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The process of putting a natural skin head on a bongo. The same process can be applied to congas and other drums.

Step 1: The Problem

The natural skin head on drum has an obvious rip. This is a bongo head, but it can happen to conga heads as well.

Step 2: Select the New Skin

There are many types of skins, but you should use one that has the appropriate thickness for the drum type and sound characteristics desired. For the smaller bongo (aka the "macho"), a thin skin is called for. Select an area is free of defects that might decrease the strength of the head. This skin picked up a few creases and dents in transit from Colombia, but we can work around those

Step 3: Use a Template to Mark the Cut

Here, I'm using a large lid as a template for marking the cut to be made. Any circular item or drawing compass will do. The diameter is about 180% of the diameter of the drum

Step 4: Softening the Skin

Soaking the new skin in warm water will soften the skin in about 30-60 minutes. Thicker skins such as those used for congas might require 4 hours or more depending on the thickness and type of skin (cow, mule, etc.). The skin should be very pliable before mounting it.

Step 5: Use the Ring From the Old Head

The old/ripped skin should also be soaked in warm water to soften it. When soft, it will be easy to remove the metal ring that will reused for the new skin.

Step 6: Mounting the Skin

With the tension rods completely loose and the rim removed, place the soft and wet skin on the drum shell and place the metal ring over the drum.

Step 7: Wrapping the Skin

The edges of the new skin are now pulled up around the metal ring and tucked under the rim. This can be a little tricky with a slippery/wet skin. To assist with this, you can optionally punch small holes around the perimeter of the skin and use thread or string to help pull up the edges of the skin. Try to even out the creases around the perimeter.

Step 8: Trimming the Skin

With the rim in place but still loose, the trimming of the skin can begin. Use an industrial razor blade and cut outward as you pull the skin up with the other hand. Do this slowly.

Step 9: The Finished Product

After the trimming is complete, the skin needs to dry before putting tension on it. Give it at least 24 hours to dry. The trimmed edges should be stiff when it is completely dry.

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