About skin tightness

Hi everyone! Someone who tell me how to get a good tightness in both skins? (more in top)
I’ve used kisen but I don´t know how to get the same response of tightness as my tsugaru.
I want to know to save money re-skining my tsugaru correctly.

Thanks everyone!



Hi Rod!
That’s an excellent question. :slight_smile: While it’s easy to get a great tone for nagauta shamisen, it’s quite challenging to get the sharp, “electric-like” tone for a tsugaru shamisen. The main reason is the common type of skin used for the style is dog skin. From what I’ve heard, dog skin is much denser than calf skin (or other commonly available skins) and so the sound comes out much sharper and clearly than other skins. Shamisen skinners (like Shamisen Katoh) use thinner dog skins to be able to get a crisp sound with the wooden kisen.

However, recent production of dog skin has stopped completely (due to political factors), and so the producers are now producing goat skin with the same process (You can read more about it here - Vintage Tone (Natural Skin)). Using the same treatment process results is a similar tone as dog skin. Not exactly the same, but pretty close. Unfortunately, achieving the “tsugaru tone” with goat skin requires stretching it much tighter than possible with wooden kisen. As the tsugaru aesthetic demands tighter and tighter skin, metal machines are used to clamp and stretch the skin stronger than possible with wooden clamps.

I’ve tried for many years to get the tsugaru tone with wooden kisen and calf/goat skins, but I never achieved good results. (I mean, it sounded nice, but not the same) Things only changed when I finally invested in a machine (shown above) to be able to achieve those high tensions with goat skin (Vintage Tone) or synthetic skin (Hibiki), which has a brilliant tone for tsugaru style.



So I need one of that machines! It seems wooden kisen clamps will not enough for goat skin. Do you imported from Japan? Homemade?
Please let me know…

Thanks very much!


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Hello Kyle Where did you buy the stretcher and how much do they cost?

Hi Paul,
I bought it from Tokyo Wagakki. It was about $5000. (Definitely an investment) They don’t make them anymore though, unfortunately.

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Amazing it cost that much.

Looking at the device, designing and building an exact mechanism with commonly available materials could be done quite cheap in comparison! You can get 500lbs capacity toggle clamps for about $5 a piece, the base could be made from 8020 aluminum extrusion and hardware (probably around $100 for a small base like that and no welding needed), a basic manual car jack, and an adapter plate on the top for mounting the clamps to the base, which could be done with either laser/water jet cut steel or aluminum plate from an online service like Osh Cut (adjusting thickness for material). I’d say overall you could get it built yourself for certainly less than $500. Definitely opens up higher end skinning if someone wanted to give it a go for multiple shamisen themselves!


I’m planning to build my own stretcher, based in the original model.

Meanwhile I’m trying to find out how work my Bessey vertical toogle clamps. In the description of this clamps they say clamp with a constant force of 2500 Nm (250 kg/m).

I have a contact in Japan, sellers of Shamisen, koto and related stuff, who offered me the stretcher machine for around 1000e, plus the shipping cost.
The info says this stretcher is around 40 kg weight, and for me is too much for order from Japan to Finland.

If anyone wants this contact, I can share it.

But, @Kyle_Abbott , do you know how much kg are applied to the skin when it is stretching?



Hi Rod,
Very cool you’re planning to make your own stretcher! :slight_smile: I’m not 100% sure exactly how much kg are applied, but it does depend a lot on the skin and it’s thickness. The stretcher is often made with thick steel (about 1cm thick) to withstand tension needed for modern tsugaru aesthetic.

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Michael can you share some plans with parts list on how to make one of those using your suggestions?