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Sep 06

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Repurposing Barrels: Utility or Futility?

I am usually not a big fan, but here’s some stuff I’ve seen that I like. Let’ start with furniture.

Restored barrel chair and stools, c. 1465, in a recreated scene; at the archeological site of Walraversijde, near Oostende, Belgium

Ok, so I did not actually see this one, I found it doing a little online research. It looks like previous generations had the same problems we do. What to do with an old barrel? The next two photos were taken at Mount Baker Vineyards. These tables and benches, made by a friend of theirs, Andy Webster, are a more elegant option, but are they functional?

The answer is a qualified “yes”. These stools and tables look great and they provide a practical way to re-use the barrel staves. This is really the Achilles heel of re-purposing barrels, because the staves are bent. It can be hard to find a good way to re-use them.  Since the stool legs are made from the barrel staves, they are the right height for a bar. The seats are also made of those same staves, which is the problem. The edges of the seat curve up, so they only give you about twenty minutes of comfort, then your butt hurts. So they are perfect for a wine tasting bar, but not for sitting in a restaurant or in a bar for any length of time. Maybe they would be more comfortable if the stool seat was flipped, curving down?

Sorry about the blurry photo, I have shaky hands. If you look closely you can see the bunghole in the middle stool.

The tables are great, large and tall because they are made from puncheons, and thus just the right height for a standing table or desk (which is nice since the stool is so uncomfortable). The puncheon heads provide a table top with enough surface area to be practical and useful. Also, you can clearly see a cute touch in the center of this photo, the bunghole in the middle of the seat. I am told that some people refuse to use these stools. They will only sit on a stool without a hole. Apparently some people don’t like sitting on a bunghole.

A cute twist on a somewhat typical way to re-purpose a barrel stave.

Here are a couple more Andy Webster creations, a glass rack made from a barrel stave and something that looks a bit more Rube Goldberg (one of my favorite things), an ice cream maker. Andy started with an old antique cranking mechanism and canister and uses a quarter barrel for the saltwater brine. The canister is four gallons so this will make you a lot of ice cream, additionally it looks like you might be able to ride it around the neighborhood. I hope they use the horn when they do.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s an ice cream maker?

The following two images are from The Pike Place Market Cellar Winery. This picture is small, but you can also see here barrel staves on the wall. I did not think this would work but it does. Another original use for barrel staves (I have never seen it before). Here you can see them a bit better on the wall, they are painted and look really good. When I judged the 2011 Northwest Wine Summit at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel I saw this bench in the bar. I don’t like it as much as the stools, it is a more rustic look, but it did look better in person than in the photo. Something I found online, which is kind of cool, Vintage Wine Barrel Flooring by Fontenay Wood. It looks good but unfortunately uses only the heads of the barrels. Lastly, of course, there is my favorite, the Twin Barrels Burning. Maybe if you give those guys some encouragement we might see it race again. What have you seen? What have you made? And most important, what do you want to make?

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Permanent link to this article: http://winehacker.net/barrels/art-furniture-barrels/

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