Introduction History Process Thank Yous



This is the list of materials necessary to build drums the Zenshin Daiko way:

Drum Materials:

  • Barrel (Height: 24", Diameter: 19 7/8")
    • There are a number of barrel companies that sell barrels tailored to making taiko. To cut down on work, it helps to buy a barrel already cut to the proper dimensions, without the bunghole, and unsanded (since the drum will need to be sanded anyway).
    • The Barrel Shop has a good reputation, and is recommended by Rolling Thunder.

      The Barrel Shop
      5353 Highway 29
      American Canyon, CA 94589
      Phone: (707) 553-9807, Fax: (707) 5456-9772

  • Cowhide
    • Finding taiko-quality skin is not easy, but there are a number of hide companies that have experience selling to taiko groups. Visit Rolling Thunder to get started finding hides. To cut down on work, it helps to buy rawhide that has already been cleaned.
    • ST has bought rawhide from Herman Oak Leather in the past. They have experience with taiko groups and they are affordable, but the quality is not always consistent.

      Herman Oak Leather
      PO Box 500087
      St. Louis, MO 63150-0087
      Phone: (314) 421-1173, Phone: (800) 325-7950, Fax: (314) 421-6152

    • Rolling Thunder recommends Stern Tanning Co., with whom they have partnered to offer taiko grade rawhide. The quality is supposed to be very good, and skins can be bought as cut circles, sides, or whole hides.

      Stern Tanning Co., Inc.
      PO Box 55
      344 Broadway
      Sheboygan Falls, WI 53085
      Phone: 920-467-8615, Fax: 920-467-8694

  • Tacks (about 275 per chudaiko and 400 for an odaiko)
    • While it is possible to use upholstery tacks, Japanese taiko tacks are much higher quality. It used to be very difficult and expensive to get taiko tacks in North America (hence the popularity of the cheaper upholstery tacks), but now it is not hard to buy the real thing.
    • Tony Jones of Zenshin Daiko writes: "You can calculate how many tacks you need by measuring the circumference of the drum where the tacks will go. The tacks are placed about 1" apart, two rows of tacks on each side."
    • Rolling Thunder stocks good quality tacks in an array of sizes. Tacks cost about $0.26 each with shipping.

      Visit: or call: (510) 351-5015

  • Plywood: 1/2" thick, it takes approximately eight 2' x 2' squares.
  • Glue:
    • Zenshin Daiko uses wood glue.
    • Polyurethane has its advantages, but they don't like it for several reasons: after applying, the glue foams and expands. They are uncomfortable with this because they don't want it pushing the staves apart. It also costs more, and is difficult to clean up -- especially from skin.
    • One advantage however is that once cured, polyurethane glue it is not water soluble like most "yellow" wood glues. In other words you donŐt have to worry about moisture and humidity.
  • Dowels: Buy 3/8" hardwood dowels, it takes approximately sixty 2 1/2" pieces for a chu-daiko.
  • Fiberglass Body Filler: Zenshin Daiko adds this to reinforce the rim, in addition to the plywood insert. They use "USC: Fiberglass Filled Filler DURAGLAS".
  • Interior Stain: Staining the body once it is finished is purely an aesthetic step, but the stain can help to hide the glue lines and differences in grains.
  • Polyurethane: Protects the inside and outside of the drum body from moisture.

Miscellaneous Materials:

  • Mimi Rods (3/8" diameter stainless steel rods, 5 3/4" long)
  • Rope (For forming/stretching heads)
  • Screws
  • Sandpaper (Zenshin Daiko begins with 40 grit, then moves up through 80, 160, and 220)
  • Cardboard or Newspaper (To protect floor while gluing barrel)
  • Large piece of plywood (To protect floor while cutting skin)
  • 8-12 Small Pieces of Thick Carpet (To protect body of drum from pulleys during skinning)
  • Towels (Used during second soak to evenly wet head)
  • Paraffin Wax (Rub on the edge of the body to make the skin slide easier when stretching)
  • Duct Tape (To hold metal bands on while glue dries)
  • Paint Thinner (To wipe down barrel while sanding. Water causes the wood to swell)
  • Rags (For cleanup)

Rolling Thunder is a great source for finding materials and advice on how to build drums. Check out their Online Catalog at:



Drum manual written by Alix Koyama and Dylan Solomon.
Please visit the Acknowledgements page to see the many people who helped us with this project.