How To Make A Decorative Wine Barrel

What’s old is new again

Over time, we at Paso Wine Barrels have received many compliments on the beauty and quality of workmanship shown on our Decorative Wine Barrels. These accolades are greatly appreciated. Periodically we receive requests for information on how we handle the make-over of some of the ugliest and most awful looking wine barrels you have ever seen.

Used barrel

Actually, if you are willing to take the time, have the desire and a true “I can do this” attitude, with just average ability and a few tools, you can take that crummy old wine barrel and make it look better than new. Don’t get discouraged, used wine barrels are usually pretty unsightly, but they don’t know it. And note that we had a four part series on recrafting a beat up project barrel – check it out if you want additional information (Recrafting An Old Wine Barrel).

How to do it

An important item in recrafting a wine barrel is the work stand. An empty wine barrel weighs 90 pounds, it is three feet tall and its bottom and top are between 22 and 24 inches in diameter (26 to 27 inches at its widest point), depending on your particular barrel. You don’t want it to tip over on you while working on it. It should stand about a foot and a half off the ground or whatever height is comfortable for you as a good working position.

A suggestion is concrete blocks available at most home and garden centers. They run about a dollar each and a good solid platform can be built for fewer than ten dollars. Another suggestion is a large metal wash tub placed upside down, making sure the diameter gives you about three inches extra all the way around the barrel – so approximately 30 inches in diameter will suffice.

Although it is possible, we do not suggest working on your project without it being elevated. Please keep in mind, that this is hard work and should only be done if you are handy, determined and/or have some woodworking abilities.

Partially sanded barrelThe Process – Sanding

With the barrel sitting on its stand, the process can begin. If you prefer natural color bands (hoops) now is the time to clean them up. Depending on how badly they are stained, the easiest and most efficient way to do it is with a “3M rust/paint remover wheel” attached to an electric drill, which are available at most hardware stores. If this method is not available, hand sanding with a heavy grit (80-100) sand paper should meet the necessary requirements of a clean looking hoop band.  Be sure to sand the bands in a straight horizontal direction around the barrel, not up and down.

When all the bands have been cleaned they are ready to be removed. Remember to never remove all of the bands at the same time. One band must remain below the center of the barrel and one above center at all times – preferably with nails still in them. This is very important as the hoops hold the barrel staves together at both the top and bottom. Should all of the hoops be removed, the barrel WILL come apart. It’s like a giant Rubik’s cube to try to put back together and can take days. Trust us, we learned the hard way.

Sanded wine barrelLeave the top and bottom bands on the barrel, remove the other bands. It will require the removal of the nails (usually mini-hoop nails with a head shaped like an “L” – see thumbnail pic near bottom of article). Remove them by placing a chisel or screwdriver on the edge of the “L” and give it a tap with a hammer then remove them with pliers or side cutters. If the head breaks off, use a small center punch and just drive the remainder of the nail back into the barrel, the band will then slip over the nail hole upon removal.

After detaching the bands (except top and bottom), you are ready to sand. When the hoops are removed, there will be a line where the bands have spent the last five or six years while the wood has faded around them. For your barrel to come out smooth and beautiful when stained, you must sand out all these lines. For best results a belt sander with an 80 grit belt should be used. Care should be taken while sanding to not push too hard on the area where the band lines show. Just take your time and “feather” this area into the body of the rest of the barrel. Don’t get too close to the upper and bottom bands when sanding as this portion will be done after changing the bands and turning the barrel over.

A finish sanding should be done with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the texture and grooves left by the heavier paper on the belt sander. It will take about two 8 x 10 sheets. Cut several 3 x 5 pieces, then with a glove on one hand, sand with up and down strokes staying in line with the grain of the staves. Use the ungloved hand to feel the wood until the finish becomes smooth all around the barrel. Leave about seven to ten inches from the bottom band. This will be sanded when the barrel is turned over.

An arm after sanding wine barrel

Now take the bilge band, the closest band to the center, and install it. Make sure it’s tight by using something like a large punch or a small ball peen hammer placed on the edge of the hoop which you will hit with a bigger hammer. Go around the barrel doing this until the band moves down and tightens up. Now, take three small finish nails, driving one partially in on the upper side of the band and bending the nail over. Go around the barrel doing this in at least three places – you will remove these later. When you know it’s tight you may now remove the top band and continue sanding the upper part of the barrel.  When finished, get the help of another person to carefully turn the barrel over. By the way, use a tarp underneath where you work – there will be a lot of sanded wood material every which way.

Follow the same procedure on this end as you did on the other and when finished, re-install the top hoop and remove the bilge band. Touch-up with the 220 sanding and now you’re ready for staining. Pick a stain of your choice that preferably includes a sealer. Lowes, Home Depot, Ace or most hardware and paint stores have a myriad of stain colors. To insure sealing and give it a rich tone, at least two coats are required.

Stain sealer and varathane  

At Paso Wine Barrels, we go through the same routine for staining as we do for sanding. Remove the bands (except top and bottom), stain the barrel, replace the bands, turn it over to remove the other bands, stain some more, replace the bands, turn the barrel over and finish by permanently affixing the bands.

Stained wine barrel

The next course of action is Varathane or Varnish. We at Paso Wine Barrels prefer Spar Varathane to insure a shiny and professional look. The procedure is best with two to three coats and requires moving the bands around the same as when sanding and stain sealing. An alternative to this would be to mask off the bands with masking tape and just apply the varathane between bands as the last operation when the barrel is finished.

Whether it involves sanding or staining, as the different phases evolve you will find yourself removing bands and re-installing them in order to completely cover the barrel while not removing all the bands. It may sound complicated but once you look at it and see what the barrel needs, it’s really quite simple – hard work but simple. To temporarily re-install each band as you go just use three or four small finish nails, driving them only partially in and bending them over.  Before final installation, they will be removed. Each band will be lined up evenly with the bung hole, receive a final tightening and be attached with professional hoop nails.

Finish

Hoop nails are not available in stores; however, they can be found on line at www.dwinesupplies.com or Barrel Builders in St. Helena, California at www.barrelbuilders.com. Each band will have a section where it is held together with two rivets. Use this spot to align the bands with the bung hole on the side of the barrel.

Hoop nails

Setting a hoop nail with the fingers can be painful so a safe and easy way to hold them is with needle nose pliers. The nails are shaped like an “L.” With the pliers, hold the nail on the very tip of the “L” and place the tip of the nail on the bottom of the band between the rivets using a ball peen or smooth tipped hammer. Go directly across to the other side and drive another nail. Now visually measure the distance across and split the diameter to place the other two nails directly across from each other for a total of four nails. Make sure all bands are tight before nailing. Using this procedure, continue nailing until the “top” bands are secure; then turn the barrel over and repeat the process for the remaining bands. Your beautiful natural band, stained, sealed, varathaned, recrafted wine barrel is complete.

Decorative Wine Barrels

If you prefer painted bands, simply wait until you are finished with the barrel. After at least 24 hours use a good masking tape and with newspaper mask off the entire barrel with exception of the bands. Being very careful with the wood surface directly above and below the bands, paint with your preferable color – a primer coat would be the preferred method. The painted band wine barrel project is complete.

There you have it, an almost furniture like barrel that will certainly be the talk of conversation when anyone sees this beautiful reworked wine barrel. Of course, you know where to go to find a used wine barrel – Paso Wine Barrels. Good luck!

Salootie Patootie,

Ron Hier

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http://pasowinebarrels.com/

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19 thoughts on “How To Make A Decorative Wine Barrel

  1. Daisy Adams

    I have an old barrel and would Like to keep it whole and inside the house. I brought it in side about 3 weeks or a month ago, I guess it got to dry and a few bands fell down. I assume the wood shrank and that’s why when i try to slide them back in place they just fall again. I want to sand it all down and use it as a decorative side piece inside. I’d like to keep the bands the rusty color so I will leave them unsanded I guess. My question is how do I get the bands to stay in place if I am keeping it inside? It will continue to dry out and soon all the bands will fall. I really don’t want it outside in the elements as I’d like to have it a very long time. How can i fix the fallen bands and prevent the wood from shrinking even more and eventually loosing all of them. Please any advise would be amazing. I have been trying to get one of these for some time and finally got one and want to keep it beautiful as long as possible. I have no plans on altering it in any way other than to sand it smooth and maybe seal with a laqure or such. Its just gonna sit in the corner of my bar room. I would love to make a project with it but as long as it took to find this one I would hate to mess up and not have it at all because I ruined it. How do I keep it inside and whole without it dryi g even more and ruining its self? Thank you in advance for your help
    Sincerely
    Daisy Adams
    Of western Kentucky

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    1. PasoDr Post author

      Daisy

      Remembering to never take off all the hoops bands at one time; to make the wood last, use a wood sealer after sanding the staves. If you want to keep the natural look, use clear or transparent sealers – Olympic, Sherwin Williams, Thompsons etc are brands of wood sealers. Also, there are wood oils and waxes that can be applied periodically to keep the wood from drying.

      To tighten the bands, there are special tools we use, but first after taking out the old nails in the bands, take a small ball-peen hammer and place it on the hoop band and tap it down with another larger hammer until it’s tight. Try to keep it the same distance from the top all the way around. Turn the barrel over and do the other side the same way.

      Hope this helps and thanks for the interest.

      Daryle

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  2. Meera

    I have managed to find a wine barrel with great difficulty. The barrel is very old. I thought of using some oil paint to pain on it.
    Could you please suggest how I go about it

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    1. PasoDr Post author

      Meera,
      Without going back and forth with a myriad of questions, when you chose an oil-based paint, you’ve made it easier on yourself. You might want to sand the wood to have a decent finish, but that isn’t required with oil paints. It will go on and cover over any kind of product that may be on the surface. And depending on what you’re going to use this barrel for – when you’re done painting and let it dry – eventually put some kind of wax over the surface. Hope this helped.
      Cheers,
      Daryle

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      1. Meera

        Thankyou Daryle for your quick response .Really appreciate it.Will certainly try painting and get back to you.
        Thankyou once again
        Best regards
        Meera

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  3. Jeannie Pietrobono

    Hi Daryle, what is the best way to get rid of a little mold from standing water on the top of the barrel? bleach? what is the ratio? . I am sixty and have my first barrel, sooo excited…will keep you updated on my progress.
    Thanks for your help,
    Jeannie

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    1. PasoDr Post author

      Hi Jeannie,

      Take a bucket and put some water in it and a handful of baking soda. Use a brush and you should be able to scrub the mold right off. If that doesn’t work, add a little bleach and/or something like Tide with bleach and do the same thing. Hope this helps and thanks.

      Cheers,

      Daryle

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  4. Lisa K

    I just acquired an old oak wine barrel I would like to sand down and stain. My question is this…do I have to first dry out the barrel indoors so the wood shrinks accordingly? And if so for how long before I can tackle my project. I plan on making a vanity and dropping a sink in from the top. Thanks in advance.

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    1. PasoDr Post author

      Thank you for the interest. There’s no need to dry out the barrel – it will dry out over time on its own. The more sealer and stain, the more protected the wood will be and therefore not dry out. Use plenty of additional screws – we use self-tapping – in the bands and wherever you might add an entry door. Good luck!

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  5. JordanT

    Hello!
    Love your work!

    I am purchasing a wine barrel that was recently dumped. Do I need to clean in the inside of the barrel if I only plan to stain it and put it inside as decor?

    Thanks!
    Jordan

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  6. Kelly

    HI there – I have a customer who has asked me to paint their business logo on a wine barrel. The barrel itself is in good shape (it’s been used but it is beautiful). My question is – what sort of paint should I use for hand painting the logo? Craft paint will wash off if it were to get wet, so I’m thinking house paint? Do you have any other suggestions? Thanks so much.

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    1. PasoDr Post author

      Hi Kelly,

      We don’t paint the barrels – at least not yet – however, I would suggest an acrylic latex paint and then urethane sealer to give it a longer, and nicer finish. Thanks for the interest.

      Cheers,

      Daryle

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  7. Paul Johnson

    Hi.

    I need to add a fluid to help swell the wood on my wine barrel that is used as a table outdoors in Western Australia. I was concerned that filling it with water and leaving it for a long time the water would become stagnant and smelly. Do you have any suggestions to what would be best to use long term

    Kind Regards
    Paul

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    1. PasoDr Post author

      Hi Paul,

      You can add water and some Lysol or lemon juice (or any citric acid solution) to keep the water from turning. Note: If the barrel is very dry, use hot water. You can also add Potassium Metabisufite, sometimes called SO2, to the water – wineries often use SO2 to clean or store their used barrels. As far as the outside of the barrel, you can use Linseed Oil (any wood oil would do) or like we do with the Decoratives, use a wood stain sealer and/or varathane. Hope this helps and good luck.

      Cheers,

      Daryle

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  8. Janet

    Beautiful work- thank you for the inspiration!
    What primer and what colour of paint do us use for the bands (the silver/grey looking ones).

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