How to Rehead / Replace Natural Skin on a Darbuka / Doumbek / Tabla


(Glue / Ribbon method) 

What You Need for this Task: 

- Large bucket or tub with warm water

- Towel ( one you won’t mind disposing of

- Replacement skin (should be at least 6-8 inches greater than the rim diameter)

-  Thick ’model building’ rubber bands / or duct clamp (greater than drum diameter) for clamping

- Wood glue

- Wet and dry paper towels

- Stable work surface (covered if indoors) 

1. Examine the skin for uneven/ thin patches, tears.

2. Soak in lukewarm water for at least 1-2 hours until soft and pliable (longer for thicker skins).

3. Meanwhile prepare the drum. Remove the old skin and residual glue entirely. (NOTE: it’s advisable to leave as much of the top skin intact for leverage in removing the glued sections around the rim. If possible, first submerge the top of the drum in warm water until the point where the skin is applied. Let it sit for a couple minutes to loosen the old glue. 

4.  Dry the drum thoroughly.

5. Remove the old head and as much of the old glue as possible. 

6. Inspect the bearing edge / rim for flaws, blemishes.  File/ fill as needed.  If you want, you can apply tape around the drum just below the edge of where you want the skin to end. 

7. When the replacement skin is soft and pliable remove from the water and dab each side to absorb excess water, and  spread it hair/scale side down on the towel. 

8. Spread glue in an even layer from the top rim to the desired point around the body of the drum with a minimum of a bout 2-3 inches of glued surface.

9. You can now turn the drum upside down and set it in the center of the skin. This will mark the center underside of the skin with a glue circle. 

10.  Set the drum on a steady surface and drape the skin using the glue circle from step 8 as a guide. Skin will now be hair side up, centered on the drum.

11.  Steady the drum (if you have a friend around, have them grab the ends of the skin opposite you to prevent slippage) and carefully slip a large rubber band to just below the level of the glue.  Make sure the rubber band stays flat against the drum and isn’t twisted.

12. Start tightening the skin by pulling down on opposite sides. 

13. Using both hands, grab 3-4 inch sections of the skin just below the rubber band and pull down and apart to smooth out wrinkles in the glued area above the rubber band. 

14. Repeat steps 10-13 until there are about 3-4 rubber bands and sufficient tension on the head. 
It will still be low, but you should hear a pitch when tapped lightly around the rim, and it will tighten the rest of the way when it dries fully.

15. Set the drum in a dry secure location while drying and after 24 hours start to move the rubber bands around to facilitate even drying of the glue.

16. After the glue has cured 48-72 hours, remove the rubber bands, if it appears some of the glue is still wet, leave one or two bands on in a previously dry area and let it sit another 12-24 hours. 

17. Once the glue has fully cured and the bands are removed you can trim the excess skin at the glue line and cover the seam with a cloth or tape. 

Notes. This is one one method. Other methods include rope tension method or glue with a fabric skirt.
You can choose how far the skin should extend past the rim of the drum and apply glue to that point. Ideally the seam won’t sit where you wrist or hand will contact the drum.

Happy Heading from!

Posted on May 14, 2017 and filed under Natural Skin.