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Coopers make barrels (strictly the generic term is casks), barrels are used for holding all manner of fluids, powders, and indeed almost anything that needs to be contained. Barrels are also used to mature alcohols, different woods are used for different brews to impart the desired flour.
Barrels are cylindrical wooden tubes tapered at each end, and made of a series of curved wooden staves. The hoops are bound with iron bands and the curved shape of the barrel allows the bands to be driven towards the centre to make the stakes bind tightly. An advantage of the barrels curved shape (as opposed to a simple cylinder) is that is can be rolled easily, turned easily, and with practice, spun on its rim and so raised to upright position with only little more effort.
To make the staves a straight oak is felled, and sawn into lengths slightly longer than the staves are to be. The staves of a barrel are then riven from the blocks, carefully done to preserve the strength of the medullary rays (rays of strength running from the heart of the tree to the bark). The staves are then curved slightly on moulds, hollowed slightly on the interior, rounded on the exterior, and wider at its middle than at its end. These curves are very skilfully made for each stave must exactly match to its neighbour along its entire length.

[top]Making a cask

The top and base are made of planks tongue-and-grooved together and bevelled at the rim (a larger slope at the outer face).
The barrel is made in the following steps:

1. The staves are gathered together in a raising-up hoop.

2. Truss hoops are pressed on to push the staves together at one end.

3. The staves are wetted, and put over a burning cresset to soften them.

4. Smaller truss oops are used to bring the staves into shape.

5. The cask is now reversed and the splayed staves are closed at the other end by truss hoops.

6. When the cask has cooled and set, the chimes (ends) of the casks are trimmed.

7. The raising up hoops is now replaced by a chime hoop.

8. An adze is used to cut the bevel along the outside rim of the staves.

9. A topping plane is used to level the staves, and a chive is used to smooth the inside. A croze is then used to cut the groove for the top and bottom and the bung hole is drilled.

10. The permanent metal bands are made turning hold metal, and then riveting it closed when cool.

11. A number of planks are dowelled together, and then sawn into a circle.

12. An adze and bevelling knife are then used to cut the upper and lower edges to fit into the staves securely.

13. The chiming bands are released, and the top and bottom are tapped into place from inside the cask for the first and with a special vice for the second.

14. The chime hoops are replaced, and the truss hoops are all removed.

15. The outside of the cask is planed and scraped.

16. Any remaining permanent hoops are added.

Larger barrels may have a tap fastened to the bung-hole. Slack coopery is the making of light casks to hold dry stuffs such as fruit, shellfish and so on. These casks are rougher and lighter than casks for liquids, and bounds with willow or hazel hoops not iron. They are generally made swiftly and intended for only temporary use only.

[top]Imperial cask sizes

Barrels come in many sizes, and it is a tribute to the Cooper's skill that the staves not merely fit each other, but do so in a manner that contains a precise measure of fluid. The measures as laid down by Roele at the dawn of the empire (and spread across the empire by Brecht merchants who refused to use barrels that did not precisely fit imperial measures and so risked mis-selling) are:
  • Butt. This massive cask contains 108 gallons of fluid.
  • Puncheon. This cask contains 72 gallons.
  • Hogshead. A large cask which holds 54 gallons.
  • Barrel. The most common size of cask, it holds 36 gallons.
  • Kilderkin. The cask holds 18 gallons.
  • Firkin. This cask holds just 9 gallons.
  • Pin. This small cask holds just 4 1/2 gallons.

Anuirean oak has too many knots to make good barrels, but fine white oak from Rohrmarch and Rheulgard have long been prized as is the identical oak found in the south of the Great Bay of Brechtur.
Coopers also make similar items to casks such as dairy churns, buckets, domestic kegs, coal skuttles, and so on.


Hoops are used for barrel-making. A hoop is typically made from coppiced hazel (no more than eight years old), cut in spring and soaked to soften. It is then riven into the appropriate length, and the riven side is then hollowed slightly making it easier to bend. The wood is then simply bent into a circle and nailed. Hoops may also be made from willow.

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