You did what??!?

I've been playing out with my set of Skin on Skin congas pretty frequently lately and I missed the fact that they didn't have any handles. So I called up Jay Bereck and his apprentice Josh in New York and asked them about it. Jay Bereck doesn't actually make handles for his congas, but he has installed them on his Skin on Skin congas before. Jay Bereck is always an amazing man to talk to. He told me how Ray Barretto would bring him handles from whatever congas he had just broke or whatever to have installed on Skin on Skin congas Jay had made for him.

Skin on Skin congas are probably the best congas being made. The design is so clean and advanced. So to say it was a bit daunting to drill some holes into my beautiful perfect congas is a bit of an understatement; I was terrified.

Anyways, I eventually found the right handle: a stainless steel handle from Ace Hardware that matched the stainless steel bands the Skin on Skin congas come with, and after some careful measuring and planning the handles went on straight and strong. I guess all those years of Architecture school were worth it, eh?

I'm really happy with how it turned out. I had inspiration and some advice from Mark Sanders over at Fidel's Eyeglasses . He actually had owned a Skin on Skin requinto that he recently sold with a handle installed by Jay Bereck, the only picture I've seen of a Skin on Skin conga with a handle, which encouraged me with my project. I'm kind of wishing I had bought this little drum when he sold it a while back. So cool!

    So my conga project is done, the handles work great, and I'm really happy to have them. It makes moving the congas around much easier. Jay provided me with some really excellent instructions. and I kind of like how they look a little more now. They have an old school look like the Vergara and Junior Tirado congas you see in pictures.


Skin On Skin Hand Made Congas

(607) 639-2417
1618 State Highway 41
Afton, NY 13730


  1. My drumming mentor is an old friend of Jay Bereck. This past June he invited me to join him at Jay's home in Afton, NY so that he could drop off his about 14yr old cherry Skin On Skin quinto...so that he could have it repaired, refinished & re-skinned. He also ordered his first SOS tumbadora. Jay treated us to a wonderful meal and his many stories...he's as much of a character as he is an artisan !! By the end of that day, I decided I need to own a piece of conga history...I needed a Jay Bereck SOS original. I returned soon after to meet Jay & Josh at the shop to order an 11" oak quinto. When I picked that up a month later, they made me an offer I could not refuse on a matching 13" tumbadora. Not so many months after first meeting Jay, I now am the proud owner Jay Bereck Skin On Skin congas...and they are BEAUTIFUL!!! One day I will play well enough to deserve what Jay & Josh have created for me.

  2. G,
    I’m sure glad you were the brave one to add the handles first. I’m not very handy with tools so I wouldn’t dare take on such a task. I decided, or rather my budget decided for me, that since I’m in the market for a tumba why not get started on the path to owning some SOS drums. So I placed the order call to SOS and I asked Josh if they would install the handle before they shipped it to me. He said he didn’t see a problem with doing so. I mentioned the handles you just installed and after mentioning your first name he completed the thought with your last name. You must be in regular contact?

    A few months back I upgraded my Toca’s by purchasing Estevan’s Matador’s, the ones he used to take to the park before purchasing the Giovanni’s. But they’re only the quinto and conga so I’m short the tumba. Josh also asked me how thick of a skin I would prefer. I’ve yet to make that decision. What skin thickness did you choose? I’m going to go with the Oak and chrome hardware, but I just can’t decide if I want the handles or not. I asked you about handles on the SOS drums about a year ago, then I would’ve definitely have gotten them, but with wheels on the drum bag I’m not so sure. I need to make up my mind in the next few months before they ship.

  3. Congratulations on the Skin on Skins.

    My skins are on the thicker side, but not super thick. As for the handles, I had the need for them so I put them on. My bags don't have wheels, and I have to handle these drums a lot when they are not in a bag; moving them on and off stage.

    If you perceive that you may need them you should get handles. Or you could always have them installed for you later, if the need develops.

  4. Hi All,

    I'm very new at participating on blogs, but have been keeping up with some of my favorite tumbadora/rumba blogs for some time now...in any event I too am waiting for my first set of SOS's, a 12" tres dos and a 13" tumba, white oak with stailess hardware! I've been in touch with Jay and Josh several times and both of those cats are just great people. I remember my first conversation with Jay; we spoke for about an hour, finally culminating with a warm "So how can i help you" from Jay. My response- "I want a set of congas just like Ray Barretto used in that TV show Bravisimo"...Jays response to that statement- "Funny you should ask, I made those for him". From that point I knew things were going to be all right, and I had made the right decision in SOS. So I received a call from Jay to let me know the tumbadoras will be ready by the end of next week! I've scheduled a short road trip (SOS is 3 hours north of me) to pick them up, at which time Jay wants to know what he can make me for lunch!


  5. Ache Jay B. from Skin on Skin , he made me a set of 3 Quinto -tres Golpe y tumbadora (oak) back in 1993, quality,bello y sonido, Gracias Jay ! I loved the drums so much , they grace the back cover of my Grammy nominated salsa-Fusion CD "Salsa Gitana" (by Orquesta Gitano) 1998 release. y tambien en 1995 Jay made a custom bongo para mi, its smaller than most, and el sonido es one of a kind.. Bosco El Gitano

  6. Bosco,
    Thanks for the reply. It's a pleasure to have the leader of such a great local band comment on my blog.

  7. They look "a thousand times better" with handles.
    That's the way they are supposed to be.

  8. I'm Jay's daughter. I'm glad I stumbled over this thread--Jay doesn't do Internet, but I'm going to show him this.

    It's good to know his work is appreciated :-)
    Cara Bereck

  9. Hi Mark, thank you very much for the compliment.

    Hi Cara, thanks so much for checking in. Please give Jay and Josh my warmest regards.

  10. I got a 13'' tumba and 11.75 conga w/handles.
    i bought them separately as I'm not playing like I did in my younger days . They are awesome. I heard the hardware was outdated but whoever made that statement was a hater. God bless Jay and his apprentice Josh. Now I want a 10.75 quinto.