Help with an out of round stave drum please!!

single-ply

Senior Member
Hi all,

First of all, let me say that this is probably not the place for this thread.

I'm referring to a vintage Gon Bops conga drum. It's otherwise a great drum. I've posted on some conga forums, but they get much less traffic so I haven't gotten much response.

It's evidently somewhat common for older hand drums to go out of round due to years of uneven tension, etc. I know that in newer drums, a steel reinforcing ring, called an alma, is now typically installed to prevent this.

Is there there anyone (Keepitsimple? or other drumsmiths) who have experience making stave drums who might have figured out an effective method to bring this drum at least partially back into round? It's about 3/8" out. I know that in a sense we're talking about apples and oranges, but generally speaking, stave shell construction is going to be very similar whether it's a snare or a conga.

Right now, I'm thinking a year or so with a padded pipe clamp on it, slowly tightening it a little bit each month, but I'm not sure I have the patience for that time frame.

SO, if you builders or general woodworkers know of any better method that might help me, I'd appreciate it!

Thanks,
Rob
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Rob, if it's gone out of round due to uneven tension, then there's a chance it can be persuaded back into round, but on a drum the size & thickness of a conga, that's quite a task. If it can be achieved, it will take a long time, but can possibly be somewhat accelerated by applying heat (but still over a long period of time).

What wood species is it? Some woods are more prone to warping than others, & some are more open to being persuaded into a shape than others. If the movement is not due to uneven tensioning, but natural movement in the wood, then I think the mountain is probably too big to climb.
 

single-ply

Senior Member
Hi Andy,

These Gon Bops California series congas are made of oak. I think what might be done is to, over a LONG period period of time is to coax it back into round by applying a type of rig like two steel angles placed parallel to each other at the widest point of the shell edge and connect them with center tension screws and SLOWLY bringing up the tension. I could be wrong, but I figure this type of manipulation would take several months.

When it gets closer to round, I could have a steel re-ring fabricated that then would be screwed to the inside of the shell in several spots. This is the alma I mentioned. That should keep the edge in round in the future without changing the sound of the drum.

If I go this route, this will probably, actually certainly, cause cracks to form along the length of the shell, especially at the stave joints, but those are actually somewhat easier fixes.

I wish I could get more feedback from serious conga players that have a lot of experience with vintage congas as to the importance, or lack of, a perfectly round shell. I have heard from just one who said that while they can be fixed, he prefers to just play them as-is and deal with their limitations. I'm not sure I want to do that. Too much of a control freak I guess.

The link to the woodworker / drum maker above looks interesting. Looks like he might have some thoughts. I'll contact him in the next few days, I'm sure.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Rob, I think you have a plan. That said, oak moves, & sometimes, a lot. I live in an oak frame house, & that moves all the time! Splits or "shakes" in oak are commonplace, & don't adversely affect the instrument. Staves shouldn't split at the joint. Oak glues especially well, & the joint is typically stronger than the wood itself, so don't sweat on that too much.

If I was to take a punt, I'd say the likely cause of movement is only partially due to uneven tensioning. It's a try & see situation. Maybe you end up with a compromise position, & I'd settle for that.
 
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