Introduction: Wooden Nukazuke Bucket

About: Lifelong interest in making and learning new things.

Nukazuke is a special type of Japanese pickle that has been fermented in a mash of rice bran. The receptacle which holds the rice bran mash and the pickles can be a ceramic crock, plastic bucket or, traditionally, a wooden bucket. In any case the crock or bucket has a lid and must be large enough so that the rice bran mash can be thoroughly mixed by hand.

This tutorial is designed to show how simple it is to transform an unwanted wooden bucket into an elegant Nukazuke bucket, with minimal cost.

Step 1: Deconstruction and Repair

I bought an old unwanted redwood bucket that had formerly been part of a traditional churn-type ice cream maker. The wooden bucket had a few pieces of hardware still attached but all of the other parts were missing (Photos 1-3).

Initially, I thought I might make a planter out of it, but then realized that I could make a Nukazuke bucket out of it instead! I had been using a ceramic crock for my Nukazuke pickles but it was heavy to pick up and move when full of rice bran mash and pickles. To buy a wooden Nukazuke bucket would be very expensive, so I was excited with the thought that I could make my own Nukazuke bucket out of the old redwood bucket.

As seen in Photo 4, once I had the hardware removed, I patched the round holes using pieces of redwood scraps that I fashioned into dowels. There was a notch near the rim of the bucket which I patched by gluing a block of wood and then used a file to shape the wood to the contours of the bucket.

Step 2: Adding Wooden Bands

The old wooden bucket formerly had metal bands encircling the circumference near the bottom and middle of the bucket. I removed them in the first step and replaced them with wooden bands which provided stability and hid most of the discolored wood which was the result of contact with the rusted metal bands.

I took a redwood board and ripped thin pieces about 2 mm (3/32 inches) thick, and 1 m (39.3 inches) long, as seen in Photo 1. Using food-safe glue, I started with one end of the wooden band and glued it to the side of the bucket using spring clamps and wooden blocks to hold it in place while I continued gluing more and more of the band, as seen in Photos 2 and 3. Working in this way kept the wooden band from snapping as I bent it to the rounded shape of the bucket. Rather than cutting the band when I reached the starting point, I just glued the band on top of itself so that in some sections there is a double thickness of the wooden band. Once the glue had set, I removed the spring clamps and replaced with a band clamp (Photo 4) and let it dry overnight.

The redwood bucket is tapered with the opening larger in diameter than the bottom. Consequently, this tapered shape resulted in the redwood bands not laying completely flat against the side of the bucket. This resulted in occasional gaps between the redwood bands and the side of the bucket. As seen in Photo 5, I filled in the gaps with wood glue. The glue hardens and forms a rigid backing that fills the gaps and supports the bands.

Step 3: Cutting Boards to Make a Lid for the Nukazuke Bucket

I measured the outside diameter of the bucket (Photo 1) and then cut 12 inch-long sections (30.5 cm) of redwood boards for the bucket lid. As seen in Photos 2-3, I laid the boards side by side and then inverted the wooden bucket and traced the bucket circumference onto the boards. I enlarged the circle by .5 inches (12.7 mm), as seen in Photo 4, so the lid will have a protruding lip and then cut the boards into a circle as seen in Photo 5.

Step 4: Cutting the Top and Bottom Supporting Boards

To join the lid boards together to form the lid, I cut four supporting redwood boards: two the same length as the lid diameter 12 inches (30.5 cm) and two boards 11 inches (28 cm) which is slightly longer than the inside diameter of the wooden bucket. The supporting boards were 2 inches (51 mm) wide and .75 inches (19 mm) thick. The upper two boards become handles for the lid while the lower two boards fit inside the bucket and keep the lid from sliding off.

Photo 1 shows the inner diameter of the redwood bucket drawn onto the bottom of the lid. The inner diameter is needed to accurately cut the lower two boards that will hold the lid together as well as keep the lid in place on the bucket. Photo 1 also shows two straight lines which mark the location of the lower boards.

As seen in Photo 2, I laid the two lower boards along the two lines and sketched in arcs on both ends which correspond to the inner diameter of the bucket. I then cut out the curved ends as seen in Photo 3.

As seen in Photo 4, I took the two top boards and laid them down and then laid the middle section of the lid on top of the two boards and then carefully aligned the two top boards so that the outer edges lined up with the lines on the middle section of the lid. I also centered the middle section of the lid on the two top boards.

Then I placed the remaining sections of the lid in their proper place (Photo 5) and finally placed the two lower boards back in their proper place, as seen in Photo 6.

The bucket lid is now assembled upside down and ready for drilling. I used a 1/8 inch diameter drill bit to drill holes through the bottom two boards and the lid but only partway through the two top boards.

I temporarily screwed the lid together and inverted the lid right side up. I then drew arcs on both ends of the top boards that correspond to the rounded edge of the lid and then cut them out and reassembled. I also trimmed the lower boards so that they fit snugly within the inside edge of the bucket.

Step 5: Final Assembly

Finally I disassembled everything and sanded all of the pieces. I then glued all of the boards together and inserted brass screws from the bottom side of the lid, as seen in Photo 1. The brass screws were long enough so that they went through the bottom boards, into the lid and into the upper top boards to hold the lid together.

As seen in Photo 3. The redwood Nukazuke bucket is completed and ready for use!

Step 6: Final Thoughts

Because the wooden Nukazuke bucket is made from redwood, I chose not to stain it as redwood is known for its resistance to moisture. It also looks nice in its natural color.

This project was enjoyable for me because I was able to take an unwanted item with missing pieces and transform it into something of value. The cost to make the repairs and the lid were very low. I saved a significant amount of money by making rather than buying a wooden Nukazuke bucket and had fun in the making.

I hope this project will inspire you to consider reclaiming an unwanted item and transforming it into something of value to you.

You may even want to start making your own Nukazuke pickles!

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