These bongo drums had rawhide heads which always seemed to sound a little dead, no matter how much I tightened them.   They are not real professional drums, for one thing, and aren't built for extreme tension.

With nothing much to lose, I replaced the rawhide heads with a couple of x-ray films the lab in town gave me to play with many years ago.  Free material! 

The sound was much improved.  To hear the new heads, click on the .mp3 file in the last step. 

Step 1: Cutting the Material

The first X-ray head that I made years ago was precisely laid out on paper first.  This time, I just traced the top of the drum directly on the film with a white grease pencil and improvised.  The process was faster. 

Rawhide stretches.  X-ray film does not, so the outside edge needs to be cut to allow sections to fold .

It would have been a little easier with longer tabs on the "sunburst", because the material tends to fight going where you want it to go later, and longer tabs are better than too-short ones.  These were cutting it a little close, but worked.  I had a larger film to cut for the second drum head, and left longer tabs.

Try to keep the sides of the tabs parallel, or narrowing a bit toward the outside, rather than having them widen.  If they get too wide, they will interfere with each other when they are bent into the holding rings.   
<p>how did you go about obtaining the x-rays?</p>
<p>I got mine free from the local health clinic. They were defective shots that were going to be thrown out. Unfortunately, the technology has changed to digital and the films are no longer available here. Maybe people you know have old x-rays they don't need. If you soak them in water for a few weeks, the emulsion film will wash off with a sponge. </p>
<p>Thanks for the info. I just talked to a friend that apperently has a stack of 'em!</p>
I am about to do this to my nice lp bongos... the head sizes are 7.1/4 and 8.5/8th.. the heads on now are $75 total so I don't want to destroy them.. Do you know where I can get the 2 inner rings I will need... to wrap the x-ray around ? thanks ! danny@acoustechmusic.com
Sorry, I don't know where to get the rings. A welder might be able to make them for you.
If I was to tension the head with rope (making a glass drum), would I just get the top bongo head from somewhere and tie it down? I feel like I couldn't just punch holes in it and stretch it like leather
You would probably tear the x-ray material if you punched holes and pulled. I don't see any good way to mount it on a glass drum.
Great work, I like this and I found another X-ray drum set<br> <br> <a href="http://howtomakeadrum.blogspot.com/2010/12/how-to-make-x-ray-drum-set.html">http://howtomakeadrum.blogspot.com/2010/12/how-to-make-x-ray-drum-set.html</a><br> <br>
I think you should add a couple led lighting inside the drums so you can see the x-ray. that would be pretty cool
Good idea. I have no experience inventing with led lights, except for turning on my flashlight. That's something I would like to learn about.
well if your interested in leds, http://www.theledlight.com/ledcircuits.html
I'm thinkin' x-rays of people's hands would be awesome for this. Nice project!
Super. I know someone who has exactly the same bongos, and they are a bit crappy.<br> <br> L<br>
Those sound great! Very &quot;alive&quot;.
Very good work, Thinkenstein!

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Bio: I'm a refugee from Los Angeles, living in backwoods Puerto Rico for about 35 years now and loving it. I built my own home ... More »
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