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How were barrels made at Mount Vernon?

How were buckets and barrels handmade in the late 1700s? Marshall Scheetz, a colonial cooper or barrel maker, demonstrates the era’s tools and traditional building methods in this how-it’s-made video from President George Washington‘s historic Mount Vernon residence.

Watch how Scheetz shapes the wood staves and then stacks them expertly into an iron barrel hoop to make the coopered vessel watertight. He explains:

“Think of each stave as like a keystone, an arch. If one stave were to be taken out, the entire structure would collapse, but while they’re all inside of the hoop, the hoop’s keeping them from falling out. The staves, because of how they’re shaped, prevent the cask from collapsing inwards.”

fitting the bucket together
In the video below, Scheetz demonstrates how the iron barrel hoop is bent and riveted into a circle that helps the barrel, cask, or bucket hold its shape.


Take a closer look at an authentic colonial iron barrel band, an artifact that was found on the property. At Mount Vernon, barrels would have many uses, including herring preservation and shipping whiskey from the estate’s distillery.

Follow Mount Vernon and Marshall Scheetz on Instagram:

Then watch these related videos next:
• An 18th-century No-Nails Survival Shelter
Green wood spoon carving
• Weaving on Mount Vernon’s 18th Century Loom
• Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

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