You can't have taiko without bachi, or 'drumsticks', and you're going to find yourselves in need of more bachi from time to time. Bachi do break on occasion, and if you're part of a group, you're going to need more bachi when new members join.
You can of course buy them, and if you pay the right price, you're guaranteed to get sticks with good shape, weight and wood.
But if you're on a budget, its far cheaper to make them yourselves.
1. What stick?
Now, knowing the various types of bachi that exist is pretty key. Depending on what type of
taiko you're playing on, and what style you're playing it with, the shapes and sizes of the bachi you want to use can vary greatly.
However, in an effort to keep this post relatively short, I'll just talk about the most common type of bachi- the tsujo-bachi- or literally, the 'standard' drumstick. These are non-tapered (equivalent thickness throughout) sticks with rounded edges, and are probably the most versatile type of bachi. In a pinch, you can use these sticks for just about any style.
For an average-sized adult, these are best at around 35-45cm in length, and 2-4cm in width. When you hold the stick in your hand, your thumb and the top-half of your middle finger should be able to comfortably overlap. These are all, of course, general recommendations, and at the end of the day it's best to find a size you're most comfortable with. If you're playing on a small drum, make them narrower, and for larger drums, wider.
2. What wood?
Now that you have an idea of what you're end product should look like, what next? Finding the right kind of wood!
All kinds of wood can be used for bachi, but in Japan, the Japanese species of cedar, maple, oak and cypress (hinoki) are probably most popular. If you're outside Japan and don't have access to Japanese woods, no problem. The corresponding species in your area should work just fine. There's plenty of other species that will work as well- I've listed a couple below.
Pine is another readily available (and relatively inexpensive) type of tree, but there are some precautions if you choose to use it. Pine makes for soft bachi, and it only takes a couple of uses before you'll start noticing dents and deformities all over. That, and pine also releases sap, which at best is unpleasant, and at worst, can really roughen up your skin. That said, there's been plenty of occasions where I've made bachi out of pine without any problems. Not the best option, but it'll work if other choices are available to you.
Here's some basic characteristics of each wood:
Cypress: light, soft
Spruce: light, soft (similar to, but cheaper than cypress)
Cedar: light, soft
Maple: average weight, average touch
Hickory: heavy, hard
Oak: heavy, hard
3. What equipment?
If you use the super-budget approach, which I'm about to describe, all you really need is sandpaper.
If you want to get a little more involved, you'll need a hand plane. And if you can, a Japanese one- they're easier to use for this purpose.
And if you're lucky enough to have woodworking machinery at you're disposal, a wood lathe will save you a lot of time!
4. How now?
The super-budget approach is the quickest, cheapest way to go about this. I use this method when I'm in quick need of a lot of practice sticks. Or, if I'm being lazy.
Basically, go to Home Depot, Lowe's or D2 or whatever DIY home-improvement retailer that is available in your area. Go to the wood section (or sometimes the table-leg section), and there will usually be a section that sells wooden dowels. Ask someone who works there if you can't find them.
There, you're going to find a bunch of long, cylindrical pieces of wood. These can be 10 feet in length or more. You won't be using 10-foot sticks, so find an employee, or just go get a hacksaw yourself, and chop them up to lengths that you need.
Next, get some sandpaper, round out the rough edges, and voilà, you've got your bachi.
This is easy, quick, and very cheap- a highly recommended way of making bachi on a budget.
Now, for those who want to make sticks to more custom specifications, it's only just a little more effort. If you want lasting, quality sticks, this is the way to go. You can choose what type of wood you want, and form it exactly as you please.
If you've obtained decent quality wood, its most likely not going to be in the shape of a dowel. So first, you're going to need to round it out. The best way to do this is with a lathe. Local wood retailers, or even highschool/college woodshops should have one of these. It's definitely worth asking to see if they can let you use it.
Mount the piece of wood on the lathe and let it spin at a moderate speed. Next, carefully take a chisel and start rounding out the wood from end to end. (**NOTE! If you don't have experience doing this, make sure there is someone present to do it for you and/or teach you. Don't just do it if you never have before. You could lose more than your drumstick!) Keep doing this until it's about the thickness that you want. Be careful not to make it too thin though- there's not much you can do if you've carved it too thin.
Once it's rounded out, you want to fine-tune and smooth it out using a hand plane. If you don't have access to a lathe, you're unfortunately going to have to do all the carving of the previous step with just a plane. It takes a little time, but still works!
Japanese planes, by the way, are light and small so they're great for making bachi. If you don't have one, whatever hand plane will still get it done. Take time with this part. You want your bachi to be smooth, no rough parts or bumps. Make sure you pay equal attention the entire length of the bachi to prevent it from tapering (unless of course you want it tapered).
Finally, take some sand paper, smooth the entire stick, and round out the corners...and there you go, you're done! You've got a handmade, authentic bachi for all your taiko needs.
How to Make Bachi (Part 2)
Here are some other taiko related resources you might find helpful:
Taiko Playing Styles
Why are Taiko Drums So Expensive?
How to Play Taiko Drums
5 Ways to Get Better at Taiko
Finding and Learning Taiko Music
Getting in Taiko Playing Shape
Taiko Drums vs Other Percussion
Where to Get Taiko Drums
How to Make a Happi Coat
How to Make a Taiko Drum
How to Make Handles on a Taiko Drum
How to Make Shime and Oke Taiko Heads
How to Make Taiko Skin (Drum Heads from Cow Hide
How to Make Practice Taiko Drums
How to Paint a Taiko Drum
How to Make Practice Shime Drums
How to Make Tire Taiko
How to Raise Money
The TaikoSkin podcast covers a whole range of topics related to taiko- building drums, starting groups, getting performances offers, going to grad school. Just about anything really. Download them in the iTunes store, or find all of the episodes here.