Reheading a Djembe Drum

How To Rehead a Djembe Drum

 

This set of instructions is originally for heading the Finished Ashiko Kit purchased at Rhythm House Drums, which is why we use an ashiko to show the process instead of a djembe drum, however, the process is exactly the same.  I get asked so often about how to head a djembe or an ashiko, and though I have found other guides online and often cringe when I have to send someone to them for advice/photos, none were very comprehensive or left out some crucial info.  Unfortunately I’ve also seen some guides that just had poor information….  My goal is to help you get it done right the first time, and by putting this on my blog I am opening it up to comments and suggestions and will be answering questions.  Hopefully this will become an in-depth, fully inclusive, guide to reheading a djembe drum or ashiko drum…. So here you go.

 

Drum Shell, Rings, Rope & Skin

Drum Shell, Rings, Rope & Skin

 

What you’ll need for heading your Djembe Drum:

Extra Items for Reheading a Djembe

Extra Items for Reheading a Djembe

  • Cotton fabric – Color is your choice.  This is optional but highly recommended.  The fabric is for wrapping the rings, and adds some color to your drum to make it yours.  It also aids in protecting the ring from rust.  Use a good quality cotton, this wrap can also help keep your drum in tune longer.
  • Fabric glue/wood glue/super glue/double sided tape (any type of glue works, this is to keep the fabric on the ring)
  • Lighter – for burning the ends of the rope to make sure they don’t fray.
  • Scissors – Strong, Sharp / scissors or razor (cutting rope & Skin)
  • Yard Gloves (helps save your hands from blisters and rope burns when pulling the rope tight to tune the drum)
  • Razor – single blade bic razor works great, or you can use a straight razor blade as found in packs at hardware stores (although the technique is a bit different than shown here).
  • File – a metal file or sand stone or anything with some texture, you’ll need to take the corners off the razor blade so they don’t dig into the skin.. just a few light passes to dull it is all you need.

 

 

Step 1: Prep

If you plan on doing this all in a day, go ahead and start soaking the skin in a tub of water.  The water should not be cold or hot, room temperature is perfect.  You want the skin fully submerged in the water for 2-3 hours.  The thickness of the skin and type of skin will determine how long to soak.  If you don’t soak long enough, the hide will be tough to stretch over the drum head, but if you soak too long it can swell the fibers in the skin and weaken it.  A thinner skin soaks good for about 2 hours, a thick skin maybe 4-5.  An hour or two over won’t hurt… just don’t leave it soaking overnight or for half a day.

If you are taking your time with the process, or are unsure of how long it will take, I recommend doing all the prep work first, and soaking the skin once the djembe or ashiko is ready to be headed.

You are going to need a total of 3 sections of rope; one for the top ring, one for the bottom ring, and one long piece for the vertical rope that you will use to tighten the head.

1a:

You are going to want at least 22 knots in the top and bottom ring.  For this you’ll need approx. 13ft. of rope for each ring (15ft if you want 28 knots).  The third section is the long remains of the rope; you’ll use this for your vertical rope and should have 65-75 feet.

 

note: when working with the rope, try to keep it from getting bunched up and/or tangled.  It can be a pain to get out.

1b:

Cut a 1″ wide strip of the fabric you choose for wrapping your rings.  A good reason to wrap them is to keep the rust (the metal will eventually start to rust) off the skin.  RHD wraps all of the rings on our completed drums, and it also aids in the rings gripping into the skin so you won’t have to tune as often.  You will usually use about a yard length per ring, but you can add multiple strips if there isn’t fabric long enough.

Rehead a djembe drum

Rings and Rope Material

 

Step 2: The Rings

Now that you’ve got your materials ready, we need to wrap and knot the rings.  Please count your knots twice.  There is no feeling like heading up your drum and getting to the last set of knots to realize that there are a different number of knots in the top and bottom ring… So COUNT TWICE… or three times.

2a:

Wrap the rings with the fabric you chose.  To do this you’ll want to put a dab of glue on the ring and then press the fabric against the glue for a few seconds.  While maintaining a pinch on the fabric to the ring with one hand, pull the fabric tight with your other and start wrapping around the ring at an angle so that the fabric creates a spiral pattern around the ring.  After a few wraps around you can let go of the starting point.  Keep tension on the fabric while wrapping to make sure it stays tight to the ring.

Wraping Drum Rings

Wraping Drum Rings

 

Finish up with a dab of glue on the end to keep the fabric from unraveling.

Repeat this on all three rings.  One of the top rings will not be shown, so you can use any fabric for that one.  Note that most djembe drums will have the bottom ring welded around the base of the djembe.  If this is the case, the process is the same, you just have to work around the shell.

Drum Rings Wrapped

Drum Rings Wrapped

 

2b:

Tie the loop knots.

Tieing Loop (cradle) knots

Tieing Loop (cradle) knots

Find the middle of one of the short pieces of rope you cut from above.  Tie a knot (loop knot or cradle knot are common terms) around the ring as shown in the photo.

This is your starting point, now you’ll go halfway around the ring putting a knot approx. every 2 finger widths apart for the largest ring.   The amount of space between knots will be determined by the size of the ring.  The max spacing for the top ring is about 2 finger widths.  You need at least 22 knots for an 11″ ring, and I suggest about 26-30 for a 13-14″ ring.  Some adjustment may be needed to get the correct amount of knots and have them all evenly spaced.  If you take some extra time to lay it out first, or to clean it up and get everything even and tidy, the finished rehead will look much better and your drum will tune more evenly.

 

Finish off with a square knot on the final loop

 

square knot

square knot

 

2c:

Do the exact same thing on the bottom ring, you need the same amount of knots on the bottom ring as on the top…. make sure you double check.  It’s much easier to fix now than when you start roping up the djembe in the next step.  Make sure each of the knots are evenly spaced.  Because the bottom ring is smaller, you’ll have to space the knots much closer to fit the same amount.  Please note that most djembe drums have the bottom ring already welded around the base of the djembe.  You must wrap the rings and tie the knots with the ring on the djembe.  It makes it a tad more time consuming, but it is the same process.

Also make sure that your rings are on the correct side before roping up.  As in the photo below we see that the knots form loops, and between these are a small loop tight against the rope.  You always want that small loop on the outside, if you flip the ring the wrong way, the rope loop will be on the inside.  Though it doesn’t effect how the drum will be roped up and tuned, it does look a lot better.

Step 3: Heading the Djembe or Ashiko Drum

This is a crucial step in the process of heading a successful djembe drum.  Pay close attention to your work.  Heading your own drum is extremely rewarding and a great way to bond with your instrument.  However this is the step that causes the most frustration and head aches.  It takes practice and patience to head a djembe drum well.  If this is your first experience, chances are it won’t be your last.  Once you gain the experience to head a drum, you will forever be able to head and tune your own hand drums which will not only save you money in the long run, but will allow you to define your own sound; something that can only be achieved when the musician creates their own instrument.  Be patient, and stay relaxed.  If you get frustrated, take some time… do not rush or force anything.

3a:

Now it’s time to take the skin out of the water, it should have been soaking about 3-4 hours now.  Drape the skin over the top of the djembe (again I’m using an Ashiko drum for the demo, but its the same process) and make sure to align the spine in the center.  Place the top ring without the knots ‘flesh ring’ over the skin so it will fit around the top of the shell.  Fold up the skin so it sits on top of itself and covers the ring.  As a general rule, we play the djembe from the neck end of the skin, so keep this in mind if you have an opinion as to what side of the drum shell you like or want to be shown when you play.  The neck end of the skin will have the hair going away from you.

 

3b:

Place the top ring with the loop knots over the hidden “flesh” ring.  Pull out the loop knots so they are easy to thread by facing them to the outside of the ring.  Slide the bottom ring up the ashiko if the fit is tight, or just leave it on the floor around the ashiko base.  If you are heading a djembe the bottom ring is probably already welded around the base.

Find the center of the large rope, make a bend and pass it through a loop in the top ring heading up.  Tie a basic overhand knot here.  (you’ll need to undo this knot later).

 

 

Pull one end of the rope up through the same ring loop, and pull it back down through the next loop.  Then go into the loop on the bottom ring directly under and come up through the next loop on the bottom ring.  Now bring the rope through the same top loop that the rope is coming down from, and then around and to the next loop and down through the bottom loop that you just came from, then go to up through the next loop and start the process over.

 

Repeat this process until you get half way around the drum.  Now go back to your starting point, undo the knot, and continue this same pattern for the other half of the drum.

Make sure you don’t skip any knots, or you won’t end up in the right place… double check your work as you go, it’s easy to skip a loop, and the only way to fix it is to back out of all the loops you’ve done right, and start over from where you missed.

3c:

Now that you’ve got all your verticals on the drum you need to set them up for tension.  To do this, tie a bow knot in the end of the vertical rope coming from the top loop.

 

You are now set up to start adding tension to the rings to hold the skin on.

Starting at the bow knot, pull the rope so that the bow knot is against the top loop and gives some tension. Lightly go around all the verticals pulling them just to get out the slack… make sure and keep the ring centered over the top of the drum, and make sure the rings don’t go down on the shell just yet.  Do not try and put tension on the rope at this point.  You should only be pulling hard on the last few rounds around the verticals.  Too much tension starting off will get your rings crooked.  Throughout this whole process, you want to make sure that the top rings stay level with the bearing edge.  They will go below the bearing edge line, but you don’t want it to be uneven. You are not putting pressure on the ropes, just taking out the slack.  If you didn’t have enough rope to go through all the loop knots in the rings, you should now, each pull will give you a little more.  It’s ok if you are still 1-2 knots short of coming all the way around, you’ll get lots of extra rope once you start pulling tight.

 

 

Go ahead at this point and make sure that the goatskin is still centered on the shell.  If it got a little off, you should be able to work it back to the center.  If you can’t move it, you’ve pulled your verticals too tight and need to loosen them up a bit to re-center the skin.  Once the skin is centered, pull all the slack out by pulling on the sides of the skin towards the center of the drum.  Do this evenly and pull all the way around the head.  This should tighten up the drumhead a bit and make everything nice and even.

Now you can start adding pressure to the verticals…  You’ll end up doing about 4-5 rounds around the drum pulling verticals.  The trick is to pull gently and evenly multiple times.  If you try and pull hard the first time, your rings won’t be level to the bearing edge.  So take your time, adding more and more pressure each time you go around the drum, and make sure to keep the ring level…. if it starts to get high in some places, pull those verticals harder to bring the ring down to level.  The top ring in its final position shouldn’t be more than .5″ from the bearing edge.  Some people like the rings higher… just depends on your style.

You don’t want to have a playable drum at this point.  The goal here is to level the top rings and set the loop knots of the top ring into the skin.  If you try and get the head super tight, you’re rings will just get lower and lower.  You want the head tight enough to be able to shave, but not so tight that you can’t push into it with a finger.

Step 4: Shaving the goatskin (if needed)

If your skin has hair, you’ll need to shave it before the skin dries out.  The best way to do this is to take a yellow single blade bic razor and using a pair of pliers break off the guard.  You need to file down the edges to make sure they don’t pierce the skin. A fine metal file or sandstone will work.  You can see in the picture that there is no safety guard on the razor, be careful when working with this.  It can cut you or pierce the hide easily.

Something worth mentioning here that was suggested to me was that these plastic razors build up quick in the landfills.  A more eco-friendly option would be to use a double edged straight razor blade.  The process is the same, dull the edges before you start.  With a double edge blade, you might want to wrap a piece of leather or thick cloth over the top of the blade so you don’t cut yourself when shaving the skin.  Somehow I overlooked this little piece of earth friendly advice.  I will switch my method as well.

Be careful here… if you cut the skin, it’s all over. Take your time, work in the direction with the hair and shave it off little by little, you may need 2 or 3 razors to complete the job.

 

 

 

You can choose to pull the skin over the top ring, or to trim it off just above the ring.  If you pull the skin over, I use a rubber band, or a piece of rope to hold it against the shell.  Then I go around the skin and pull out any kinks or folds in the skin.  The band or rope should be fairly tight, and cut off any extra skin.  It’s much easier to cut wet than if you let it dry.  If you want to just cut the skin off, take a razor blade or sharp knife or scissors and cut the skin about ½” above the ring or level with the bearing edge (maybe just a tad under).  Wrap some fabric or rope around the skin so it presses against the bearing edge… and let it dry – you don’t want it to stick up further than the playing surface.

 

 

 

Now we wait… it usually takes 3-4 days for the skin to fully dry out.  If you try and put too much tension on the skin while it’s still wet, it’s going to stretch thin and pop, or slip through the rings.

Step 5: Tuning your Djembe Drum

Tuning a djembe drum isn’t as hard as it might seem.  At first glance there are lots of ropes, lots of knots, and it can be intimidating to know where to start.  Once you follow these instructions, it should shed some light on the subject and make the process more enjoyable.  I hear lots of djembes that are not tuned properly… usually the pitch is way to low, or the tone is uneven.  I usually find that the owners don’t know how to tune their djembe.  To me, you have to treat the skin as guitar strings.  They have to be tuned regularly (not as often as a guitar once every few months is plenty) and should be replaced when torn or punctured.

5a

Once the goatskin is dry, go around the verticals the same as you did before, it may take 2-3 passes or more.  The goal is to keep the rings level and gradually add more tension.  Your final pull around the drum you should be pulling the verticals as tight as you can.  You want to pinch off the vertical rope at the top loop once you’ve pulled it tight, while going to the next vertical, this way the slack won’t go back and loosen up the verticals you just tightened.  You can use a pair of locking pliers and/or a pry-bar, but be careful not to nick the skin and don’t use too much pressure or you will fray the rope.  When you get around to the starting point (the bow knot) tie a knot at the bottom loop with the vertical rope in order keep the tension on the rope, or lock it off with some pliers if you need to tighten the verticals again… you don’t want to let go of the rope and let the tension release to the ropes you just tightened.

 

You’re drum should be sounding pretty good now… If you want it tighter, you can tune the drum using a method called the Mali Weave.  This is a traditional weave pattern used in West Africa for tuning up ashikos, djembes, and dunun.  It is very difficult, almost impossible to tune the drum up to a proper pitch without doing the weave.  The Mali Weave is also referred to as pulling diamonds as doing this creates somewhat of a diamond pattern with the vertical ropes.

5b

These following photos show how to tie off the rope coming from the bow knot on the top ring… this keeps the rope from slipping back.

 

 

Now we start the actual Mali Weave… I’ve taken photos that should be fairly self explanatory, however if you like words.. try to follow this as you look at the photos:

1) From the knot you just tied to keep the rope from slipping back, skip the first loop knot on the bottom ring, then go over two vertical ropes.

2)Go under that vertical and back towards the first.

3)Go over the first vertical and around and back under both verticals

4) Pull tight and the rope will twist up.  It should look like the photos below if it is done properly.

 

Continue doing this around the drum until you get the correct tension on the head.

 

 

Only thing left to do now is play!

🙂

If you like, you can take some fine (400 or higher) grit sandpaper and lightly sand the top of the head.  This will smooth it out and lighten up the texture on a darker skin.

My goal is to create an in-depth resource on heading your own drum.  Please, if you have comments or suggestions I’d love to hear them.  There is no single correct way.  There are many processes to achieve a good rehead, this is a good starting point for developing your own technique for heading and tuning a djembe drum, or any rope tuned hand drum for that matter.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me… Leave a message/comment.  🙂

I check ’em!

 

37 Responses to “Reheading a Djembe Drum”

  1. Mark BaileyJuly 2, 2011 at 12:04 PM #

    Hey Kevin,

    This is excellent! Very nice of you to take the time. This will help me and a lot of other people for sure.

    Thanks!

    Mark

    • KevnBJuly 2, 2011 at 2:07 PM #

      Thanks Mark. If you have any specific questions about the heading process let me know. I’m happy to help.

  2. Marcus BrownJuly 2, 2011 at 5:03 PM #

    Nice job Kevin! I get people asking me all the time how to re-head drums. You have laid it out very well with good photos.

    Thanks,
    Marcus

  3. AlifaaJuly 17, 2011 at 1:20 AM #

    Nice starting point – as you said, there are lots of variations. I get good success with making the skin tighter when it is wet – the addition of “pulling upwards on the skin while pulling down on the verticals” would achieve that without adding whole other processes! Purely on a typographical point, cleaning up the following would be easy:

    Step 3 – “patience” instead of “patients”

    When describing mali weave – “as doing this creates a someone of a diamond pattern” should read “as doing this creates somewhat of a diamond pattern”.

    A good starting point, though, well done.

    Alifaa

    • KevnBJuly 17, 2011 at 4:25 PM #

      Thanks for the input. I’ll fix the spelling/grammar errors asap.

      “Once the skin is centered, pull all the slack out by pulling on the sides of the skin towards the center of the drum. Do this evenly and pull all the way around the head.”

      I believe this is what you mean by pulling the skin tight as you pull the verticals. I usually need both hands when pulling verts, so doing this at the same time could be problematic for me.

      Thanks again for the feedback!

  4. chinthanaDecember 13, 2011 at 1:30 AM #

    thankzzz for the guide…….

  5. barbaraSeptember 11, 2012 at 3:46 AM #

    really good, i bought a drum off drumskull last year and the skin popped off i cant afford to send it back as it cost 200 pounds to get it through customs so have been looking for a guide to try and reskin it myself, will definetely have an attempt.

    • KevinBOctober 22, 2012 at 8:13 PM #

      Cool deal. DrumSkull has some really nice stuff. Let me know if the djembe building guide helped you. I always love feedback (though am slow to respond at times.) Any advice or struggle you ran into while reheading your djembe using my method? Let me know and I can update this page.

  6. AlexOctober 5, 2012 at 11:31 PM #

    Hey Kevin,

    This is by far the best detail I’ve found online! Thanks for taking your time and making it publicly available.

    I’m re-heading my first cow skin. The hide I have is ~1/16″ thick. I’ve been told that cow skin won’t move much after it dries so I should do the majority of my pulling while it’s still wet. I’ve re-sized the rings and sanded the body for the perfect fit and I want to seat this one right.

    I have two questions, both pertaining to thicker cow skin:

    1. Is it better to pull the rings down tight while wet?

    2. Is it better to shave the skin while wet or dry?

    I understand I won’t be playing the drum while wet, or expecting any slaps until it has fully dried. I just want to set it to the right spot so it will dry up to the right pitch.

    Thanks for your time & Big ups,

    Alex

    • KevinBOctober 22, 2012 at 8:28 PM #

      Sorry it’s taken me a bit to get back to you. I’ve been avoiding this blog for some time (not on purpose) 🙂

      So with cowhide, I find it stretches more than goat, but it’s harder to stretch if that makes sense. Once it dries out it takes a LOT of pressure to bring the rings down. I recommend pulling cowhide super tight while it’s still wet… especially if the skin is thick. It might be a good idea to do pulls as the skin dries out as well, because after the initial pull, it will stretch a bit before it starts to tighten from drying out. Make sure the cowhide isn’t slipping through the rings, they are known for doing this. Proper size djembe rings on the top will help, as will a bottom ring (flesh hoop) that is wrapped a few times with a cotton material to help the loops on the top ring dig into the skin. I’d pull super hard, come back the next day and pull again. Give it a good week to dry out and do a final tune. I always tune up at least once after the skin is dry. How much you can actually pull depends on the condition of the skin and the thickness. If it’s got any scarring, those will be week points. You also need to make sure that your shell round, that the bearing edge is level and the round over is smooth. If any of these is off, then extra tension will be put on the skin unevenly and it wont take the tension right. This can cause djembe ringing, or a buzz, or just a bad sound. Make sure to pull the verts evenly, and keep the rings level! Hope this gets to you time!
      Take care
      -Kevin

  7. TomMarch 16, 2013 at 7:27 PM #

    Kevin… Thanks for posting instructions on heading a djembe. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge… Tom

  8. OdelleFebruary 7, 2014 at 7:11 PM #

    My drum has a three ring head. I am unsure how to do the fitting/trimming as the edge is under the top ring ropes. Have been unable to find three ring head info, only two ring.

    • Kevin BrownFebruary 10, 2014 at 11:00 PM #

      There are a few ways to do it. Basically it’s the same concept as with two rings. I find the third ring unnecessary if the rings are made correctly for the drum. I have absolutely no slippage with two rings so why some builders use three is beyond me. The one time I used three rings was for a thin mule skin that was very slick and flexible. It needed the third ring for the added friction. However, I stand by that with a African goatskin or cowhide, there is no need for three. If your rings fit snug on the shell and the bottom ring is the same size or slightly larger than the top – toss the third ring or make a dream catcher 🙂

  9. Kevin TeleckyMarch 30, 2014 at 2:05 PM #

    This was really helpful. I’m actually planning on building my own Djembe some day in the future. I really appreciate that this was here for me to learn. Thanks!

  10. KenApril 26, 2014 at 9:55 AM #

    Great set of instructions. Can you explain why the spline of the skin should be in the centre of the drum? I have a skin that I would like to get two heads out of but could not with the spline lie termed on the drum.

    • Kevin BrownMay 4, 2014 at 2:54 PM #

      Thanks Ken, and a good question. On most goatskins the hide is uneven in thickness, with the spine of the goat being the thickest, and the belly the thinnest. Some skins are pretty consistent, so it wouldn’t matter as much, but others – especially the bigger goats from Ivory Coast, have a very thick spine. If the spine is centered on the djembe head, then each side will be fairly consistent in thickness and therefor sound properties. If the spine is closer to one side, then the skins thickness is not equal on each side and you may get overtones, premature breakage, and sometimes just an odd sounding drum. That said – if you have two smaller djembes – 10 to 11 inch and a big, thicker hide, you’d be OK getting two rounds out of the hide – only if you can miss the spine all together. But remember you need about 6 inches more than the size of the ring. A 10 inch drum would need roughly 16″ round of skin to head comfortably.

  11. Jay AllredJanuary 11, 2015 at 9:38 AM #

    This is the best djembe reheading article I have seen. Thanks for taking the time to put it together. Do you mind if I link to it from my djembe drum heads page?

    • Kevin BrownJanuary 11, 2015 at 12:53 PM #

      Thanks for the comment. You are more than welcome to link to me. Thanks.

      • Jay AllredJanuary 12, 2015 at 6:52 AM #

        Kevin,
        The link is up. Thanks again for providing such great info!

        Jay

  12. JojoFebruary 4, 2015 at 4:55 AM #

    Hey- great tutorial.
    One added detail would greatly be appreciated re: adding more diamonds from first row to second row— the tie off at end of first row to second row transition -has always stumped me. Images of these knots would assist me! Thank you for your contribution!!!!

    • Kevin BrownFebruary 7, 2015 at 6:31 PM #

      Thanks for the comment – that’s a good idea! I’ve been thinking about redoing this tutorial with a djembe and better photos – maybe a video here and there. It seems a lot of people are finding this useful. I agree – some clarification on starting that second row would be great. It’s been a while since I’ve done a second row! Most the djembes I finish up about less than half a row, sometimes only one or two knots. I like to pull my verticals as tight as possible! I’ll work on it!

  13. JoshaFebruary 7, 2015 at 5:49 PM #

    I happened upon a drum at a thrift store after expressing my desire to join a drum circle (I was a guest a few years ago and loved it!) So I bought this drum for $8 and am researching what it is and how to care for it. Thanks for this great info! I can see how the rings have slipped and the tension is uneven so I know it needs some TLC.

    • Kevin BrownFebruary 7, 2015 at 6:32 PM #

      Thanks for the comment and enjoy your drum! If you decide to fix it up and need some advice or materials like rings and / or rope & skin let me know!

  14. DaleApril 5, 2015 at 10:04 AM #

    I absolutely love and appreciate this tutorial. It is going to be my guide when I put the head on my first ashiko build. I do have a couple of questions though. I chose 11″ for my head size. Is the 11″ head measurement the inside of the shell or outside? Also how much bigger than the shell should the unwrapped rings be before beginning? If my shell is 11″ on the outside…should my rings be 11.5″ or 12″ etc…..thanks again so much for this tutorial and your help.

    • Kevin BrownApril 5, 2015 at 10:18 AM #

      Thanks. I’m glad you find it useful. Are you building this ashiko or ordering it? Most of the time the measurement is given from the outside of the bearing edge, if you build it, you can make it whatever size you want.

      The size of the rings depends on the skin type and thickness. A goatskin can be 1/32 or less, while I’ve seen some steer hide over 1/8. That makes a big difference of how your rings will fit. Typically if you add 1/2 inch you’ll be ok. I’d add more for a thick skin. When I build mine, I do less than a half inch larger (inside ring diameter) but it’s a tight tolerance and if it’s too tight the rings wont come down properly. Having them slightly bigger will allow them to come down much easier.

      Hope this helps! Good look and I’d love to see photos when you’re done.

  15. DaleApril 5, 2015 at 11:51 AM #

    Thanks for responding so quickly! I am scratch building the shell and have yet to aquire everything needed. I am still in the planning stage. I plan on using some ferring strips that are 1/2″ thick from Lowes for a mock up and then go from there. As for the skin I was leaning towards a medium weight goat skin. I wanted to ask to make sure my rings wouldn’t be too big or too small.

  16. AnthonyOctober 29, 2015 at 12:19 AM #

    Excellent information on building Kevin. You make it seem so easy, although I know it take years of building experience. I am so excited and cannot wait to start my first build.

    • Kevin BrownOctober 29, 2015 at 12:43 PM #

      Thank you Anthony. I post these things when I have time in hopes that it will be useful for others. I appreciate the feedback.

  17. Koen DelvauxOctober 10, 2016 at 6:35 AM #

    Why do you need to shave the head before the skin dries out? I did my head yesterday and didn’t shave (see “website”). Should I re-wet the skin before shaving tonight?

    • Kevin BrownOctober 13, 2016 at 11:23 PM #

      Shaving the head before the goatskin dries makes the work so much easier and decreases the risk for cutting into the hide. The water keeps the skin lubricated (think about shaving your face with a straight razor, dry). It also makes a cleaner cut and no dust… If it’s already mounted, I wouldn’t re-wet the skin. You could take electric clippers to get the bulk of the hair off, and then use a sharp straight razor VERY carefully on the hide. Be sure the file off the corners of the razor so it doesn’t dig into the skin. Hope this helps some!

  18. PatrickOctober 13, 2016 at 11:33 AM #

    Hi Kevin,

    I reheaded a Djembe last night, and realized at the end, that the skin was flipped, and I did the wrong side “up” as the playing side.

    What are the implications of doing this? Less life of the drum? poor sound?

    • Kevin BrownOctober 13, 2016 at 11:26 PM #

      Hut oh!

      I’d imagine the drum should sound the same. I assume your skin was pre shaved? If there is hair on the inside of the drum, it’s going to sound super muted and no volume. So assuming there was no hair on the hide, the only difference will be the feel. The top (outer skin) is typically softer and smooth, where the flesh side of the skin is rougher. If it sounds good tuned up, I’d hit it very lightly with some 220 or 320 sandpaper and play away.

  19. StephanieApril 9, 2017 at 3:58 PM #

    Hi I’m glad I found a good ashiko drum rehearing site. I got a handmade aahiko drum in eureka springs Arkansas. It has been the most awesome hand drum I could ever imagine. Well this was over 20 years ago and unfortunately the hide tore. I was wondering if I have to reknot it to rehead it or can I just stretch the hide around the ring then fit the two rings together and let it dry stretched with everything back in order. No knots messed with. ??? Vampress

    • Kevin BrownApril 14, 2017 at 8:07 AM #

      Thanks for writing. You’ll have to take out the vertical ropes. You shouldn’t have to mess with the loop knots on the rings. I’d suggest either loosening all the vertical rope until you can lift the head off and take the skin out or taking out all the vertical rope all together. Once the skin is on, You’ll have to pull the rope tight while the skin is wet to seat it between the rings and set the height of the bearing edge. Once it’s dry you do the final tune up. Hope this helps some. Good luck!

  20. JessieApril 13, 2017 at 11:25 PM #

    Hi! This is great! But, I’m confused when making the knots on the ring. I am making them by looking at the picture, and it’s going great, but as I go the loop part is on the interior and not the exterior. In your photos for tying loop cradle knots it appears the same for steps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6. But then in the last two photos (step 7 & 8) of the knot tying, it is flipped?

    • Kevin BrownApril 14, 2017 at 8:10 AM #

      Thanks for commenting Jessie. It’s the same knot, only the ring has flipped. After you make the knots you can twist them to the inside or outside of the ring. I showed it the way I did because it’s easier to see what’s going on, but in the end, you pull all the knots to the outside so the final ring looks like the final photos. Does this make sense?

      • JessieApril 14, 2017 at 8:52 PM #

        Yes! Thanks

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