Sunday, 24 February 2013

Put this on your bucket list

Yesterday a very well kitted out Land Rover and trailer arrived at the workshop. And steering this Pommy mothership was sixth generation Cooper, George Smithwick of Beveridge Coopers,  ready to begin the Coopered Bucket Course. 

The Landy and trailer was laden with Georges tools of his trade, from shave horses to bick irons and everything in between.

A quick coffee later saw the workshop set up and ready for the impending arrival of our first group of aspiring bucket makers.

The day saw the 6 of us fixated while George first ran through the making of a traditional barrel ( the example barrel being one made by his Dad ) and associated tools. He then made a bucket in quick order as a demonstration. 

Then it was our turn. Firstly staves were backed off ready for the temporary hoops, staves were evened up and the 'croze' or rebate cut in the inside of the bottom of the bucket with a croze plane. Dividers determined the head ( bottom of the bucket or barrel ) size which was roughed out on the bandsaw before being chamfered to fit the croze. 

A tin cup of Linseed meal was then mixed up and applied to the croze before the head was popped into place. 

Three flat iron straps were cut to length and peened on a Cooper's bick iron ( essentially a tall narrow anvil ) into the round. The outside of the staves were then shaved round in between each of the hoops being measured to size, hand riveted and fitted to the bucket.

A couple of hoop dogs driven under the hoops and a length of rope spliced through the long staves finished the job, but for one final touch. A decent slosh of water into the bottom to check for leaks. All five passed with flying colours, without so much as a leak.

                                          Five happy bucket makers!........and George!

Here's a few examples of various coopered vessels bought along by George, including an Oak bucket made by his Grandfather. Beautiful.

This little tankard is one of a hundred George made for a trip to the UK a number of years ago. It's pitch lined.

This little cider cask is a work of art. The raised section is integral to that stave. 

Given that I was as much of a novice as the next person, I didn't get a chance to make a bucket of my own, but George was kind enough to leave me with the parts for one and the loan of a bick iron too. So today I shot down to the workshop and made my own. 

And to my immense amusement ( and pride ) it didn't leak either! I even spliced my first rope handle. 

The good  great news is that we will be running another coopered bucket course in the coming months, so please register your interest as soon as possible, as this course just gone, booked out in no time. George and I are also working on probably the most unique woodworking workshop offered here in Australia. So stay tuned for more on that soon......

And for those as intrigued by coopering as me, take a look at this little gem.

It goes for a while, but it's well worth the time.



  1. Lovely stuff!
    I may use the tankard as inspiration for a commissioned pub sign I'm carving. Shame not to meet the maker when he was in the UK.
    Just came across your blog and enjoying looking through. Keep up the good work Glenn.


  2. Thanks Alistair, it was a great day and I'm looking forward to the next one.