Do-It-Yourself Taiko

This is one of my favorite taiko, it is also the first one that I built. It is made from a French oak barrel, and the dimensions are 22.5 inches diameter by 23 inches high. The 2 handles (medium size-12 cm bracket), and the tacks are from Kawada Taiko. I used Minwax red mahogany stain, and Minwax "helmsman" exterior polyurethane.
Here is a look at some of the other taiko I have made. The small taiko is 12 inches diameter by 17 inches high. The barrel staves are probably made of douglas fir (not oak). I found it at a garage sale for $10. It was painted with really ugly green paint, and looked bad before I sanded it down. It is now enjoying a second life as a taiko.
One day just for fun, I decided to take the 12 by 17 inch taiko shown in the picture above, and rope the heads on it. I followed the pattern from my Kawada shimedaiko (shown right), and looped the rope through the skin and then across the body. That part was not too hard to figure out. Next, I had to learn how to loop and weave the rope around the middle of the body. Pulling together the rope that holds the 2 skins on. After a few blisters, I figured that part out. Then it just took a lot of muscle to tighten all loops. This is actually a very old method of making a taiko. In Japan they call this kind of taiko an "okedo." In buddhist ceremonies it is known as a "nenbutsu daiko."
These 2 taiko were made by Dan Lindenmeyer, of Seattle, Washington. Dan makes taiko under the name "World Sphere Taiko." These 2 were made from French oak barrels; and Dan makes the handles himself from brass and bronze. The tacks are from Kawada Taiko. If you would like to contact Dan about purchasing a taiko, you can contact Dan via e-mail.
Joe Bowes, of Aromas, California made the taiko pictured on the right. Joe has been making taiko and taiko stands for the "Watsonville Taiko" group for several years. Joe builds and sells his taiko under the name "Taiko Jo." The taiko pictured is 24 inches in diameter, and made from a French oak barrel. Joe uses tacks and handles from Kawada Taiko. If you would like to contact Joe about purchasing a taiko, please call him at (831) 726-1799.
Peter Mitchell of Edmonton, Canada made this taiko. Peter is with "Kita no Taiko" and has made many taiko for them. Peter uses materials purchased from Kawada Taiko. From the looks of his rig, he takes his taiko-making seriously. Peter has a software design company with a web site: for those of you (like me) who are in the technology business. Well outside of TAIKO of course.
Steve Lein, who has made some taiko for "Mu Daiko" of Minneapolis, made these 3 taiko for his wife. This set of taiko has a nice range of sizes, and would make a great "kumi daiko" setup.
This is one of four taiko I made in this size. This taiko is 18.5 inches in diameter, by 22 inches in height. The barrel came from the US rather than France, and there is a noticable difference in the oak. The American oak barrel staves were rather rough, and did not seem to be cured for very long. So even though this was a brand new barrel, it took a lot of sanding to finish it. It also had to be reinforced carefully on the inside since the staves had a tendency to "flex" while I was working on it. I think this was due to the staves not being cured long enough. One thing about a taiko this size, it is easy to move around. It fits in any car, and through any door. It has a nice, rather high pitch tone that complements my 22 inch diameter taiko, which has a deeper tone. I used Watco medium walnut stain for the finish.

This O-daiko (left) was made by Rolf Hecking, of Trier, Germany. Rolf is the taiko maker, and founding member of "Akatora Taiko." Rolf uses tacks and handles from Kawada Taiko. Rolf helped to translate the taiko making instructions from our website into German. Looks like they are up to more than just brewing beer and fahrvergnugen in Germany these days. Ausgezeichnet!

"Akatora Taiko" of Trier, Germany


The "Don doko" taiko made by Don Jagust of Tatsumaki Taiko. Don made this taiko from a barrel purchased at "The Barrel Shop," American Canyon, CA. The dimensions are 22 inches in diameter by 25.5 inches high, which is standard for "nagadou" taiko. The body was made from an excellent French oak wine barrel. The inside was reinforced with plywood bands, the outside was finished with red mahogany stain and 3 coats of "exterior" grade polyurethane. The taiko has a pair of Kawada Taiko's medium sized handles and was skinned using Kawada's medium size taiko tacks. Most importantly, this taiko kicks butt! It is really loud and packs a lot of punch. It is great to play on a flat stand, down low for "Miyake Daiko," or on a tall "X-dai" for "O-daiko."


Taiko made by Jean Pierre Neveu of St Basile Le Grande, Quebec, Canada.

Some close-up pictures of the beautiful "mitsudome" carving and design work by J.P. -- Magnifico!


The stats on J.P. Neveu's taiko:
Shimedaiko - 14.5 inches diameter by 7.5 inches high
Small Nagadou - 10.75 inches diameter by 13 inches high
Large Nagadou - 21.5 inches diameter by 25.5 inches high, the carvings are 11 inches in diameter.




"Red Thunder" made by Keith Hicks of Las Vegas Kaminari Taiko

Keith Hicks made "Red Thunder" from 98 pieces of 2x4, cut to 44 inches in length. He angle cut the 2x4's to make staves, and glued them together. Before being shaped and sanded the body weighed in at 400 pounds! Try turning that drum while you are working on it. Keith made this rig to turn the body while being shaped and sanded.
Here Keith is working the body into shape. He said he used a gallon of glue to join the staves, and spent about 100 days working on his O-daiko body.
The end result - "Red Thunder" at Kaminari Taiko's rehearsal. The final stats for Keith's O-daiko: 275 pounds, 44 inches long, and 40 inches in diameter (44 inches at the belly). Keith says "Red Thunder" has been heard at a distance of 2.5 miles. Microphones! We don't need no stinking microphones!



O-daiko under construction, made by Phil Pickering of Tatsumaki Taiko

Takashi of Tatsumaki Taiko at "The Barrel Shop" standing next to his future nagadou taiko (left) and our new O-daiko (right). Ron Young (owner) did an excellent job putting together the staves for our new taiko. Check our FAQs page for more information about "The Barrel Shop."
My son Bryan, trying out the "Ofuro - O-daiko." Not sure if it would make a better hot tub or O-daiko?? The body of our O-daiko was made from a puncheon barrel, which is about the largest barrel generally available to DIY taiko builders. Our O-daiko measures 32 inches in diameter by 34 inches in length, and just barely fits through my basement door.
A picture of the inside of the O-daiko barrel before being scraped and brushed clean with a stiff bristle wire brush. Used barrels frequently have residue caked on the inside of the staves. I have found that this is removed more easily after being allowed to dry. I used a wire brush, a handheld paint scrapper, and a paint-stripper attachment on an electric drill to clean off the residue.
The O-daiko body after being glued and banded on the inside. The plywood bands help to reinforce the outside edges, as well as the middle of the staves where the handles will be attached. I had to put the body on a dolly so I could move it around while working on it. In this picture I just started the first sanding using a belt-sander with 80 grit paper. The staves didn't require as much heavy sanding since I used a biscuit joiner to form the body. The biscuits helped the staves line-up more closely, so there was less sanding needed to smooth the body into shape.


The MeTaMorpHoSis

The next 4 pictures show the metamorphosis of a barrel into a taiko. The barrel pictured at left, came from the Berkeley Recycling Center, it looked pretty hopeless when I first started working on it. I almost gave up on this barrel ever becoming a taiko - it looked so bad! The barrel staves were extremely water damaged, and had rust stains on them. However, they are made of oak, and oak is a very forgiving wood. Oak can be worked with as long as it is not rotten through. Here is proof that one man's trash is another's taiko.
This picture shows the same barrel above after it has been cut to size, glued, and banded on the inside. Here it is being rough sanded, and inspected by my toughest critic - my son. The dimensions worked out to be 14 inches in diameter by 17.5 inches high. Considering I bought this barrel for $10, it was not a bad bargain after all. After sanding it down, I discovered there really was a taiko hiding beneath the dirt and rust.
The same small taiko shown above, but after being finished. I used Watco medium walnut stain, and Minwax "helmsman" exterior polyurethane. Note that a lighter stain such as walnut tends to show the stave lines. (Compare to the picture of the large taiko at the top of the page, stained with red mahogany which tends to hide the staves).
The complete metamorphosis of a barrel into a taiko. This taiko came out better than I expected considering its humble beginnings. It has a nice high pitch, and works well in a "kumi daiko" set, complementing my other larger taiko and shimedaiko.
This is a pair of taiko that I completed just before New Year's 2000. They are both 19.5 inches in diameter, by 25 inches high and made from French oak wine barrels. The first picture shows them cut and rough sanded.
Here are the same 2 barrels -- now re-born as taiko -- complete with handles and skinned (using Kawada Taiko's medium handles, and small taiko tacks). I used Minwax red mahogany stain, and Minwax "helmsman" exterior polyurethane for the finish.

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updated: 10/5/2001 by akudo3