CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: Super fat 13.5" Valje conga - Huge Super Tumba restoration

Thursday, September 25, 2008

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Super fat 13.5" Valje conga - Huge Super Tumba restoration

This fine drum came to me in need of some serious TLC.

When i first saw it, i had to gasp... it looks grotesquely huge in person. Like it's a cartoon rendition of a regular Valje tumba! It's so fat, i can barely get my legs around the tub.

This tub was made by Akbar, or Valje Drums in SF. It is a full 13.5", and yes, that is measured correctly. It was made custom to 29.5" tall, which makes it even more fat looking. This custom piece of art is one of the largest Valjes ever made, and there are less than a handful over 13" in the world. It is the fattest of Valje congas i have seen, having literally played over 30 or so.

So, this tub had major cracks going on... seven in total, most on the stave line. It had one of the worst repair jobs ive ever seen, with a crack totally filled with epoxy... ug... I had to actually saw the epoxy out with a hacksaw blade, and get the staves back to where there were originally. Im sure this mal-fix was the reason the other cracks developed.

If one crack is filled, instead of 'reset' and glued in the original position, it will put stress on all of the other joints. the weak link breaks, you can fix one after the other, but if you dont address the original mal-fix, you will be chasing cracks until you reglue every single stave line. The only way to fix this so it works, is to take the epoxy out, and get the staves to come thogether as much as possible. Pictured is a before and after this major fix. It was one of the most difficult repairs to make, and im really happy with how it turned out. not only does it look alot nicer, but the staves came together to the original shape, just as i had hoped. I re-epoxyed with two part, it to make sure it is super solid. The other cracks came together nicely and are next to invisible.

As far as other large Valje's in existence: There was a 14"er (supposedly... they are hardly ever measured correctly) and it sold on ebay last month, but other than that, this is the largest Valje Ive seen. Its one rare and fat tub. The "14" was not as fat bellied as this tub, missing a band, and not nearly as sexy looking. (pictured).

And there is this picture of a cat with a fat Valje tub, but not sure how big it actually is/was.

Post script: This cat Mike, from BC emailed to say, that is him back in the 70's playing these fine drums that are now for sale, actually. He sent this picture, along with measurements of the fat tumba pictured: 12.75-13.25" playing surface. I bet its a full 13.25, as it seemed Tom liked to make the .25 sizes, for some reason.

I put a sweet medium thick cow skin on it, it came out as close to immaculate as you can get. What a fun project this was!



  1. Hi - it's me again - Gary from BC Canada. I see the photo of me "bashin" around on my Valje's is still up - Hey, I was relatively hansome back in those days LOL! I see that photo of all my Valje's with the bongos (and LP bells - one with red&green electricians tape on it) is still there too. I have lots more photos. I just tucked a new LP head on the Super 2 nights ago - still letting it dry. Gave it a few gentle slaps (couldn't resist). It's going to sound AWESOME! Saddly though - I've decided to sell the lot. It's a long sad story - one I will not bore you with here. I'm waiting to hear from a player to see if he wants to buy them. If I don't hear from him in a day or so from now I will aggressively start my search for a VALJE buyer. I'm not letting them go cheap. I want to be happy with the sale and I want them to go to a good home - someone that knows the history and appreciates what they're getting.
    My email:

    Cheers and happy drumming to you!

    Nanaimo, BC Canada

  2. CongaDR,

    I have owned congas for 5+ years and have played for 10+ years...amateurishly at best, I might add :) I'll stick with it, though. I actually own the LP Palladium Series set and a brand new set of Jay Bereck Skin On Skin congas. I met Jay in June thru my drumming mentor and decided to purchas an 11" oak quinto...then he & Josh made me an offer I could not refuse on a matching 13" tumba. they are beautiful. I will call Jay to say "hello" and ask him this question too BUT (finally!!)....what is the proper way of measuring that you are referring to? I'm sure your opinion will match Jay's but I'm curious if a difference of opinion is uncovered. :) BTW, the 14" Super Tumba that comes with my LP set has to be the BIGGEST conga I've seen in person or online !!!

  3. Yes, Say hello to Jay for me. Im one of his biggest fans.

    to measure the drum, measure the flat part of the skin, or from middle of the rim to the middle of the rim.

    Hope that helps,


  4. I had one serious buyer for my complete set of Valje's but the deal was not going good for me - too much $$$ to ship the drums and the buyer wanted me to pay the shipping.

    I've decided NOT to sell the drums and I'm very happy with that.


  5. Hey Gary,

    Nice to hear from you, and nice to hear you are keeping the drums in the family.

    Have fun playing them!



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