My attempts at coopering a bucket.


After attending the coopering class at Tillers International I became even more interested in learning to make useful coopered containers, such as buckets, tankards, piggens, wash tubs, etc.  There are several types of coopering, but I am concentrating on White Coopering, which is the process of making straight sided water-tight containers. I am having enough trouble with straight sides and have no immediate plans for barrels with curved sides. That is a whole other set of skills. I am working with western red cedar split rail fencing from the local construction supply store (i.e. Carter Lumber). It is a very nice wood to work with for these buckets. It is mostly straight-grained, soft and splits easier than TV wood (you know, that kind wood they always split on the TV frontier shows, no knots, nearly falls apart on its own..).  The only drawback is that it is very soft and dings up really easy.

Working from the notes and experiences from class I split out the staves and tried to keep them near the right size. It is tough for a beginner because each stave has tapered compound angles on each side, that are shaped on a wooden jointer plane by eye and simple gauge. Here are the staves part way prepared.

I thought I had them reasonably close to the right size for a small naval bucket. Historically this bucket was 12" in diameter at the top and 10" in diameter at the bottom. But when I raised the sides of the bucket I had some pretty wicked gaps between staves and the diameter was too small.  It seemed that I had made several of the staves too narrow.  So I made more.

This picture is a good example of what you do not want to see when you look in you bucket after raising. This thing will never hold water this way.

So after a number of redos and adjustments I finally got the staves to line up pretty good and raised it again with the temporary bands so that I could croze the groove in the bottom to hold the bottom in place.

From here it was a good bit of work the get the inside rounded and the  bottom crozed, make the bottom and shave the edges to fit the groove and insert the bottom. I didn't get any picture of this part.  Once all that was done I could work on rounding the outside with a spokeshave on my shaving horse.  At the end of the weekend I had made it this far with the bucket.  It is far from perfect. But I am hopeful that Chuck was about right when he said after about ten buckets I would be able to make one that did not leak.  So in about 6 more buckets I hope to have a tight bucket.  We will see.