Coopering is the traditional craft of making buckets, barrels, baths and all forms of storage containers. Copperage was a huge trade in the late 1800's and in the early part of the 20th century. The coopers not only to served brewers but most dry goods were transported around the globe in coopered containers. Even some wet goods - ask the late Admiral Nelson.
In England the last brewer's cooperage closed in October 2009. There are several coopers alive and well in the US and we want to continue to inspire our students to learn and keep alive this traditional craft.
In this class we teach the basic techniques of coopering and these can be learnt by anyone. No prior woodworking experience is needed.
This class is taught by Steve Habersetzer. Steve is the everyman woodworker. One of Steve's first jobs was making traditional coopered buckets in an unheated shack somewhere in Eastern Washington.
In this two day class you'll make a bucket from red cedar that we get from shingle makers in the southern part of Washington State or from other old growth wood salvaged from old buildings. The first growth cedar splits like a dream and we'll demonstrate, and you'll get a chance to try it. You’ll split staves from a cedar bolt using a froe and shape them with a hand axe. This is easier than it sounds!
In some cases you'll make the staves from sawn boards. Whether working from split blanks or sawn blanks you'll shape them with a hatcher and then you’ll then learn how to bevel the staves on a cooper’s plane.
After rough assembling the bucket you’ll measure the length and make the iron bands – hammering them to flare them out to fit.
After cleaning the inside of the bucket with a scorp you’ll make a base for the bucket out of sugar pine using a bandsaw and handplane. Then you’ll fit the base and hammer on the iron bands to complete the bucket.
We've extended this course from previous versions so that everybody gets to make a bucket and take it home.
We'll look in more depth at coopering tools and how to make them. We'll show you how to make a full size Cooper's plane and we'll look how you can repurpose larger handplanes to make smaller coopered parts.
More advanced students may be able to make simple but useful cooper's tools as well:
- A croze - the cooper's tool for making the notch on the inner edge of the barrel or bucket
- A cooper's gauge for making the staves fit
All tools for the class are provided. We recommend bringing a digital camera to record the steps to make the bucket.
More about this class
There are no pre-requisites for this class. Welcome folks new to woodworking to take this class. Some of the tools and techniques listed in the class description may sound daunting but they are simple to learn and fun to do. This is one of those classes where everybody helps out everybody else. We've had grannies to teens take the class!
Class Information and Registration
Class starts at 9:00am on the first day.
Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the School.
Please also read our Registration Policy.
When you click on the Register link you will be able to register for the class or, if the class is full, sign up for the wait list.