I have a very old ‘Rodgers’ vellum already on mounting hoop. Age?- unknown. I have had it for at least 40 years in a cupboard.
My question is—before putting the head on a banjo should I wet it or leave it dry? If I should wet it should it be submerged in water—for how long—or just lightly wet the top? Would you lightly use soap to clean it up?
Skin heads that have been stored tend to dry out & lose their crown. Before mounting one should slightly dampen the top & crown area, & tighten just enough to form an appropriate crown. Let it dry for a day or so before actually tightening it for playability.
A stored head can also lose much of it's oil. When you dampen the top, a very small amount of mink oil can be put on your damp cloth to spread some oil, which will be absorbed by the skin.
I have put skin heads on banjos that dates back to the 1920’s-1930’s. Do what TDennis states above and you will be fine as long as the head is the correct size.
What I use to dampen the heads is an old Glass Cleaning bottle, Windex or whatever filled with warm water. Give it a light spray, both sides, wait 5-10 minutes and have at it.
If you head is really dirty, before you mount it, and before you dampen it, you can clean it quite well using little more than an artist’s eraser. The kind that water colorists use. Then you can move to a larger pink eraser like kids use if it’s really grimy. Done this a few times and the heads with a little time and effort come out looking almost new.
Do not tighten the head all the way until it drys out again. At that point you can bring it back to tension and enjoy the sound that a proper skin head gives to a banjo.
Thank you guys for great info. Much appreciated.
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