Advice and questions on making and fixing instruments
User avatar
By drtom
Some weeks ago I posted a question in the "Cultural" section and received no responses. The question was in regards to a Madagascar djembe.

This djembe came to me for head replacement, a basic everyday procedure for me, and turned into quite an adventure.

The first thing I noticed was the rope, which was like nothing I'd seen before. This rope was neither nylon nor polyester, and it was a coreless weave. The rope wasn't terribly damaged, but there was not way I was going to cross my fingers and try to mount an African goat skin with it.

The next thing I noticed was the shell. This is as conical a djembe shell as I've come across and carved quite thin, as djembe shells go. The wood is hard but not very dense (judging from the weight even considering its thin walls). The decorative carving depicts village life with monkeys and palm trees (consistent with an island off the southeastern African coast?).

Then I noticed a huge sheer dip on the bearing edge, obvious even through the skin. I wondered at the thought of a drum maker that would mount a skin on such a shell.


Guess I'll let you mull that over. Come back tomorrow for the continuing adventures of Dr. Tom, intrepid drum maker . . .
User avatar
By the kid
Looking forward to seeing the photo.

I once skinned one that was crazy conical and really thin walls like 1/2 to 3/4 centimeter. And had a sharp bearing edge. Over sized rings obviously. lol. The stem was a pure cylinder. Pretty much funnel shaped now that i think of it. It suited the owner though.

I think it only made sense as a shaman drum.

Still i don't mind a weird drum sometimes for some pi-tedi pa-tada.
User avatar
By drtom
the kid wrote:Looking forward to seeing the photo.
Hey Mr. kid! Good to hear from you, and nice to know I'm not just a ghost haunting these halls. At least not a lone ghost.

Maybe you didn't notice the links?
the kid wrote:Still i don't mind a weird drum sometimes for some pi-tedi pa-tada.
User avatar
By drtom
The continuing adventures of Dr. Tom, intrepid drum maker . . .


Once the skin was removed and the shell fully exposed, that flaw in the shell was jaw dropping. It wasn't simply a flawed, uneven bearing edge I was dealing with, it was a broken shell!

The drum maker before me had patched up this broken shell and mounted the skin without bothering to level the bearing edge.

I scratched my head, shook it then got to work leveling that bearing edge. Some of you might recall I've used this technique before.

After a bit more work on the bearing edge it was time to assemble the drum. The drum's person liked the crown, so I would keep the crown ring and try to match the new rope. I had a nice African goat skin soaking and ready for mounting.

The stage was set.


Come back tomorrow for the exciting final chapter of this weeks episode of the continuing adventures of Dr. Tom, intrepid drum maker . . .
User avatar
By drtom
And now for the final chapter of the latest adventure of Dr. Tom, intrepid drum maker . . .


The bearing edge was intact and level, the African goat skin was soaked and pliable, and the rings sported new 4mm quality rope and were laced together with 5mm rope. It was time to make this djembe whole again.

As usual, I went tight with the wet pull. The colors I'd chosen matched the old ring wrap I'd kept really nicely, and I began to smile with satisfaction as I executed the last few pulls. I knew my work was almost done, because I pull the wet skin so tight that the dry pull is really just a fine tuning. Maybe half a dozen pulls to go, and I heard a snap.

I froze for a long second. When my breathing resumed I looked around, but couldn't figure it out. One more pull, and then another, and then I saw it. The bearing edge had collapsed where I had leveled it.

After a long sigh of resignation, I disassembled the drum once again. The bearing edge had collapsed.

I had assumed that that the broken section was wedged in and securely glued into place. I had assumed it would withstand the pressure. I had assumed. I assumed.

Serves me right to suffer. Serves me right.

I clamped the broken section into alignment and secured it in place with a variety of glues. Once satisfied the shell was solid and drum worthy I once again leveled the bearing edge. It was time to try again.

I pulled that wet skin as tight as ever. I did not hold back, and everything held up. Once the skin was fully dried it really only needed some fine tuning. After that it was just details - trim the excess skin, make the handle, call the drum's person.

Finally, the Madagascar djembe was whole again.


Thank you for joining us once again for the ongoing adventures of Dr. Tom, intrepid drum maker . . .
User avatar
By the kid
Nice write up and another happy patient is sent home to Daddy and Mammy thanks to the Drum Doctor.

Nice work. Djembe looks good after surgery.