This tumba has been broken into many pieces. I counted more than 20 crack lines.

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An early attempt by the owner to repair this wasn’t very succesfull.

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So, here we go :

Session 1 : Opening the cracks, adding glue and fixing zone 1

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Session 2 : Idem for zone 2

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Session 3 : Idem for zone 3

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Session 4 : Idem for zone 4

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I’ve added a piece from another broken tumba to complete this one.

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Session 5 : Opening the crack lines

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Session 6 : Filling the crack lines and sanding

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Session 7 : Colouring

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Read more articles about tumba repair:

Tumba repair (another one)
Cavitied gourd
Tumba cosmetics
Drowned sitar
Tumba horror
Another tumba horror
Hemen tumba repair with K&K Big Twin internal mount


Tumba Repair — 38 Comments

  1. Hi, A question about session 5.
    Is this absolutely required open the crack lines when the levels differencies are very little between the pieces after glue session, especially if the french polish is not too bad?
    Is there an other soft way to plane and mask the little different levels without touching too much the french polish (not to have to do a new french polish all on the entire tumba)?
    Thank you for your help.

    • Dear Jean-Christophe,
      Thank you for your mail. In “session 5” I mean ‘removing the couplings” instead. These are the metal strips that are used to hold the glued parts together while the glue dries. Instead of these metal strips, nowadays you can also use painter’s tape… In case of any uneven spots, you have to even them out while gluing. That way, you can limit the polishing work afterwards. If that does not work, the uneven spots should be sanded down and/or filled and smoothed with a mixture of wood glue, water, colouring agent and plaster. But then it would be best to apply a new protective layer of polish. Unless you don’t mind the imperfections being noticeable. This does not necessarily have to be a problem. If the gluing is OK, the construction will hold.

  2. I have the powder to mix it with alcohol to fill the fallen varnish. It’s the right chocolate color for Calcutta style sitars. Does anyone know how much alcohol to leave the mixture overnight and wipe the broken finish everyday little at a time? about inch and a half circle varnish or finish on the gourd is fallen on my sitar. I got this powder long time ago from a sitar shop but never used it so far. Anyone can give me any tips to fill the broken finish on the gourd before I proceed? Thank you.

    • Hello Ram,
      You will have to mix the colour pigments with lacquer. This is a mixture of shellac (1/4) and alcohol (3/4) which has to be prepared in advance. How much pigments that needs to be mixed depends on the desired effect. Try out on a piece of ordinary wood first.
      If the broken finish needs to be filled, then you need to make a mixture of plaster, white woodglue, pigments & water. Give time to dry and become hard. Level it with fine abrasive paper, and apply the shellac/colour pigments mixture. Finish with clear lacquer on top.

      • Thank you for your kind reply to my question Ananda, the answer I’d been waiting for.
        I don’t know how but the entire shellac (original chocolate color) has been lost around the area where the gourd is rested on foot. So now the natural surface of the gourd is showing. less than a mm. to be filled to match the rest of the surface. I was told to leave the mixture of the pigmented powder overnight, I was told it would be 50/50 alcohol and the powder. I was told by the store owner that the mixture had to be wiped with a cloth or shall I use sponge to apply and dry overnight and apply next day again and that would go on for weeks until the desired effect is reached. Please let me know what you think. Also is %70 alcohol good enough?
        Is it true that this powder with that special chocolate color (not available in the west) is made of natural sources, rather than synthetic?; to protect the natural state of the gourd with natural material!
        Thank you again, Ram

        • Hello Ram. You should not mix the color pigment with alcohol only !! Always mix with shellac lacquer (mixture of shellac & alcohol). How much of pigments you should mix depends on the desired effect. Try out on another piece of wood first before applying to your valuable instrument. Be carefull because the alcohol will dissolve the existing lacquer!! So be carefull if you use some cloth when applying the mixture. You might wipe out the existing finish.
          I don’t know if the color pigments are of natural sources. I know that nowadays too much synthetic pigments are in use…

      • I forgot to mention that there are no cracks or holes on the gourd. Just the finish is lost about an inch and a half circle.
        About the mixture of glue, wood powder and water, is that really necessary? I think I should first try to color it with the mixture with many layers until the original surface of the finish on the gourd.

        • Hello Ram, If you really want to fill out the lost pieces of lacquer, then you should first use the mixture of glue, wood powder and/or plaster, colour pigment and water. The color / shellac mixture will never fill out the lost pieces. It will only do some color matching…

  3. I need a Head-Crest for my peacock headstock on my sitar. It should have two crests but one is missing. Its only small and fits in a hole on the headstock. it would be easy to fit if I could buy one. I’ve checked sites with sitar parts, but it seems they have everything but peacock head-crests. Can anybody help out there ?

    • Hi Disha, unfortunately I have to tell you that I have no experience with veena’s wax. I suggest that you should try to melt and build up the wax again. But how exactly this should go…???

  4. Hello, greetings from Bulgaria and many thanks regarding the wonderful information/duscussions here. My name is Kosta and I am an amateur guitarist and violinist with this question: a certain sitar is proposed to me (to buy it), but it has traces of something like a very unusual crack on the gourd. The “normal” craks mostly run through and on the finely polished surface of the citars, but this one is situated so that it partly breaks the decorative leafs. It comprises about 1/3 at least from the surface on the side where the gourd is connected to the joint, from the bottom – somewhere below the virtual point between the wrist and the elbow of the player’s right hand. The other parts of the sitar do not appear to be damaged and it is possible even that the gourd under the decorative leafs is not damaged, but this can not be seen without a total disintegration of the instrument. Probably this is due to some twist/bend of the neck because the tension – strings are assymmetrically, diagonally crossing the fretboard (which is not so with a guitar or violin. for example). Is it possible, if the sitar is deconstructed totally (so to speak), the gourd to be removed from the joint (and the joint from the neck, and the neck from the fretboard) so that one can further remove also all decorative stripes/leafs from the gour in order to look both at the inside and the outside surface of the gourd and then to eventually try to glue this crack? If it runs actually through the gourd? Because it might be the case that it has affected only the leafs, and not the gourd, but it is impossibe to be sure about that at the moment. Sorry for this perplexed explanation, but I do not know how to attach pictures here. The crack is about 20 cm. long and its direction is perpendicular (roughly) related to the direction of the neck. It affects 3 or 4 of the 6 decorative leafs below the joint.

  5. Hi. Thanks for these Informations. May somebody tell me, what I need to varnishing the gourd? I don’t find a good answer

    And: how do I repair only a Little piece of lacquer, that is fall of the gourd?

    Tx Daniel.

    • We use mixture of shellac grains with spirit. The finish technique is called “french polishing”. In case of need to fill-up we mix wood glue with plaster & color pigments. Eventually added with wooden dust…

  6. Hi, like the others in this forum, i also had a cracked tumba in my sitar. Is there anyone / specialist to get it fix in Malaysia. Tq.

    • Hello Rajan, we always recommend to fit a tabla-ring under the tumba when putting down the sitar (on the ground or not). Wether they do or don’t roll, it’s a very stable and protective solution.

  7. Hi Ananda, does a repaired sitar after its gourd is broken sounds as good as a brand new one. Recently, one of my sitars got fractured just like the above image although luckily no piece is lost or even detached from the main gourd, but I am in dilemma if i should buy a new one or get it repaired. More than the looks i am concerned about the sound quality.

    Also, doesn’t getting it repaired. like above, make it even more fragile than earlier or it is stronger after such treatment or what?.. pls share your experience on this.
    thanks a lot..

    • Neeraj,
      No doubt, get it repaired! Surely if there are no pieces lost, and they do match together nicely then it can be perfectly repaired. There will be no change in sound whatsoever. I can assure you that.

      Best is not to wait too long because chances are that the pieces get damaged and/or deformed and will not fit together anymore. But even then, an experienced repairman still can do the job.

      And, yes, a broken gourd that has been repaired properly will become stronger. This is because the cracklines are now filled with hardened glue which on its own is stronger than the soft gourd basis. But please, let this not be a reason to break up your tumba into pieces because still it will be a lot of work to do….

  8. my name is Julian Fischer, I am a luthier apprentice from Germany and several months ago I bought a Sitar near my hometown for little money.
    The problem with the instrument is the broken tumba, which can be seen on the photo. The hole is not that big but most of the gourd-pieces are missing and there are long crack lines. I still bought the instrument because I thought I could fix it in my freetime (and then play it, because I love all kind of instruments).
    Now I wanted to ask you for some advice. I came to your site through some google-search and like it very much!
    The biggest problem I have now is: how to replace the missing pieces. Is there any material I can use besides a gourd? Or it is necessary to buy a whole (and big) new gourd, to get the shape of the lost pieces?
    Gourds are mostly sold as small decorating objects here in Germany, so it’s rather difficult to get this kind of pumpkin with that shape. Or maybe every other pumpkin would be good as well? (e. g. Hokkaido, then I could make a good soup of it, hehe).
    The next thing is: What do I need or what would you recommend as crafting-tools for this size of a hole. And which sort of glue do you use?
    I looked at most of the pictures on your site, do you always drill little holes in the tumba and then put small plates on it? (I ask, because I don’t have driller and those plates).

    It would be very nice if you can give me a small instruction how to proceed – and succeed. 🙂
    (I could send you more pictures if you need a more detailed view).

    Best wishes from Germany,
    Julian Fischer.

    • Until now I didn’t find any onther material to replace natural gourd. These kind of pumpkins are a special kind which is grown only for it’s constructive qualities. Hokaido, and others are grown for food only. There skin is not strong enough.
      So, you will need to start looking for some suiteable pieces coming from another gourd. Many african tribals also use these gourds for kitchen storage pots etc. Maybe you can find some old pieces at second hand markets, or in african shops etc… I have some old broken tumba’s in the house only for this purpose… Always welcome to come and get your missing pieces here…

      Little holes, and other irregularities can be filled up, or masked with a mixture of wood-glue, wooden dust, plaster and some drops of water. Make your own mixture. Experiment first to try to find the correct ratios. Give time to dry, and check that it becomes strong and well hardened. Add more and rough wooden dust when filling up bigger pits and holes. Finish with some more fine wooden dust and plaster.
      The pumpkin pieces should be glued with ordinary wood glue only. (This general purpose – carpenters – white – wood glue can be found everywhere)
      No need to work with metal plates as seen on the pictures. This is the pro traditional way. Difficult to explain in mail. But use simple self adhesive tape such as to be used when painting the windows etc. .. to hold the pieces nicely together when drying. (As can be seen on 6th picture on this page)


  9. Ananda, is the colour a kind of paint or is it stain? Is it brushed on or sprayed?

    Also, the sitar I’m fixing up is in pretty good shape, but there are pieces rattling around inside the Tubma, and there are no cracks or holes, so getting the pieces out could require either:

    1. remove the top, which of course will disturb the celluloid trim
    2. cut a hole, remove the pieces and replace the piece and patch it in as you’ve done

    What would you do?



    • The colour finish as seen on the sitar on this page is painted with a brush and then sanded.

      The pieces rattling inside the tumba are wooden pieces coming from the sitar neck. At the time of drilling the holes for fitting the kutis, the wood which is crashed by the drill is falling inside the neck. Since the neck is hollow, it falls furter down into the tumba and remains there. It is completely harmless. So most of the time it will remain there forever. If the rattling sound really bothers you then it can be removed most easily by shaking the sitar. First remove the most upper kutis (jora (SA 2nd string) and laraj (PA 3rd string)), then hold the sitar upside down (tumba upwards) and start shaking the sitar. The pieces will find the hole which is connecting the tumba with the neck, and then will fall down further towards the holes of the 2 removed kutis. After some nice and gentle shaking, they should finally come out of these holes !!! Shake gently and patiently…

      Your suggestions 1 and 2 are also suiteable, but they are a little overkill for such a really harmless topic… i find.

      • Did you buy the stain or color or make it up from your own pigments I have repaired a small hole and the sitar sounds great but I cannot find a natural color match for the tumba any suggestions would be helpful

        • I’ve collected and bought all these basic natural tumba-colours from India. The perfect colour match is one of the most difficult tasks in the process. Wether you need and use the exact original colour pigments or you have to imitate it yourself by mixing different locally available pigments. Just like a master painter does… so you should go to India and buy them from a traditional sitarmaker or consult your local master painter.

  10. Holas from the Caribbean

    Dear sirs.
    I have luckly found your web spot and have been able to learn many very very important things about my instruments, and for that I am infinitly grateful to you.

    But there is one thing that I can not find on the web, and thats very important to me. its how to repair the wax of the vina fret boards.
    Please understand I have a Sarasvati vina and I live in the carbbean with no way at all of getting my vina fixed in india.
    Please, can you give me some tips on how to proceed with fixing up and adding wax on the fret boards to hold in my frets. the wax had a melt down, as the former owner put it in the sun.
    I have been able to repair it some and it plays but it looks bad.
    can you help me?


      • Little holes, and other irregularities can be filled up, or masked with a mixture of wood-glue, wooden dust, plaster and some drops of water. Make your own mixture. Experiment first to try to find the correct ratios. Give time to dry, and check that it becomes strong and well hardened. Add more and rough wooden dust when filling up bigger pits and holes. Finish with some more fine wooden dust and plaster.
        The pumpkin pieces should be glued with ordinary wood glue only. (This general purpose – carpenters – white – wood glue can be found everywhere)

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