In the past 15 years I have put on a large number of Tabla heads (Pudies) for friends, students and visiting Artists.
Now that I'm getting old does anyone know of a fitting device or an adaptation. It can be useful to test the pudies too.
On average depending on the quality of straps etc, it take me approx 1-1.5 hours for the full job and then I can't play for a day or two because the hand is grazed and not to mention the pain in the back and the feet.
Ram, Although there may be both pros and cons to using the nylon straps that Gabe Halberg supplies <tabla.vermont.com?> I've found that there are mostly pros especially for us older tablawala-wannabies. For one, the flexibility and consistency of the machine-made straps makes lacing much less of a chore and is a great deal easier on the hands than the traditional straps which are: 1. becoming more difficult to obtain in quality and consistency. 2. are both rough and, I highly suspect, caustic to human skin in prolonged contact. (I haven't found any style gloves which are useful.) 3. more expensive. Probably the biggest advantage is the length of the nylon straps which enable me to fully lace the puddi with enough slack that pulling can be done as gradually as is comfortable. The biggest strain to me is to have a strap break or to have to begin pulling before the last insert is laced to gain enough slack; making the likelihood that the puddi will be seated unevenly, and or having to pull back again in the opposite direction to make the puddi (and the kundal) even again. It also eliminates the added step of having to tie the puddi and the kundal down with string before lacing. I see no hurry to lace a puddi in an hour or two, and in fact, I get better and overall faster results the more evenly, carefully and consistently I proceed. Anyway, try the nylon straps if you haven't yet and let me know what you think.
The most useful tool for replacing heads that I have found is a hook the one I made out of a pakawaj block with a heavy duty eye hook screwed into it. First you have to open the eye by heating it with a torch so that it looks like a hey bailing hook then dip it in cold water to harden it then grind the front of it to a point( not too sharp or it will scratch the drums).You can use a pre shaped hook but they tend so straighten out under too much strain. I have found this to be an indispensable tool for doing the final pulls and getting the blocks under the straps. It really will save your hands if you are doing a lot of repairs ,the hardest part for your hands is getting under a tight strap where there is only enough room to slip your fingers so you have to pull with just the strength of the fingers not the bulk of the hand, the hook can at least make that a lot easier. I also use deerskin gloves like the ones used by tree climbers the leather is thin enough to let you still feel the straps but it protects your skin from too much abuse I usually cut the index finger of the right glove off so that I can still play the na while I am balancing the head in the last few pulls. The gloves I buy are Lamont Wells deerskin you can find these in most hardware stores at least in the U.S. I hope that helps at least with the hands portion of your problem the only thing I have found that helps for my back is being sure to sit in a chair with my back very straight holding the drum between my thighs and trying to pull up against my thighs using only the strength of my arms not my back I still need to use my feet when making the final knot. Good luck Kalyan