Welcome! Forums General Woodworking Discussions Projects Wooden mug, barrel style, an experiment

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 26 total)
  • Author
  • #141756
    Hugo Notti

    A while ago, I have seen a video about making an old style bucket (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GE7QA1chUzw) and I thought, that it would be a wonderful project to make one by myself. Finding suitable metal strips turned out to be difficult, and therefore I decided to go small scale first, making a tankard. There will be pictures later, but right now, I only want to get this topic started.

    The staves

    Last week, I cut eight staves from scrapwood and planed the side bevels “upside down” (plane in the vise). I actually got a tube out of that and most sides fit together well, but not good enough. The thickness seemed too much and it quickly turned out, that neither planing nor resawing could fix that. The pieces are too small for the vise and resawing with bevelled sides is a nightmare (for me, with my saw and skills). Apart from that, the dimensions had changed considerably. However, I took a foto and decided, that this project is possible. Initially, the staves were 20 cm long, 35 mm wide on one side and 30 mm wide on the other side. When I was done, the average with was less than 30 , sides almost parallel.

    Today, I bought some preplaned and squared spruce from a shop, 30mm wide and 10mm thick. I had made sure to select a piece with very few and only small knots on the sides, because that was quite a problem last week, and I got some extra length, just in case. I then decided not to taper the staves lenghtwise, for simplicity. After cutting the staves to length (20 cm), I made a jig with an angle of 15° (24 sides x 15° = 360° = full circle) and clamped it to the sole of my plane, which was fixed in the vise. And I had my bevel gauge set to 15° for checking. This was the easy part.

    I think, getting the bevels fairly correct and flat took me almost 2 hours. I needed a while to find out, how to pull the staves over the blade safely and learned, that it is a good idea to check the grain direction first. Fortunately, only one staff had to be planed against the grain and I was even able to remove some tearout freehand. Perhaps, I will have two jigs next time, just in case. On the other hand, it should be better to have all staves oriented the same way, for the final rounding of the surface.

    Two hours for planing 24 bevels sounds a lot. But first of all, this is my first time on a high level of accuracy (much more precise than last week) and second, I want to get the tankard tight without glue, so the joints need to be more than perfect. The spruce is much harder than the pine I used last week. This is good for precision, but I am not sure, if it is good for tightness too.

    In order to check the result, I put all staves flat on the benchtop and fixed them together with tape, wide side up. Then flipped over the package and rolled it together. The first test was a spiral, I had to take out 3 staves to get a closed tube. it turned out, that the plane was tilted slightly while the jig rested straight on one jaw of the vise. This was fixed on the second pass. With the third pass, I got the outside quite snug, the fourth pass for the inside. There are a few areas to work on, but I called it a day.

    Further planning and a few thoughts:

    I think, a tankard is more difficult than a full size (20×30 litres) bucket, because it requires the similar precision at a much smaller scale. But I can watch how I improve and I definitely have enough wood to finish, even if I mess up on several staves. If I don’t mess up, I can even make two tankards.

    I wonder, how many woodworking amateurs have successfully made tankars without glue. I have looked around on the internet and only found machine operators who glued up their tankards – even though some of them look pretty good, I have to admit that. I also found very good reasons for the purchase of a bandsaw with a tiltable table. However, planing is the traditional way of creating the bevels on the staves, and people even earned a living that way.

    Now I have the entire weekend to finish the joints. I guess, I can start with the metal rings too. I have a piece 30 mm wide, 1 m long and 1mm thick. It is steel, hopefully not hardened – didn’t find anything else. In the worst case, I will try to cut rings from a can. I also have iron rivets to close the rings. I am really eager to get into this little bit of metal working. It is probably not a big deal, but I have never done this before and I wonder, if I can hammer some roundness into the flat steel. It is also the first time for me to use rivets. However, I can play around with the steel a bit, but I need the final diameter of the wooden tube first.

    While writing this, I got a new idea: I discarded the tapered staves because it would be very difficult to get that right. But I can still taper the outside of the tankard slightly. This will make it easier to tighten the rings. Even if I can’t taper the rings (we shall see about that), they will probably bite into the wood and fit, if I drive them far enough.

    I am not sure, how to fit the bottom best. Mr. Smithwick (cooper video) uses a special tool to cut the grove on the assembled staves. I could use a chisel on the individual staves instead. Or make a tool from a piece of wood, a piece of scrapmetal as a roamer and two nails for cutting. It sounds like fun to make that tool, but it could destroy my staves, if I am not careful.

    To be continued…


    • This topic was modified 4 years, 1 month ago by Hugo Notti.
    Dave Riendeau

    We have a historic site nearby where they have real coopers at work. I watched one of them make a wood barrel, it was truly amazing how precise they are with those hand tools.


    Hugo Notti

    I have spent some time getting the joints tight. For this, I numbered all staves and wrote the number of the adjacent staff to each side. Then I took one pair after the other, held them together in front of the window and identified the high spots. Some staves were thicker on the ends, that was easy. But it is guesswork to identify the tiny high spots, even with a straight edge.

    A little while I thought, these corrections would affect the value of the angle that is required between the staves. Of course this is not the case, there are still 12 staves and they still have to form 360°. In the next step, I will readjust my angle gauge to make sure, it is very exactly at 15°.

    Actually, I don’t think, that I can get all surface pairs perfect and also parallel around the mug. So I have to find out, what can be done to get the mug watertight.

    I could roughen the surfaces with sandpaper. This will certainly block more light, but I have no idea, if the raised fibers will block water or simply add to the capillary effect.

    The joints should be pressed together firmly. I decided to taper the outside of the mug, so I can control the tightness of the rings by moving them up and down a little. The upper rim needs to be thin anyway, to make it more comfortable for drinking.

    I wonder if oiling makes the surface swell a bit. If so, that’s nice, but which oil? It must be food quality of course, and may not have any taste or smell.

    Well, first things first. I will use preliminary rings, the ones, that can be tightened with a screw, and check the tightness of the tube. This should tell me, how much work and research has to be done.


    Hugo Notti

    Good news. I used the metal rings to squeeze the staves together and let water run though that tube. I also slowly turned the tube, so every joint was tested. The outside stayed completely dry. Perhaps accuracy is not as important as I thought, I will find out when making the next mug.

    Now I can make the bottom and see, how to get that tight. George Smithwick uses linseed meal in the groove that holds the bottom. I was about to say, that this might be hard to find, but I found it already. It seems to be some sort of superfood now 😉

    to be continuted…


    Richard Guggemos


    Congratulations! It sounds like you’ve been doing fine work. Now some pictures, please.

    Rick G

    Hugo Notti

    I remembered my tabled, so here are some photos:

    I tried a piece of wood with a screw to make a groove, no way!

    This time, I used a marking gauge

    My setup for cutting the groves, I used a fine hacksaw and a narrow chisel.
    This is delicate work, the chisel needed sharpening and until I found out, I had some breakout on the side.

    Grove done

    Ok, it seems, that I can add four images only, so I have to make two more posts.

    Hugo Notti

    alignment looks good

    rough cutting with a saw was too rough and when I tried to chisel the shape, this piece split. So I took another piece of wood and used a jigsaw.

    Finished the shape with a spokeshave and made rough lines for the taper

    Finished tapering. I tried a block plane but then returned to the spokeshave, it was easier to handle with this small piece of wood

    two more pictures in the next post…

    Hugo Notti

    The taper was too steep, it won’t fit yet. But now I have a working method, just a matter of time to get it right.

    I like the taper of the mug as it is now and I think, once I have planed down the outside, it will be similar.

    The rings are not the final ones, but very useful in the making process. The real ones will be twice as wide, because that is the smallest size I could find.

    By the way, joining the staves was the hardest and most time consuming part of this project so far. Cutting the grooves would have been easier and safer with a slightly smaller chisel. I made the groove exactly as wide as the chisel, bad idea!

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 1 month ago by Hugo Notti.
    • This reply was modified 4 years, 1 month ago by Hugo Notti. Reason: I had more to say
    Hugo Notti

    Today, I made a new bottom, because the old one got way out of shape during my attempts to fit it. This time, I planed it down to 6 mm (1/4″) and only tapered the inside (up). While fitting it, the portion below the groove of three staves split away. I didn’t fix it yet, because fitting the bottom was quite fast.

    Then I made a first leakage test. Perhaps the bottom doesn’t fit perfectly yet, there was a moment, where water got out of some side joints near the bottom. At the bottom, it leaked a lot were the ends of the staves were split off, the other areas seemed fine. It was hard to tell though, because all the staves were wet at the end. I refilled the mug several times and the leakage got much smaller, but didn’t stop.

    Once the wood has dried up, I will check the bottom for marks, where it might not fit and make three new staves. Today I forgot to buy linseed meal, hopefully I won’t tomorrow. If all goes well, I will have a tight mug by tomorrow evening.

    By the way, I tasted the water that dripped out of the bottom, and there is no funny taste, still ordinary tap water.

    Some notes to myself:

    – for another bottom, use rasp and file for the taper
    – buy linseed meal!!!!!
    – on future mugs and similar vessels, make sure, the grain direction of all staves is the same

    There are still a few challenges to master, the handle will be the easiest of them. But how to attach it? Perhaps a piece of sheet metal that attaches to the rings? I also need to find a suitable finish for the wood. Boiled linseed oil has a certain taste, so it won’t be good. Shellac will be washed away by alcohol. I think, I need a tasteless food-grade oil, that cures hard (many oils cure into a slimey goo, which isn’t exactly good for a mug surface). Pure steel rings will get rusty, so I have to think about a protection too. Painting it would be the easiest. And I have to develop a simple tool to round the inside of the mug, once it is assembled. Perhaps I can make a tiny scraper from an old sawblade and attach it to a piece of wood to reach inside.


    Hugo Notti

    Today, I found a ring of hoop iron, 0.5mm thick, 15mm wide and very long (no idea at this moment). I think, it is iron, because it is soft and bendable. This is the perfect material for the rings of the tankard and it will also be used to attach the handle.

    This evening, I cut off the groove on all staves. The remaining material is too weak, it has split off on another two staves. The old one was less than 5 mm from the edge, the new one will be 7 mm away. More looks odd, so I hope, this will do. I also consider to secure the outside fibers with a drop of superglue.

    I consider making a tool for grooving, because on this scale, I am not good. My idea is a piece of wood tapered to the size of the groove, with three blades. Two to precut the outside line and one to remove the waste in the middle. I think, I can use parts from a sawblade for the precutting. For center blade I will grind a 6mm chisel down to 4 mm. For securing the blades, they will get notches on the edges and I will use a piece of sheet metal to lock into these notches. This will be a future project, because I want to finish several tankards before Christmas!


    C White

    looking forward to seeing the finished photos. great work and i like the style of post

    Hugo Notti

    Thanks, C White!

    Yesterday, I added the old bottom. It needed a bit of refinement and now fits snugly. Of course I did a water test and it failed nicely. Meaning, there was less dripping through the bottom as before, and only one joint got wet up to 1″ from the bottom. I call this another success.

    I also ordered linseed meal on Sunday, it is supposed to arrive here this week. There will be a bit more tweaking to the lose joint, then it’s meal-time!

    I also showed the partially finished tankard to a friend, who does medieval and phantasy roleplay. He is quite eager to get one. He would like it a bit lower and wider. But we both agree on a volume of about 0.33 litres (which is a bit more than half a British pint or approximately 12 fl oz), large enough to pour a can of coke.

    I think, there will be more news this weekend.


    Richard Guggemos

    Very fun project you
    Have there. Maybe at some point you can post your revised process.

    C White

    i watched the video that you linked. absolutely brilliant, such a shame all these different trades are dying.. or dead. i imagine one day they will be revived, once people are sick of living in electric oppression. Heading that way now methinks.

    im a bloke who isnt much interested in fantasy medieval roleplay, and i would be eager to get one!

    laughed at the ‘of course it failed nicely’

    Hugo Notti

    I finally got the right spelling for the grooving tool, it is a croze or crozing plane.

    I made the groove by cutting recesses into each single staff and they weren’t quite uniform. Perhaps a croze will make this easier.

    One idea is to use sheet metal, turn it into a U-shape…. let my try a drawing.

    croze blade

    The center part of the u-shape will be bent down to form the blade for waste removal. It needs support behind the blade of course. The sides will be sharpened too and cut slightly deeper than the center blade. This piece has to be fitted into a wooden block with a recess to accomodate the shavings.

    Here is a simple croze and a description: https://permies.com/t/37539/coopering-making-wooden-buckets Perhaps even a better idea, involves some filing… I could actually include side blades into one piece of metal.

    In fact, this could be a separate project topic although more metal working than wood working.

    What I find odd: All these tools that I have seen now, look so familiar to me, even though I am certain, that I have never seen a cooper at work in real life!


    • This reply was modified 4 years ago by Hugo Notti.
    • This reply was modified 4 years ago by Hugo Notti.
Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 26 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.