CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: Gon Bops restoration circa '73 Mahogany for Hans

Friday, March 20, 2009

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Gon Bops restoration circa '73 Mahogany for Hans

This restoration came in as a referral from the legendary Akbar Moghaddam, of Valje, Gon Bops and Sol fame. I feel honored to have his recommendation, and it means the world to me. I greatly respect his work, of course, and he is a true master of his craft. I still think Sol are some of the best congas ever built, up there with history's best. And that was all Akbar, if Im not mistaken.

What an incredible finish on those drums.. if you've ever had the pleasure of seeing them up close. The clean addition of the inlaid bottom band so it can be made from flat stock, the wood selection of uniform quarter sawn oak as close to continuous grain as he could get, the clean, strong, low profile crown that is now the best crown on the market, used on high end modern gon bops... this cat must have really loved his work, they were so refined.

I've never seen a crack on a Sol conga, and none have come into my shop for repair or reskinning. I repaired one set of Sol Bongo once, but it was a small crack on the stave line, quick invisible fix.

Akbar and I haven't met, as of yet, but Im sure we will one of these days.

..conga ramble... i guess thats the point of the blog...

anyway.. Akbar recommended me to Hans, a student of the congas who lives in the south bay. He has a vintage set of Gon Bops congas from 1973, quinto and conga. They had the same hardware, but the shells were different, and they seemed like a mix and match set.

I say that because the quinto was totally bleached, as though it had been in a sunny window its whole life. It had several cracks in it, and needed a new skin, and Hans wanted me to make the bearing edge a bit nicer on the hands. The stock bearing edge sucked, and did nothing for the sound, in my opinion. The conga already had a very nice bearing edge.

The conga was a sweet 11.5, with sidecuts inside, thicker shell, and a sweet stock skin that still had life, surprisingly. Perhaps it was replaced by a gon bops head when it was refinished, as you can see the stamp on the head. looks like the skins they used in the 80's

So, Hans wanted the set to come out clean and matching, so we refinished them both. I think it was a great choice, as they look like they were meant for each other... conga love, at last...

The set has the smooth bands, which polish up so nicely. They pop, against the dark Mahogany finish.

The sideplates were more tarnished than the crown. differing quality of plating, seemed like.. they polished up ok.

This is one sweet set, and I hope they stay that way for a long time to come. This wood is so brittle, the only reason it was chosen, is its great sound. They seem to have about a 30-40 year life span, for the most part.

I guess thats not that bad, considering a car is worthless in about 20, these days! ;)

Enjoy the set Hans,



  1. Great job they look new but how do you get the bands off then put them back on without damage

  2. Wow Tony, congratulations on a job well done. I'm sure that whenever you restore a set of classic congas you end up wishing you could just keep them I know I would especially when they come out so nice.

  3. Beautiful job Tony. Ahora son casados. Peace

  4. Thnanks for the kind words, it was a fun project.

    And yes Juan, it pains me, EVERY TIME, so give these sets back to the owners.

    The damage from the bands sometimes happens, but can touched up easily. A couple of tips - put a thick coat of finish on, its more durable, and make sure it cures for at least a day before putting the bands back on.

    Hammer flush the 'burr' that protrudes from the inside of the band where the tack enters,this makes the tacks harder to get back in, but prevents scratching.

    tap on the rings with a soft wood stick and a small mallet. gentle hits on opposite sides so it seats level and evenly. You should be good. just touch up any scratches that may happen.

    hope that helps, and thanks again for checking in.


  5. tony, what a great restoration !!
    the quinto now sings and the conga humms,
    thank you much,
    and happy trails,

  6. Thanks Hans,

    Hope you're having fun with Clave!


  7. Aloha, Unreal work. I would like to restore my set one day. Now a original Gon Bops Stand would make it complete. Where could you or I find one?
    Mahalo, Willie

  8. CongaDR,

    I'm curious...when the belly of a conga shell seems to sit just below the midpoint how does that affect the sound? Is it my eyes playing tricks on me on this set or does the belly sit really low? I think I've seen this on other vintage congas. BTW, great job on the restoration !!! I love the aesthetics of the dark stain with the shiny steel bands.

  9. Re the low belly.

    Yes, I do believe that the low belly gives these drums their signature sound.

    If you play the different styles of Sol drums you can get a good idea of the effect, as they were made with the same materials with differing shapes.


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