Shamisen image

CRAFTSMANSHIP

三味線造りの匠の技

Komatsuya Shamisen Manufacturing - Craftsmanship. Here is the manufacturing process in sequence.

step1

Step1. Shamisen neck - Careful selection of “Araki” raw wood

Raw wood for the shamisen is called “Araki”. Select one piece of the Araki suitable for the customer’s shamisen. The wood is carefully selected with the experienced eyes that have seen ten thousands pieces of Araki over a long period of time.

1/19

step2

Step2. Shamisen neck - Three-piece split Araki

In order to form an original shape of a three-piece neck shamisen, split the Araki into three pieces.

2/19

step3

Step3. Shamisen neck - Inserting gold tenons

Insert gold fittings into tenons in the neck of a high class shamisen.

3/19

step4

Step4. Shamisen neck - Rounding (planing)

Plane the sides and back of the neck to form the rounding of the shamisen.

4/19

step5

Step5. Shamisen neck - “Tenjin” scraping

Scrape off the back of a head (“Tenjin”) with a tool called “Namazuri” and make a round (curve) shape on the back of the Tenjin. This work is so difficult in manual operations that only skilled shamisen craftsmen can do.

5/19

step6

Step6. Shamisen neck - “Tenjin” making

Make special tenons called “Yagen” in the Tenjin (part where tuning pegs “Itomaki” are attached) at a shamisen neck. Making tenons called “Yagen” will prevent the Tenjin from coming off.

6/19

step7

Step7. Shamisen neck - Polishing and finishing

Remove scratches on the neck of the shamisen by polishing with a coarse sandpaper and then a fine sandpaper, after planing the uneven parts of the wood. Remove small scratches using a very fine whetstone at the end. Finally, polish with hands until it gets shiny and glossy. The hands of a skilled shamisen craftsman have special skin, being hardened by polishing the neck of the shamisen for a long time.

7/19

step8

Step8. Shamisen neck - “Itogura” polishing

Insert round fittings called “Fukurin” into parts where “Itomaki” tuning pegs are inserted. A shamisen craftsman will position fittings, calculating the subtle angles of Itomaki. Meticulous attention is required as the Itomaki may not stop if the angles are different.

8/19

step9

Step9. Shamisen neck - Itomaki insertion and adjustment

Insert and adjust Itomaki tuning pegs in the order of micro with skilled craftsmanship, so that they can be turned by a weak person and will not be loosened during playing the shamisen.

9/19

step10

Step10. Ripple - Unrolling (“Obi-nagashi”) /cutting

Cut an artificial shamisen skin Ripple carefully.

10/19

step11

Step11. Ripple - Rinsing

Rinse impurities away so that the skin can transmit sound smoothly.

11/19

step12

Step12. Ripple - Sun drying

Dry an artificial shamisen skin Ripple in the sun carefully.

12/19

step13

Step13. Ripple attachment - Setting to attaching machine

Set an artificial shamisen skin Ripple to the attaching machine carefully.

13/19

step14

Step14. Ripple attachment - Stretching by attaching machine

Stretch an artificial shamisen skin Ripple using the attaching machine. Make delicate adjustments to the tensile strength in order to fine-tune the tone produced by the Ripple skin.

14/19

step15

Step15. Ripple attaching machine - Gluing skin to body “Dou”

Apply glue to the rim of the shamisen body, and carefully apply the artificial shamisen skin Ripple stretched by the attaching machine to the shamisen body (“Dou”). Failure is not allowed in this work.

15/19

step16

Step16. Ripple attaching machine - Body “Dou” removal

Remove the body with the artificial shamisen skin Ripple attached from the attaching machine. This work should be done carefully as the body must be removed after the glue is completely dry.

16/19

step17

Step17. Ripple - Body “Dou” rim gluing

Glue the Ripple on the outside of the body. This work is also called a “Mimioshi”. This work must be done carefully.

17/19

step18

Step18. Assembly of shamisen

GConnect the body and the neck of the shamisen, attach a body protector (“Doukake”), and stretch the strings.

18/19

step19

Step19. Completion of shamisen

Completion of the handmade shamisen of Komatsuya. As described above, the Komatsuya’s shamisen is made with devotion by the hands of craftsmen for the neck and skin attachment, through dozens of manufacturing processes.

19/19