Finished my First Shamisen Build! Part Two

Part two is a continuation of Part one and is focusing on used materials.

Bonding materials.

Now that I am putting it together, I realized that I never owned that many types of glues! Here is a short list and a brief description on what it was used on.

Hide glue – mainly to glue wooden parts together such as the dou and the tenjin and nakago joints. I tried it for the zagane into the tenjin but it turned out too brittle.

Gel super glue – a fast drying glue that dries into a squishy layer,it can remind of silicone. Kyle mentions it too in his book in the skinning part, very helpful to stop tearouts on skin.

CA glue or regular super glue – I used it to glue down smaller metal parts and in the making of the koma.

Two part epoxy – this was for the bigger metal parts on the nakago and rindou. It was very messy and made me very nervous.

White glue (paper glue, school glue, Elmer´s glue, etc…) – used in making the shamisen covers, the doukake and tenjin cap.

Sweet rice flour – used for skinning. I mixed a small part of the white glue into the mochiko as Kyle mentioned that mochiko alone might not be strong enough for holding up the skin on a tsugaru shamisen. I think it was 2parts prepared rice glue and 1 part white glue but I haven´t done any experiments on how much this combination is strong or not, I just liked the ratio. So far, the skins are holding, but please, don´t take this as a reliable recipe!


Camelia oil – used it for the shamisen. Didn´t feel like experimenting… but some day, I would like to try shellac :slight_smile:

Tung oil – used on the kisen, just to protect them from all the moisture involved in the process of skinning.

Brass sheets

At first, I wasn´t going to include anything about the making of metal parts for the shamisen (speaking mainly about the zagane and rindou) as Kyle´s book has it all described and a much easier way of doing it than I chose. However, brass sheet thickness is not specified in the book so I thought it might be worth mentioning what worked for me. Initially, I was going for much thicker sheets but in reality, thinner sheets were just fine and overall much easier to work with without being too soft. I guess it also depends on the brass alloy which affects the metal´s properties. I am not an expert but if anyone is interested, the brass I used was mostly labeled as CuZn20 and CuZn37 being the ratio of copper and zink present in brass.

Brass sheet for the inside of zagane - 0,32mm CuZn20.

Covering of the nakago tip – 0,4mm CuZn37

Sheet for the inside of the maruana – 0,4mm CuZn37

For the rest of the components (azuma sawari, kamigoma), I used brass profiles by K&S Engineering, usually found in hobby stores.

Tiny components such as miniature screws and springs + tapping tools - all were bought through Aliexpress. The screws were fine. As for the taps, I cannot say anything about its performance as I never had the chance to use real quality taps. I knew it wasn´t something I would often use in the future and I was happy that it did the job. Word of caution though, the tapping tools were in a set, however, some were double which means one of the sizes was basically missing. I was lucky that the sizes I needed were all in the box. But as we all know, that is the risk when shopping on Aliexpress…

What did I use for soldering?

I took a basic jeweller´s course some years ago, so I went the more complicated way (again…). I used a butane torch, hard silver solder, borax flux, and white vinegar as the pickling solution. Oh, and some AAC bricks I found thrown away for my soldering surface.

I won´t be writing about how to solder or describe what is what because there are many types of solder which affect what tools and techniques one will use.

And that is all for today! Part 2 should have been more fun but it turned out to be kind of strict, no photos… Sorry about that! I will do my best to make part 3 more enjoyable :smile:

Until then, happy building!