Shamisen "three String Japanese Guitar".




Introduction: Shamisen "three String Japanese Guitar".

In this instuctable I'll show you how I build string musical instrument out of an old pallet. When you completed you will be the proud owner of a Shamisen "three string Japanese guitar".

Material s

- Saw I used a jig saw


-1 pallet

-8 2inch wood screws

-wood stain of your choice

-8 2 inch nails

-sand paper 80 & 150 grain

-paper, pen, T square & ruler

-block plane



-1 sheet of aluminum you can get a 36 in. x 36 in. sheet for

-1 2 in. foam paint

-3 no.5 brushes

-fishing line 20lbs, 30lbs & 50 lbs test 5
ft. of each

Step 1: Step 1

Step 1. Find some pictures of what a Shamisen looks like and sketch out some ideas of what you want yours to look like.

Step 2:

Step 2. Take the pallet apart I was unable to remove the nails so I had to cut mine apart. Use a Hack saw to remove any parts of the nails that you could not remove. Examine all the wood to determine what pieces have the best character. You'll only need 3 one that is 36 in. long x 5 in wide and 2 that are 3 ft. long x 3 1/4 in. wide.

Step 3:

Step 3. Take the 36 in. x 5 in. piece of wood and cut it into 4 sections two should be 10 in long and the other two should be 8 in. long. You'll need to draw a 3 1/4 in. x 1/2 in square in the middle of each of the 8 in. long pieces of wood 1/2 in. from the sides. Drill a few small holes inside the box you just drew they need to make a opening big enough to insert the jig saw blade or a hack saw blade. You'll to do this at each corner of the box just make sure you stay inside the lines. Now that you have your holes you need to clamp the wood and cut the box out and repeat with the other 8 in. piece of wood.

Step 4:

Step 4. Time to build the Dou (body). Stand the two 10 in. pieces up, long way up, 8 in. apart now set 1 of the 8 in. pieces of wood on top and mark the location that you want to put a nail. Now you need to drill a small hole at each of the spots you marked this is in order to make hammering the nails easier. Now just hammer one of the 2 in. nails into each hole. Flip the Dou (body) over and repeat on the other end. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of this but I've added some close ups of the finished product so you can get some idea of what I'm talking about.

Step 5:

Now it's time to make the Sao (neck). Take one of the 3 ft. long x 3 1/4 in. wide pieces of wood, the one you think looks best, and draw a 3 in. x 3 in. box at one end. After you draw the box drill 2 holes inside the box at each corner with a 1/4 in. drill bit now use your jig saw to cut along the lines. Now you need to drill 3 holes with a 1/4 in. drill bit for the pegs 2 on one side and one on the other. The location of the holes is not that important as long as the side with the one hole lines up in between the other 2.

Now you need to attach that piece of wood to the Dou (body). Line that piece of the Sao (neck) just above one of the small squares that you cut into the Dou (body) and drill two 2 in. wood screws into it. Now that you have attached that part of the Sao (neck) to the Dou (body) insert the second piece of 3 ft. x 3 1/4 in. wood through the two holes that you cut into the Dou (body). Continue to insert the wood into the two holes until a 4 in. section is sticking out of the bottom one. Use a 1/4 in drill bit to make a hole in the middle of the 4 in. section. After you have a 4 in. section sticking out of the bottom use 6 of the 2 in, wood screws to attach the two overlapping pieces of wood that make up the Sao (neck). Take two of the screws and screw, they should be 1/2 in apart, them through the back of the Sao (neck) until they protrude from the front side of the Sao (neck). Repeat with the other 4 screws and each set should be 4 in. apart from each other. After you have all 6 screws in the Sao (neck) use a hack saw blade to cut off the protruding pieces of the screws.

Step 6:

Now that the Sao (neck) is attached you need to fill in any cracks or holes with wood putty. After the wood putty dries use the block plane to round out the edges of the Sao (neck). Now take your 80 grain sandpaper and sand down your Shamisen for about 15 minutes. Next take your 150 grain sandpaper and sand the Shamisen for another 15 minutes or until it's completely smooth. When you're satisfied with how smooth it is take a damp paper towel and wipe off all of the dust now let it dry about 10 minutes. After it is dry use the foam brush to stain the wood. I used American Oak and a natural stain on mine but use the stain that you like. You should let your Shamisen over night.

Why your Shamisen is drying draw two 8in. x 10 in squares on the sheet of aluminum and cut them out these will be the for the Dou (body). After your Shamisen has dried use 1 in. wire nails to nail one of the pieces of aluminum on each side of the Dou (body).

Step 7:

I used 3 old No.5 paint brush's that I cut the tips off of as my pegs. In order to make a hole for the string in each peg I first inserted a peg into each peg hole and I used my Dremel and a 5/64 drill bit to make the string holes in each peg. After making the holes I inserted a piece of fishing string into each of my pegs and used several slip knots to secure each piece of string. I used 20 lbs test string for the bottom peg, 30 lbs test string for the top peg and 50 lbs. test string for the middle peg. After securing the string to the pegs I ran it through the small hole in the 4 in. section at the bottom of the Shamisen. I had a extra 4 in. piece of old paint brush that I wrapped each piece of string around several times and secured each piece with a few slip knots.

I was able to find a thin 2 1/2 in. long x 1/2 wide piece of wood to use as one of my bridge's. I used the 150 grit sandpaper to round off the edges of the wooding bridge and steak knife to make 3 small groves a 1/3 in. away from each other. For the second bridge I was able to find a small thin 2 in. long x 1/3 in wide piece of plastic to use and I cut 3 small groves a 1/3 in. away from each other into it.

After looking at the finished piece I decided that the Sao (neck) was too wide, so I drew wave pattern on one side of it and used a jig saw to cut it off. Once I cut it off I used the block plane to round off the edges and sanded it smooth. I also painted the Japanese symbols for music on one side of the Dou (body).

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    6 Discussions


    Reply 1 year ago

    I use weed whacker cords. You can buy various gauges on the cheap.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Ty. I got my string from Wal-Mart in the sporting goods section or you go to any store that sells fishing line.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you very much! No video of me playing it because I do not know how to play any kind off instrument, but now that I have one I'll try to teach myself. If I can I'll post a video of me playing it in a few weeks.