5 January 2002:
A long overdue update.
Since my last update, a lot has changed. I have lost easy access to workshops and also got a job which makes it complicated for me to make my own instruments.
The surdo itself performed well, but it had one problem: the gap (fig. 4a) I had after rolling proved too large and led to skins being wrecked. I trashed 2-3 skins within a short time before I figured this out. At that time, my playiing style was also somewhat rough, so this didn't help, either. I recommend no gap at all. Make sure the rings over which the skins are placed, are stiff enough.
Roberto Cachaça from Unidos saw this and was somewhat appaled by the rate I was going through my skins. He made a laminated wooden shell for me, which was somewhat heavier, but proved the solution for my skin problem. I played over a year with this surdo and then got a wooden 22 inch Gope surdo. I was playing surdo de primeira with Unidos and could not get a sufficiently low tuning from the 20 inch surdo. Since then, I haven't played much on my home-made surdo, although I occasionally used it to play surdo de segunda.
Over time, I got nice reactions from people who built their own surdos using my notes. One of them is Miguel Luque, from Alicante, Spain. He sent me some pictures of his finished surdo.
I appreciate all your comments, stories and questions. I will be happy to put them up on this site. It might take a while before I answer, though, so please be patient.
I do not forsee making any new instruments myself in the near future. However, I do have access to a workshop for aerospace materials. It would be very interesting to manufacture a repinique from carbon fibre. Who knows.... If I do make one, I will tell you about it on these pages.
11 October 1998
So far, the surdo has performed quite well. With a nappa skin the sound is warm enough it and can be tuned within a good range. I play it as surdo de primeira.
The weight is about 6 kg, which is quite nice. It is quite light compared to most surdos.
I have had problems with the M6 nuts coming loose loosing the tuning. I replaced the regular bolts with self-locking bolts. These are bolts have a plastic ring built in, which prevents the vibrations from loosening the nut.
The only problem with the surdo are the rims and the tension rods. I made them from the cheapest steel available, and rust is a problem. By painting everything, you can keep this under control. If I had to do it again, however, I would definitely invest in stainless steel.
I have had trouble with the contemporanea nappa skin. After about three months, the center was worn. The top skin had a hole in it, the bottom (plastic) skin, was still intact. I taped it up, but after a feww weeks, it gave up on me, during a performance.... The bottom skin had ripped. I suspect that the tape, wich now connected the top and bottom skin, created an uneven tension and caused the ripping of the bottom skin. It probably is also due to my style of playing, I tend to play very hard, perhaps too hard (I'm working on that now). I bought a new nappa skin (Contemporanea), but after one session it is already showing wear. I think I will stick a center of smooth plastic in the middle to see how it hold up. This will also hopefully reduce stick wear.
As mentioned, my sticks wear quite fast. This can probably can be attributed to my playing style, but also to the quality of the sticks and the friction between skin and stick. With a plastic skin, you will have less wear than with a nappa skin. My new skin has a "nylon" fabric-like surface, and this is not too good for the fur on your stick. After one session, a new stick lost almost all its hair.... I will experiment by sticking a sheet of plastic on the center of my current nappa skin.
Now I need to find a way of repairing worn sticks. I will have to find a suitable fabric...... I might have to shoot a teddy-bear ;-)