--Photo by Raul P
A great thing about oke and shime drums is that it’s surprisingly easy to prepare the heads. Adding/replacing taiko heads on a nagado-drum is a multi-day process, but with a little practice (and maybe a helping hand) you can make one, even two oke/shime heads in a day. In fact, if you stitch up a couple heads, and put together some make-shift shime bases, you could have an entire repertoire of shime drums within a week.
I was going to write up a step-by-step of the whole process, but no one does a better job of explaining it than this website. *(Unfortunately the homepage for this site doesn’t seem to be working, so I don’t know who wrote it or who to credit. If anyone knows please let me know!)
I’ll just give a few tips here as add-ons to the info on that website:
A. First, the steel rings you can buy, but they can often be very expensive. Steel rings of the desired width and diameter can also be pretty hard to find. To save money I would suggest buying steel poles and bending them into rings yourself.
When I first tried this, I simply bent them by hand, hammered them into rings, and welded the two ends together. This takes time and practice to get right, but if want to skip over that process, use a metal lathe to bend the pole into a ring. This is the quickest and most accurate way to make a circular ring.
If you don’t know where to find a lathe, call up a local metal shop/car repair shop/junkyard/etc. Basically anywhere that works regularly with metal. If you ask nicely and they have the equipment they should be happy to help you out.
B. Get a leather punch to make the rope anchoring holes. It’s easier and looks better than trying to make holes with a knife. In fact, when at all possible, it’s best to avoid using a knife at all because of the potential damage it can do the skins.
C. You can either prepare the hides yourself, or buy them from a tanning store. The latter choice is probably the quickest and easiest. I’ve always used Stern Tanning (in Wisconsin, USA) to get drum hides. They offer custom sizes and thicknesses and have always been very timely about orders. They’re prices are very reasonable too. Contact them for a list of prices.
D. The most important thing to know about stitching taiko heads is that it’s only really difficult the first time you do it. Once you learn the process it really isn’t that bad. And find a friend to do it with! It’ll make the somewhat lengthy stitching time go by much quicker. Good luck!