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Bourbon barrel for furniture or ornamental inside house use


Kjbarth
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I'm considering purchasing a used bourbon barrel to refinish and use as a table or floor standing cabinet/shelves. I read through the bourbon barrel related threads here to get an idea of what has been discussed before. All are old closed threads so I need to create a new thread.

 

There are 4 types of barrels that I see looking online. One is a bourbon barrel described as furniture grade, Grade A, belly bung, distillery markings but nothing specific guaranteed - about $134.99 plus $165 (yikes! gotta think about this) shipping.

The second type is also furniture grade, Grade B, lower quality than Grade A, not necessarily bourbon and may have had other uses such as beer or other spirits, may have belly and head bung holes, no distillery markings, retired barrel - $114.99 plus $165 shipping.

The third type is a freshly dumped bourbon barrel from a distillery with distillery markings on the barrel. These can vary in price from around $159 to over $400 depending on the distillery, barrels currently available that I might be interested in include Old Fitzgerald, Wild Turkey are in the $199 - $239 range. Plus $165 shipping.

The fourth type is a full disassembled barrel, 25 - 30 staves, hoops, heads, otherwise a good furniture grade (Grade A) barrel, I just need to assemble it. Distillery markings but nothing guaranteed. $139 plus $85 shipping. Could be Willett, Old Elk, or something else they don't sell a lot of.

 

A fifth option is going to a distillery near me and paying about $100 - $150 for one of their used bourbon barrels but it's not a brand name, though there is no shipping cost.

 

I kind of like the idea of purchasing a barrel with a distillery brand name I drink rather than a random barrel. But shipping cost will play a big part in decision unless I can go pick it up or get my son to pick it up for me in NE. Or maybe I need to look elsewhere.  The $165 shipping cost is not worth it for me. $85 shipping for a disassembled barrel might be worth it with the added benefit that I can refinish the hoops off the barrel. But then I need to be able to reassemble the barrel. If I can't reassemble the entire barrel, I will be forced to make the floor standing cabinet/shelves which isn't a bad thing.

 

I wouldn't be interested in using the barrel to further age whiskey - this is who the freshly dumped barrels are primarily marketed towards per the website.

 

  • Is there anything to consider when refinishing a newly dumped barrel?
  • Is there anything to consider when rebuilding and then refinishing a disassembled barrel? I'm obviously not a cooper but I've made furniture and have a very well equipped wood shop but don't have any cooper specific tools (nor do I want to purchase any).  I have plenty of hammers, chisels, and can make a wedge out of oak to pound with a hammer to move the hoops into place and hopefully not damage the staves.
  • Would I need to rinse out a newly dumped barrel once or multiple times?
  • Does it need to be allowed to fully dry out? If so, months? years?
  • How soon would it take for the alcohol evaporate from the wood?
  • If I use an oil based clear polyurethane or clear lacquer, or even a finish like Waterlox Tung Oil or boiled linseed oil, will or could the finish bubble or not adhere or soak in properly if the inside is not dry? 
  • Would I leave the inside (char side) unfinished or should I scrape or rough sand the loose char off and refinish the inside too?  Normal furniture making I would finish both sides of the wood but this is a little different. This is where a tung oil or boiled linseed oil finish that soaks into the wood might be preferable over a poly or lacquer finish.

 

Any other concerns or things I'm not thinking about? Or am I overthinking it?

 

I did read comments about screwing the hoops to the staves, either self tapping screws or SS screws. And the concerns about wood movement/shrinkage while the oak dries out. I understand that part and I really don't need air/water tight. But I need to account for it. 

 

Thank you for your help and comments while I decide if this is feasible or just a bad idea.

Ken.

 

 

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I can't help you with the refinishing questions, but you might want to ask around local stores that do picks. Nearby is a store that semi-regularly has a few barrels available from legacy distilleries, and around $100-150.

 

 

 

 

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Hopefully I can help you out a little @Kjbarth.

 

Unfortunately, I can’t help you with procuring a barrel. I got lucky getting my Old Fitz barrel. A local business owner and one of his friends went down to Kentucky and bought a whole truckload of over 100 barrels. A friend in our local bourbon and cigar group did some work for one of the guys. He let us know about the barrels for sale. Between the guys in our group, we bought a half dozen or so barrels. Original price was $135.00. Group discount price negotiated by our buddy was $115.00. 😉


When I went to choose my barrel, I was able to pick out one that was in pretty decent shape. Not a whole lot was needed to fix it up. In a nutshell, I sanded, stained and sealed the wood. There are many different products you can use. I used Minwax and Varithane to stain and seal. For the barrel hoops, I used a heavy wire brush to get as much of the rust and stains off as I could. I then used Rustoleum to paint the barrel hoops and the stainless steel screws I used to hold the hoops in place. Self tapping screws my a**. 🤬 I needed to drill holes in the hoops. Buy extra drills bits. I ended up going through a few. Same with the drill heads used to tighten the screws. I happened to have an old piece of plexiglass laying around from a previous project. As a finishing touch, I had it cut down to fit on top of my barrel. I didn’t take the protective plastic off the bottom of the plexiglass because it was a pain. 😖

 

BIba! Joe

 

 


 


 

 

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Last weekend I was able to pick up some Weller Barrels.  I found them on Facebook Marketplace.  If you are not in a hurry, it might be worth looking local

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Thanks for the tip. I contacted a couple semi-local stores that I know do barrel picks and I'm on their lists. I'll look on FB and CL, didn't think to look there.

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Not sure if it was mentioned before but check with some local Breweries. Bottle Logic out here by me does a LOT of Bourbon Barrel aging and gets Weller/BT etc and I know once a year they sell off their retired barrels that won’t offer any more character into their beers and they are graded in quality like you mentioned for furniture. Lots of breweries doing bourbon aging these days so a lot of them go to breweries. And some still look great because they were still full of liquid and never dried out

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Cheers and congrats on getting a couple of barrels  @ENYAW & @lilsweetpea. 🤗 Weller no less. 😯 BTW, love the barrel pose Diana. 😎

 

Biba! Joe

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  • 3 weeks later...

Found a barrel. And for free. My only costs were gas, tolls (not insignificant traveling from NJ to and through NYC), and time. 27 miles door to door one way, 1 hr 20 mins travel time there, about $12 in tolls, and then repeat on the way home. Was at a liquor store in Brooklyn that did a barrel pick with reddit. Its a barrel of 95/5 MGPi rye that was done for Staves & Grain (I'm not familiar with the brand). Barrel made by Kelvin Cooperage. Anyway, it's mine and now sitting in my garage so I need to figure out what I want to do and do it. This barrel was a leaker, definitely a lot of character on the barrel.

 

Oh, and picked up 2 bottles that were store picks that I ordered previously and didn't want to ship as I thought I'd get to the store eventually. Bonus, the MM store pick had a scratch off "lottery ticket" on it. I scratched the ticket in the car after loading the barrel and won a MM wax dipped rocks glass and  MM white knit hat. 

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  • 1 month later...

Seek and ye shall find.

 

Well, in this case I really wasn't seeking, they kind of just fell in my lap. Participated in 2 Elijah Craig barrel picks at 2 Brooklyn liquor stores yesterday. Store #1 had 2 empty barrels, a New Riff bourbon, and a Barrel barrel. Both came home with me yesterday afternoon.

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8 hours ago, Kjbarth said:

Seek and ye shall find.

 

Well, in this case I really wasn't seeking, they kind of just fell in my lap. Participated in 2 Elijah Craig barrel picks at 2 Brooklyn liquor stores yesterday. Store #1 had 2 empty barrels, a New Riff bourbon, and a Barrel barrel. Both came home with me yesterday afternoon.

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Nice!  👍🏻  

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