How to Paint/Finish a Taiko

grains on wood
--Photo by Left Coast Bound
Once you’ve acquired and/or built a barrel-type taiko or a hollowed-base taiko, you’ll want to finish it to make it look good.
This step also needs to be done before you add the skins, so it’s good idea to think about this from early on.

Barrel-type taiko drums lack the natural grains of a hollowed-base drum, and the cracks between the staves may be something you want to hide. Paint is the best option to do this. Traditionally, taiko are colored a brown or reddish color, but this can obviously vary. For example, oke drums are often seen in black, red or even purplish colors. Any wood paints are fine for this. I personally would recommend one that also has a little gloss after it dries, but this is just a matter of taste.

A hollowed base, because it’s been carved from a single piece of wood, will have visible and pleasant grains. Painting over them would be a terrible waste of its natural appeal. Staining is the way to go. Stains will add contrast and bring out the grains of the wood. The darkness of the stain is entirely up to you. You obviously want to stain the outside surface of the drum, but staining the inner surface isn’t exactly necessary.

What is necessary, however, is to add some sort of protective coat on both the outside and inside of the drum. Because the base is made of wood, it’s prone to rotting if exposed to air and moisture.
Almost any DIY or hardware store will carry various kinds of wood finishes and lacquers. Since you’ve already stained your wood, it’s preferable that you get a colorless one. However, even ‘colorless’ lacquers can add some subtle shades so if the store will let you, get a sample. Bring a piece of wood with the stain that you used and add the sample to see if it’s the color you want.

A second thing to consider is the shine or gloss of the lacquer. A lacquer with no shine will give your taiko a very natural look, and will highlight the fact it’s been carved out of trunk. Gloss, however, can make your drum more noticeable, and give it a fresher, cleaner look.


One you’ve chosen your finish, coat both the inside and outside surface of your drum. If you’re happy with the way it looks, you’re ready to move on to skinning.

Note: Before painting or staining, always remember to sand down the entire drum first if you haven't already. Start with a rougher grain sandpaper to remove bigger imperfections, and move down to smaller grained sandpaper. Before painting/staining or adding lacquer, also remember to wipe down the entire drum with a dry cloth.

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