How to Turn an Old Whisky Barrel into a Cabinet

July 03, 2020
 / 5 mins

Completely bored? Here’s something to do.

Today, we're going to do our best to put the whisky back into the barrel, buy turning an old barrel into an awesome whisky display cabinet to show off your collection and impress your friends. Chances are you don't have a barrel sitting around the house gathering dust, but check around your local vineyards, distilleries, heck even Gumtree, you never know your luck.

You're going to need quite a few tools and a fair bit of of patience for this project. But it’s worth it. Totally. Give yourself the afternoon to work on it — maybe three to four hours. And a few drams. (We don't recommend mixing drams and powertools, seriously.)

Step 1. Gather your tools

Hand-held sanders, Sandpaper, Wire Wool, Glue, Hammer and a short piece of wood, Hacksaw, Buzz-saw, Cardboard, Plywood, Scrap wood, Danish Oil, Gas mask & goggles, Old blankets/sheets, Drill and drill bits, Measuring tape, Screws, Hinges, Damp cloth & warm water, Door Handles, Tape, Spirit level, Pencil, Sticky tape, Cling wrap,S craper, Vacuum Cleaner.

Step 2. Sand the outside of the barrel

This depends on what state your barrel is in, and if you like more of a polished or rustic look. First up, you’ll need to remove the middle two bands from the barrel. Hopefully, they'll just slide off, but you might need to give them a little tap with the hammer and the piece of wood.

Find yourself a well-ventilated area and put the barrel on an old sheet or blanket so you don’t scuff the panels.

Sand down the barrel with the course paper on the larger sander first and then use the smaller sander to do the little fiddly bits. Give it another going over with the fine sandpaper to get it silky smooth.

Tip: Rub in the same direction as the grain of the wood.

Step 3. Glue the metal bands on

Sit the barrel on one end and place the hoops around it. Use your hammer and the scrap piece of wood to tap the hoop down as far as it will go. Mark the hoop’s position using the sticky tape. Take the hoop off gently, but make sure you don’t damage the sticky tape.

Then clean the inside of the hoop with a wire brush to get any rust off the metal. Line the inside of the hoop with glue, and line the area underneath where the hoop will go back on. Read the instructions on the glue to see how long you need to let it dry.  

Do the same with the other hoop.

Step 4. Cut the door

Here’s where it gets a bit tricky. You’ll need to mark out where you’ll put the double doors with sticky tape and then use your hacksaw to cut right through the wood to the inside of the barrel. You’ll need to finish cutting the door with the jigsaw, though. Make sure you cut nice and straight, so you don’t give yourself any trouble later.

Step 5. Glue the door together

Now we need to glue the staves back together to assemble the door. Decide whether you want double doors or just the one. 

Cover the top and the bottom with sticky tape so you don’t get glue everywhere.  Lay the staves down with the inside facing upwards, squeeze a line of glue between them and press them together.

Pop an old sheet or some newspaper inside the barrel so the glue doesn’t drip through the inside. Lift the door back into the hole and make sure it’s nestled in securely. Then tie a rope around the barrel to hold the doors in place while the glue dries. Once the glue’s fully set, remove the rope and the door and use a scalpel blade and sander to get rid of any excess glue.

Step 6. Clean out the inside of the barrel

This is going to be a little messy. You might want to wear some goggles and a mask because there’ll be a bit of dust and debris flying around. Use a damp cloth to wipe out the inside of the barrel to get rid of any dust.

Step 7. Make a shelf

Decide where you want the shelf to be — so think about how big those bottles are going to be that you’ll be storing. Or maybe you want to put in a few shelves, that’s up to you. We’ll just give you instructions for the one.

Measure the diameter of the barrel and then use these measurements to cut out a piece of cardboard as a template. Then use your template to mark up and cut out the shelf. Feel free to oil or stain it.

Now we’ll need to sort out some brackets. Find a piece of wood and cut three slightly curved pieces out. Mark out where the brackets will sit — you can use a spirit level here for accuracy. Drill some holes and screw in the brackets. Drill some holes into the shelf to screw in the shelf later on.

Step 8. Attach the doors

Cut out a small indentation in both of the doors and the barrel so the door sits flush against the barrel when it’s closed.

Drill holes for the screws and then screw the hinges on the door. Make sure there’s enough room above and below the doors for them to open and close.  

Drill holes into the barrel for the screws and then screw the hinge into the barrel and do the same for the door. Now it’s time to attach the door handles. So mark out where you need the holes for the screws to be and screw the handles on.

Step 9. Put in the shelf

Before we put the shelf in, give the barrel a vacuum out and a wipe with a damp cloth. Slide the shelf in and screw it on.

For added wow factor, instal some LED lighting. Get some barstools and it will double as a table.

Now the best bit, fill it up with whisky bottles and invite your friends around and share a dram. Perfect!

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