Bong-O-Matic Custom Bongo

Here is the making-of of a Bongo I made for a friend in 2017. As it was a round birthday I wanted to give him something very special. I had this pair of bongos on my shelf for quite a while and decided they would make the perfect gift once they were transformed into something more unique.

I did some research on the Internet about painting drum heads and decided that I would very much be able to pull something like this off too.  First I started researching and designing the graphics that I wanted to apply. The Grateful Dead’s album covers from the 60s and 70s were the look I was after.

I then printed them on white paper, took apart the bongo and figured out how to transfer the graphics to the drumhead.  Using a desk light for backlighting the drumhead worked pretty well.

For colors on the goat hide I decided to use black waterproof sharpie pens and acrylic airbrush inks, starting with the black line art. I then filled in the colors and made it look a little psychedelic by adding the watercolor ink with a brush.

Time to dry for the color and continuing with the bongo’s wooden bodies.

As I didn’t want them to look like painted wood I decided to wrap them in some orange metallic premium car wrap foil. That meant that they first have to be sanded down in order to achieve a smooth finish. Car wrap foil is very unforgiving when it comes to imperfections on the surface. Everything shows through.

After I was done with the bongo bodies, the whole thing was reassembled and I mounted the drumheads. Turned out that the sound was very bad and I even couldn’t tune and stretch them to achieve a better tone. I knew the drum heads were made of real goat hide, so I figured I could moisturize and then mount them to get the perfect sound. So I put one facedown on a kitchen towel and filled it with warm water.

Since the colors I used where water proof after they had dried for some hours, the drumhead softened nicely without any liquid going through it or any color bleeding out. So I did that with the second one too.

After assembling and tuning the whole thing, which know sounded perfectly, there was just the final touch missing: a stylish SNAKE sticker. And a good name for the product, which beacme the BONG-O-MATIC (pun intended 😉 )

So I went through all the printer media I had collected through the years and found a piece of ink jet printable chrome foil. After some experimenting the thing turned out quite well. I then covered it with transparent packing tape, cut the 2 labels out and glued them on the connecting wooden part of the Bongos.

Turned out pretty well, I was very satisfied with the final product.


As you can see from the pictures on the delivery date Paul was also surprised and happy with the present.

The Bong-O-Matic was a lot of work, but every second was totally worth it.

BTW, if there’s any interest in the Tshirt I’m wearing, let me know, I’ll maybe have another batch printed within the next couple of months 🙂

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