barrel staves

Cleaning Up

I have been able to find some old whisky barrel staves, lovely wood but damp and very dirty. The outside of the staves had been exposed to the elements, the grain was open and the wood filthy. The inner surface was scorched where the barrels had been fired presumably to remove contamination.

Using a belt sander removed most of the open grain and rust marks from the outer surface to reveal some lovely quarter sawn grain. The inner surface I was not sure how to clean. Several hours with a scraper took away most of the surface charring. I then put the staves through my planer / thicknesser taking care to ensure the inner surface was pressed tight against the outfeed roller to give a clean inner surface. I found it difficult to decide how far to go with the cleaning, but for the job I was doing I decided that the staves should be as clean as possible without removing all of the dark lines where tannins had seeped out over the years









Using The Cleaned Staves

Once the staves had been cleaned, the fun really started. Barrels by their nature are curved, bowed in their length, irregular chamfer on both long edges and varying in width, narrow at the ends and wider in the middle. Also as these staves were from a huge stack they had come from different barrels  which gave a further variation in shape.

To be any use I needed to find a way to create right angle cuts for length, Who would have thought O level geometry would come in to its own!! I marked centre lines on the staves and then using compasses marked a perpendicular to the centre line, Squared off one end then measured across the back of the stave to get the required length, again marking a right angle at the required point.

I also discovered that using the staves in their original form gave too much curvature from top to bottom of the boxes I was intending to make, so I had to reduce the angle of the chamfer to flatten the drawer fronts. Hats off to coopers who do this for a living, very rewarding but quite difficult.

More details about construction of the boxes will be in a later blog.