1. Material – Use vintage if possible
Over the years I’ve spent time collecting remnants of old and vintage Japanese cloth for sangu and ukibari projects.
Japanese hemp asa is the most common cloth used to make ukebari. Some high end helmets have a silk chairman outer. You can hunt these materials down on eBay under the vintage kimono section. If you are stuck for vintage material use a cotton sheet.
2. Sizing the Koshimaki
Take the cotton backer and carefully draw around the helmets outer rim koshimaki no ita and visor mabisashi with a marker pen. A little trick I used here was to turn the helmet around and draw where I gauged the inner koshimaki rim would be.
Making a helmet liner
By David Thatcher
Ukebari 浮張 is the name given to the cloth liner that sits inside the hachi of a kabuto. The liner had a number of functions namely acting as a shock absorber by creating a gap between the top plates of the hachi. It also provided comfort to the wearer and absorbed sweat.
Ukebari were regularly changed during the life of a kabuto as they become soiled. Many antique liners have been destroyed by signature hunters who rip through them to inspect the rear of the hachi rather than unpick the stitching, an ignorant and careless act. If the hachi is without the ukebari it can cause damage to the interior of the helmet bowl. This is the ofter the case with suji bachi where the underside prongs of the tehen kanamono break off from making repeated contact with a display stand.
Reproduction ukebari need to be avoided as the quality is very poor and the shape tends to be too round. Making your own replacement is a more rewarding undertaking and the helmet will benefit greatly from a well fitted bespoke liner.
Making your own is a very time consuming process, depending on the stitching it can be as long as a weeks work. Please note that this photo guide that I have prepared is self taught, I have never stumbled upon a “how-to” guide, or received instruction by a katchushi sensei. Therefore all errors are my own. The ukebari depicted in this guide was made for a kabuto offered for sale on this website. The manufacture and fitting took me 12 hours to complete. As a restorer I don’t like the idea of selling a kabuto without a liner, so I always make a replacement should the original be missing or beyond repair.
The first step I take it to make sure that the hachi sits comfortably within the cut. You will need two layers of material to make the liner, for this I have used old authentic asa for the top layer and cotton for the backer.
3. Adding The Dome
I add an extra 1.5 inches to the outside of the drawn koshimaki to allow for the rise in the inner dome. With a marker pen I draw dots in a long spiral to help me stay online when stitching. The backer is concealed, so there shouldn’t be any issues with marking the layout.
4. Front and Backer
I mark the remaining dots in the outer koshimaki area, then stitch the asa front to the backer at the corners. I also mark out an arrow to indicate where the front is
Using a standard cotton thread stitch in small increments through both layers. Sew on a flat surface, I’ve sewn an ukebari to my jeans in the past. Embarrassing to admit yet easy done. DON’T pull the tread to create the “pucker” at this stage, just sew round and round for hours.
6. The Puckering
As you sew around the tiny stitches will cause a pucker. At this stage do nothing to encourage it, just let it rise up naturally.
7. The Puckering Continues
I continue to stitch normally until I reach the koshimaki line, after this I gently encourage the pucker to rise by pulling the thread.
8. Cut Off The Excess
Now that the entire ukebari has been stitched I trim off the edge and discard the excess material.
9. Fitting – Part A
I want to make sure that the liner is a good fit to the helmet, I attach the liner to the koshimaki with some sinew. The outer edge of the liner is raised above the koshimaki. About 5mm at the front and 20mm at the back.
10. Fitting Part A – Consolidate The Rim
With the liner in place I carefully draw in all the bumps of the puckered sections. I stitch each bump with a loop which pulls the material together mapping the outside rim of the koshimaki. This also removes any large overlaps.
11. Making The Leather Band
Ukebari have a leather band, its purpose is cosmetic to an extent, but also protects the bottom edge of the koshimaki. I cut a strip of thin leather (Tandy) about 40mm wide and long enough to go round the inside of the koshimaki with an overlap. As this leather is white I used an indigo dye that is used to repair kendo bogu.
12. Attaching The Leather Band
I now stitch the leather band inside the liner. The band is level with the koshimaki. As you can see from the photograph the band is facing downwards into the bowl and is inside out. This will conceal the stiching where to band is sewn to the liner.
13. Remove The Liner
I now remove the liner from the helmet and check the stitching for gaps.
14. Fitting The Liner – Part B
Nearly finished! I now sew the upper edge of the liner to the koshimaki. Use the marker pen arrow to line up the liner with the front of the koshimaki. I put a small postage clamp on the liner and rim to hold it in place.
You will find a number of small holes for this purpose in the metal. Don’t sew the liner using the holes that are intended for the byo or helmet cords. I use a thick linen thread for carpet repair. It’s very strong and makes excellent loops. Work your way around the koshimaki until you reach each side of the mabisashi.
15. Puncture The Shikoro Holes
I make the holes in the leather band and material layers by forcing through a sharp needle. Depending on the overlap it can pass through each side of the band.
16. Glueing The Band
I cut the band so that there is a 5mm overlap around the koshimaki. I then dye the outer edges. Next up is to glue the overlap. What you use as an adhesive is up to you. I use a Thixo-Fix contact glue as its easily removed from urushi later, but has enough strength to hold the leather in place.
17. Fixing The Front
Cut away the excess of the leather band. Leave enough to make a flap that will cover the edge of the liner. You will need to shape this around the area where the koshimaki meets the mabisashi. Leave a gap between the mabisashi and the koshimaki so that the liner is not visible when the shikoro is fitted. This will make sense when you are doing it.
18. Glue The Inner Edge
Using the contact adhesive I glue the inner edge over.
19. Soak The Liner
Once the glue has completely dried I soak the inside of the liner with warm water. I then place it onto a helmet stand and leave it in place till it’s dried.
Your ukebari is now finished.