DrumDrTom - Hand drum repair, restoration and sales

Frame Drum Repair

Bodhran frame drum with a fresh drum head.

At first sight, frame drums appear to be the simplest, most basic hand drums of all. But looks can be deceiving. Frame drums are probably the most diverse and widespread hand drums in all the world. They come in all shapes and sizes, and the vast variety of sounds and rhythms they produce dispute their humble appearance.

Tambourines, tars, hoop drums, bodhrans and countless other incarnations of the frame drum have established a long and profound history within every culture of the world. They tend to be light and portable, demand little or no maintenance and require a minimal investment of materials.

This means frame drums tend to be quite affordable and very economical to repair. If your riq, pandeiro, daf or bendir has blown its top . . .

Do not throw your money away!

Repair your frame drum!

DrumDrTom specializes in frame drum head replacement, tuning and restoration. We use a variety of materials suitable for your special drum. Goat, fish, buffalo or whatever type of skin will best suit you and your frame drum's needs will be used to rehead your drum to your specifications.

So don't go out and buy a new drum. Contact DrumDrTom Now! . . . and save your money.

We routinely rebuild frame drums from scratch. We'll recondition the drum shell, repairing any cracks and flaws and replace any materials with only the highest quality available.

Frame drum 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 drumming provides, not to mention the fellowship. (Look below for examples of what you can expect from our frame drum repair experts.)

We're located in Santa Cruz, CA, easily accessible 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 frame drums to us, and we return their restored tars, tambourines, bodhrans and hoop drums by whatever means they choose.

Frame drum sales

In case your your drum has been damaged beyond repair, we now offer custom built drums for sale. You may be looking for your first medicine drum or are ready to upgrade to a bigger, more powerful shaman drum. We can build your drum to your specifications.

For a no obligation, free consultation call or text us at +1 (831) 428-6626, send us an email or fill out a contact form.

Con mucho gusto hablamos Español!
On Duty: Dr. Tom (The Drum Doctor)

African Skin On Irish Drum

Matt is a Celtic musician with a beloved bodhran made by Mike Vignoles of Clauddaugh Bodhrans. After 20 years his drum is ready for some serious TLC.

The skin has about had it and the inner floating tuning ring has warped. The drum will no longer properly tune.

After taking the drum apart we see that the tuning ring has indeed warped. This inner ring works by rising and lowering via several tuning bolts that press against its bottom surface. The top of the ring serves as a bearing edge and presses against the skin. The skin resists the tension upon the entire ring, but between the bolts the ring began to buckle and warp.

Let's mount an African goat skin on this Irish drum and see what can be done about the warping.

Hair left on the goat skin mounted on a bodhran.

You won't see this often. We mounted the skin hairy and shaved it after, except on the side.

We dealt with the warping by reorienting the ring so that the sections that had buckled down were placed directly where the tuning bolts would press against them, and the sections that protruded higher were in between the bolts.

It showed up this afternoon, it looks and sounds great!

Thanks again,

Matt DeBlass (Madison, WI)

Matt sent us a quick video of him trying out his newly restored old friend.

Click to see the video. -->

Celtic musician playing a bodhran.

Siberian Shaman Drum Restored

Rick brouight us a wonderful Siberian shaman drum that belongs to his wife. The deer skin drum head had torn and he wanted to have it repaired for his wife.

The skin is actually sewn onto the frame, so this would not be a typical repair. It seemed worthwhile to mount elk skin instead of deer, since we were going through so much effort. Elk skin is more pricey but can be more durable.

The drum is more beautiful than ever!

The elk skin gives this drum a deep, powerful voice that lingers. Truly great results!

Artwork Reproduction

Neel's bodhran has been loved for many years. When the drum was loaned and subsequently damaged, Neel decided to send it to us for repair.

We explained to Neel that if the artwork was valued as much as the drum, the skin could be patched so as to preserve the artwork. The problem with this would be that the drum would not be playable. At least not reliably.

We could replace the skin so that the drum would be perfectly playable, but the artwork would be gone.

A third option was to replace the skin and reproduce the artwork on the new skin. Neel liked this idea best.

So we mounted a flawless goat skin a bit thicker than the previous skin and meticulously reproduced the artwork upon it.

The results of our efforts were spectacular. Don't you think?

Neel does.

Thank you so much….it’s beautiful and sounds wonderful.

Neel Foster (Savannah, GA)

Medicine Drum Restored

Alicia is beside herself. Her beloved Native American medicine drum has begun to fall apart. The rawhide lacing has broken, and the skin is tearing. The drum no longer sings. She wonders if the drum can be restored somehow without replacing all the skin.

We took a very close look and decided that at least one of the two drumheads was too far gone to reuse - it would have to be replaced. The other drumhead had become brittle with age but was quite intact. After much deliberation, we decided to allow the second drumhead to live out its life to the fullest. It would sing until the very end.

We used elk skin for the fresh drumhead to match the old skin. The difference is that the fresh skin is not bleached so it retains its glorious color. The lacing was replaced with strong, durable and low-stretch rope.

Alicia's medicine drum is whole again. We hope the old skin has many years of singing still ahead. When it does have to be replaced, it should be a quick and easy task now that the lacing is so easy to work with.

Dr. Tom,

I received my drum in a timely fashion, thank you! The skin you used is very interesting-looking and I wonder from what sort of animal did it come? I like the way the drum both sounds and looks and appreciate all your expertise.

Alicia Thomson (New York)

Tar Rehead

Bret is an accomplished percussionist with a vast collection of drums, among them a tar. The skin on his tar recently split.

Reheading a frame drum is one of the most common tasks undertaken by The Drum Doctor. It's a fairly uncomplicated and straightforward procedure. Even so, decisions must be made in the process that have significant and lasting effects on the outcome.

In this particular case, one such decisions was on the type of skin with which to replace the old skin. We like to use African goat skin on many types of frame drums because of it's strength and durability. Oh, and African goat skin just happens to sound incredible!

Did we mention that African goat skins look great as well?

Drum Art Preserved

Kevin has a beautiful Native American two sided drum with a frame that's come apart and lacing that's broken.

We'll need to fully disassemble the drum in order to access the frame so as to put it back together. Once the frame is whole again the skins can be remounted with new lacing.

Let's get to it!

Kevin's drum is whole again, and we can't really blame him for being more concerned with the visual appearance of this beautiful drum. It is a work of art! Even so, we must say that the drum sound even better than it looks.

I highly recommend DrumDrTom. Our drum, which we use as a wall hanging, looks fantastic. You’d never even know it was repaired. I was a bit concerned about mailing our drum to someone I didn’t know, but Dr Tom promptly answered all of my emails and informed me of the repair’s progress. I’m very happy with the customer service and the repair itself. Thanks Dr Tom!

Kevin M. (Scottsdale, AZ)

Bodhran Becomes A Tar

Tom sent DrumDrTom his frame drum because the skin had torn away from the frame. It was no longer playable. This was nothing new to us at The Drum Doctor. We've replaced countless drum skins in similar states.

What was new was that Tom kept referring to his drum as a tar, but when we received it we could clearly see that it was a bodhran. The skin was thicker than we would expect on a tar and the frame a little deeper as well. On top of this was the detail that the frame had the cross bars typical of a bodhran while lacking the thumb hole typical of a tar.

Something was amiss.

Before we proceeded with the repair, we had to make sure our client was aware of all the implications. We contacted Tom and made it clear to him that what he had was a bodhran and asked him to tell us whether he wanted us to skin a bodhran or a tar - the distinction is crucial.

Tom informed us that he intended to use the drum as a tar (struck with the hand and not a tipper). This made everything clear to us. We could now proceed with the repair.

We mounted a skin thicker than most people would on a tar, but not as thick as on a bodhran, and (here's the really crucial difference) we mounted it about as tight as it would go. Bodhrans are not pulled tight at all.

The bodhran turned out to be a fine tar, and Tom was thrilled:

I just want to tell you that you do great work. Thank you. If I know anyone who might need their drum repaired, I won't hesitate to send them to you.

Thomas P. Robertson ()

Buffalo Drum Frame Repair

Tar with a torn goat skin drum head. Tar with a torn goat skin drum head.

Marshall loves his Native American frame drum. His buffalo drum is beautiful thing to behold, but when one goes to draw out its voice, it simply shudders.

The problem is that the frame has come apart at the joint.

Tar with a torn goat skin drum head.
Tar with a torn goat skin drum head. Tar with a torn goat skin drum head.

The damage is much more obvious once the drum is disassembled.

The buffalo skin is in good shape so we let it soak while we repair the frame.

Tar with a torn goat skin drum head.
Tar with a torn goat skin drum head. Tar with a torn goat skin drum head.

The skin takes to the frame like a glove, and the rawhide lacing has been replaced with low-stretch, strong and durable rope.

Tar with a torn goat skin drum head.

The drum is truly better than new. We have converted a pretuned drum into a tunable drum.

Riqq Gets Fresh Goatskin

Sue asked us to replace the fish skin on her riqq. This lovely Arabic tambourine was beautifully crafted by Abdulhamid Alwan, and it certainly deserves all our love and attention.

The problem was that in recent years it had become harder and harder to find fish skin. You see, the fish skin used on Middle-Eastern drums comes from Nile river sturgeon, and there aren't many Nile river sturgeons in the Americas. Most of them are in northeastern Africa, where the Nile river tends to run. If anyone out there should know where to access fish skin suitable for drums, please do let us know.

Sue is a reasonable person and agreed to let us mount some nice goat skin on her precious drum.

We were able to mount the skin nice and tight, so that it has a crisp, clear voice. As you can see, we also added some nice trim, just to give it that final touch.

Dear Dr. Tom,

My riqq now sounds terrific, feels great in the hand and looks beautiful. Thank you! You've given new life to this old friend!

Would you let me know if you could help me with another fix-up?.

Sue Frank (Philadelphia, PA)

Bodhran Head Replacement

The skin on Emilies bodhran is tearing off the frame. It'll have to be replaced.

We are going to replace the skin with a fairly thick round of goat skin. And we're going to glue the skin onto the frame as well as tack it on. If the previous skin had been glued and tacked, it might still be playing strong.

The trick with skinning bodhrans is to apply the proper tension to the head. It's easy to overtighten these drums.

Just right. Since the skin is glued and tacked onto the frame, Emilie shouldn't have to worry about it coming loose.

Painted Medicine Drum Restored

Eric has a medicine drum with petroglyphs painted on the drum head he doesn't want to lose. The problem is that the skin has ripped and the only fix is to replace it.

We suggest to Eric that we can replace the skin and reproduce the petroglyphs. After all, we are pretty crafty at DrumDrTom.

Eric agrees to this on the condition that we produce an "authentic" reproduction. He tell us this even as he gives us free reign to paint anything we want on the drum head. He must really trust us.

Damaged lacing on a Native American medicine drum.

We get to work. One thing we won't be replicating on this drum is the lacing. As you can see, the lacing is on the feeble side and has torn. Beside that, whatever system is being used does not provide well distributed tension.

Lacing on a Native American hoop drum.

That seems a little better. Because Eric wants "authentic", we used rawhide lacing rather than the rope we sometimes substitute on similar drums.

Once the skin thoroughly dries, we can apply the paint.

It's like we read Eric's mind.

Dr Tom,

Received drum today. Great job. Exactly what I wanted. So glad I hooked up with you. . .

Thanx

Eric Herrington (Brighton, MI)

Another Medicine Drum Restored

Native American medicine drum with broken lacing and damaged frame.

Our client was anxious to know if her Native American medicine drum could be repaired.

The lacing had broken.

Medicine drum that's coming apart.
Close up of damaged Native American medicine drum.

And the frame had begun to come apart.

We guessed from a couple of pictures she sent us that the wood had expanded with age and changes in climate. This expansion, we suggested, caused the frame to split and the rawhide lacing to break. We reassured our client the drum could be fixed.

Once we had the drum in our hands we realized the situation was quite another. First of all, this turned out to be an octagonal drum - the frame consisted of eight pieces joined angled-end to angled-end. We could not tell this from the pictures and even our client had thought it was a single-piece hoop.

Second of all, the lacing had broken from age and natural tightening of the skin. This had caused the frame to come apart where the lacing no longer held it in place.

This was great news! It meant the frame was not damaged, only loose at the seams. The skin was intact, in fact, this was as beautiful a skin as we had ever seen. The only real damage was to the lacing.

We replaced the feeble lacing with strong 4mm low-stretch, durable rope and pulled the skin probably a little tighter than it had ever been. The new lacing could definitely handle the stress.

The drum is medicine to the eyes. But what about to the ears? It so happened that just as this lovely drum had fully recovered, Bill showed up to pick up two djembes we'd repaired for him. He took to the medicine drum without a thought.

Bill playing a Native American medicine drum.

<-- Click to see the video.

Did you notice how he used that big old mallet as a tipper? Bill played the drum quite gently and brought out some of the subtlety in the voice. The next clip shows that the drum can also roar.

Click to see the clip. -->

The voice of a medicine drum is brought out.

So the drum has a great voice and is beautiful to behold. Our client agreed.

Irish Bodhran African Skin

The drum head of Edwin's Irish frame drum had torn, rendering the bodhran unplayable.

It has become routine for us to use African goat skins on bodhrans. These skins are strong and durable and, when mounted with the proper tension, sound great. We think they're beautiful.

These skins have stubble, short remnants of hair, and we leave it on. Most people seem to like it, and it can be removed in a minute with sandpaper. Edwin liked it.

Tom,

Drum just arrived. Looks great. Nice work.

Ed Tobin (NY)

Native American Frame Drum Repaired

Native American frame drum with a ripped skin.

Chris cherishes this hoop drum, which was made by her mother and passed on to her.

As you can see, part of the drum head has torn completely off.

Close look at the piece of skin that has torn from the drum head.
Torn skin on the frame of a hoop drum.

The skin has become quite brittle and is tearing in other places as well.

We advise Chris that the skin is old and brittle and should be replaced. It has reached the inevitable conclusion that all skins eventually come to. But Chris won't hear it. She pleads with us to find some way to restore it.

So we get to work. And guess what?

Patched up hoop drum.
Native American frame drum, repaired and ready to play.

The hoop drum is repaired and actually sounds great!

Erin's Bodhran Fixed

Erin has an Irish bodhran that's ready for a new skin.

The drum may not be the most expensive model around, but it's authentic and holds great sentimental value for Erin. We intend to do the drum justice.

Of late, we have been mounting African goat skins on bodhrans with great success. These skins are thick and durable and really quite suitable. Because they are not highly processed, their appearance is strikingly different from most skins found on bodhrans.

This is a pretuned drum, so mounting the skin with just the right tension will be critical.

A nice trim of bright, cheerful green adds the finishing touch.

Hi Dr Tom,

. . . I just received the drum - it's just amazing - what a great sound!!

Thanks again!

Erin (Camarillo, CA)

Tar Repair

The skin on Brian's tar has been punctured and needs to be replaced. Click on the thumbnails and you'll see the damage on the left side.

This is a fairly simple and straightforward repair - except for one thing. Brian has decided that he wants to have a fairly thick African goat skin mounted on this frame drum. The kind of skin that would typically be mounted on a djembe. Tars generally are skinned with thinner, more processed skins.

We are here to please, so go right ahead and replace the damaged skin with the African goat skin.

The tar came out just fine. The tone is deeper than most frame drums of this size, but it looks and sounds great!

Kanjira Repair

The kanjira is a little-known South Indian frame drum of the tambourine family. It's simple and even humble appearance belies it's boundless potential. More on the kanjira here.

The drum is played by manipulating the tension on the the skin with the fingers in order to raise and lower the tone. One day, Rick's finger pressed right through the skin.

Notice that the skin we'll be replacing is goat, not Monitor Lizard as was once the custom. These critters have become endangered in South Asia and are now protected. Goat works fine and there's plenty of those critters around, but before we mount a nice goat skin, we'll have to remove the old one.

Removing the old skin from a drum is often the most difficult part of the job. The old skin must be completely removed, as well as all traces of the adhesive, in order to provide a good, clean surface for the new skin to adhere to.

The wooden frame of a kanjira ftame drum with crack.

Once we've managed to get the shell thoroughtly clean and ready for the fresh skin we notice a flaw.

We'll have to reinforce this flaw before mounting the new skin. We wouldn't want this frame to fail as we stretch the new skin into place, or even worse, as Rick is playing his restored drum!

Now that the shell is drum worthy, we can apply the fresh goat skin.

These drums are tuned by wetting the skin to lower the tone and make the skin more pliable. We mounted the skin very relaxed. Hopefully, this kanjira won't require much tuning and the lower tension might prolong the drumhead's lifespan.

Rick is happy with his drum.

excellent work...thanks Tom

Rick L. (Tampa, FL)

Native American Hoop Drum Patched Up

Kathy uses her Native American hoop drum to sooth her soul as well as for therapy for some of her clients.

Native American hoop drum who's lacing has torn through the skin. Closer look at a hoop drum with a damage drum head skin.

When the rawhide lacing tore through one of the drumhead's eyelets, the skin became loose and the drum lost its voice, so she came to The Drum Doctor to see what could be done.

Native American hoop drum who's torn skin has been patched up. Closer look at a hoop drum that was torn and patched up.

The obvious solution is to replace the skin, but sometimes we can prolong the drum head's life with a patch.

This saves the client time and money.

Native American hoop drum that has been repaired and is ready to play.

And it works!

African Skin For Irish Drum

JJ has a pretuned bodhran with a traditiona goat skin drum head. The skin has torn, so JJ asked us to replace it.

This was a nice skin of a uniform thickness with no visible flaws. The skin simply aged and eventually failed, as all drum heads eventually will. JJ has agreed to let us mount an African goat skin, rather than a skin treated in a similar fashion as the old one.

We mounted an equally flawless goat skin of uniform thickness. The difference is that this skin has not been treated in any way and even has a bit of stubble still on the playing surface. As you can see, the skin retains its gorgeous color and markings. It is stunningly beautiful and has a voice to match. The green trim covers the staples and adds a dash of Irish color.

Hey Tom -

Sorry so long in getting back, but I wanted to take this extra moment to thank you for your fine work. The hide is beautiful and the sound has personality. Love the ribbon.

JJ Steele (Wetmore, CO)

Tar Re-skinning

Tar with a torn goat skin drum head.

Ken has a beautiful tunable frame drum that's suffered a terrible accident. The goat skin of this lovely tar has been torn. The treatment is fairly straight forward. We replace the skin.

The goatskin we choose to mount on this frame drum is a little thicker than the original drumhead. This gives the drum a deep tone and should result in a stronger more durable drum head. Since we pull the skin nice and tight, it still gives the sharp higher tones.

Tar with a fresh goat skin drum head. Tar sporting a new goatskin drumhead.

Ken's tar is better than ever!

Tunable Bodhran Reskinned

A calf skin bodhran head.

Norman has a top-shelf bodhran that has developed a problem.

This is an Albert Alfonso tunable bodhran with a calf skin drum head, and it's difficult to discern from that view what the problem is. Let's take a look from other angles.

As the angle increases an undualtion in the skin becomes more obvious. As mentioned, this is a tunable drum but merely tightening the skin won't level the drum head. The skin has warped and must be replaced.

Norman was never really satisfied with this drum's voice, so it's almost fortuitous that the skin took a turn for the worse. We're going to replace this calf skin with some Irish made vellum and mount it with just the right tension. The fact that this is a tunable drum provides a safe margin for error, but we're not going to count on that.

The new skin not only looks much different, it also sounds much the better.

Thank you for the excellent work you did replacing my bodhran head. The goatskin sounds fantastic - it even got praise from string and woodwind players who seldom comment on the percussion in our Irish session.

Thanks again -

Norman Moore (Rutherfordton, NC)

Native American Medicine Drum Repaired

Native American frame drum with many tears.

Dwayne sent this Native American frame drum to The Drum Doctor with the explanation that he'd tried mending numerous tears with a concoction of glue and sawdust.

Click on these thumbnails for a good look at some of the damage. You'll see that the patches did little to prevent the tearing from only getting worse.

Normally, we advise clients that such damage can only be repaired by a major operation - head replacement. But the thought of loosing the skin and the artwork on the drum head was too painful for Dwayne. He pleaded with us to find a way to save his beloved drum.

Patched up Native American hoop drum.

Here you see that we applied a patch of skin to a major tear and attached it to the lacing. This helps to hold the skin together and prevent the tear from spreading. At the same time, the patch takes on some of the stress applied by the pull of the lacing.

Native American medicine drum with several patches.

Each major tear received such treatment. Much to Dwayne's relief, the drum has a new lease on life.

Great! you may say, but how does the drum sound? Click on the thumbnail to hear it.

Repaired hoop drum with painting of a bear.

Daf Reheaded

Dafs, also known as doyres or dayerehs depending on location (and possibly size), are frame drums with rings or chains attached along the inner frame to provide sympathetic percussion as the drum is played. Liz has a great daf, except it lacks a skin.

Aside from the sympathetic rings, the 21.5" size of this drum sets it aside as different from most frame drums. It took a large goat skin to head this daf.

The underside of a daf that's just been reheaded.

The skin had to wrap around the frame and be tacked onto the opposite edge. That's an African goat skin.

The African skin was well received:

Hi Dr Tom!

Yes the daf came back from you perfect, I was very happy. It's a valued part of my collection!

Cheers, Liz (Cortlandt, NY)

Bodhran Reproduction

Edwin has a beautifull bodhran that's in need of a head replacement.

Reskinning a bodhran is nothing new for Dr. Tom. Many bodhrans have been repaired by DrumDrTom. What's unusual is that this drum's owner wants the logo reproduced on the new skin.

No problem. We can do that.

We replaced the old Pakistani skin with a flawless Lambeg goat skin and reproduced the logo to a T.

What Edwin wants, Edwin gets.

Beautiful Daf Reheaded

The framd of a daf missing a skin.

Stephen is a musician with many drums. We repaired one of those drums, a bodhran, not too long ago, so when his daf needed repair he turned to us for help. Obviously, the daf (daff, duf, duff, dayereh, doira) needed a drumhead.

Now, many people could mount a skin on this drum. The trick to doing it right is to use the best type of skin at the proper thickness and to apply the optimum tension.

Stephen is a professional musician and rightfully expects the caliber of our work to match his exacting requirements. Our expectations are to exceed his expectations.

We mounted an African goat skin of medium thickness. This African goat skin is minimally processed - no chemicals whatsoever were used in its preparation. The skin is strong, durable and beautiful!

Frame drums typically come with thin skins because thicker skins require greater force to tune, but we know how to tune frame drums, regardless of the skin's thickness. The results were a daf with a performance-worthy voice that will far exceed the durability of comparable drums. And it is truly beautiful!

Love the drum. Sounds wonderful. Looks great. Thank you. I will be sending you all of my stuff from here on.

Stephen Roach (Greensboro, NC)

Medicine Drum Restoration

Large tear on the painted skin of a frame drum.

Mike's medicine drum, made by a Native American in British Columbia, has developed a tear.

Close up of a tear on the back of a frame drum. Rear view of a Native American medicine drum with a tear.

The 22" drum has reached it's end of life.

Beautifully painted medicine drum with a tear in the skin.

The artwork on the drum is beautiful. Mike would be happy to just preserve the artwork, even if the drum no longer played.

The back of a medicine drum who's tear has been mended.

We removed the skin, patched it up and remounted it.

Close up of a painted medicine drum with a tear that's been fixed.

The tear is barely noticeable.

Beautifully painted Native American frame drum just repaired.

The artwork has been preserved.

Medicine drum with beautiful artwork fully restored.

This really is a beautiful drum, and there's a bonus - the voice has also been restored. The drum sings again!

Shaman Drum Restored

Ron recently got himself a beautiful, rambunctious puppy, and he loves this puppy.

You know how puppies love to chew on rawhide? Well, this puppy got a hold of Ron's wife's shaman drum, the shaman drum that Ron's wife loves so much.

There's a lot of love in Ron's home. Recently, though, because of this puppy and the shaman drum, there's also been just a little strife. As you can see, the innocent shaman drum was destroyed, and Ron asked if we could get him out of the dog house.

Of course we could help, we only needed to know exactly what Ron's wife would like. Did she want the drum to be restored to it's original state - same materials, appearance, etc.? Or was she possibly agreeable to us restoring the drum and making improvements while we were at it? We could, for example, make the new version tuneable.

It turned out that she was apprehensive about making any alterations to the drum, since she liked to display the drum in her home when she was not drumming with it. She very much enjoyed the authentic appearance of the original drum. We understood and promised to respect her wishes.

We began by selecting a fairly thick elk skin far superior to the original. The original lacing had been destroyed along with the skin, so we could not reuse it. We replaced the lacing with strong, durable, low stretch rope and chose a color that would blend in nicely. The leather handle was intact, so we would work it back into the construction.

The rope lacing had a similar appearance to the original lacing and allowed us to make the drum tunable. This is a huge improvement to the drum that did not offend the eye in any way. Once the drum was assembled and tuned, we then just added the leather handle.

The result was a drum that looked similar to the original, though not as rustic, and sounded incredible. The materials we used would ensure that the drum would endure for many years to come - assuming the puppy kept its paws off it.

Ron's wife was pleased with her new drum and Ron was finally out of the dog house.

Drum arrive[d] today! Looks and sounds great. Thanks.

Ronald Liljedahl (Durango, CO)

Bodhran Repair

Bodhran drum with a split skin. Bodhran drum with a split drum head.

Today we're going to re-head a bodhran, a popular Irish frame drum.

Now, you might argue that the bodhran isn't technically a hand drum, since it's played largely with a tipper and not strictly with the hand. There may be some truth in this, but remember that DrumDrTom also repairs other ethnic instrument, such as koras and balafons, so we can certainly handle a bodhran.

Now, you might argue that the bodhran isn't technically a hand drum, since it's played largely with a tipper and not strictly with the hand. There may be some truth in this, but remember that DrumDrTom also repairs other ethnic instrument, such as koras and balafons, so we can certainly handle a bodhran.

Besides, there's a special place in Dr. Tom's heart for the Irish; so, even more than usual, this is a labor of love.

Bird's eye view of a bodhran drum frame. Profile of a bodhran drum frame.

We remove the split goat skin and notice that it had not been glued to the frame, only tacked. Had the drum head been glued AND tacked, it might still be attached to the drum and playable. The new drum head will certainly be attached with glue, as well as tacks.

Tuning mechanism of a bodhran. Tuning ring of a bodhran.

This is a tunable drum, and we get a good look here at the tuning mechanism. It consists of a wooden inner ring that's raised and lowered by bolts attached to the inside of the frame. The ring presses against the drum head, and as it's raised and lowered it alters the tension of the head.

Splintering on inner frame of bodhran. Puncture on the inside of bodhran frame.

If you look closely at the closeup of the tuning bolt, you'll notice some damage to the frame above the bolt. This damage was caused by the tacks that held the goatskin drum head in place. They were just too long. Here's a better look. The tacks didn't only damage the frame. Notice that they pierce the frame precisely where the tuning ring is located. This means they interfered with the tuning mechanism.

Profile of bodhran drum with the drum head glued on. Bodhran drum with the goatskin glued on.

We attach the fresh goatskin with glue only for now. This is the most critical part of the process. Even though this is a tunable drum, the skin must go on with just the right tension. Too tight and it will never have that warm, low tone that Irish bodhrans are known for. Too loose, and tuning it might be too much of a challenge in damp environments.

Profile of bodhran, glued, tacked and trimmed. Profile of bodhran, glued, tacked and trimmed.

Once the skin is thoroughly dry, we tack down the skin all the way around, making sure the length of the tacks is less than the thickness of the drum frame. As a finishing touch, we add an attractive trim to the drum - et voila!

True to DrumDrTom's motto - this drum is better than new.

Drum Frame Repaired

Scott has a beautiful twelve sided Native American style frame drums that's broken at the seams.

Closeup of collapsed frame and broken lace of drum.

The skin is fully intact. In fact, this is a beautiful and flawless skin with many years of life still in store. The problem is that the frame has come apart and the lacing has torn.

Scott believes the wood frame has swollen and caused the lacing to break. We think it's just as possible the lacing broke because the skin overtightened, causing the frame to be squeezed where the lacing was intact and coming apart where the lacing broke.

Reassembled frame of Native American Style drum.

Regardless of the cause, the drum must be disassembled so the frame can be put back together, and that's what we do.

With the drum frame in one piece and drum worthy again, we now just need some good lacing to put our drum back together again.

Bodhran Preservation

James has an Irish bodhran that's been in his family many years. The drum is a cherished heirloom. Recently the skin on the bodhran tore.

Close up of a large tear in a drum skin.

Here you get a better look at how extensive the tear is.

When we see a damaged skin like this our instinct tells us to replace the skin. The skin cannot be patched back together in any way so as to make this drum playable. Only a head replacement will render this drum playable again.

But this drum is valued for its origin, its artwork and the memories it conjures. James wants this drum restored as well as possible without replacing any part of it. It's more important to keep the drum whole than it is to play it.

So we patch it as best we can, which turns out to be quite well.

Close up of a patched up tear in a bodhran skin.

The massive tear is barely noticeable, and James is happy to again display the relic on his mother's wall.

Sheepskin Medicine Drum Repair

Marianna is a spiritual practitioner with shamanic training who uses drums in her pracice. Her sheepskin medicinedrum has torn and is ready for a new skin.

It's not often that we mount sheepskin on drums, so we first had to figure out where we were going to get it. As it turned out, there are loads of small scale sheep ranchers in our area who raise these critters for their wool.

Since we had a choices, we decided to use the skin from Icelandic sheep. The wool on this type of sheep is very long.

We left the wool on the sides of the drum full length and trimmed it short on the playing surface. Not shaving the wool completely off the playing surface kept the voice of the drum low, soft and soothing. Very suitable for healing rituals.

Marianna's sheep skin medicine drum was prescribed the proper medicine and has fully recovered.

Native American Hoop Drum Restoration

Today we're going to re-skin a Native American hoop drum and put together a beater for it.

Notice how this drum is made. The skin is attached to the frame with rawhide lacing, which also serves to stretch the skin taut. The playing surface, lacing and frame of the drum are all intact, but the skin has torn in several places where the lacing pulls on the head.

Tears on the hoop drum skin. Tears on the hoop drum skin.

In the middle of the first picture to the right, you can see that the original hole for the lacing gave out when the head was being mounted and another hole had to be punched to replace it. The skin around the next hole has also begun to give. This system for mounting heads applies too much isolated tension to the skin and results in tears such as these.

A close look at the thickness of a hoop drum skin. A close-up of the lacing on a hoop drum.

One way to resolve this is to punch twice as many holes on the perimeter of the skin and weave a track of lacing through them. We then mount the head to the frame by lacing to this outer track, rather than directly to the skin. In this way, the stress onthe skin is evenly distributed around the entire perimeter, rather than focused on isolated points.

Of course, in this particular instance, it helps that the skin we've mounted is a real beauty: thick and strong, as you can see from the close-up above (Though not as thick as it appears: the skin is still swollen with water here. It took a full week before the skin thoroughly dried and I knew I had applied the correct amount of tension. Pheeew! What a relief it was to feel this drum to the marrow when I finally played it!).

Folds on the skin of a hoop drum. The face of a hoop drum.

We've also managed to center the skin nicely on the frame, and eliminated the ugly folds. Compare the before and after pictures to the right.

Folds on the skin of a hoop drum.

We found a sturdy stick that forked at the end. The forked end is inserted in the sack along with a mixture of sand and small pebbles. The sound of the drum will depend on the ratio of sand to pebbles: more pebbles will result in a sharper sound.

Folds on the skin of a hoop drum. The face of a hoop drum.

DrumDrTom strikes again!

Beautiful Bodhran

Stephen sent us his Irish bodhran for a new skin.

Closeup of a puncture on the drumskin of a bodhran.

You have to look closely to see that the skin has been punctured.

Well, we repair bodhrans regularly, so this should be a straight forward project. Remove the old skin and mount a fresh one.

Actually, we repair so many bodhrans that we keep a stock of Irish skins handy, both regular and Lambeg. But we decided to go with an African goat skin with this drum instead. These unprocessed African skins come from hearty critters, so they're strong and durable.

On top of being strong and durable, these skins can be strikingly beautiful. Don't you think?

Even better, they sound great!

Tambourine Rehead

Judy brought this tambourine frame to DrumDrTom and asked a sensible question - Is it worth the time, effort and expense to mount a skin on it?

There are tambourines that can be bought brand new for under $20, so why go through the time, effort and expense to repair a broken one?

Besides the wasteful practice of simply discarding perfectly reusable drum parts, this particular frame happens to consist of good, solid wood and the zills are also of fine material - a solid metal that produces clear and resonant sounds. Yes, this humble looking frame is worthy of some of the Drum Doctor's TLC.

We offered Judy her choice of skins and she chose a dyed goat skin for her drum. Here's what became of that humble frame.

This little drum has a great sound!

Hoop Drum Tuned & Made Tunable

Neka bought a couple of Native American hoop drums because she loved the look and sound of them. The problem is that once she got them home the skins completely sagged, and they became unplayable. You see, she bought them in a hot, arid climate but lives in a more humid climate.

Native American hoop drum with a loose skin.

Can you see the skin sag?

Native American frame drum with flabby drum head. Hoop drum with loose drum head.

Here's a look at the flabby skin from different angles. The sagging should be more obvious here.

Rawhide lacing of a Native American hoop drum.

The next thing we notice is the lacing on these drums. It's really quite sparse and flimsy. We couldn't rely on the strength of this lacing to pull the skin tighter. It would almost certainly break.

Even if the lacing was more substantial, it couldn't be used to pull the drum head tighter because rawhide lacing becomes stiff and unworkable once it dries.

What to do? Perform an emergency lacing transplant!

We carefully remove the old rawhide lacing, making sure to not damage the drum head, and replace it with strong, durable and low stretch rope. We mount the rope in such a way that the tension on the drum head can be adjusted at will.

Native American hoop drum with tightened skin.

Now we can gradually increase the tension until the sag in the drum head is gone and the drum sings again. Compare this "after" picture to the "before" picture above. Remember to click on the thumbnails for a good look.

Native American frame drum that's had it drum head tightened.

Neka's Native American hoop drum is better than new.

And the results were equally successful with her other drum as well.

Hoop drum that's just been tuned.

Drum Head Replacement For A Tar

Bob's dear friend lives in a hot, dry climate at a high elevation. He asked The Drum Doctor to re-skin this tar so as to ensure the drum endures the environment yet sings as sweet as ever.

Notice that this tar is not tunable, so the trick will be to mount the skin tight enough to make it sing and not become flaccid at the first sign of humidity, yet not so tight that it snaps from the hot, arid conditions.

How does one know the tension to apply in such circumstances? In a word - experience.

Aside from tensioning the skin just so, a little common sense comes into play. We reheaded the tar with a fresh goat skin thicker than the previous one. This should translate to greater strength and durability.

Hoop Drum Repair

Native American hoop drum with a flabby drum head.

Alain brought us this hoop drum with a very flabby skin. Click on the image and you'll get a better look at how the skin is so loose it undulates.

Native American hoop drum with a broken frame.

The reason the skin is so loose is that the frame has come apart at the joint. Click again to get a better look. The damage is on the left.

Drum frame that's come apart. .

And an even better look.

Alain had tried for years to get this Native American frame drum repaired but had been told repeatedly that it couldn't be done.

We disagreed. This drum has a flawless elk skin drum head that was meant to sing.

Hoop drum frame that's been reattached.

We disassembled the drum, making sure to leave the drum head intact, and reattached the frame.

The back of a repaired hoop drum.

We were not able to reuse the straps, but Alain just wanted the drum to sing again, so we used some strong, durable, low-stretch rope to pull the original elk skin into place.

As an added bonus, this drum is now tunable!

The back of a repaired hoop drum.

This frame drum can make your heart come to a stop - or soar to the heavens!

Lambeg Skin for Bodhran

The skin on Paula's daughter's bodhran has ripped, as drums skins sooner or later do.

There's no fix for a drum head like this. Regardless of how beautiful the artwork on a drumhead may be and how badly one may wish to keep it, once the skin tears it must be replaced. (There may be rare exceptions, such as when the drum is not played and only decorative. In that case it may be possible to patch the skin in a manner that is not too noticable, but even that may only be feasible if the damage is not too extensive.)

What one does have a choice on is the type of skin to repair the drum with. In this particular case, we decided to go with a Lambeg skin.

Good choice. The bodhran looks great and sounds even better. And there's always the option of reproducing the artwork or decorating the new skin in some other way.