Handcraft like 100 years ago - how a wooden barrel is made
At the beginning of the barrel production process is the wood. In our case, this is the German oak from the Northern Vosges, more precisely from the Bürgerwald in Annweiler am Trifels. Every year in winter, Markus Eder travels to the region’s timber storage yards to bid for the logs, which are apparently straight-grown and of the best quality for us.
Important factors here are factors such as the distance between the annual rings, branches, twists and much more.
Do you actually know why the oak from this region is also called “Napoleon oak”? Because it was planted at the time of Napoleon. So a tree like this is between 200 and 250 years old before it is harvested.
We are also very concerned about sustainability. That’s why for every 100 oaks felled, at least 102 new ones are planted. This means that future generations can still benefit from these trees. The Eder family also privately ensures that reforestation is carried out and that trees are planted.
Delivery of the logs
Let’s jump a little further in our timeline: we got hold of the best logs and these were transported to our sawmill in Bad Dürkheim by a special transport. Now they are cut to length and first sawn into quarters by means of a mirror cut, and then the planks for the later staves are cut from these quarters. Very important here is experience and a good eye for the wood structure. Only if the medullary rays and the annual rings are correctly positioned in the stave, it can also be used for barrel construction.
2 years later – that is how long the wood has to dry in the air – the sawn wood can finally be processed into staves. The coopers join the wood. This means that the ends of the staves must be narrower than the middle. Note: the staves are still straight. This has little to do with a round barrel.
Barrel shape and toasting
To change this, the single staves are put into a so called working hoop. A wider and a narrower stave alternate until a circle of staves is formed. Then the barrel is placed over oak wood fire. At 120°C and irrigated from the outside, oak wood becomes so pliable that it can be pulled together very slowly and carefully. Because the coopers have previously joined decently, they can install the second head ring after warming and bending. Now the barrel has its shape. What is still missing of course is the toasting, the barrel heads and the “final touch”
The former is also done again over oak wood fire. Here the parameters temperature and time play a decisive role. I quote my boss when I say “we can control via time and temperature that a piece of oak wood develops the taste of a marshmallow”. If you don’t like marshmallows: there are hundreds of other flavours from spicy to chocolaty to mocha that we can represent!
Next, the coopers mill the gargles into the wood. This is the groove into which the barrel lid is tied. And this binding is then the last technical step in the barrel construction. The next step is now the leak test. Because only if the choice of wood, sawing, joining, bending and assembling were 100% accurate, then the barrel is also tight. This is – especially for our young coopers and trainees – always an uplifting feeling when they see the proof of their work: A tight and all around good wooden barrel!
Now the barrel is still being sanded down, gets nice new tyres – also these do not come from the factory, but are classically bent and riveted over the anvil here with us – and a laser branding, which shows that the barrel was produced by the Eder company.
And because we have already personalised the toasting, we can of course do the same with your barrel. Our laser can burn on every imaginable black and white logo. This way we turn the barrels into real eye-catchers!