How to Make a Barrel

Whiskey barrels are plentiful and make interesting and effective barbecue grills.
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Make a wooden barrel for storage or as a conversation piece. Wine makers can even build their own barrel to store their precious brew. Use French oak--typically sought for wine making--though any type of oak can suffice for a wooden barrel. With time and hard work, you can achieve the art of barrel making, or cooperage.

Cut down the oak tree with a chainsaw. The trunk must be a minimum of 5 feet in diameter and the age must be at least 100 years old. The height of the tree is not a factor.

Remove the top of the tree from the last branch and hand split the trunk into quarters. These quarters will form the staves or the planks which form the barrel shape. Cut the staves into the desired length and width.

Air dry the staves at a 15 percent humidity level for at least three years to ensure a waterproof barrel. To perfect the humidity level, periodically add small amounts of water to the staves.

Taper off the ends, after the staves have thoroughly dried and are at the proper length. Then, slightly hollow out the inner side of the staves. Keep in mind the staves are to fit snugly together in iron or metal hoops.

Build a fire. Place the staves inside the bottom iron hoop and use a sponge to dampen the staves with water. Heat the partially constructed barrel upright (without lids) over the fire for about 30 minutes.

Gradually arch the staves using a winch to achieve the curve of the barrel. Secure the staves into the bottom iron hoop using a mallet. Secure remaining hoops, tightening them as necessary.

Notch grooves into the flat ends of the staves to ensure they fit snugly onto the barrel lids. Sand any rough spots or edges of the outside of the barrel.


Make sure the trunk of the tree is free from insect damage. To preserve wood grain, logs must be hand split. This ensures a leak proof barrel. If making a wine barrel, the fire should be fueled by oak chips. Test the barrel with water prior to storage of liquids.

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