The Troupe
This drummer's journey with other drummers.

The Renovation Project: Part I

As most of you know I have a beloved doumbek that I refer to affectionately as, “The Red Neck Doumbek”.   It is a standard sized doumbek with an aluminum body covered in pleather.  (Upholstery vinyl.)

It sounds fantastic, and it is very comfy.

Tragically, the upholstery glue was finally giving up and the pleather was beginning to fray and tear.

I had been “fixing” it with duct tape, (And it was high class maroon duct tape! Not the cheap silver stuff…) but that was obviously going to be a losing battle.

I had to actually repair it.

And once I started thinking about it I decided to go all the way and renovate it.   I wanted to get a slightly “brighter” sound out of my teks and kas so I decided to paint it.

With a few weeks of downtime on the horizon, and no rain on the forecast, I settled in early on a Saturday morning and got to work.


Phase I (Getting the workspace and tools ready)

I set up on the apartment patio, which is not the biggest area, but is open air at least.   I assumed I would need some light cleaning supplies, some sand paper, and plenty of paper towels.  I also remembered stickers, the allen wrench, a cup for the bolts, and my camera…      Oh yes, there are pictures!   The Red Neck Doumbek will be immortalized!

The Red Neck Doumbek

So, with a couple of smallish work tables and a comfy stool I settled in to get some good work done so that I could spend all of Sunday painting.

Scrubber/sponge, towel, and cleanser.

Allen wrench and dot stickers.


Complete workarea.


Phase II (Stripping of the duct tape and pleather)

The easy part, just grab and rip.   Well, carefully.   I wanted to save at least one piece of the rim covering and one piece of the body covering, just in case it sounded horrible painted and I needed to take it into an upholstery shop to get it recovered.

Who says drummers aren’t thinkers?

A view of the Red Neck Doumbek's bottom.

Note the classy maroon duct tape.   THAT is style my friends!

Side view showing the racing stripe.

Of course it had a racing stripe!  It is the Red Neck Doumbek!  And yes, I did go on stage, for many shows (including with an orchestra), with this thing.   Now you know for sure, I am fearless and have no shame.  (And am perhaps color blind…)


More peeling.

You can see some of the damage to the pleather, and why I started taping it up in the first place.

Fraying pleather.

The name of my next doumbek punk band: Fraying pleather!

Side view of the fraying pleather.

Time to take off the rim and peel it as well.   I used the dot stickers to be able to match up the bolt holes on the body and the rim later, just like for a normal tuning.

The cunning use of dot stickers.

Cup for the bolts.

Always use a cup or something for the bolts.  Dropping a bolt, having it skip and skitter across the concrete of the patio, and bounce into the ivy to be lost forever would s-u-c-k.  A lot.

Rim removed.

And now for the drum head.

Drum head removed.

Now that I had the bolts, rim, and drum head all removed I could peel the pleather off of the body.

The inner rim.

Peeling the outer rim.

Take notice that I replaced the dot sticker!  I was so proud of myself.

The naked rim.

Cover the eyes of the children.  That rim has nothing on!

At this point I started to handle everything pretty carefully actually.  The edges of the aluminum were not sanded at all, and were very sharp.   No wonder the pleather had been fraying.

Peeling the pleather from the body.

I do love how this looks like the doumbek version of  Two Face from the Batman comics.   Notice I replaced that dot sticker too.   I was on a roll.

However, at this point I am also really starting to worry.   The aluminum of the drum body was super rough, with huge furrows and ridges, and a fair number of holes and small chunks in it.

I was expecting it to be fairly smooth, much like most doumbeks are.   This was the ugly side that I was looking at.

Pitting in the drum body.

A feeling of dread has creeped in now, and settled just below my stomach.   Uh oh.  This is pitting to the actual aluminum of the doumbek body. It was probably caused by an unsteady hand during the grinding and smoothing stage after the drum was cast.  I am beginning to see why they covered it with pleather.


This is when my wife came out to the patio to ask why I was cursing loudly.

That is an actual hole, that goes ALL the way THROUGH the drum body. Just about big enough to put a popsicle stick through.

Yikes.  How did this drum sound so good to begin with?

I really wanted to just re-glue the pleather back on at this point, but I was already too far done.  It was either carry on with the painting idea, or take it into the local upholstery shop and have a very interesting conversation with a very confused upholsterer.

A huge seam in the aluminum.

This picture is blurry, but it shows (kind of) a huge seam in the cast of the aluminum.

My guess is that this is a horrible casting in the first place, and was further damaged during the grinding and shaping on the lathe. I would bet that the shop foreman wandered over, decided to not waste anymore time on it, and just ordered it to be covered in pleather.

This is exactly why you need to be so careful buying a doumbek.  Always, ALWAYS, hold it in your hands before you buy it.

The Red Neck Doumbek always had a great sound, and I could not be more confused as to how that was possible.

A huge chunk on the bottom ring of the doumbek.

Dings and chunks.

The bottom ring of the drum had dinks and chunks missing.   It must have been the first day on the job for both the caster and the guy on the lathe at the shop.

I mean, the drum body was just horrible.

Sharp ridges where they had furrowed the aluminum on the lathe.  Pits and dings and HOLES where the tool had dug too deep or the cast was too weak to set properly.  Dinks and chunks, all razor sharp, on the rim and ring.

I wanted to cry.  The project was in trouble.


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