Barrel Chair




Introduction: Barrel Chair

Ever wondered what to do with your old whiskey barrels? Maybe not, but if you're lucky enough to stumble upon one, it's a golden opportunity to accomplish some unique woodworking. This project isn't fast, and it isn't easy, but with some serious sweat and outdoor work you'll have an absolutely rugged chair to sit back in.


    • One Barrel
    • Two 48"Dowel Rods
    • Two 3/8" dia. bolt
    • Twelve 1/4" dia. bolt
    • Four Screws
    • Wood Glue
    • Spar urethane
    • Clear Gloss Enamel
    • Four Rubber Bumpers


    • Table Saw
    • Hand Saw
    • Drill Press
    • Hand Drill
    • Hammer
    • Chisel
    • Philips Screw Driver
    • Wrench
    • Paint Brush
    • 2 Bar Clamps
    • Sander
    • Bench Vice
    • Square
    • Tape Measure
    • Wire Brush

    Step 1: A Few Things to Know

    There are 3 irregularities in a barrel stave

    1. The inner charred face is narrower than the outer face. As a result, its sides are slightly beveled out.
    2. The middle of the barrel stave is wider than the far sides.
    3. The entire barrel stave has a curve radius

    Step 2: Take Apart the Barrel

    1. Gently turn the barrel on its side
    2. Tap the steel bands off with a hammer
    3. Remove steel rivets from the bands using a drill press, hammer, and chisel

    Step 3: Choose the Right Parts

    8 barrel staves.

    • 4 for the legs - approx. 1.75" wide.
    • 2 for the cross pieces - approx. 1.5" wide
    • 2 for the back rest - approx. 1.5" wide

    1 wood end cap

    3 steel bands

    • 2 for the back rest - Use the end bands as these have a slight bevel
    • 1 for the leg braces - Use a middle band as they are the most strait


    • Staves of similar thickness form better joints

    Step 4: Build the Legs

    The legs are formed using 2 lap joints. Each lap joint is reinforced with 2 wood dowels.

    1. Trim off the top 2" of the stave at a 50 deg. angle
    2. Cut parallel saw kerfs for 2". The depth of each kerf should be 1/2 the thickness of the stave
    3. Chisel off the cut wood to reveal the lap
    4. With the laps temporarily clamped together drill 2 holes for the dowels
    5. Apply glue and hammer in the dowels


    • All cuts must be made at the same angle
    • Both legs must be the same height
    • Chisel the laps as flat as possible

    Step 5: Build the Cross Pieces

    2 cross pieces are cut and joined to the legs via 4 mortise and tenon joints.

    1. Trim both ends of each stave to form 22" long cross pieces
    2. Cut parallel saw kerfs for 2" on each side of each cross piece. Choose a depth that suits you, but keep it consistent.
    3. Chisel off the wood on each side to reveal a tenon
    4. Outline the size of each mortise on each chair leg. The front cross piece should be approx. 1" higher than the back
    5. Drill as many holes as possible inside each outline.
    6. Chisel out the outline to form the mortise
    7. Drill a hole in the side of the tenon
    8. Saw a kerf from the tip of the tenon to the drilled hole
    9. Hammer the joints in place with glue
    10. Hammer a wedge into the saw kerf


    • Make sure you tenon is flat
    • The joint cannot be loose. If it is loose, the wood will split when you hammer in the wedge
    • With the joint in place, the legs should be 18" apart from eachother

    Step 6: Cut the Seat

    1. Using a table saw cut your barrel top into 5 strips approx. 3" wide.
    2. Trim the front of each piece so that the seat is 17"-18" at its longest point

    Step 7: Build the Back Rest

    The backrest is made by joining barrel staves to the seat via mortise and tenon joints.

    1. Cut the 2 barrel staves in half for a total of 4 pieces
    2. Trim each piece to be 16" in length
    3. Using a table saw trim parallel saw kerfs for 2" . The kerfs should be cut at a 15 deg. angle
    4. Chisel off the cut ends to reveal the tenon
    5. Outline the front of each mortise on each seat slat
    6. Drill as many holes inside the outline as possible. Orient the drill to 15 deg.
    7. Chisel out the drilled outline to reveal a mortise
    8. Drill a hole in the side of the tenon
    9. Saw a kerf from the tip of the tenon to the hole
    10. Hammer the joints in place with glue
    11. Hammer the wedge into the saw kerf


    • The back rest sits at a 15 deg. angle, this effects the angle at which the mortise and tenon are cut.
    • Because these kerfs were cut on the flat end, I can use a table saw.

    Step 8: Install the Seat

    1. Drill 4 holes in each slat. 2 holes in the front, 2 in the back
    2. Apply wood glue
    3. Hammer one dowel into each hole


    • Each hole in the slat must line up perfectly with the corresponding hole in the cross piece
    • To keep the slat from sliding, have someone hold it down while you drill

    Step 9: Trim the Wood

    Trim all joints to preference.

    Step 10: Fit the Steel Back Rests

    1. Holding the steel bands up to the chair mark where holes will be drilled in the wood
    2. Drill the holes in the wood
    3. Loosely bolt the steel in place, bend if necessary

    Step 11: Fit the Steel Leg Braces

    1. Cut four 9" pieces from the strait steel band
    2. Hammer each band into a quarter-circle
    3. Drill a hole each end of every band
    4. Line the band up in each leg, marking where a hole should be drilled in the wood
    5. Drill one hole in each leg

    Step 12: Brush the Steel

    Remove all rust with a wire brush

    Step 13: Sand and Paint the Wood

    1. Sand the wood
    2. Apply spar urethane

    Step 14: Paint the Steel

    Coat the steel in a gloss enamel to prevent rust

    Step 15: Assemble

    1. Put the bolts in finger-tight
    2. Pre-drill 4 holes in the cross pieces, one for each wood screw
    3. Screw in the wood screws
    4. Tighten the bolts
    5. Hand screw rubber bumpers to the feet

    Step 16: Conclusion

    The chair turned out a little heavy, but definitely sturdy. It is comfortable, and without armrests is best suited as a table chair.

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      2 years ago

      I love that you upcyled a product into something new. This chair will look awesome in a study.


      2 years ago

      Absolutely stunning! What a beautiful chair!


      2 years ago

      This is an impressive transformation - and I really like it the result!