A COOPER’S STORY
STEEL WRITTEN BY JOHN COX
inter has come: the heady smell of toasted oak wafts through the shop, and the men are busy cutting steel for rings. No glue or fasteners are used in a barrel, and the cooper’s rings are the only thing holding the staves together. Today most coopers use galvanized steel that is rolled and riveted to create the rings for their barrels, but this was not always the case. For centuries, most casks were fitted with coiled, rope-like wooden hoops shaved from saplings. As the green wood shrank over time it created an ever tighter fit on the vessel making it watertight. We even see them on the earliest Scottish quaichs, drinking cups usually made of small staves in alternating light and dark wood that had been feathered together and held tight with wooden hoops.
LEFT PHOTO: Barrel fitted with coiled, rope-like wooden hoops shaved from saplings. BOTTOM PHOTO: Two draw knives, used by hoopers to turn saplings into hoops.
PHOTO COURTESY OF D&H CANAL HISTORICAL SOCIETY
PHOTO COURTESY OF QUERCUS COOPERAGE