$100 local materials challenge David Frassetto's Gottan (Completed 5/2/12)

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$100 local materials challenge David Frassetto's Gottan (Completed 5/2/12)

Postby david frassetto » Thu Apr 19, 2012 1:06 pm

For my next build I'm going to attempt to make a Japanese gottan. The gottan is the poor mans shamisen, a three string banjo like instrument. The gottan differs in that it has a wooden head instead of one made out of cat skin. I will be making it out of poplar and maple from the Depot, and some other scraps I have laying around. And no masonite, plastic, or fabric!
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poplar, maple, and ebony scrap
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Re: $100 local materials challenge David Frassetto's Gottan

Postby david frassetto » Fri Apr 20, 2012 11:16 am

I got some work done yesterday, After squaring up the edges on the shooting board I glued the top plate together.
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squaring up the top on the shooting board
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top plate glue up
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Re: $100 local materials challenge David Frassetto's Gottan

Postby david frassetto » Fri Apr 20, 2012 11:22 am

Then I cut the body sides out, beveled the ends and started to glue it together. The body is 8x9", just enough to get from one 3 foot long poplar 1x3. This is the darkest piece of poplar I've seen, almost purple in places.
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body dry fit
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glueing up the body
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Re: $100 local materials challenge David Frassetto's Gottan

Postby david frassetto » Fri Apr 20, 2012 11:34 am

For those of you who might be interested I'm useing Kyle Abbott's book Shamisen of Japan as a resource for this build. You can check out his site at www.Bachido.com for more information on building and playing the shamisen. The gottan I'm building is going to be a gift for my daughter's Japanese girlfriend's birthday next month.
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Re: $100 local materials challenge David Frassetto's Gottan

Postby david frassetto » Sat Apr 21, 2012 1:08 pm

A little more done today. I cut the blanks out for the neck, heel, and peg box and glued them up.
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neck blank
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peg box
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heel
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Re: $100 local materials challenge David Frassetto's Gottan

Postby david frassetto » Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:37 pm

Some more progress to report. I finished shapeing the neck and peg box today. It took longer than usual because I had to stop frequently due to the nerve damage I suffered recently. Rapid repitative motions like sanding and filing cause my arms to sieze up so I have to stop and let the nerves calm down before I can continue. I also cut a piece of bone for the bridge and found a little piece of cherry to use as the base of the bridge. The pink knot is the neo (tailpiece). I found a video on YouTube showing how to tie it but it still took six tries to get it right (big clumsy fingers, tight spaces). I've sent for some real shamisen strings but I don't know if they will get here in time. The shamisen strings are made of spun silk but the book says you can use classical guitar strings and get good results so that is what I mighyt have to do.
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Re: $100 local materials challenge David Frassetto's Gottan

Postby david frassetto » Sun Apr 29, 2012 7:50 pm

I thinned the top and glued it on this past week.
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Re: $100 local materials challenge David Frassetto's Gottan

Postby david frassetto » Sun Apr 29, 2012 7:59 pm

I also made the azuma sawari. This is a device that sits under the lowest string and is adjustable to get a buzzing sound from the open string, kinda like a sitar.

I used a small tee nut, cut down and glued to a piece of bone left over from a saddle blank (I never throw any bone pieces away, they come in handy sometimes). This is secured by a cap screw and a spring set into the neck. By loosening the screw the bone raises up towards the string and you can get the desired amount of buzz. This is useful for some types of songs.
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azuma sawari top view
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Re: $100 local materials challenge David Frassetto's Gottan

Postby david frassetto » Sun Apr 29, 2012 8:05 pm

Most (probably all) gottan wouldn't have an azuma sawari because it is a poor mans version of a shamisan, but I decided to put one on just for the experience.
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bottom view
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all the parts
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Re: $100 local materials challenge David Frassetto's Gottan

Postby david frassetto » Tue May 01, 2012 11:45 pm

Today I attached the neck to the body. I used 4 #6x1" screws to bolt it on. A shamisen has a dowel stick much like a banjo but a gottan does not and usually the neck is just screwed on.

To attach the neo (tailpiece) I used a maple drawer pull, an extra from our kitchen remodel of several years ago. On a shamisen it would be looped over the end of the dowel stick. I think this looks good and it works.

The bridge is made from a scrap of cherry and a piece of bone that was left after cutting a nut blank down.
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neck bolted on
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drawer pull end pin
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body with bridge and neo
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Re: $100 local materials challenge David Frassetto's Gottan

Postby david frassetto » Tue May 01, 2012 11:47 pm

I also glued the back on but haven't trimmed it yet. (see previous pictures)
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Re: $100 local materials challenge David Frassetto's Gottan

Postby david frassetto » Wed May 02, 2012 12:03 am

This is the bachi. It is used to pick the strings. It is made from maple scraps and a piece of myrtle. Not native to Wisconsin but it was handy and I liked the way it looked with the maple.
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Re: $100 local materials challenge David Frassetto's Gottan

Postby david frassetto » Wed May 02, 2012 11:13 pm

So today I started the part I've been dreading, making the itomaki (tuning pegs). After last years rebec I swore I would never make another tuning peg by hand but the itomaki just don't look like any other peg.

I tried some ot the maple I had left from the neck but that just wasn't going to work with my nerve problems (too hard to carve). I found a 3/4" square basswood (I think) dowel in the wood pile and this was much easier to carve. So after about 4 hours of whittleing, filing, and sanding I've got one done. Only two more to go!
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Re: $100 local materials challenge David Frassetto's Gottan

Postby david frassetto » Fri May 04, 2012 2:20 pm

And then there were three! Onward to the finishing.
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Ready for final sanding
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Re: $100 local materials challenge David Frassetto's Gottan

Postby Edmundo Azalde » Fri May 04, 2012 11:58 pm

That Gottan is really beautiful. Having never really seen one up close I was wondering how does it compare to a authentic Japanese one. Do you know how to play it?
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Re: $100 local materials challenge David Frassetto's Gottan

Postby david frassetto » Sat May 05, 2012 9:08 pm

Edmundo, I haven't got a clue how to play one. There are several tunings to choose from depending on the style or type of music you are playing (tsugara, kabuki, vocal accompany). The site www.bachido.com has some lessons and a list of tunings. This was made as a gift for my daughters friend who is Japanese.
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Re: $100 local materials challenge David Frassetto's Gottan

Postby david frassetto » Sat May 05, 2012 9:17 pm

Well I'm calling this one done!!
DSCN4677.JPG


Heres the accounting:

$7.56 poplar
$3.84 maple
$1.00 basswood
$1.00 maple,cherry, and myrtle scraps
$1.00 bone scraps
$1.05 tee nut, spring and screws
$0.97 drawer pull
$0.60 pink cord
$2.00 1/4 can of schellac

$19.02 Total
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Re: $100 local materials challenge David Frassetto's Gottan

Postby david frassetto » Sat May 05, 2012 9:27 pm

Here are a few more shots.

The body. The strings are from a classical guiter set.and are tied to the neo (pink knot). I found a video on you tube showing how to do it.
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The head stock. I painted the itomaki (tuning pegs) matte black. On a shamisen they would be made out of a dark hardwood and I didn't like them white.
tn_DSCN4679.JPG
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Re: $100 local materials challenge David Frassetto's Gottan

Postby david frassetto » Sat May 05, 2012 9:33 pm

This was real fun to build and I learned a lot about the gottan and the shamisen from all my research. Maybe I'll try a real shamisen sometime in the future (if I can find a cat skin for the head [just kidding, I like cats too much]). As usual I await your cheers, jeers, and guffaws. I might try one more instrument but I've been cleared by the doctor to return to work and I won't have unlimited time to build like I've had up to now. Thanks for lookin!
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Re: $100 local materials challenge David Frassetto's Gottan

Postby Steve Senseney » Sat May 05, 2012 10:25 pm

It really is cool, and it really is different!

Nice work.
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