I've been working on this piece for a couple of weeks now, and just finished it last night. I had this shamisen made of lucite that I bought on eBay some years ago for $11, and it has been sitting around my house ever since. It is technically playable, but the sound quality is poor, so I decided to turn it into an art project. Since I plan on doing a steampunk ensemble for some anime conventions this spring and summer, I decided to go that route.
The first step involved painting the whole thing. Since it was originally clear, it took several coats to get it opaque. Then I cut pieces of leather to simulate the skins. I made the neo (string retainer) and pegs out of sculpey; I painted those after baking. The koma (bridge) is actually a large square bead with a pin backing on top. The strings are thin gauge bronze colored wire. I decorated the top and pegs with cogs and a stamped compass. The dou (body) got a variety of cogs and a pair of stamped wings. All in all, I'd say it came out okay for a first time project. =)