Traditional Kawa tanning

Hello All

Does anybody knows what tanning method used for traditional Kawa processing?
I was able to find references for Vegetable Oil tanning as well as Alum tanning in making armor and wearable leather but nothing on Shamisen Kawa so far…

Best regards,

In my opinion/experience it is not tanned at all but rather used as a rawhide. Though depending on whatnot, there might go through some sort of treatment, I don’t think it would be tanning per se.
I have used goat and lambskin on shamisen and deer. cowhide and elk on my koras. All Rawhides.
For sure, on armour and clothing type bits and pieces it would be tanned but I would say on drums, shamisen etc rawhide is the way to go.

Very interested to hear other perspectives here!

Hello Catherine

Thanks for your opinion on skin treatment. I have seen your shamisens and they look amazing.
As Kyle introduced a new “Vintage Tone Skin” he mentioned what the skin gets processed the same traditional way as the Dog and Cat skins before.
As well the tanning process is the only I knew of to get the white color instead of amber transparency of the raw hide. It seems it is quite close to vellum production used in Europe.
It would be very interesting to have a pick on a “trade secret”

Best regards,

Comes out the parchment or vellum was not tanned. The white color was achieved by an equivalent of tanning by thin pastes of lime, flour, egg whites and milk rubbed into the skins. (As I mentioned before, one of old Japanese methods was to use canola oil or similar products for tanning)

That´s an interesting topic. I´ve been searching for alternatives and while I put my mind on kangaroo rawhide for the tsugaru (which, unfortunately won´t happen now), I also bought a parchment (vellum,pergamen) to try it out on an old nagauta. I am far from reskinning the shamisen but thought that I could post pictures of the parchment, if anyone was interested to see how the skin looks like.

Old kawa against parchment

Texture of parchment (back and front)

Thickness of kawa (top) vs parchment 0.6mm (bottom)

p.s. Sorry, I feel like I am all over the forum these past days but I cannot not share if it can help others :wink:

Looks like it can work well on nagauta! Id it is a real vellum it should be as strong as the cat skin at least. It might work on tsugaru as well IMHO. I was thinking of using parchment myself but ended up buying white goat skin for drums instead. Also had a really good result with natural color goat skin but the look is not classic at all 8-), as it is not white and just shaved instead of completely deleting the hairs.

I saw your post about the reskinning, that was really cool! I thought that the dark goat looked interesting but now that you say it´s with some hair… :laughing:

Thanks! It is actually smooth as hair do not stick out, it just embedded into the skin and visible because of this :sunglasses:

Oh, ok :smile: Well, if I ever get to the reskinning with parchment, I will post some updates. Unless, of course, someone else tries it first!

Where you have got the parchment from by the way?
Any useful links?
I might try it at some point as I am planning to re-skin my “silent shamisen” with either ballistic nylon or natural skin.

Ah, I am in the Czech republic and got it in a tiny obscure store in Prague. They don´t even send internationally :frowning: I don´t know how it is elsewhere, but nice parchment is really hard to find.

I see. I had some suspicions about your location from your last name 8-). There is a plenty parchment sold on Etsy and it is even possible to specify the thickness and the animal (goat, sheep and calf) but the price is a bit off: around $60CAD plus $20CAD shipping. I would stick to drum heads for now.

Ahaaha, yes -ova can give away a lot :smile:
Well, I haven´t thought about looking on Etsy but the price indeed :open_mouth: Eeek! We´ll have to do with what is available for now…