Skin Talk: How To Rehead A Djembe

Turning The Skin Into A Head

Soaking the head — The skin needs to be soaked next. Put the head into a container large enough to hold the skin, and in enough water to cover the skin completely. The skin will be stiff initially, but will become more flexible as it soaks up water. You’ll need to change water a couple of times, and continue to rinse the skin well when changing.

Putting the head on the flesh hoop — After it has soaked for a couple of hours or longer, take the skin and lay it hair side up. Place the flesh ring in the center of the skin, keeping the spine in the center.

Cut the skin and leave about 5" or more outside the flesh ring.

Cut holes all the way around the skin close to edge (.5") in the skin about 2" apart using a sharp pointed knife. Make sure there is a hole in line with the spine and halfway up the spine.

Fold the skin over from the side of the spine to the center. You need to keep in mind where the spine (center) is at all times.

Use artificial sinew and tie it so that the spine stays in the center.

After tying the sides, use a long piece of sinew (keeping the spine in the center) to go to the end of the spine and loop through. Then go to the other end of the spine, pulling it snug.

Important! When you tighten the sinew (or whatever you use) be sure not to tighten too much, because this is the point when you are regulating how far the rings will come down on the drum. If you over-tighten, they will not come down very far. If they are too loose, they will come down too far. There isn’t a gauge to tell you exactly what tightness is optimal, but basically all you are trying to do is get the majority of folds out of the skins along the edge and make it easier to tighten the head after you start pulling the verticals. Remember, you are not trying to make a hoop drum out of this process, so do not over-tighten.

Tie spine to spine - Weave the sinew back and forth, and try to keep weaving it directly across from one hole to another, keeping the folds out of the skin, but somewhat loose.

A completed flesh ring with skin.

Backside of completed flesh ring with skin.

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