The djembe

Djembe Reskinning - Preparation

Preparing The Skin

A goat skin

Bend and fold the skin carefully so you can fit it into a bucket of tap water, making sure to submerge the whole skin without cracking or creasing the playing area. Soak the skin for at least 2 hours. The longer it soaks, the more pliable it becomes and the easier it is to remove the hairs. Some people leave it for as long as 2 days although longer than this is probably unnecessary. It kinda starts to stink too!

Dismantling the Jembe

If the old broken skin is damaged, simply cut or tear it off. Use a hammer to tap the rings loose if necessary. Once the rings are loose the vertical binding should be easy to undo. Undamaged skin can be used for another drum, in which case you will need to undo the verticals without tearing the skin.

It's best to replace the rope every time you re-skin, but if you're going to re-use the old rope, check it carefully. Using rope that is frayed anywhere more than of the original width is risking a lot more work later.

Then check the rope loops on the metal rings for freying and the rings themselves for damage and have them repaired or replaced if necessary.

Any metal workshop should be able to cut, turn and weld a replacement steel rod for you.

Filing The Shell (Optional)

If the playing edge of the wooden shell is sharp or angular, playing can be painful on the hands. Use a rasp to file and then sandpaper to round a nice edge if your drum needs it and save on bruises. Note that the inner edge shouldn't be rounded, concentrate on the outer edge and sand off any sharp points.

Repairing Cracks (Optional)

Use a coarse mixture of sawdust and wood glue to fill smaller cracks. Larger cracks are bad news I'm afraid - almost irreparable in the long run. You could try wrapping some thick wire around the drum to stop the spread, but its not gonna be a great drum or very pretty.

Oiling The Shell (Optional)

Oiling the wood will help to keep it hydrated and beautiful.

To oil your drum, brush the entire shell with either raw linseed oil (avoid boiled linseed oil) or traditional West African shea butter. Other options include palm oil, or coconut oil. Come to think of it, the smell of linseed oil on wood reminds me of every African curio shop I've ever been in to.

It is fairly easy to work with but avoid contact with the skin and eyes. Use an old paintbrush to apply and leave for a couple of days for the oil to be fully absorbed. Until then, your re-skinning will be on hold.

Now continue to Preparing the Rings.