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Changing A Bongo Or Conga Head

Picking up a couple vintage BDP Slingerland bongos this year gave me the opportunity to mount a flat skin to a drum for the first time. What an experience; it’s a task man has been doing for thousands of years.

It’s quite labor intensive, and requires some patience. I broke a sweat and came up with a few new curse words in the process, even cutting my finger nicely. I still have my blood on one of the skins. How cool is that?

I picked up my genuine bullskins from http://www.fatcongas.com. Millie and Rick there are great people.

Below are step-by-step instructions I found on the Internet. I’ve blogged them for permanent reference:

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First, find a 5 gal. bucket or something to soak the skin in. Completely submerge the skin. We soak small bongo skins about an hour & large skins about 90 minutes. Give conga skins 2-4 hours soak time. If your in a hurry, try warm water.

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Step 1. Center skin on drum.

Bongo

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Step 2. Press hoop down over skin. Place your drum rim on top of hoop. Lift the edge of the skin up and put between the lug bracket on the rim and the hoop. Press the rim down so it locks the 3 together. Now, repeat on the opposite side. Repeat until all 6 brackets have hide locked underneath them. You did the tuck!

Bongo

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Step 3. Get your pipe pliers out and pull the rest of the skin in under the rim. The object is to have all the skin tucked in and pull the overlaps out and have the rim slightly below the top of the drum when finished with this step.

Bongo

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Step 4. Now align your head rim lug brackets with the face plates. Install the 1st. lug bolt. Leave the nut loose. Repeat opposite side. After you’ve done them all, start hand tightning around the drum until even. Look down on the drum and try and center the rim on the drum. Start racheting the drum lugs, and pulling up on the skin with the pliers again.

Bongo

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Step 5. It’s all downhill now. Your main concern now is centering the rim on the drum. Put your fingers under the rim. Does it feel like there’s equal space between the drum & the rim all around? Keep checking that as you tighten in a circular pattern. Remember where you started,so you tighten evenly.

Bongo

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Step 6. Put the drum on a table so you can see right across the top of the drum. Measure as you tighten around the drum. You want to finish 7/8”down on a conga, 1/2”on a bongo. Measure over lug bracket. Now your lug bolts are all even & you’re doing great.

Bongo

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Step 7. Before you cut off the pie crust or circumsize the foreskin, you must protect the head from being cut. I suggest you go to any cabinet shop and ask for a 3/4”wide strip of laminate, like formica about 4’long. Stuff it down between the head & the “you know what”.

Bongo

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Step 8. Get a utility knife and start circumsizing, because your done!

Bongo

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Step 9. Admire your work. It probably took you about an hour.

Bongo

9 comments… add one

  • Mike April 18, 2009, 11:30 am

    great tips, thanks!

  • marco tenorio November 7, 2009, 5:07 am

    where do i find a piece of raw hide like the one you are using,anywhere I can order it? I have a vintage set of meinl with the same rim as yours(vintage)quinto and a conga that need replacement,well,I have my quinto head signed by Poncho Sanchez so is hanging nice up on my wall
    ,and the otherone is cracked.I may have to make the hoop for the first one.

  • marco tenorio November 7, 2009, 5:23 am

    never mind Mike i had over looked the web site for fatcongas,thankyou so much I will follow your instructions you are a life saver !!great input..Marco from Houston tx

  • CHERENA December 29, 2009, 7:10 am

    HI I PURCHASEI A 12 IN TUMBATOR AT A FLEA MARKET FOR $30 DOLLAR AND IT WAS A VINTAGE CUBAN TUMBATOR AND IT HAD TWO CRACK ON THE WOOD AND THE SKIN HEAD WAS BROKEN SO I REPAIR THE CRACKS AND I SAW YOUR WEBSITE , I PURCHASE A RAW SKIN AND FOLLOW YOUR DIRECTION IN HOW TO PUT A SKIN HEAD AND IT CAME OUT PERFECT FOR MY FIRST TIME PEOPLE DON’T BE LEAVE THAT I PUT IT , I WANT TO THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP . FROM EL BORICUA THANKS AGAIN.

  • Greg March 12, 2010, 4:00 pm

    Great job with the pics and description! thanks.

  • Doug Addison February 4, 2011, 8:45 pm

    Regarding bongo drum. The hoop and skin won’t fit the rim anymore. Can we cut the hoop just enough to get the hoop with skin on the rim and be ok?

  • Adrian March 15, 2011, 10:03 am

    Hi there I stumbled across this site ,,,fantastic ! I have a drum that I found in a junk shop in cape town with the skin badly damaged.. it had two hairline splits running down either side as well.

    I have fixed the cracks ( I am a carpenter ) and restored the drum it has some really nice carvings on it, the wood was a reddish colour. There was a very thick skin on before held in place with 10 pegs.

    Which leads me to the questions :) How can I identify this drum and how do I put a new skin on it. I do have photos of it.

    Regards Adrian

  • gen katz September 24, 2011, 7:35 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I have one of those metal drums that you hold under your arm. Have been timid about re skinning since the original was removed. I will get to it this week and thanks again for your generosity.
    gen

  • Bob December 26, 2012, 10:51 am

    I have some LP aspire congas and am thinking about replacing the heads with goat skin. This is not the norm as far as I can see, WHY?

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