Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: The lovely Van Nuys, California, USA
You can take the head off without the proper tool, in fact I hate the stupid aftermarket tool, its a piece of junk. I'm pretty sure the nuts are 15mm, so just get a wrench and take those suckers off.
Once your in there, you need to measure the cylinder barrel's mating surface with the head and visa versa. Take a piece of glass and put the head on it and do the same with the cylinder barrel. This way you can make sure nothing's warped. Then, check the studs themselves. If they are black all the way down, then you're probably kool. If the studs change color from top to bottom, you've got some bad studs. They are designed to stretch and if they were over-torqued by somebody in the past, they change color and can fail. If they look good, make sure they are tight before re-assembly, but be careful to meet Ducati torq spec's on them. You've gotta take the pistons off the rods to put on new base gaskets, so that adds another challenge. The pistons have to be re seated in the cylinder barrels, which takes some patience and some assembly lube or motor oil. Then you've gotta re-assemble the entire thing to check squish. Its SUPER important to check squish and make sure its correct. I had to remove my base gaskets because my squish was 1.09mm with the new gaskets, which is WAY too much. Also, don't forget to throw grease on the head stud threads when you re-assemble. Thats one step a lot of people forget about and it can easily cause a rod to break due to bolt sticktion.
If you don't have a desmoquattro service manual, I'd pick one up. It would take me a month of writing to detail the process step by step.