Shaving the Head - Instructions to head with Goat skin an African Djembe Drum

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Shaving the Head - Instructions to head with Goat skin an African Djembe Drum

Page Four - Shaving the Head

Obviously, if you are using a hair off skin, you don't need most of this, but look it over anyway. You still may want to form the head over the rings. If you want the top ring to show, you cut it off short where it emerges from the top ring. Because of the risk of head slippage, I let the head dry tied with the draw string and then just slightly loosen the draw string knot when I tune it. I wait until it is pretty well tuned before cutting off the excess hide. In doing so, either use a fine sharp scissors, or put a small piece of stiff plastic behind the skin and use a razor knife. either way, BE CAREFUL, a slip here wrecks the whole job!

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Let's get Started! Untie the draw string rope and remove it from the hide. The Head should be pretty level and the top ring about 3/4 " below the playing surface.

Lay out some newspapers, and maybe a bag for excess hair would be handy. Secure a bag of Bic or Lady Bic single blade disposable razors. I tried to use generic on this drum and they were so dull, NEVER AGAIN! Take a needle nose pliers and bend down with a twisting motion the guard where it attaches at each blade edge until it breaks loose. Then you can break the few little center spike of plastic across the middle that hold the guard in place. Remove the guard and it's supports completely
prepare a razor
Take a fine file and file the blade edges at a 45 degree angle so the corner won't dig in the hide. Just a few strokes is enough.
More than likely, the skin has kind of dried out a little. I pour some water on the hair, taking care it stay on the top and not roll down to the top ring crack on the edges. add water as a lubricant
I begin at the neck side, and work with the hair to the tail side. I like to leave a little hair tail as decoration so I start leaving that triangle of hair. Hold the razor vary low, so the handle about touches. The blade is then almost perpendicular, and cuts the best. The blade is always pulled with the hair, never press in without moving. I start with short light strokes till i get down to the skin. sometimes it will just roll right off. Never start slicing by moving right to left.
Extra special care must be taken where the edge meets the skin. The skin is pretty forgiving when free, but with wood under it, it cuts readily. Just slowly work along the edge, using light pressure. Add water as necessary. it usually works best to remove all the hair as you go rather than just getting "most" of it. I save the spine till last as the skin is courser and dulls the blade quicker. shaving the head
Do each side first, taking care at the edges. I usually can do it with one razor, maybe two for a tough Guinea goat skin. I used a whole handful of generic ones here. Begin shaving second half of the goatskin
Lastly clean up the middle. You can leave another triangle at the tail end... or not as on this drum. I have found that triangle of hair works especially good for regulating how much "ring" a drum has. I often leave one 2" or more my ceramic djembes and then slowly dry shave it off after tuning to effectively "tune" the best amount of "ring". This doesn't have to be perfect, you can dry shave any remaining stubble or take it off with sand paper. goat skin fully shaved
Next trim any excess hide off. Here I just barely have enough so I just cut off enough to remove the draw string slits. You need 1.5 to 2.5 inches to cover the top rings. For a SUPER job you use a fine scissors and make sure you cut the skin and not any hair that hangs down so it makes a fuzzy natural looking edge. I usually just cut it! Trim the excess hide
Tie off one end of an Ace type athletic bandage to a vertical rope and then angle up and begin wrapping the edge. Pull the hide down taught over the rings as you go. Avoid big wrinkles and folds. Sometimes an extra hand is nice! wrap the edge with an ace bandage
Work your way around and then just wrap the excess bandage. Here I have one of those nifty metal grabbers on one end, else just drop back down and tie off to a vertical rope. wrap continues
To finish, I tie the upper and lower cradle rope ends together. Later these form the skeleton of a carrying handle. I wrap the excess vertical rope around the trumpet, and tie that off to itself or a vertical. Now everything is tidied up, and the drum is set aside to dry before tuning. I like to leave a hair on drum for three days in the best drying location i can find, or two days for a hair off skin. DO NOT RUSH THE DRYING TIME! It can be shorten by a day by using a fan, or putting it on your furnace. If you tune it before it is dry, that portion where the head wraps around the rings will still be moist and overly stretchy. As you tune the rings will pull down excessively without significantly tightening the playing surface. Often the top ring gets uneven, and it over stretches the skin just above the top ring. This significantly reduces head life I believe. BE PATIENT!

Now get that messy goat hair out of the house before you are banished to the garage!
Drum ready to dry

Now continue TO: Tuning the Drum
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This page was last modified on 02/17/15 11:38:40 AM