Saturday, December 3, 2011

Reheading with cowskin

In 2009, I came back from Mali with a beautiful old djembe from one of my teachers. Within days the vintage goatskin head popped. Since I was planning to head it in cowskin anyway, I wasn't too upset.

Well, this poor drum went through some crazy stuff. My teacher put a thin calfskin on it and it sounded awful, then popped. I bought a couple of nice cowskin rounds from Nate at One Tree and Sidy tried to put the thinner one on, but the rings were too small. So I asked my husband to make a new set of rings, but they were too small too. In the mean time, the whole thing was sort of back burnered because I had taken up dunun.

Well, to make a long story even longer, I finally got the rings adjusted and in the process of all of this, decided that since it is my drum, I am going to bloody well build it and skin it myself.

I chose the thick skin from Nate. It is going to make a great bass djembe, I think.

I admit I was pretty scared when I pulled the skin out of the water this morning. It was very thick to start with, and had swelled significantly overnight. But I rolled up my sleeves and got to work and found it wasn't really that much more difficult to work with than goat skin. My rings were a good size, the rope is the perfect thickness (Thanks, Shorty!) and all in all I just took it step by step.

Sidy had suggested that for the wet pull, I bring the skin to where I want it to be for playing. I know this conflicts somewhat with the advice given here on the forum to keep the skin high until it dries... but I decided to go ahead and follow Sidy's advice. (He is my teacher, after all, LOL)

I have a funky old pulling bar and was extremely happy to discover that I was able to pull the wet skin down just fine.

Once the skin was where I wanted it, I had to trim the excess. I was intimidated by this process, too, since the skin was so thick, but with a razor blade, it actually went pretty easily.

Finally, my next step was to shave the hair. For the wet shave, I just used the razor blade. I left the hair on the sides for later, once it is dry. The drum really looks great and I am hoping it will sound great once it is dry and tuned.

All in all, this process wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. I think I may need help with the dry pull and tuning, but I am really happy I was able to head my sweet old drum myself.

Will keep you posted on how it sounds!