Oak Barrel Plunge

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ovjock

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I finally got my first oak barrel in anticipation of this years harvest. I went the cheap route and bought an unused 15 gallon Bourbon barrel with a medium char. I figured my time is costing me zero so I would get rid of the char and toast it myself.

Well, this is a lot harder than it looks. And I thought it looked really hard.
barrel1.png

This is the barrel after I popped the head. You can find many youtube videos on how to do that. Make or buy a hoop driver and save yourself a lot of bruises. It had about 1/4" of char. I did not remove both heads, I did the work from one end.

This is the barrel after hours of sanding and cursing.
barrel2.png

All the char is not gone but then I figure it looks a lot like a heavy toast ... rationalization is an important part of life.

I think I'm almost ready to pound the rings back and start the swelling process.

Would I recommend it? If you have the tools and want to look like a coal miner, I would recommend it. If you like your health the way it is and have better things to do, spend the money and get a toasted wine barrel ready to go.
 
I finally got my first oak barrel in anticipation of this years harvest. I went the cheap route and bought an unused 15 gallon Bourbon barrel with a medium char. I figured my time is costing me zero so I would get rid of the char and toast it myself.

Well, this is a lot harder than it looks. And I thought it looked really hard.
View attachment 111051

This is the barrel after I popped the head. You can find many youtube videos on how to do that. Make or buy a hoop driver and save yourself a lot of bruises. It had about 1/4" of char. I did not remove both heads, I did the work from one end.

This is the barrel after hours of sanding and cursing.
View attachment 111052

All the char is not gone but then I figure it looks a lot like a heavy toast ... rationalization is an important part of life.

I think I'm almost ready to pound the rings back and start the swelling process.

Would I recommend it? If you have the tools and want to look like a coal miner, I would recommend it. If you like your health the way it is and have better things to do, spend the money and get a toasted wine barrel ready to go.
omg... you HAND SANDED out the char? You are determined.... kudos.
 
In my experience it's s easier to number the staves and totally disassemble. I also used a belt sander. It takes some time but not impossible. I went down to clean wood and toasted back myself. It worked well. When you reassemble yours, you will probably have better luck getting it to seal since you didn't take it 100% apart. The heads are the worst for leaks though. I recommend making a paste of flour and water and painting a layer on the croze (if I recall the name correctly). I spent a few days trying to get mine to seal the first attempt (without paste). I then disassembled, used paste and it sealed in hours (not days). Flour paste is impressive.
 
In my experience it's s easier to number the staves and totally disassemble. I also used a belt sander. It takes some time but not impossible. I went down to clean wood and toasted back myself. It worked well. When you reassemble yours, you will probably have better luck getting it to seal since you didn't take it 100% apart. The heads are the worst for leaks though. I recommend making a paste of flour and water and painting a layer on the croze (if I recall the name correctly). I spent a few days trying to get mine to seal the first attempt (without paste). I then disassembled, used paste and it sealed in hours (not days). Flour paste is impressive.
Very helpful, thx. Quick question. Does the flour and water not become a place for bacteria and other critters? Sounds pretty yummy.
 
Very helpful, thx. Quick question. Does the flour and water not become a place for bacteria and other critters? Sounds pretty yummy.
good question... i considered the same things when i first did it but i didn't think i was going to get the barrel to seal without it. definitely works great. i would try without first and maybe you will have better luck than me. i also did a complete disassemble on a 20 yo barrel that was ROUGH and gross. i sanded EVERYTHING including the sealing surfaces. my barrel rings ended up in different locations on the barrel once i was done. i had my doubts it was even going to work. the work you are doing is less intensive than my full blown recoop.

i'd need to go back and find the article where it stated using flour. somebody on here shared it with me. i would assume the flour could be a source of bacteria but the inside of the barrel is not coated in it. you're just putting a little in the groove of the croze, not slathering it everywhere. i also use barrel oxy-fresh which is a sanitizer to clean the barrel before use. also, once the wine is in the barrel, i would assume the alcohol and kmeta would help keep things under control. i had holding solution in my barrel for a year and the solution never looked odd or smelled funny. i also ran my first batch through it and it tastes great. based on this, i do not believe it to be a concern. YMMV

here you go...

https://www.winemakingtalk.com/threads/barrel-recouping.76263/post-846230
 
good question... i considered the same things when i first did it but i didn't think i was going to get the barrel to seal without it. definitely works great. i would try without first and maybe you will have better luck than me. i also did a complete disassemble on a 20 yo barrel that was ROUGH and gross. i sanded EVERYTHING including the sealing surfaces. my barrel rings ended up in different locations on the barrel once i was done. i had my doubts it was even going to work. the work you are doing is less intensive than my full blown recoop.

i'd need to go back and find the article where it stated using flour. somebody on here shared it with me. i would assume the flour could be a source of bacteria but the inside of the barrel is not coated in it. you're just putting a little in the groove of the croze, not slathering it everywhere. i also use barrel oxy-fresh which is a sanitizer to clean the barrel before use. also, once the wine is in the barrel, i would assume the alcohol and kmeta would help keep things under control. i had holding solution in my barrel for a year and the solution never looked odd or smelled funny. i also ran my first batch through it and it tastes great. based on this, i do not believe it to be a concern. YMMV

here you go...

https://www.winemakingtalk.com/threads/barrel-recouping.76263/post-846230
Wow, thanks. There is a whole thread on this I have not read. Off I go to start reading!
 
Instead of flour and water you can also use beeswax, or spend the extra money on beeswax labeled as "cooper's wax".
Before I disassembled a 6 gallon barrel I drew a wavy line around it so I could match up the staves perfectly to where they where before during reassembly. I cleaned the char out with an inshave, went pretty fast, then retoasted over a fire. Heads were the only thing that wanted to leak on me, a little wax and it has been holding wine ever since.
 
I finally got my first oak barrel in anticipation of this years harvest. I went the cheap route and bought an unused 15 gallon Bourbon barrel with a medium char. I figured my time is costing me zero so I would get rid of the char and toast it myself.

Well, this is a lot harder than it looks. And I thought it looked really hard.
View attachment 111051

This is the barrel after I popped the head. You can find many youtube videos on how to do that. Make or buy a hoop driver and save yourself a lot of bruises. It had about 1/4" of char. I did not remove both heads, I did the work from one end.

This is the barrel after hours of sanding and cursing.
View attachment 111052

All the char is not gone but then I figure it looks a lot like a heavy toast ... rationalization is an important part of life.

I think I'm almost ready to pound the rings back and start the swelling process.

Would I recommend it? If you have the tools and want to look like a coal miner, I would recommend it. If you like your health the way it is and have better things to do, spend the money and get a toasted wine barrel ready to go.


fyi, something you want to be aware of... after looking closer (on my computer screen) it looks like you might have sanded down the edge of the croze on some areas (see pic). this will likely cause issue getting that head to seal. those grooves are critical areas and this might have caused irreparable damage. hopefully i'm wrong but i suspect you're going to have a problem.
 

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I went the cheap route and bought an unused 15 gallon Bourbon barrel with a medium char. I figured my time is costing me zero so I would get rid of the char and toast it myself.

Well, this is a lot harder than it looks. And I thought it looked really hard.
I'm following this thread with interest, as I have a $100 bet going on with a friend of mine that you won't be able to put the barrel back together in a way that you can use it to hold wine. I'm basing this assumption on my previous experiences with recouping barrels, none of which worked out to be satisfactory. I've learned my lesson the hard way and I believe I am watching @ovjock documenting the same process. I believe I am a handy person and it appears that so are you @ovjock, but cooper work requires a level of skill and experience that us, home winemakers, don't seem to posses. Please don't take this the wrong way, and I hold some hope that I may be wrong (and liable to pay the bet), but the reality is that if you're not doing this often or have an experienced cooper helping you, you won't be able to rebuild the barrel in a usable form.
In case you'll ever need it, here is a link to my favorite oak barrels:
https://www.gibbsbrotherscooperage.net
 
fyi, something you want to be aware of... after looking closer (on my computer screen) it looks like you might have sanded down the edge of the croze on some areas (see pic). this will likely cause issue getting that head to seal. those grooves are critical areas and this might have caused irreparable damage. hopefully i'm wrong but i suspect you're going to have a problem.
Hey Brant. Good eye. When I removed the head, the nutcase who made the barrel glued the head to the staves. I can see the glue around the croze. It broke a number of grooves in several staves. I glued a most of them back but I think this has changed to a learning experiment. So far, the swelling is under way and the results look dubious. I'm thinking this will be a nice end table and the 2 whiskey barrels I just got will work out better.

For this round, I think @MiBor has won his bet. But, the war is not done yet.
 
I'm following this thread with interest, as I have a $100 bet going on with a friend of mine that you won't be able to put the barrel back together in a way that you can use it to hold wine. I'm basing this assumption on my previous experiences with recouping barrels, none of which worked out to be satisfactory. I've learned my lesson the hard way and I believe I am watching @ovjock documenting the same process. I believe I am a handy person and it appears that so are you @ovjock, but cooper work requires a level of skill and experience that us, home winemakers, don't seem to posses. Please don't take this the wrong way, and I hold some hope that I may be wrong (and liable to pay the bet), but the reality is that if you're not doing this often or have an experienced cooper helping you, you won't be able to rebuild the barrel in a usable form.
In case you'll ever need it, here is a link to my favorite oak barrels:
https://www.gibbsbrotherscooperage.net
I think the prospects of getting this particular barrel to seal is dim. The knucklehead who built it glued the heads on and the process of getting the heads off really destroyed it. I do consider this an outlier and the results of the next try will be better.
 
Frank wants me to say that he still believes in your abilities @ovjock, and he's willing to bet again, if you do a thread on your next barrel project. I told him it would be better for him to just make an account and start supporting the forums. He's been making wine for over 40 years and he has a lot of experience he could share...
 

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