Building a wood barrel can be a great project for the do-it-yourselfer. There are many benefits to having your own wooden barrels, from setting up your backyard brewery to making apple cider in the fall or aging wine over time. The process of building a barrel is quite simple and will take you through all steps from cutting down trees to turning out finished products that look professional. In this article, we’ll walk through everything you need to know about how to build wooden barrels at home!
Find the Tree
Before you do anything else related to this project you need to find the right tree. The type of wood you use will determine the type of barrel. For example, white oak is commonly used for bourbon barrels because it imparts a strong flavor that’s appreciated by whiskey drinkers.
Wooden Barrels can be made from any hardwood tree so keep in mind what your end goal is and choose accordingly. Be sure to find a live tree with very little rot or bug infestation because this could lead to serious problems down the line like leaking barrels or even explosions!
Cutting Down The Tree
The first step in building wooden barrels is cutting down your chosen tree. This may seem obvious but I’m mentioning it specifically because many people forget about using an ax when they think about chopping down trees and instead try their hand at chainsaws which are equipped with a safety blade.
The ax is the safer option and also provides a cleaner cut so that you don’t have to spend hours trimming off extra bark from around your staves which can create loose ends or even weak spots in the barrel over time. If it’s wintertime, wait until after the sap has retreated back up into the tree before felling your chosen tree as this will seriously weaken it!
Prepare the Wood
Preparing the wood is the next step in making a wood barrel. So, after you cut the tree down, now comes the fun of preparing the wood. The first step is to cut the tree into lengths that are just smaller than your final desired beam size. You need to do this only because you need that extra length for cutting and if you get it too short then there’s no room left for error!
What you have to do is to make a lot of checks to see if the wood is carefully categorized. In order to earnestly be able to make a wood barrel, first the tree must be brought down. The staves are then dried through baking in an oven for about 3 hours. Once the staves are dry, they can be heated using molten metal for 2-3 hours. Using solder tongs and a hammer, connect all of the steel. The next step is to leave it to dry naturally. This may take up to several months, so you need to be patient. After this, you need to take the wood to the development laboratory, where you will cut the tree to the right length, planed and jointed.
Drying staves is an important step in preparing the wood. It is the following step in building a wood barrel. This is done so they won’t start cracking early when you heat them up later on. There are two methods you can use to dry the staves – one is an air dryer, and the other one is propped open windows all around. You can use both ways, since each of them works well. Normally, if you decide to use an air dryer people recommend letting the water levels drop below 20% before continuing, but this might not be necessary depending on the type of wood you’re using.
Raise the Barrels
The next thing you have to do when making a wood barrel is raising the barrels. You already know that the staves are the main elements that make the barrel. To raise it, you need to alight the staves on a raising table. This is how you will start making the barrel with a lot of taps of the hammer. While doing this, you need to adjust the staves one by one so you can give them a shape, aided by the barrel-raising hoops.
The Heating and Bending Process
Now that you have your staves prepped, it’s time to start with putting them together! To make a wooden barrel, use a winch to bend the staves until they fit the form of the barrel you want – in other words, fasten one end inside so as soon as I tighten it up along its length by rotating from outside there is no more play in those two ends. Then insert the starves into iron hoops inserted from below and use a mallet to make these metal loops around your wood fences tight enough for every side of your container frame (top or bottom). The last step before using the barrel is to cut some furrows in the staves on either side of your container frame at the top and bottom so that when you fill it with liquid, it won’t leak out.
This is actually how the heating process is named. In this chapter, we will explain this process better and what you should expect. During this process, you might sense the smell of recently roasted bread or fragrances of jammy berry and cocoa too.
The heating process actually is a vital part of the barrel-making process. This process is known as the moment of revelation, according to many people.
You can give the shape of the barrel to this stage. The shape reveals the outstanding quality of the carefully chosen oak, heightening each of its characteristics so it will produce complete harmony with the wine it will come into contact with.
It is throughout these few minutes that the cooper demonstrates his creativity and gives his individual feel to the covered barrel.
Once you hoop the barrel, and once it has its curved shape, now is the time for the two heads of the barrel to be adapted. What you need to do is take a compass and determine the diameter. If you want to reinforce the unique aspects of each barrel, you need to use these measures, which by the way, are never identical for each barrel head.
The next thing you need to do is to use a tool that is known by the name of “croze”. This tool is used to cut the grooves in which the heads, as well as the arms of the cooperage, manufacture year and the extent of char, are fitted to ensure that the barrel is air-tight.
After this, the barrel is ready for its test for permeability. You can make the test by using hot water.
One of the materials used for this process is fire. The fire a set of tongs to raise the pieces in and out of the heat. The next element is water. You can use water to moisten them during their shaping phase (this is important so that they do not dry too quickly); an iron bar or mallet to aid informing.
With these few instruments, some skill, and many years’ experience behind him, the person who makes the wood barrel can give life to oak staves as if by magic. The staves are heated up over low flames until they turn red-hot. Next, they will be dipped into cold water and then shaped around an iron hoop while still hot enough to be pliable. When every last detail has been addressed – the length, the width, and the shape of each piece – the work is completed by rounding off all rough edges.
In order to ensure that a barrel is watertight, it has to be made from oak or some other very tight-grained wood. One way to do this is to make sure there are no cracks in the staves after the drying two-week process; another is to use pegs inserted into holes drilled through them before heating them up over a fire while they are still wet.
However, when you put these methods together, in addition to using clamps on any joints between staves that cannot be heated at once, if so treated, then what remains of your barrel is watertight.
If the barrel is used for fermenting wine then it must also have a bunghole through which one can inject air and insert the cork that seals off of the liquid inside. Otherwise, if you plan to store other liquids in your barrels or use them as containers for rainwater, then only make sure they are sealed with clamps at each seam so no liquid leaks out – even though this may not seem like an issue when using new staves.
Making the Barrel – A Finishing Process
During the finishing process, the barrel takes its definite shape. This happens on both – inside and outside. The wood’s smooth sheen is acquired after doing a thorough polishing via a sand paper. After one round of sanding, the wood acquires a silky surface.
The hoops that you used previously for the raising process, which you also used to help you throughout almost every barrel-making steps, should be removed at this point. This is done so you can make way for the definitive hoops that are made of a galvanized steel.
The final hand-crafted touch should be done once the final sand-papering is finished. This includes the beauty and the grain pattern of the wood and the nobility of the oak.
As a finishing touch, you, as a cooper should add the letters of your name on the chimb of the barrel. After you do this, now it is time to do some sales and get in touch with the best wineries.
By the time you have completed this process, your barrel will be ready to store anything from wine to whiskey. For those barrels meant for liquids that need different temperatures like hot water or cold beer, just make sure they are sealed off with a cork and clamps (or other items such as screws) so nothing leaks out. If it is used for fermenting liquids then the bunghole must also be fitted into place in order to allow airflow needed by yeast during fermentation while acting as an effective seal against outside contaminants.
The entire finishing process may sound easy when described here but each step requires some precision on behalf of the person building it – including drying staves correctly before heat bending them together around hoops at just the right tension; cutting the right shape and size of wood for the barrel; making sure no cracks form in the staves when assembling them into a drum-like structure.
To make it easier to work with, pine or other softwoods can be used which will not need as much heat treatment before bending. This type of wood is perfect for barrels that are made on-site by carpenters who may already have their own tools and know-how to properly handle delicate pieces.
The most important thing to remember from start to finish? The more pre-drying your stave stock, the better quality they’ll have after being heated!
A metal hoop bends around each length of the dried tree trunk, crisscrossing its way up until all gaps between lengths are sealed.
The barrel is then ready to be strapped on a truck and shipped off.
Binding the Barrel
When you make more than one barrel, in time you will have a bunch of barrels that are the same size. It doesn’t matter for what you will use them and no matter their capacity, you should know that there are two types of finishing.
The first type is the traditional french “barrique bordelaise ferree” and the second type is the so-called “Bordelaise traditionnelle”. The second type features pine crossbars held by chestnut pins. These pins are used to reinforce the barrel heads. You can use a hand-crafted and artisanal character of the work if you want to add more character to the barrel. We are sure that your future clients will love that modern touch.