Introduction: Barrel Chairs

About: I'm a programmer with a keen interest in anything you can do and create with your hands.

I had an 80 years old wooden barrel which was a bit rotten and without one of it's tops so I decided to transform this barrel into two ottoman stools, each with a backrest. I used an old car tire for each chair to act as a cushion.

Materials needed:

- barrel (preferably in one piece that can be sanded directly without having to reassemble it)

- screws

- two old car tires

- rope

- foam

- wood planks

Tools needed:

- electrical sander or an electrical grinder with a sandpaper attachment (but for this you must be careful not to sand to much out of the wood and leave unaesthetic marks)

- sand paper (rough and fine)

- electrical saw

- hammer

Step 1: Cleaning and Sanding the Barrel Staves and Hoops

Because my barrel was old and in a bad condition I decided to take it apart and sand each stave individually. ( I do not recommend this unless the barrel is in a bad condition because it is very hard to put it back together). I also did this so i can round all edges of each stave.

If you decide to disassemble it, take notes which piece goes where. (I had 34 staves so I numbered them from 1 to 34)

First clean all of the barrel parts with water and a brush until all old residues are removed.

The Second part is pretty straight forward. Grab a sander and sand each stave one by one with sandpaper from rough to finer.

- pictures 1 to 3 show the initial staves

- pictures 6 to 8 show the cleaned and sanded staves

This took a while, so after 5 hours of sanding, I decided to use an electrical grinder with a sandpaper adapter. If you do this be careful when sanding so you do not sand too much out of the wood.

Third, clean the metal hoops, grind them and give them a coat of rust paint, or just paint them with clear lacquer like I did because I liked the patina that they had. (pictures 9-10)

Step 2: Making the Bottom Head and the Top Head for the Barrel

In the first picture is the original head of the barrel which I decided to keep for another project.

Trace the lid on a piece of cardboard, and get your template.

Using something like a biscuit joint make two rectangles out of wooden planks from which you can cut out the two rough lids (3rd to 9th picture). Also attach a small piece of wood to reinforce the lid.

Because I do not own a router I used an electrical grinder with a rock sander adapter until I managed to make the edges fit into the grooves of each barrel stave (10th to 13th picture).

Sand the lids and after that use a torch to slowly burn the surface of the planks so they match with the old look of the barrel (last 5 pictures)

Step 3: Assembling the Barrel

This took a while so prepare yourself with a lot patience.

Put the bottom lid, the bottom hoop and using clamps insert the staves in order until you insert them all. Clamps are used to connect the upper hoop with the staves so they do not fall off.

Tighten the bottom hoop a bit, remove the upper one and insert the upper lid, then using a hammer insert all hoops until it's all nicely fixed.

Using a drill, make wholes through each hoop (a hole every tree staves) and insert screws. I used rounded head screws.

Step 4: Making the Chairs


Make a template on the barrel using masking tape until you have your desired shape for your chairs. My template was the one in the first picture. The logic was to get two chairs, each having space for legs and a back rest.

This wasn't an exact science, I just used masking tape until I got the shapes that I had in my head.

Using an electrical saw cut through a stave until the saw gets to the other side, follow the masking tape until you cut the barrel all the way around.

You do not need to reinforce the inside of the chairs, because the staves are already fixed in place with screws and hoops. Also the car tire inserted into the chair (next step) will add an outer pressure thus the chair will not implode.

Voila, now you have two chairs. Use a sandpaper to sand and round the edges.

Burn the edges of the chairs to match them with the overall look. (pictures 12, 13).


For the polish I used a mixture of beeswax and olive oil.

- 2 parts beeswax

- 1 part olive

How to prepare it:

Put the 2 parts of beeswax into a pot over another pot with boiling water until you slowly melt it. Stop the heat, add 1 part of olive oil and stir everything until it cools down.

Dip a cloth into the polish and rub both chairs, than grab another cloth and shine it. Leave it for 1 day so the wood takes in the beeswax and the olive oil.

Repeat the process again one or two times.

I did this 3 times to treat the wood because it was very old and dry.

In the last picture you can see the right treated chair and the left untreated chair.

Step 5: Making the Cushion

For this part i used a bad car tire, some rope, a 10mm drill and a round file. Make sure that the car tire fits into the chair.

Drill wholes through the tire (every 7 centimeters) . This is a bit hard because the tire has a layer of steel wires. Using the rounded file remove any remaining steel wires from each whole.

My tire was dirty and full of tarmac so i washed it.

Insert the rope through the wholes and tighten it. I did three layers of rope: one vertical, one horizontal and one diagonally.

Use a piece of foam and cut it to shape. Put it over the treads and envelop everything in your desired material. I didn't bother to make a bag, I just wrapped two old carpets over the tire and inserted everything in the chairs.

If the tire fits precisely it doesn't matter that there is a space between the tire and the bottom of the chair.

Repeat for the second chair.

Step 6: The End