That one was made of sapele. Though it’s rather soft and I don’t think it was the best choice. I have tried some other woods and I decided on purple heart. It’s very suitable for the task in reference to availability, aesthetics, and material properties. Padauk is good too.
I actually start cutting the joinery while the sao is still square and I find this makes the nakago much easier to make! It took me at least 4 attempts to feel confident with making the sao in its entirety, so keep at it and you will make something great! Your completed work makes that evident.
Here is the shamisen I am working on right now (out of purple heart):
You will notice the slimmer neck and squarer dou. I suppose I favor the look of jiuta shamisen. I have altered a bunch of the proportions of the designs in the book to my taste. I have also made the tenjin more curved. I remember you posted before on how you thought the tenjin should be more curved, and I agree! Here is my extra curvy alteration:
I am eager to see your shamisen completed. It’s going to be great!