Kit Care: How Is Your Lug Life?

You’ve probably heard them called everything from tension castings to those thing-a-ma-jigs that the key rods screw into. The term I grew up with is lugs, and without them we would still be tensioning the heads with rope.

Drum companies seem to change their design every year but there are a few lugs that still remain unchanged (Fig. 1): Slingerland (beavertail; Sound King), Ludwig (Classic), DW (turret), and Rogers (beavertail).


Fig. 1

There are many different types of lug tensioning systems. I will be writing about the two main types, tube and case (Fig. 2). Tube lugs require you to thread the tension rods directly into the lug. When working with tube lugs you have to be very careful to line up the tension rod, and use a little lug lube, to help prevent the possibility of cross threading. Case lugs consist of three basic parts: The case, swivel or lug nut, and the spring (vintage style) or hard fiber/rubber retainer (modern style) (Fig. 3). Case-type lugs are self-aligning and are a lot more forgiving than tube lugs in the cross threading department.


Fig. 2


Fig. 3


The two main issues I repair the most have to do with the two main designs. Number one is cross threading and stripping of the lug. Stripped case lugs can be easily fixed by first removing the drumhead. Then unscrew the lug from the inside of the shell (Fig. 4), pull the spring or retainer and replace the stripped lug nut with the correct replacement part. Note: Make sure you select the correct sizes and types. Tube lugs can be more of a challenge. If the cross threading is not too severe you may be able to clean up the threads by running a tap down the tube (Fig. 5).


Fig. 4

The second most common issue is the lug casing cracks or breaks in some way. Reasons for a lug cracking vary from over tightening to not changing heads often enough so that they stretch so far the rim puts pressure directly on the lug – something the lug was clearly not designed for. Most of the time a broken case lug will have to be replaced.


Fig. 5

As usual, if you’re not comfortable with any of the procedures mentioned in this article, seek out the help of a qualified drum tech.