Each year Woodworking Europe holds a Collaboration Build to showcase Europe’s different regional woodworking projects and traditions. This year, there were 15 participants from nine countries who entered their projects via YouTube. The artisans were challenged to, “Build something to display or serve a food speciality or something in general which represents your area.” The craftsmanship of Robbie the Woodturner fascinated me the most, because he explained the production and history of his product in historic and contemporary terms. Robbie’s submission for the Collaboration Build, a small barrel, represented Ireland and the work of Coopers, who had a significant impact on the liquor industry at the turn of the century.
Coopers were integral to Ireland’s economy by facilitating the exportation of beer and whisky during the turn of the century. The craftsmen often operated out of specialized workshops in breweries and distilleries, where they handmade different sized barrels. The making of these barrels was a labor intensive process that could take up to two years from shaping to seasoning. Robbie paid tribute to Coopers by making a decorative cooper barrel using modern tools. Of the three types of cooper barrels (white, dry, and wet), Robbie made a wet copper barrel since it can be used for shipping and long term storage of pressured liquids.
In the video below, Robbie walks you through the steps to make a wet coopers barrel. As he progresses through each step he also teaches you which unmechanized tool would be used to complete the task. The full process starts with an unfinished block of American white oak and turns it into a working decorative barrel with a spout and stand.
Outside of his submission for the Collaboration Build, Robbie frequently documents his work on his website, where he also gives tutorials and demonstrations. He has been turing wood since 2007 and showcasing his work on his website since 2013 with the goal of teaching and inspiring people to make their own pieces.