back to HOME
Lion Drum Head Replacement
Our school drum was in pretty bad shape with a split head and a loose body. I repaired the split in the head with a patch and stabilized the body with plastic putty. We needed to get the drum through a demo, but it just didn't sound right. At the time we couldn't afford to buy a new drum so I decided to fix it (put a new head on it).
Being somewhat of a handyman I felt I could tackle the job, but I wasn't sure of the results. The drum head was made out of cow rawhide so I started to look for a leather shop. I located a local Tandy leather shop, and they were very helpful. I found out that, the rawhide came in two types, bleached and unbleached. The unbleached was a bit translucent and more pliable than bleached. The bleached was easier to tear when stretching, but the tone was more stable under changing humidity. The changing tone has always been a problem, but I always put a special lamp under the drum to dry it out before using.
Being armed with the new information I started the project.
I made a punch out of a piece of half inch rod I drilled a divot in one end to fit over the nail ends so I could tap them out without damaging the washers on the head. You can see the rawhide patch on the head. The glue I used was made from unflavored gelatin. Look for the information on how to do this later. My patch was too big.
Here you can see my wife helping by pulling the nails from the drum. The large washers will be separated and drilled to accommodate phillips head screws for fastening the new head.
The drum head came off without a hitch. I placed it in the bathroom tub filled with warm water to soften. Later, I flattened it out to find the diameter and save for future reference.
You can see the bamboo ring at the top of the drum. I removed it and glued it back in with waterproof glue and resin. I was hoping to stabilize the head for a more consistent sound. I was only guessing, but what the heck, anything was better than what I had. You can see the areas where I put the putty it helped. I am not sure what the springs you see are called. I call them resonator springs. I understand that they have to be adjusted periodically by keeping the straight wire in the middle of the spring, not touching anything, and pointing them a little up to the drum head.
I decided that while I was fixing the head, I may as well fix all the loose cracks. Here you can see that the joints in the drum are stuffed with paper and caulk. I proceeded to remove all the finish and fillers from the drum.
Pretty scary about now, not sure whether I made a mistake or not.
I stunk up the whole place for 2 days with the plastic putty.
Sanding this stuff is a real pain. Better wear a mask and open the windows. The dust gets everywhere. I started with 60 grit paper to get the surface off the plastic then moved to 80 grit to shape. Finally I used 100 grit to finish. I wasn't going to spray it. Just use latex enamel flat for base and gloss for finish with a brush.
Here it is all ready to paint and put a new rawhide head on. I cut the rawhide the same diameter as the old flattened head plus an extra 2 inches. I didn't want to be short.
Below left, the holes I am punching are roughly in the same area as the original head.
Below is a sort of jig with holes in it for ropes to be used for stretching. It took over a hundred feet of rope to do the job.
Here to the left you can see the old nail holes painted white against black to be easily seen.
I am starting to string the rope through all the holes for the hide.
I soaked the rawhide before I cut it with shears, then soaked it again for several hours with warm water in the bathtub before laying it up.
I also kept a sponge in warm water to keep the drum head wet while working on it.
Above you can see the white dots through the rawhide. I placed a screw and washer as near as I could to each rope. After inserting all the ropes I started tightening them two at a time across from each other while inserting the screws and washers as I was moving along. You can see in the next picture I am using a drill driver, it made a world of difference. Finally after the hide dried I did a little trim work. At the bottom right is the finished drum. It sounds like a new one. We are glad we did it. I hope this will help you if you ever want to try it. You might have some better ideas.
About repairing a small split in the Drumhead. No Pics on this one. use a piece of rawhide approximately 2 inches longer and wider than the split. Go to the grocery store and buy a package of knox unflavored gelatin. You will need a double boiler and a container to mix the gelatin in. Take a reasonable amount of gelatin and mix just enough water with it to make it stick together. You should already have it in the container. Put the container in simmering water. You will notice that the gelatin will start to liquefy. It must be stirred until it starts to get stringy like glue. The process takes about 20 to 30 minutes. Make sure the patch is soaked and that the drumhead is wet at the split. With the drum upside down, spread the (HOT GLUE ) mix around the split. Put the patch on and make sure glue is oozing around the edge. Place a flat weight on the patch. Wait till it cools and make sure you have a good bond. Do not try to play the drum yet. If you do not have a good bond, it can be removed with a steam iron or pressed more evenly. If you have a good one, then let dry for at least 24 hours. You will notice that the glue will get extremely hard.
webmaster firstname.lastname@example.org date modified 1/14/10