These words, emblazoned on the banner of the Trade Guild of the Coopers symbolizes the close link between the cooper and the Oak. The making of barrels is one of the most intricate of all wood crafts. The cooper rarely used written measurements or patterns and one of the secrets of his trade was knowing the number and size of the staves needed to make a barrel of a particular capacity. His skill was essential in shaping accurately these staves so as to give a watertight fit. The manufacture of the barrel started in the woods. Oak trees about 200 years old were felled and cut into the approximate lengths needed for the staves. These logs were then split lengthways into quarters and then further split along the radii of the trunk. The staves were roughly shaped and then stacked in the open to dry out and season. In the 17th century rough staves were exported from the Oak woods of the south west to cask the wines of France and Spain. Indeed, the ship's carpenters were often employed in making barrels on the outward voyages.
Once dried, the staves were shaped by clamping them in the cooper's horse and shaving them with a series of draw knives. Staves must be wider in the middle than at the top and bottom and this required taper was obtained with a broad - bladed side axe.

To assemble the barrel, the cooper took a single trussing hoop, and set up the staves one by one inside the hoop. This demanded great delicacy of touch to prevent the staves from collapsing. A larger hoop was then forced down over the staves locking them together. The barrel at this stage looked liked a truncated cone.

Trussing up is the process by which the staves are bent into the barrel shape. By moistening the staves with water and inverting the cask over a fire of wood shavings, the fibres of wood were softened. This enabled the staves to be bent into shape, either by beating progressively smaller and smaller hoops over the staves or by drawing the staves together using a rope and tackle. The final trussing hoops could then be slipped over the staves.
The head of the barrel consisted of three or more pieces of Oak held together by dowel pegs and the joints caulked with dry rushes. After shaping, the head was inserted into a groove, known as the croze, cut into the barrel end with a special plane. Loosening the end hoop allowed sufficient play to ease the head into place. The end hoop was then driven back into place to form a water tight seal.


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