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tbone 04-29-2006 09:48 AM

tucking a calf head
Hi, haven't checked in for while, been working an a John Grey drum that's taking longer than I thought & will have a full report with pics soon.
But I was searching to see if there was info on calf head tucking & couldn't find anything with the search function. So I thought I'd start a thread to see if there's some 1st hand experience out there.
I tried my 1st tuck job for heads for this John Grey drum I'm making. I researched & read everything I could find about head tucking with a Google search, and ordered some untucked calf skins (4" larger diameter than the drum size). I had some old unusable oversized calf heads laying around & soaked them to get the flesh hoops to use; then I cut a section out of each to make the hoops the correct size for the drum. Sorry I didn't take pictures of the rabbit joint (I think that's what the step cut is called) I cut & glued together, rather than a scarf joint. Then I made a 'tucking tool with a large conduit strap & paint brush handle (I'll get a picture of this thing this weekend). Anyway, I started by soaking (in cold wated) the skins for 20 - 30 minutes & laid the hoop on the skin & began tucking at the 12:00 position, 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00. Then, wishing I had at least 2 more hands, it was basically a free for all trying to tuck in between tose spots while the original tucks would come undone. Eventually, I got it tucked all the way around, sloppy, and with many 'folds' which I smoothed out as good as possible. Then I mounted it loosely on the drum with the single flanged hoops & snare clips (or claws). As it dried for the next few days, it ended up looking just like a calfskin head. I'd hear it snap, crackle & pop now & then as it dried, & I tightened the tension rods just enought to make the ridge on the bearing edge form. So I ended up with some 'new' calfsin heads - the folds shrunk & smoothed out pretty much, and some are still there, but my mission accomplished! I'll try to add some pics to this thread in the next couple days.
So anybody else have a head tucking story to tell?

Webmaster 04-29-2006 09:27 PM

Re: tucking a calf head
1 Attachment(s)
I have never done this either, but was paging through an old
Ajax catalog that had a method on how to do it for future reference
and or to help other people.

Thought you would enjoy it.


Webmaster 05-18-2006 09:08 PM

Re: tucking a calf head
1 Attachment(s)
Here is another catalog page from a 1933 Leedy Roll-Off Catalog.

A slight difference on how to set the head then the Ajax catalog.


Jim McGill 07-20-2006 12:17 PM

Re: tucking a calf head
I make and repair tupans (daouli) which have 2 goat skin heads, so I can add a bit of information about dealing with skin heads.

1) There are plastic spring clamps sold for woodworking that work well to keep the heads from sliding off the rims after you tuck them in. I use the 4" size at the four cardinal points, adding them after I tuck each in. Then I tuck in between and finally go back, remove the clamps and retuck them in. Sometimes takes a couple trys, but it's quicker than depending on luck.

2) Control the drying using a wet towel. After I mount the heads on the rims and pull them onto the shell with my heading jig (16 all thread rods with wooden hooks at the top and wing nuts) I saturate an old towel, swab the whole head so it's damp and then drape the towel on the face so it covers the whole head. 12 hours or so later (next day usually) I pull the towel back from the edges, but leave it covering the middle 2/3's. Another 12 hours later, I remove the trowel and let it dry another 12 hours or so before I take it off the jig. I do this all in the basement, where it is relatively cool and humid.



sammypenn 07-21-2006 04:59 AM

Re: tucking a calf head
Well done,getting it on the drum at first attempt is good going,I use clothes pegs to hold 1st tucks in place if they wo'nt stay in place.Next time try double lapping, ie. place the head with the smooth[playing]side up flesh side down on the board,lap in normal way,then place the head on the drum with the batter side up[the same side up as you lapped it]so the skin comes up inside the flesh hoop.It is then lapped against one more side of the flesh hoop.The head will be less likely to slip off the hoop and needs less adjusting and relapping.This works really well on metal flesh hoops as the natural glue in the skin does not stick so well to metal as it does to wood.This is not a new idea,it was shown to me by an old drummer who lapped all his own heads in the 30s 40s,but I have never read it in a book.Dion

Jim McGill 07-21-2006 01:45 PM

Re: tucking a calf head
Question on the double lapping Sammy (which is the way Macedonian drum heads are lapped, by the way, except they tuck twigs through cuts made ~1/4" in from the edge to help wrap the head around the split willow rim with your fingers, rather than a tool). How much extra diameter do you add to the head when double lapping, to allow for the extra head wrapped around the ring. The thickness of the rim plus the height, or just the height (both x 2 of course since both edges of the head are effected).

sammypenn 07-21-2006 02:13 PM

Re: tucking a calf head
Small World aint it.I dont know how much I add on,I just place the hoop on the head and cut round what looks like about right plus 50% more. it all depends on how flezible the head and the size of the flesh hoops.Its better to start with plenty of overlap then if its too much you can cut a bit more off and start again because you sure can stick it back on after you've cut it off.Also the thicker the skin the more overlap you need.Hope this makes sense,its very hot here in England in the 90s F.and i am enjoying a rather good bottle of French wine.Dion

Jim McGill 07-24-2006 11:49 AM

Re: tucking a calf head
Sammy - Thanks for the info. Sounds like you're about as analytical as I am.

If you're interested in the Macedonian technique, take a look at Dave Golber's write up on how to make a Macedonian drum,

It was in the 90's in Seattle too when I read your posting, so I was enjoying a fine locally made IPA (not an English style one, more a hop monster like they make in the PNW). But it was too hot to type so I waited until this morning.


tbone 09-22-2006 08:39 AM

Re: tucking a calf head
2 Attachment(s)
Well, I finally got around to taking pics of my home made tucking tool; I made it by cutting the handle off a paint brush, cutting a slit in it to slip a 3/4" conduit strap into, glueing it with epoxy. I smoothed all metal edges to prevent tearing the skins.

geon 01-26-2007 11:26 AM

Re: tucking a calf head
Can anyone suggest a way for a totallly inexperienced person to tuck a head onto an existing hoop that the original head had been ripped off? I would even consider sending the drum and steel hoop to someone who has the know-how.


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