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Tillers International Coopering Class — Piggin Or Bucket Making

Tillers International is a non-profit organization set up to aid international rural development and to teach the skills required in a number of fields, such as farming techniques, blacksmithing, coopering, timber framing, woodworking, cheesemaking and many others. In this video we see students participating in a coopering class, where they each learn to make a small bucket, called a piggin.

The video begins with one of the students planing the edges of a stave using an upside-down Stanley-type jointing plane which is held in a jig. Another student is using a hoop driver and hammer to position the steel hoops for a piggin. The hoop driver is similar in appearance to a chisel, but is dull and has no cutting edge. The hoops compress the staves together and add strength to the piggin overall. Once liquid is put into it the wood of the staves will swell slightly and help to make the bucket watertight.

Once the hoops are on tight and in the correct position, the ends of the stave are hit into alignment using a wooden mallet and the whole structure is trued up for the next step.

In the next scene a student is using a tenon saw to true up the ends of the staves on his piggin, before a croze is used to cut the groove for the bottom to sit into. A pair of calipers are then used to measure the diameter of the bottom cut, and a piece of wood is then marked out, cut and shaped on a shave horse. A draw knife is used to do the shaping of the bottom piece, which is chamfered along the edge. The thickness of the chamfering is then measured to make sure that it will fit snuggly in the piggin. The bottom hoop is then taken off, ready for the fitting of the base. Once the base has been fitted the hoop will be driven back on to the piggin and the staves will lock it into place. It should be noted that the base is pushed into position from the top of the piggin down, rather than from the bottom of the piggin up as it's just easier to do it that way on this particular vessel. If it were a cask then both ends would have to be seated independently.

Once assembled, an inshave or scorp is used to smooth the inside of the piggin, and then a spokeshave is used for the outside. The working cooper of days past had a variety of traditional tools for this sort of work, including downrights, pluckers, swifts and inshaves.

Next up we're shown how the steel hoops are made. First the rivet holes are marked at one end of the steel strapping. about 1-1/4" apart. Then the circumference of the piggin is measured using a length of wire which is then used to measure the length of strapping needed for the hoop. The steel strapping is cut about 3/8" over this measurement. The first rivet hole is punched out and reamed, then the steel strapping is hammered along one edge only so that it will stretch or dish it out. After punching a hole in the other end of the strap to correspond with the first rivet hole, a steel rivet is inserted through both hole and hammered and peined over to form the hoop. The hole for the second rivet is then punched through both layers and cleaned up, before another rivet is inserted through the hole, hammered and peined over.

Once the steel hoop has been made the only thing left to do is to drive it on to the piggin with the hoop driver and hammer, do a little cleaning up and the work is complete.

For more information on Tillers International or to find out about the range of different classes they offer, check out their website at www.tillersinternational.org.

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6 Responses to Tillers International Coopering Class — Piggin Or Bucket Making

  1. TillersInternational on December 14, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    This process will work for most sizes of casks:
    -Quarter sawn lumber, rough cut stave blanks. Length and width of blanks based on your casks.
    -Make a template of the average stave size, trace the outline on the stave blank.
    -Dress the staves on the shaving horse using the draw and hollowing knives. Rough cut bevel with side ax or use shaving horse and drawknife to cut side bevels.
    -Use a clapper gauge, join the edge of the stave. See Foxfire bk 3 for directions.
    -Raise cask, see video.

  2. dawg1157 on December 14, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    Outstanding video. Thank You!

    My question is if you were building a larger barrel would you follow much the same process as the barrel you constructed?

  3. TillersInternational on December 14, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Thanks mtforge! Glad you enjoyed your class. We’re also offering Coopering Butter Churns and Coopering Barrels now.

  4. grabazztcksnotball on December 14, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    great info the audio sucks a lough

  5. mtforge on December 14, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    I’ve taken this class before and highly recommend it. They also have a class before this to make your own coppering tools.

  6. Katrina Kaif photos on August 7, 2013 at 10:44 am

    I blog often and I really thank you for your information. This great article has truly peaked my interest. I am going to bookmark your site and keep checking for new details about once per week. I opted in for your RSS feed too.

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