Wine Barrel Furniture

Wine Barrels – What they are and how they are made

Wine BarrelWine barrels are made from French, American or Hungarian quarter sawn white oak. Most barrels will be made from French oak, which tends to be a bit softer than the American and Hungarian. White oak has been used to make barrels for many many years because it is pliable when quarter sawn and highly rot resistant. The pieces that make up a barrel are called staves. They will range in a few different sizes width. The cooper will hand pick the ideal wide staves that will make a perfect round barrel. A wine barrel will have around 28-34 staves and two heads. The top and bottom flat round pieces are called barrel heads. This is where coopers and vineyards will put their markings. Wine Barrels come in many shapes and sizes. Even the thickness of the staves and barrel heads vary. This is where handctafting wine barrel furniture can get real tricky real fast. Some barrels are short and round, made from one inch thick material. Others are tall and more narrow made from 5/8″ thick material. Creating the same pieces of furniture from such different variation of material is what really separates the weekend warrior DIY-er and professional. I will often have to go through and hand select the perfect staves for every individual section of the furniture just so the design can stay uniform. Another very important and vital fact about a wine barrel is that there are no nails, screws, or glue holding them together. Everything sits tightly only from the pressure and tension held by the barrel bands (hoops or rings). New wine barrels will have very high moisture levels from the steaming which allowed the oak to be bent into shape. The moisture is what keeps the wood swollen. Once the middle bands are put into place, the coopers will install the barrel heads and hammer on the rest of the metal bands. After they are filled, they will hold liquid for many many years to come. When a wine barrel gets emptied, it will start to dry out and the oak will begin shrinking right away. If you live in a dry non-humid part of the country you will notice the gaps between the staves starting to open with in a few weeks. When full barrels are used as decor you can prolong their life by hosing them down with water once or twice a week. This simple method will keep the wood hydrated and swollen tight. For us, a few month old empty wine barrel is the ideal candidate to be used for our wine barrel furniture line. It will still have a little moisture where we don’t have to worry too much about splitting and just dry enough where no other movement will occur.

Wine Barrel Furniture – Features and Characteristics

The inside of wine barrels can come in many different colors. Anywhere from red to a deep dark purple and even a light brown, which means the barrel was a chardonnay barrel. The outside will usually be a clean golden brown with a few markings from the barrel bands. When we build our wine barrel furniture we usually try to keep a uniform color pattern when possible. For an order with 3-4 pieces we will usually pick through to find similar type of barrel staves. Any larger wine barrel furniture orders will most likely include a couple of pieces that will slightly vary from one another. The barrel bands are galvanized steel which we wire brush clean to a polished silver color then clean coat to a nice satin finish. The galvanized steel is highly rust resistant already, which makes for the perfect material to be used for brackets through out our wine barrel furniture line.

Vinery Brands – Stamping and Markings

Often before ordering, customers will ask us if we have their favorite vineyard’s barrels available. Unfortunately, most likely we won’t. There are lots of wineries out there and when we receive our barrels it’s usually from one place at a time. Anywhere from 100-200 barrels will keep us supplied for a while, so we don’t normally carry a wide variety at any given time. In addition, it is important to know that most markings on a wine barrel will be from the cooperage not the vineyard them self. The coopers and cooperages (people who make the barrels) run their own business and sell the barrels to the wineries. If your favorite winery isn’t operating a large scale, finding a marked barrel from them can be pretty difficult. However,¬†you never know so please don’t hesitate to ask!

Cheers!