This is an update to a series of articles on using a deer. The last two articles were about fleshing and dehairing a deer hide and turning it into a rawhide replacement drum head for a conga my husband uses at work. This was a learning curve project- I’ve never used hides until this year.
After lacing it onto a metal ring that the purchased drum head came on, I bolted on the rim and left the head to dry overnight. In the morning it was stiff around the rim but still wet and rubbery in the bunched up excess, which was also making the head bumpy on top. Here I have taken it off the drum and removed the laces.
After that we went ahead and put it on the drum. Putting the conga upside down and using my weight to pull the rim up/down so I could get the hooked bolts into their holes made it easier. Installed, we could see that some of the excess hide was creating an uneven edge on the drum. I could have trimmed further back. Maybe I’ll go back in later, but it doesn’t look bad. I put a damp towel on it for a while to help it smooth down, but I don’t think that was necessary. We didn’t tighten it up too much because the hide still feels cool, like moisture is still evaporating although it looks and feels dry. It tightens as it dries of course, and I was worried it could split.
The sound is actually better than I had hoped. There is a sweet bell-like tone, and more variation between the rim and the middle than the old head. I am a fiddler, not a drummer, and I know there’s a delight in something you’ve taken trouble over, but I do think it’s a better drum than it was.
I would definitely do this again. I also found out that you can cut the scraps into strips, following the edges in a spiral. and get rawhide strings. If you soak them and lash something in place, it will stay put. Very paleo! Also if I rehead a drum that needs lacing, like a djembe or a doombek, I know how to make it. I might get a prettier result cutting around the edge of a hide I was planning to use for a head, using a razor and a plywood table. I could leave the hair on and twist it, although if you cut in a spiral it twists naturally. Definitely a fun project for a teenager!