Djembe (Jembe) Repair
African djembes are strong, durable drums. A good djembe will last a lifetime, but they need care, and sooner or later they need repair.
In order for djembes to produce the sharp, clear, bright tones and slaps they're so famous for, the drum head must be pulled extremely tight. The extreme tension the skin endures puts it under constant stress.
Eventually, the skin will no longer resist the stress and it will tear.
When this happens, it might be tempting to replace the drum.
Repair your djembe!
We specialize in djembe drum head replacement, tuning and restoration. Whether you want thick or thin, shaved or harry, we'll find the perfect goat skin for your hand drum and reskin it to perfection.
So you see, there's no need to buy a new drum. Contact The Drum Doctor Now! . . . and save your money.
Maybe you're a master djembefola and want a cow skin mounted on your instrument and pulled so tight it hums on its own.
No problem! Tell us your needs, and we'll satisfy them.
You decide if you want to reskin your djembe with thin, medium, thick or extra thick goatskin. We use only the finest African goatskins, so you know you'll be getting the highest quality available. You want cowskin? Of course! Want to be different and go with buffalo or even deerskin? You got it!
You also have choices when it comes to the thickness and color of the rope. We use the highest quality nylon djembe rope with a polyester core in various thicknesses: 3mm, 4mm, 4.5mm and 5mm. Choose between up to 15 different colors. Be creative and mix them to match your flag or favorite team. One color for the crown, another for the bottom ring and a third for the verticals. Any combination that strikes your fancy.
And of course, you always have the option of supplying all the materials for your djembe repair project, and we'll do the rest.
We routinely rebuild djembes from scratch. We'll recondition the drum shell, repairing any cracks and flaws such as a chipped or uneven bearing edge, have new rings made, wrap them with cloth and rope them; and, of course, install new tuning rope and re-head the drum.
Djembe repair is what we do!
In a matter of days and at minimal cost, you can again enjoy the emotional and creative self-expression that only djembe drumming provides, not to mention the fellowship. (Look below for examples of what you can expect from our djembe repair experts.)
So why buy a new djembe, when our loving care will make your beloved old friend better than new? For a no obligation, free consultation call us at (831) 428-6626, send us an email or fill out a contact form.
We're located in Santa Cruz, CA, easiliy accesible to anyone in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Jose/Silicon Valley, the Salinas Valley and the Monterey Bay, but don't worry if you're not in our neck of the woods; we have years of shipping experience. Many of our clients ship their ailing African drums to us, and we return their restored djembes by whatever means they choose.
And remember, djembe repair is not all we do. We're fully qualified to treat other hand drums and ethnic instruments such as koras and balafons--just ask!
A New Drum Head For Adam's Djembe
Brad's son, Adam, has a birthday coming up, so Brad thought getting Adam's djembe repaired would be a great surprise to spring on him! Brad and Adam are both musicians. He snuck the djembe out of Adam's house and shipped it to Dr. Tom.
We immediately recognized the drum. The wood, rope and workmanship all served as signatures for Kangaba Percussion of Mali, Africa. We've repaired quite a few of these djembes, so we had a good idea of what to expect.
These drums are generally quite well built, but we gave it a complete examination to make sure all components were drum worthy - and they were, so we proceeded with the head replacement.
Great results! Brad can't wait to see his son's face when he hears his drum singing again.
Great job Dr Tom! Thank you! I played the drum a little and . . . the sound is really superb and has tons of different tones. Again, thank you. My son will be very pleased when I can give him back his beloved drum better than new!
Brad Smith (Fairfield, CA)
Megan's Djembe Completely Restored
At first glance, it seems obvious what ails this djembe - the skin has ripped and needs to be replaced.
As we'll see, that is a rosy diagnosis indeed. To begin with, the rope is substandard and will not withstand the rigors of the task at hand. We know this from experience and decide from the onset to replace it.
Once the patient is thoroughly examined, we find other disorders that must be addressed. The most urgent being that her bearing edge had never fully developed.
Do you see the sharp edge? The bearing edge should be tapered and smooth to allow the skin to easily slide up and down it without suffering damage. The bearing edge must be reshaped and smoothed.
On top of this, the shell has several cracks that must be sealed in order ensure the drum's integrity and prevent further damage.
The cracks are sealed and the bearing edge is reshaped and smoothed. The shell is cleaned and oiled. We are now ready to mount a fresh goat skin drum head.
We replace the feeble old rope with the finest availiable. 4 millimter for the crown and bottom ring and 5 millimeter for the verticals. The African goat skin we use is of medium thickness.
This drum has never been better.
Adventures In Djembe Repair
Edwin uses drumming in his work with at-risk youth, so it was important to him to get this djembe back in shape.
The skin has ripped, but there are other issues that concern us even before we give the patient a complete examination. Click on one of the thumbnails and take a close look at he rope. The material seems to be OK, but the rope is much thinner than rope we would use on such a drum. The drum maker before us doubled it up in an effort to compensate for the lack of strength.
Now check out the bearing edge right where the skin has ripped. This bearing edge has fangs! We'll definitely have to do something about this ferocious bearing edge and possibly replace the rope.
Once we disassemble the drum, we get a better look at the terribly flawed bearing edge. One thing we can do to repair the edge is to remove the top inch and a half of the shell's bowl so as to create a whole new bearing edge.
Instead, we replace the missing wood with some strong, durable epoxy. The result is a smooth, level surface that will bear the skin without causing damage. We can now mount a fresh African goat skin.
When we first mount the soaked skin, we do so with no force whatsoever. We simply put everything in place, making sure the rings, rope and skin are level and lined up properly. Once we're confident everything's where it belongs, we begin to add tension a little at a time. It takes several pulls to mount a djembe's drum head.
We decided to reuse the thin, doubled up rope in order to save the client some money and ended up regretting it. The rope gave once we applied some real tension. We spliced it and tried to continue along but the rope broke again. The rope would have to be replaced.
We have some world-class 5mm rope for just such occasions and began to displace the inferior rope with the new rope a little at a time. We increased the tension as we went.
Things went from bad to worse. The crown rope began to snap. What do we do now? We haven't even gotten through the wet pull yet and all the rope has given out on us!
We're going to pretend we're done with the wet-pull and let the skin dry as we normally would. Once it's thoroughly dry, we'll disassemble the drum then reassemble it with all new rope. The skin on the flesh ring should fit right back into place.
If all goes well until then, we'll give it a dry pull as usual.
It wasn't easy, but it was worth it. At least Edwin and his rowdy kids think so.
Venerable African Djembe Restored
This old djembe has seen better days.
The skin has blown up, the shell is very old and dry, the rope is old, worn and brittle and, as we'll see, there are other troubling issues.
For one thing, the bearing edge is poorly shaped and like a roller coaster.
For another, the rust on the rings is so extensive that it's dissolved most of the cloth that once covered them.
We'll have to give these rings a good scrubbing and rewrap them.
So we clean and wrap the rings, and the bearing edge is levelled, shaped and smoothed.
We also gave the shell several applications of nourishing oil. Notice the cheery luster compared to the before pictures above.
Resucitation Of LaVonne's Djembe
LaVonne's djembe drum head has suffered an untimely death. It seems that someone took out her frustration on the innocent djembe with a baseball bat.
Rather than dwelling on the unseemly details of the drum's demise, let's focus on the heartening tale of the victims complete recuperation.
After a complete examination, it's determined that the drum shell is intact and needs only to have its bearing edge levelled and refinished. The rope is also on the thin side and showing clear signs of wear and tear, so we're going to replace it.
We also find that the flesh ring is rusted and has some welding remnants that are sharp and could damage the fresh goat skin we plan to mount upon it.
So the bearing edge is levelled and sanded smooth, the flesh ring is cleaned and filed smooth then covered to prevent direct contact with the skin, and the rope is replaced. Love's djembe is ready for a fresh goat skin drum head.
Love and her djembe's ordeal was finally over, and they were happily reunited.
I just want to say, you do beautiful work. From the way she sounds, now I realize she was never, ever tuned correctly before, I just never knew. She sounds amazing!! Thank you, thank you so very much. It's good to have her back, better than before. . . . Thanks again!!
LaVonne (Lake County, CA)
Complete Restoration Of Gambian Djembe
Here's a djembe that need a lot of help.
In addition to needing a fresh goat skin, all the rope needs to be replaced. We know from experience that this rope is made with substandard materials and won't hold up to the stress we're going to impose on it in order to get the new drum head up to pitch.
On top of that, the bearing edge is rough, poorly shaped and not level.
So the first thing we do is level, reshape and smooth the bearing edge. While we're at it, we seal some minor cracks and give the shell a good cleaning and oiling. The improvement is dramatic.
Once we replace the rope on the crown and bottom ring, we're ready to mount the fresh goat skin.
As we already mentioned, the improvement is dramatic.
Gambian Djembe Brought Back From The Dead
Megan brought back four djembes from Gambia, and they all now needed skinning. Of the four this one required the most attention. You can't get a good look at it yet, but there's a large chunk of shell splintering away.
Here's a good look at that splinter. Did we say splinter? It's as big as a skull cap! Right at the bearing edge, the damage runs through the shell.
The drum shell also suffered from many hairline cracks on the bowl and a crack so large on the base that a good chunk had broken away. The damage on this shell is so extensive that Megan asked us to just let it rest in peace.
But we knew there was plenty of life left in that djembe and had already begun emergency repair.
We thoroughly sealed all the hairline cracks - about a dozen in all.
As well as the large crack at the base of the shell.
Once the shell had been fully restored, we were able to mount a beautiful goat skin of medium thickness.
This djembe is not only fully recovered, it's ready to take the lead!
It's been some months since this story's happy ending. Sadly, this djembe was brought back to us with unexpected complications.
The bottom ring has snapped. The weld gave out.
It's not as bad as it seems. We should be able to disassemble the drum, weld the ring back together, and reassemble it with all the original parts.
As expected, we were able to salvage all the parts, including the skin. OK, we did have to rewrap the ring with different material. But other than that, we think it's fair to say this was a resounding success.
Repair of Kevin's Stave Djembe
Kevin's djembe has two very obvious features. First, it's a stave djembe rather than a carved djembe. Second, it's tuned by twisting the rope with tuning pegs.
Another "feature", also found in the more traditional djembes, is that it needs to be re-skinned periodically.
As with any djembe, we immediately give the patient a thorough examination. Only after ensuring that the drum shell, rings and rope are in the best possible condition, do we proceed with the delicate operation of a complete drum head transplant.
The operation was a complete success, and the patient is feeling (and sounding) better than ever.
I picked up the drum today and it sounds and looks great - the bass is clear and I love the tone - you've turned it into a one-of-a-kind instrument. . . . Aloha!
Kevin (Honolulu, HI)
Stave Djembe Gets A New Drum Head
Paul gave his son a beautiful stave djembe that recently blew its top. Naturally, Paul brought the ailing hand drum to The Drum Doctor to have it repaired.
The drum shell is flawless except for a couple of inconsequential scratches, the rope is in great shape and the rings are perfect. All that's needed is to find the perfect goat skin to transplant onto the patient.
We found the perfect goat skin and mounted it without a hitch.
Paul can't wait to get this baby back in his son's hands.
Bob's Djembe Gets A New Drum Head
Bob has a beautiful, Lenke wood djembe just aching for a fresh, juicy goatskin.
She's looking a little the worse for the wear, but don't worry folks - there's a lot of good drumming left in her.
Bob decides to use the rope one more time, and the rings and shell are in drum-worthy condition - except for one detail.
The bearing edge is pretty rough.
Looks much better after the edge is sanded into shape and the shell is thoroughly cleaned and oiled.
Now we just need that juicy skin.
That's the one!
Animal is a professional musician, so his/r instruments mean a lot to him/r.
Obviously, this would not do.
S/he entrusted his/r djembe to The Drum Doctor with specific instructions to put a head on it that would deliver crystal clear tones and bullet slaps, yet still have that deep soulful base only a djmebe can utter.
Unlike many of The Drum Doctor's patients, this drum had no issues other than the obvious. The rope, rings and shell were all in fine shape. All we had to do was give the shell a good cleaning and a thorough oiling, and the drum was ready for its fresh goat skin.
Here's an interesting point. Full-sized djembes tend to require a whole goat skin to head. But we found a skin with unusually large haunches, and one of the haunches was just large enough to do the job. This gave us a great medium-thick skin with as consistent a thickness as you could ask for. This drum head has no spine.
Click on the thumbnails and take a good look. No spine. That's a haunch!
The results were exceptional!
Crystal clear tones. Bullet slaps. And a base as deep and soulful as you could ask for. Animal Prufrock got what s/he asked for.
I am so thrilled. There is a whole symphony of tones I'm pulling out of there!
Can't stop playing it!
Animal Prufrock (San Francisco)
Beautiful African Djembe Reskinned
The drum head on this djembe is completely blown out, but there's nothing wrong with that shell. In fact, this is one of the most beautiful drum shells we've ever seen. The carving is very simple yet elegant and flawless. The wood is as good as it gets.
There's nothing particularly remarkable about this repair project. It's a routine head replacement. It's just that the drum is so beautiful, we just had to share it.
What do you think?
Another Kambala Djembe Repaired
We've repaired quite a few of these Kambala Percussions djembes. They tend to be well carved from quality African hardwood. This one is quite typical in that the embellishments are quite simple and minimal even though one can tell from the precision of the work that the craftsman is very accomplished.
Another thing that's typical of these drums and the one complain we have about them is that the rope is not nearly as thick as we would like. The material itself is quite good, but we wish the gauge would live up to that standard.
Despite our complains, the rope is adequate so we spare the client the added expense and reuse the rope.
The results are spectacular! Despite the apparent simple humility of this djembe, this is a truly fine drum. The shell is flawless. The sound impeccable. Click on the thumbnails for a good look at the beauty of this drum.
Suzanne is an artist from San Francisco who loves her drum, so when the skin on her djembe ripped she naturally turned to The Drum Doctor for help.
Beside the ruined drumhead, Suzanne was also concerned about a crack on the neck of her drum she was afraid might develop into a more serious problem.
As we'll see, her concerns were well founded. In fact, the integrity of the drum shell was severely compromised and needed repair before we even though of mounting a fresh skin on it.
Let's take a look at how this damaged hand drum was transformed from the ailing patient seen in the previous images to the whole and healthy drum we see here.
The crack was just below the bowl. Quite long, though not wide.
It turned out, however, that this crack was the result of a knot that ran from the inner base of the bowl downward along the neck. The visible crack on the outside of the shell had a wider, though shorter, counterpart on the inside. In other words, this crack ran through and through and seriously compromised the integrity of the shell.
Imagine trying to sing with a slit cut along your neck!
Here's a look at the knot at the base of the bowl and the gaping slit on the inside. This demanded immediate attention.
But this was not all. If you revisit the 'after' pictures above, you'll see through the rope a large knot on the bowl of the shell. This knot also ran through the entire thickness of the shell and also compromised it's integrity.
Imagine trying to sing with punctures in your cheek!
Here's a look at the knot both from without and within.
These leaks had to be sealed in order to make this djembe really sing. So that's what we did. Slowly and patiently.
Once the shell was fully intact, we mounted a fresh, beautiful, medium-thick goatskin and tuned it just so. Suzanne was thrilled with her new drum and had this to say:
My djembe arrived safe and sound on Tuesday afternoon, and I have been testing its sounds in brief periods since then, greatly enjoying all the work that you did to improve it. No complaints whatsoever, only praises! The rope handle is a wonderful, unexpected addition, too. The whole drum is perfect for me now . . I love its sounds and vibrations . . .
Thank you again for taking such good care of my djembe. It's reassuring to know that you are there to help in the future as well. I'll gladly recommend you to other drummers . . .
Suzanne (San Francisco, CA)
Craig brought this beautiful djembe to The Drum Doctor for a good tuning. It just didn't sound right anymore.
With a 14 1/2" head and standing 25" tall, this dark beauty is a giant among djembes. At first glance, the only criticism we might have of this drum is that the crown is sitting too far below the bearing edge and that the shell needs a good cleaning and oiling.
Upon close inspection, however, we discover the real reason this djembe has lost its voice.
The drum head is tearing at the seams, and no amount of tuning will restore this djembe's voice again. In fact, any attempt to tune it, will only result in further damage. The drum head must be replaced.
We disassembled the drum and cleaned and oiled the shell thoroughly. We found the perfect medium-thick hairy goat skin, which we mounted then shaved. Looks good, doesn't it? The weather was cooperative, so we were able to tune it after only five days of drying time.
Feast your eyes.
Twin Djembe Drums Repaired
Synchronicity is a fact of life. Now, you might wonder why a website dedicated to world hand drums and their repair has taken such a philosophical turn. Well, stay with us and you'll see.
Some time back, Dr. Tom gave his brother, Robert, a nice African jembe as a birthday gift, and the skin on that drum recently popped on him. Naturally, Robert came to Dr. Tom for help. Here's a look at the damage. So far, nothing to get philosophical about, right? (By the bye, the crayon marks on the head are courtesy of Dr. Tom's favorite granddaughter. Turns out Uncle Robert doesn't appreciate art as much as others.)
So far, nothing to get philosophical about, right? (By the bye, the crayon marks on the head are courtesy of Dr. Tom's favorite granddaughter. Turns out Uncle Robert doesn't appreciate art as much as others.)
The thing is that the very next day, Dr. Tom got a call from a client that also needed a djembe re-headed.
Big deal! Djembes blow their tops every day of the week, right? Of course they do, especially when they're left in hot closets and cars for extended periods.
But take a close look at the client's djembe. Notice anything? Take a really close look, top to bottom. Now go back and take a really close look at Robert's djembe. Notice anything yet? OK, maybe it'll help if we strip these baby's down to the bare shells.
Now take a close look at them. Notice the very simple and identical design carved at the base of each shell. Also notice that each shell has a ledge carved at the bottom of the bowl that helps keep the bottom ring in place. It's probably difficult to tell from pictures, but another thing they have in common is that they're made from the same type of wood - not necessarily the same tree, but who knows?
These drums are sisters! Made by the same drum maker. And these sisters, each belonging to a different owner, blew their tops and ended up at The Drum Doctor's at the exact same time!
Synchronicity. Downright spooky.
OK, let's stop scaring the children and get to work.
The rope on both these drums is frayed but probably in good enough shape that it can be reused. The problem is that the crowns and bottom rings are poorly knotted.
Notice that the knots are unevenly spaced and that the loops are all of varying lengths. As mentioned in an earlier project, asymmetrical ring knots translate to asymmetrical verticals.
We're going to go ahead and replace all the rope. By the way, these views give you a good look at the ledges carved at the bottom of the bowls.
Now for a really special treat. The Drum Doctor is about to introduce an innovation that will greatly improve djembe crowns in several ways. You are about to witness history in the making.
Drum rolls and blaring trumpet calls!
We are going to use two sets of loops, one set on top of the other and staggered, thus greatly increasing the strength of the crown. We also more than double the amount of contact on the skin, thereby greatly reducing the risk of slippage; and, to put icing on the cake, it looks great!
As it turns out, Robert decided to go with cow skin because he'd recently heard the stave djembe of an earlier project that we'd re-headed with cow skin and had loved its sound. The other client chose to stick with goat skin.
As you can see, hairy goat skins are generally bought whole, while cow skins come in rounds, since an entire cow hide could skin several djembes.
What we do is cut the excess from the goatskin so that we end up with a round similar to our cow skin round. We then plug some holes around the perimeter of the skin and soak it in water until it becomes soft and workable. Once we're ready to mount the skin, we temporarily mount it on the flesh ring by weaving rope through the holes we've plugged. This keeps the skin in place during the early stages and assures that we have the right tension on it to begin with.
The skin is mounted on the drum and gradually tightened. When we're done with the wet-pull, the skin is at about 80% the tightness it'll be when we're completely done.
Temporarily mounting the skin on the flesh ring ensured that the rings remain level and don't drop too far below the bearing edge when we tighten. The djembe is then circumcized, and the skin is shaved and allowed to dry for several days.
Here's a look at the shaved goatskin and the innovative crown.
And a look at each sister in all her splendor. Notice the difference in their skins. If you look closely, you'll see that it's not only appearance that sets them apart. The cow skin is much thicker than the goat skin, which gives these drums completely different voices.
Now can you tell they're related?
Djembe Head Replacement
Joel is a fine drummer, but, as you can see, he's just not a drum repair technician. The duct tape didn't only fail to work; it created more work when all the gunk left behind by the tape had to be removed.
With a 13" head and standing 25" tall, this beautiful drum deserves better treatment.
As always, we give the drum a thorough inspection before beginning any work on it.
What we find is that the drum shell has sustained serious damage - probably as a result of the nails that were driven into it. Two sizeable cracks that run through the shell must be sealed before the work of replacing the drum head can begin.
Once the tape residue has been completely removed and the cracks completely sealed, we give the djembe shell a thorough cleaning and oiling.
Two lessons to be learned from this project: 1) Do not apply duct tape to a torn drum head - it not only doesn't work, the residue left behind might have to be removed with chemicals you'd much rather not apply to your drum. 2) Never, ever, ever drive nails into your djembe, as much damage to the shell can result.
Now we can mount a beautiful African goat skin on this baby.
Would you say it was worth the effort?
And so we have gone from this - to this.
John has gotten all he can from this drum head. It's time to replace it.
Once we disassemble the hand drum, we notice a couple of things.
The first thing is that the crown ring is rusty and probably contributed to, if not caused the deterioration of the skin.
The other is that this is one of the most perfectly proportioned, symmetrical drum shells we've ever seen. Check it out once we've cleaned an oiled it.
If you look really closely you'll notice that the bowl flares outward from the bearing edge for several inches before it begins to narrow. This means that with tight fitting rings we need to make sure the drum head comes into tune before it jams up on the shell as it gets pulled lower and lower.
So we clean up the ring and wrap it to keep any rust off the skin.
And we mount the perfect goat skin! Check it out!
Indonesian Djembe Repair
Those of you familiar with Indonesian djembes would probably not recognize this djembe as Indonesian - except for the rope.
The shell is hand-carved from good, hard wood, which does not coincide with the machined, soft wood shells much more typical of drums from Indonesia. We should also mention that this is a medium size djembe (under 10").
We gave this nice shell a thorough cleaning and oiling. The shell was really thirsty and soaked up quite a bit of oil. Compare the before and after pictures and see how the wood has cheered up.
In fact, the whole drum has cheered up and sings, sings, sings!
Just got my drum...wow! It is singing again! So fun.
Thanks Doc! and thanks for the speedy delivery :)
Sri Odom (Kensington, CA)
African Djembe Drum Head Replacement
Steve loves his djembe and had a hard time finding someone to reskin his old friend. When he finally found The Drum Doctor, he was happy to make the 45 minute drive.
The shell is carved from decent wood - not the most dense or hardest wood available, but good enough to make a fine djembe as long as it's well carved. And this is well carved. Notice the extra long trumpet. An experienced eye will immediately expect a spectacular bass from this baby.
As usual we give the shell a thorough inspection before mounting the skin.
What we find is a couple of cracks, one of which is the result of a knot. You see here a view from the outside and inside of the shell. These will have to be sealed before anything else.
Once the flaws on the shell are sealed, we give the shell a good cleaning and oiling. The shell is finally ready for the medium-thick goat skin Steve chose himself.
The shell looks so much better! And the medium-thick skin is pulled really tight so it produces crisp tones and slaps, yet with that extra-long trumpet the bass is huge. This drum has a great range!
Lenke Wood Djembe Reconstruction
Brandon is a lucky guy. He was given this drum shell for free.
Granted, the drum is fairly useless as it now stands, but that's why Brandon brought the drum to The Drum Doctor. After all, Brandon doesn't just have a fine lenke wood shell to work with, he also has the rope and rings. Now he just needs a nice African goat skin and some TLC from The Drum Doctor.
We begin the process of repairing this djembe by giving all the parts a thorough inspection to make sure the rope, rings and shell are all drum worthy.
We discover a crack that runs the whole thickness of the shell. Here, you get a look at the crack from the outside, from the inside looking through the bowl and from the inside looking through the trumpet. This crack will have to be sealed before we do anything else.
Once the crack is completely sealed, we rasp and sand off some thickness from the upper part of the shell. The rings are much too tight for the thick skin we plan to mount on this beauty. If we try to mount a thick skin as things are, we could damage the skin in the process. Better to do a little extra work now and avoid a lot of work and heartache later.
We now give the shell a good cleaning and oiling. Once the oil has been completely absorbed by the shell, it's time to mount the skin.
As we mentioned earlier, the thickness of the shell where the crown squeezes over it was thinned a bit to accommodate a thick skin. Thick skins tend to need additional tension to get the nice, clear tones and slaps we want from a djembe. So that's what we did. We pulled and pulled until this baby screamed just so.
Brandon is pretty happy with the results - and so is his djembe!