Shamisen skin stretcher


Looks great!


Thanks Dan! Couldn’t have done it without advice (and photos!) from everyone!

I’m getting the skin for the second side today, I’ll likely document the process from beginning to end this time (for myself, and anyone else who’s interested).


this is fascinating, lovely to see results


This seems to be way “easier” than I expected. I don’t have the money right now for a new/used working shamisen, but I see a bunch of them on ebay with torn skins. Does this seem like a plausible method for saving money on starter shamisen? I don’t have the wood working experience (or the tools) to build a shamisen, but I feel pretty savvy about fixing and making stuff. I’m tempted to pick up a busted one and a bunch of skins (trial and error) to try this on my own. Seems like you would end up spending a lot less money to get started playing. Thoughts?


Joel, I pounced on an amazing deal on eBay - got a oooold (I’m thinking 50s or 60s) kouki shamisen with ivory itomaki, shamibako, raku raku bench, neo, ebony bachi (very beat up) and about ten sets of strings. Together with shipping, it came out to 97 dollars.

I invested about a hundred dollars into my skinning rig - that included buying the wrong tarp clips and then buying another style, and a skin that I had to throw away. It took a bit of experimentation, but I after refinishing and reheading, this shamisen is simply beautiful with a wonderful throaty, retro, mellow sound. I’m going to post a video later.

Just be prepared for a lot of work. Sanding and finishing took almost a week (for drying, mostly) by itself. But the payoff is so cool, even more satisfying than buying a new one.


I just skinned my homemade shamisen with a skin stretcher I made by blatantly copying the idea of Taichi san’s skin stretcher. The stretcher only cost $20 to make and about an evening to put together. It appears to work pretty well, however the glue isn’t dry yet so fingers crossed that everything works out okay and the skin doesn’t pop off :blush:

(Sorry the picture is sideways. My phone camera is really stupid sometimes.)

I like your simplistic design.


Very cool stretcher, Louis! Given the limits of goat/calf skin, I think your stretcher would work perfectly!

Do you think the corners might need some reinforcement for when the dou is pressed up against the skin, or did that hold together okay?

Recently, I’ve been thinking about skin replacement for shamisen. Though there are some younger folks learning how to make/repair shamisen, most of the skilled craftsmen are getting quite old (from what I’ve heard from my contacts). Things are fine for now, but thinking about the situation 30 years from now, it will be up to us shamisen enthusiasts to be able to learn how to replace the skins ourselves. Just like how most taiko groups need to replace their own skins.

Thus, I’m always happy to see people like you and Lorraine learning how to do it and creating different jigs. This is how we’ll keep it alive! :slight_smile:


^That was Cody’s stretcher. I quoted his pic to compliment him. I like the simplicity and I agree there might need some clip to stretch the corner as well.


Sorry to revive an old thread, but are there any schematics/plans for how to build a custom stretcher?

I am looking at purchasing some torn shamisen and would need to replace the skins myself.