How to tighten the hoops on your barrels


All the barrels that leave our cooperage have been tested for leaks, which means we fill them and leave them to sit for a few hours. However after transport there can be some problems with leaks when they arrive at our clients’ facilities – this is typically either a stave has broken in transport; the wood has dried out a little and shrunk as a result, leaving a gap between staves; temperature variations have caused the hoops to loosen, leaving the staves loose, again causing gaps. If you have a broken stave (a very rare occurence) they you really need a professional cooper to replace it. If the wood has just dried out a little, then filling the barrel for a while should rehydrate the barrel and automatically seal it again. In this post we are going to look at how you can tighten the hoops with simple improvised tools.

barrel hoop tightening
Hoop tightening with a hydraulic hoop driver

In a professional cooperage, we use a hyrdraulic-powered hoop driving machine to tighten hoops, which allows you to get the hoops tighter than is possible than doing the job manually (it also saves a lot of hard work for the long-suffering coopers!). Here you can see a new barrel being made, where initially temporary hoops are used whilst the barrel is still being shaped. Later on these hoops will be removed, the barrel sanded down and new galvanised hoops applied.

If the hoops on your barrels are a little loose, it is not that difficult to do the job yourself with basic tools. The hoops themselves are very sturdy and it is very difficult to crack the wood, so you can give them a fair whack. The technique is to use a hammer and a wedge (officially a cooper’s hammer and a hoop driver) and to tap the hoop down, constantly circiling the barrel to make sure that the downward movement is even all round.

Tightening the hoops on a barrel

Here you can see this work being done with traditional tools, but as you can see they are quite easy to improvise. Doing the work itself needs a bit of knack to do it this fast, but as long as you are constantly circling the barrel, you can take your time. Always start with the middle hoops and then go to the top ones – you will gradually see the hoops creeping down the barrel and you should also be able to see any gaps between the staves closing. When you have finished the work, you can easily sand down the barrels to remove any scuff marks if you are going to have the barrels on display.

A cooper’s hammer and hoop driver

Here you can see the traditional tools being used, but of course you can easily improvise. If you need any help with fixing barrels or any other technical issues you may be having, please contact us a Luso Barrel and we will hopefully be able to advise.

Scroll to Top