Retrotechtacular: Coopering Guinness Barrels by Hand

For almost exactly 200 years, the Guinness brewery in Dublin, Ireland employed extremely skilled craftsmen to shape and construct wooden casks by hand. These men were called coopers, and plying their trade required several years of apprenticeship. The cooperage was a kind of closed society as many of the positions were passed down through generations of families. With the rise of aluminium and then stainless steel barrels in the late 1950s, the master coopers of Guinness became a dying breed.

Almost every step of the coopering process shown in this film is done without any kind of precise measurement. A master cooper like [Dick Flanagan] here needs only his eyes and his practiced judgment. His barrels start out as oak planks called ‘staves’ that have been drying in racks for at least two years. A cooper selects the staves that strike his fancy and he saws off the ends. This seems to be the only part of the process where a power tool is used.

The cooper shapes each stave by hand with axe and adze so that its ends are tapered just so. Once he has shaped enough of them to make a barrel, he arranges them in a cylinder around the inside of a metal band known as a hoop. The bound staves are steamed for half an hour to make them pliable enough for shaping.

After steaming, the splayed end of the staves are bound with wire rope to pull them close enough together that a hoop can be fitted over them. The inside of the cask is then charred with burning oak shavings, a process that seals the wood and removes its acidity. After this, the ends are sanded and the bunghole is drilled.

For each barrel, the cooper crafts a custom set of hoops. These are installed after the outside of the barrel has been shaved smooth. Finally, the heads that cap each end of the cask are made from more oak staves held together with dowel rods. This is the only time the cooper uses a tool to measure anything, and he does so to achieve the proper circumference on the heads. He bevels the edges so the heads will fit into bored-out grooves in the cask walls. Once they’re seated, the keg is ready for dark, rich stout.

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Get Firefox 3 early

It’s five hours till the official release of Firefox 3. We know your hands are sweating in anticipation, waiting to click that download link and contribute to the greatest World Record known to man… What? You don’t want your browser to have all the notoriety afforded to fat twins? Well then, let’s just go grab the file now since they’re already on the mirrors.

First, pick out a mirror from the official list. Navigate to the the directory of the Firefox 3.0 release: /pub/ You’ll be greeted by a message that says, “We’re not quite ready yet!” and that “Downloading them directly can harm our ability to distribute Firefox efficiently.” Also, you won’t be in the world record count. Think about that, jerk. All releases are named using a consistent pattern. Looking at an earlier release you can determine that the Mac version of 3.0 will be named: Firefox 3.0.dmg Add on the OS and language directories and it will look like this: /pub/

You can find out more about the new release by reading Dria’s Field Guide to Firefox 3.

Beverage hacks

It’s Memorial Day in the US, so we thought we’d put together a collection of links we’ve covered in the past that might help you celebrate.

The Apu 3000 is one of the finer examples of drug use leading to carpentry. It’s a 4 gallon frozen margarita machine built out of a garbage disposal. A new garbage disposal. We don’t have the time here to speculate on what sort chemical dangers you may expose yourself to by constructing this though.

Continuing the trend of throwing horsepower at problems is the gas powered blender. It’s good for people that love a refreshing beverage while inhaling the fumes of 2-stroke engines.

We’ve covered a couple peltier based cooling projects in the past too. The first was a can cooler for the desktop. The second involved snaking a CAT5 cable across the yard to power a mug.

Back in 2005, Hackaday regular [evan] sent in his BASIC Stamp controlled kegerator. It’s very reliable and way cheaper than a commercial unit.

We’re closing on a sad note: It seems the instructions for making Guinness beersicles have fallen offline, again. From what we remember, you throw the can in the freezer till it reaches a thick slush stage. Then, release the gas so it forms a head in the can. Pierce the bottom of the can and insert the stick. Return the can to the freezer and let it freeze solid.