CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: Gon Bops Conga Restoration in Oak, gems from the 70's

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pin It


Gon Bops Conga Restoration in Oak, gems from the 70's

This was a fun project simply because it was all in the family.

Irish Rick had this fat set of Oak Gon Bops from 1976. They were in need of some serious repair after working faithfully, like a good steed for ten years as his main gigging set.

They were retired, as they started to develop serious cracks, and sat in a back room in conga purgatory for several years.

The finish was also toast, so they set needed a full and complete overhaul.

Just the right time, and just the right situation came about for this set to change hands, to be reborn within the family.

Along comes Bob Ladu, with his masters in percussion and the youthful exuberance of a man in his 20's. The Orishas grabbed this blond haired European by the scruff of the neck and tossed him at the feet of the grand masters of Cuba, here in the bay.

Next thing you know, he is Sandy Perez's best student, surely to follow the footsteps of the talented folklorist Toby Gaster.

He is also following a European cat we all respect for his chops, and how quickly he devoured the music of this tradition; Mike Spiro's star student Colin Douglass.

Colin is said to have learned all three bata, all the way though, songs and everything in three years. Quite an accomplishment.

Bob is looking like he is on a similar trajectory. I have to be nice to him, he might very well be my boss one day.. ;)

Bob and Colin are also both trap drummers with formal training. Guess we all have to admit that music school helps.. lol..

Anyway, this set is now in Bob's hands, and having been restored, we are looking forward to what he will do with them to say the least.

The restoration was too fun, the repairs came out really nice and the set is solid and beautiful. This pic of the binding process, looks like hell, and is rather traumatic to witness.. but its the only way I know how to make sure the drum has enough pressure at the right angle from the top, to the bottom of the shell. Just to make sure the cracks close on these thick oak drums.

Especially if the cracks have sat for a while, retraining the wood to its cracked state.

These Oak Gon Bops with the inlayed wooden band is are particularly hard to get to come together. These drums specifically need more force than several truck ratchet straps can lend.

The inch thick nylon rope, twisted tight with foot long iron pipes... I would guess bare three to five times the force of the strongest ratchet straps Ive seen. It will close the most stubborn cracks.

It is always nice to hear how the set responds to being rebuilt.

They came alive, sounding so dang sweet. So nice to know I will be playing them on a regular basis, most likely.


  1. Thanks for posting this. I have a few repair projects like this coming up, one on very similar gon bops from this era (not sure how to tell the wood, its painted black).
    Have you posted or can you point to any videos on how to repair congas?

  2. Hey Adam,

    I dont have any videos of the process. But feel free to send pictures of what you got yourself into, and I will try to help.

    Have fun,


  3. Cool! Do you know what series these are? I have a set and am restoring them. Looking for head for the Quinto. Every store is out of stock. Know where I can find 9 3/4” inch ?


Thanks for checking in, please feel free to contribute.

Feel free to contact me directly at