see it's coming along pretty nicely :)

Last edited by Bernhard; 05-31-2013 at 08:27 AM. Reason: Edited by Arky: merging consecutive posts
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Old 11-30-2012, 05:41 PM
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Default Re: Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

The city got hit by a snow storm today and I had to change my plans. Which I didn't really mind since I got to make a quick detour to the rehearsal space to set up the drums and play for a minute!

First impressions are really good. As stated earlier they actually tune up rather nicely. I didn't have that much time to mess around, just got them tuned up and played a little bit.

Bass drum sounds huge and punchy with some muffling, just the way I like it. When I get the rest of the claws I'll experiment on some different reso head options, but for now this'll do!
Played it for a while without the muffling and it's a huge BOOOM, like you hear on those youtube clips with the Bonham vistalite kit. Not my favourite kind of bass drum sound. I prefer it muffled. Feel is a lot different too.

I prefer to play with one rack tom so the 12" is going to stay on the shelf, at least for now.

The 13" tom really sings, compared to how it used to be. Even though it was sitting on an old Ludwig snare stand it still played out nicely.

The floor tom just growls. Played as a set with the cymbals and everything the overall sound and feel was really nice. Looking forward to actually spending some more time with it to get familiar with everything.

Here's a couple of pics I took with the stuff set up. The blanket under the bass drum serves a double purpose - it protects the front bearing edge and when folded inside it acts as a nice muffler.
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Old 11-30-2012, 07:01 PM
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Default Re: Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

Wow. Educational, nice photos, funny, mixed in with some nice lunch photos (no lingonberries? Ikea joke..) .... thanks. Nice work.
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Old 11-30-2012, 07:47 PM
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Default Re: Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

Wow..beautiful work,they came out great.Most would have given up on that kit,so yours is a lesson in determination ...well done.It's in sharp contrast to a recent post here on drilling a cracked cymbal,in relation to the use of tools,and the lack of skill with a hand drill.

Bravo sir,nicely done.:)

Steve B
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Old 11-30-2012, 09:27 PM
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Old 11-30-2012, 09:34 PM
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Default Re: Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

great job!! thanks for the pics. you did a REALLY nice job. the bearing edges look very nice.
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Old 11-30-2012, 09:36 PM
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Default Re: Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

Thanks! I'm really liking how they're coming out also!

I did quite a lot of google searches about acrylic drums in general and repairing cracks on them and I remember seeing a comment on a random forum where someone mentioned how they used to own a set of Vistalites but then they got cracked so they had to throw them to the trash..

That kind of mentality just doesn't cut it with me.
There's a difference between broken and un-fixable. Even if you were never to fix them yourselves, at least don't throw them to the bin.

I saw that thread with the cymbal drilling... I don't really know too much about cymbals or the tensions involved in the metal, I don't know if I would dare to try it.

And I quite like the lingonberry, but that joke would have been closer to home if I was Swedish ;)
It's all good tho, thanks for the kind words!
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Old 12-01-2012, 01:53 AM
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Default Re: Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

Quote:
Originally Posted by poika View Post
Here's a close up of one of the edges sawed off, I put next to it a match to better show the proportions.
I think this is interesting because on the bearing edge there are what seem to be round table saw marks,
meaning that the bearing edges were not done on a router as one would think
but instead with the table saw, before the acrylic
was bend to a shell. From my experience, this type of work is usually faster, easier and safer to do on a router.
The only thing that I can think of as to why they would have done it like this
is that the acrylic might have needed a specific kind of router bit that they didn't maybe want to spend money on or that
maybe the acrylic would have made the router bit used in the work "de-sharpen" (I don't know the correct word) too fast
so they chose to use a rough saw blade to do it. Which of course results in what we are seeing here.
I don't know, maybe someone with more experience knows better?

Also looking at this picture it might be that after this project is done I'm going to start working on that match..
Looks like it probably came from the same factory that these Ludwigs of mine were made in.

I meant this pic- the edge looks like it has heavy file markings- Not your work
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Old 12-01-2012, 08:02 AM
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Default Re: Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

Ah, ok.

I still see badly executed table saw cuts in there :)

Who knows, maybe they tried to fix some of the worst of the saw marks with a file or something. Makes sense because on some of the seams I could see there was clearly some kind of work done to them after the acrylic had been glued up to form the shell. Might as well have been a file.

Would be interesting to hear about this stuff from the actual factory workers of the time. It might be they were working at such a pace that there was no room for proper quality control.
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Old 12-02-2012, 01:41 AM
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Default Re: Ludwig Vistalite restoration process

Absolutely brilliant work - top notch.
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