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. Seeing people enjoying my work ist the best reward there is on earth 🙂

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