Poor mans guide to vintage conga restoration

Manufacturers, brands, skins, maintenance, stands, sticks, michrophones and other accessories for congueros can be discussed into this forum ...... leave your experience or express your doubts!

Re: Poor mans guide to vintage conga restoration

Postby roberthelpus » Wed Jun 19, 2013 5:26 am

Mike wrote:
buckoh wrote: Heat gun, stripper and scrapers. Then a light prep sanding, usually by hand.


That can be a risky method IMO, as you might burn off the glue and the staves might separate!

I am not really a restoration expert, but what I once successfully did to remove a thick layer of old polyurethance
lacquer was to first scrape it off carefully with a sharp hunting knife at an angle,
and then prceeding to sand it from 100 grit to finer.

I would shy away from the heat gun on older drums but newer glues should be fine if you are careful and don't over do it in the same way that you need to be careful with powered sanders.

The glue is probably some type of aliphatic-resin like Tite Bond. A side note; guitar builders swear by the original Tite Bond as opposed to the II or III versions saying that it doesn't creep as much.
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Re: Poor mans guide to vintage conga restoration

Postby RitmoBoricua » Wed Jun 19, 2013 10:40 am

I am with you Buckoh, I have always emphasized here
to keep sanding to a minimum when refinishing drums.
I have refinished several conga drums (LP, Pearl, Toca)
and I tell you that finished the manufacturers apply
to them drums is real tough and hard to remove. I have
used just about every single chemical stripper available
at places like Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes, etc and they
do not completely strip the finish of them LP, Toca etc
drums you always end-up doing more sanding that you should.
What is really hard to remove is that seal coat they use
underneath the top coat, what I believe is like a 2 part
urethane. Buckoh since you are an experience wood worker I
would like to ask you "what stripper would you recommend
to remove the finish on these drums? I believe the finish we
are dealing with on these commercial drums is the one you
referred to on you first post on this thread as indestructible.
Your advice can be very helpful to some of us around here,
that are the do it yourself type. Take care.
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Re: Poor mans guide to vintage conga restoration

Postby RitmoBoricua » Wed Jun 19, 2013 11:44 pm

Matador tumba I refinished some years ago.
Used to be almond color, refinished with
Poly, hand rubbed.
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Re: Poor mans guide to vintage conga restoration

Postby 11am » Thu Jun 20, 2013 4:04 am

Nice work, Rit! Hopefully we can make this thread the go to guide for DIY's on this forum. The biggest challenge is going to be how to advise Brothers the best way to get by the 2 part catalytic finishes that are pretty much the status quo of the production conga world. This is great that you post your accomplishment because it adds credence to your advice, which is always welcome. No one has all the answers, including me, but the proof will always be in the finished product. Love the result. Thanks for your contribution. That pic is hopefully one of many to encourage others here to get their hands dirty and try. The drums will respond accordingly.
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Re: Poor mans guide to vintage conga restoration

Postby RitmoBoricua » Thu Jun 20, 2013 10:25 am

<<Nice work, Rit!>>

Thanks. This only one example of different conga and bongos
that I have refurbished/refinished over the years.

Knowing the best approach on how to deal with the 2 part catalytic finishes
when is time to strip a drum would help a lot of us here on this forum. I have
one set of bongos I could not remove all the finish for nothing every single time
I thought I was done I was not.I tried to stain the bongo several times and I
could not do it the bongo did not take stain evenly some spots were permanently
sealed with the finish I mean that stuff was in the pores I ended-up painting the
bongo.

Of course no one has all the answers, although from time to time we have
seen some characters in this forum that thought they did.I love this threads
so much to learn. I am trying to soak up as much information as I can because
I may pull ther trigger on a drum that needs some work and I know if I buy it
I will be refinishing the drum. Good thread.
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Re: Poor mans guide to vintage conga restoration

Postby Mike » Thu Jun 20, 2013 12:29 pm

RitmoBoricua wrote:Of course no one has all the answers, although from time to time we have
seen some characters in this forum that thought they did.I love this threads
so much to learn. I am trying to soak up as much information as I can because
I may pull ther trigger on a drum that needs some work and I know if I buy it
I will be refinishing the drum. Good thread.

Truly spoken, RitmoBoricua, and well-written, I agree,
this is very good thread, and it is about what we all here
have more or less often done: refurbishing
drums with the target to make them either
playable again or to enhance their beauty.
And those are not necessarily high-priced boutique drums...

For what it´s worth,
here are pics of the knife-stripped and sanded siam oak
shells of an old LP conga I was talking about earlier.
BEFORE:
quinto  shell before sanding.JPG

REFURB PROCESS:
quinto  shell sanded.JPG
quinto lacquered.JPG

FINSISHED:
LP 1980s  restored with L&H mule skins.JPG
Last edited by Mike on Thu Jun 20, 2013 1:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Peace & drum
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Re: Poor mans guide to vintage conga restoration

Postby RitmoBoricua » Thu Jun 20, 2013 1:28 pm

Yes Mike them LP's looking nice, good job.
That's what I am talking about....
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Re: Poor mans guide to vintage conga restoration

Postby 11am » Fri Jun 21, 2013 1:14 am

Hey Mike, nice job on the LP's. I like the look of that bad boy in the back too! :mrgreen:
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Re: Poor mans guide to vintage conga restoration

Postby Mike » Fri Jun 21, 2013 4:35 am

11am wrote:I like the look of that bad boy in the back too! :mrgreen:

Me too :)
And the best thing is: he has got two brothers as well 8)
N.B. they have undergone a serious Poor mans vintage conga restoration process as well.
4 years ago those buggers kept me working quite a lot on cracks and finish issues...
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Re: Poor mans guide to vintage conga restoration

Postby 11am » Fri Jun 21, 2013 10:33 am

Nice! Well that's what the Poor mans Guide is all about. Sharing info on how to get it done. Glad to see that Bop got good Company too! Thanks for the input, Brother. I hope everyone that comes to this thread feels free to post their restoration pics and share any acquired knowledge on the" how to side" as i wanted this to be an open, on going guide. Everybody's always welcome to contribute and ask questions.
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Re: Poor mans guide to vintage conga restoration

Postby Juanito Alimaña » Wed Sep 18, 2013 3:50 am

Hello all,

Just wanted to share my experience restoring a Mahogany Cuban conga my father purchased over fifty years ago. He was a musician who had his conga and timbales thrown down stairs by my mother more times than I care to remember. This conga had well over 15 cracks of various sizes and lengths running along the shell and had absolutely no ring to it at all. I stripped the drum of its hardware and finish, then proceeded to investigate just how I was going to tackle the repairs. Instead or dry clamping the drum (for fear that I would cause more cracks) I went ahead and inserted Mahogany Splines into the larger cracks, used pl 400 urethane sub floor adhesive, then clamped until the adhesive was dry. I attacked the smaller cracks patiently with wood glue, addressing only two or three cracks at a time and clamping until dry. This process took about eight days to complete since as a rule I would wait 24 hours for the adhesives to dry.
Cubana Repair.jpg
Shell after glue up. Still has lathe striations which I got rid of using a Wood Scraper.


Once I determined the shell was solid, I began to get the drum smooth by using a Wood Scraper, shaving off all the lathe striations that were on the shell and bringing the splines flush to the shell as well. I used Mahogany wood filler to get some dents that were deep in the shell and using 220 grit sandpaper, brought the filler flush to the shell. I made sure the bearing edge was true and used a scraper to make the edge round. After scraping and sanding, I finished sanding using a 320 grit sandpaper which brought out the grain of the staves. Ensuring that the shell was dust free ( I used rags and compressed air instead of tack cloths) I used Red Mahogany oil-based stain to really accent the natural grain of the wood, followed by about 20 coats of rub on polyurethane which made the shell look spectacular!
Restored shell.jpg
Shell after scraping, sanding, applying stain and polyurethane.


Next I tackled the hardware which was badly oxidized and the thread on the tuning hooks were damaged. I placed all of the hardware in a metal polish bath for one day, then after cleaning all the pieces, I used my Dremel tool with a wire brush attachment to carefully polish all of the pieces (including nuts and washers) to a beautiful luster. Does the hardware look familiar? Yes they are the trademark hardware made by the legendary Junior Tirado who was a childhood friend of my father (click on the pic for a close up). This is really why I decided to take the time to bring the hardware back to its original state. I have to add that each piece (except the nuts and washers) took well over an hour to clean and polish. After all the hardware was polished I assembled the conga. Beautiful isn't she? The drum sounds just as great as she looks with the Rawhide head.
completed 4.JPG
Not bad for a fifty-six year old conga! I love this drum.


I should have taken before pictures I know. Trust me guys, this drum was headed for the garbage. For me, this was truly a labor of love. Hope you all enjoy the look of this drum as much as I do. Peace! :?
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Re: Poor mans guide to vintage conga restoration

Postby KING CONGA » Wed Sep 18, 2013 5:33 am

Greetings Juanito. Great job on the restoration, the drums looks fantastic! That is a beautiful looking Conga, I love the shape of it.
Do you have any idea of the make? Do you have any of the original hardware? Im surprised, for being Cuban at the absence of bands, do you know if it ever had them?
once again, congratulations on a job well done :D
Cheers
K.C.
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Re: Poor mans guide to vintage conga restoration

Postby Juanito Alimaña » Fri Sep 20, 2013 12:24 pm

Hello K.C,

Again I'm sorry I didn't post the before picture of the drum. I'm not sure what the origin of the drum is. I did ask my dad and he does not remember. The Conga did have three bands which I elected not to replace since the drum looks so much better without them, and the local chrome plating facility wanted ridiculous money to have the pieces redone ($300.00 for the bands as well as the crown hoop, side plates, screws and tuning hooks which was in my humble opinion a rip off) which also factored into my decision not to replace them. After the initial shock of the cost, I polished the bands myself and they turned out pretty good except for one which had also suffered at the hands of my mom. You think I should put them on K.C.?
I have no idea what happened to the original hardware. Once Junior got hold of it he added his own. I remember going to the shop with my dad to pick the drum up but don't remember if my dad collected the original hardware. At any rate, I don't have them which is a shame. Thank you so much for the kudos K.C. I really love the drum as well not only for her beauty but for the memories she elicits. Let me know if you feel I should replace the bands!
Best...
Juanito :D
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Re: Poor mans guide to vintage conga restoration

Postby KING CONGA » Fri Sep 20, 2013 2:30 pm

Juanito Alimaña wrote:Let me know if you feel I should replace the bands!

Personally, I would most definitely replace the bands as it would add so much more authenticity to it. Having done such a great job on the restoration, your drum would look beautiful with the bands.
Check out my Cuban Requena, somewhat similar in tone but with bands. Tell me how you like it.
Cheers.
K.C.
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Re: Poor mans guide to vintage conga restoration

Postby ABAKUA » Fri Sep 20, 2013 3:15 pm

Dont look at that Requena in the eye.. It will haunt your dreams for years.. Like it does mine! :lol: Never get tired of seeing it KK. Matthew did an amazing job in bringing it back to life.
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