Cooperage History

Cooperage products were known in the most ancient times, but they have been used rather limited. It is assumed that the coopers manufactured mostly large barrels, in which oil, wine and water were transported and stored. However, more or less concrete written evidence mentioning cooperage utensils refer only to the I-II centuries BC. Remains of cooperage products were found during excavations of Staraya Ladoga settlement in the cultural layers belonging to the V-VIII centuries. Only after archaeological excavations of ancient Novgorod and Chernigov, we could judge about a high level of cooperage craft development in Russia in the X-XV centuries. The products of that period were reconstructed based on the found cooperage items: hoops, staves and headings. After the reconstruction, it became clear that our ancestors enjoyed all the main types of cooperage utensils, which were widely used in all subsequent centuries.

Ancient craftsmen perfectly mastered the art of making barrels, tubs, buckets, milk buckets, vats, sauna bowls, wash-tubs, jugs, mugs and glasses. Many of these cooperage products have survived without significant changes. The design and shape of the wooden utensils found in the ancient times, proved surprisingly tenacious due to its simplicity, rationality and practicality.

The cooper or, in other words, the hooper, bushel maker is an ancient profession; it is a craftsman who makes barrels, tubs or other hooped or banded products.

From ancient times to the present day, we prefer to use wood in the design of our homes and everyday life. It's nice to live in an apartment or a house filled with the smell of wood. Looking at the wooden tubs, buckets, barrels, fonts, vats and smaller things, used in the kitchen, our hearts get filled with joy and warmth. These products have a perfect form, refined by the craftsmen for centuries. Reliability and convenience of cooperage products is defined by their structure; streamline shape adds some imagery and, with the apparent similarity, the uniqueness to each product. Even new works embody the memory of centuries. Casks evoke associations with the romantic times when their "ancestors" were attached to the top of the mast of an ancient sailing ship, and were meant for lookout men.

The barrel is the base and mother of all cooperage products, its staves and hoops look more as a decoration of the product than as its fasteners. Harmony of such products is provided due to their construction which optimally distributes the volume and weight in the barrel.

There are some things in our life which we can replace with something else, but we’d rather not. Such replacement will bring neither the desired effect, nor the correct result, or personal satisfaction. Take, for example, a tub – a useful thing in the household and no miraculous innovations of technology and progress can replace it. You can use it for pickling or place it in the “banya” (Russian sauna), and in oak barrels you can store all types of drinks!

Barrels are made practically everywhere in the world. It is a hard hand work. And each barrel is unique as it is. Therefore, it is a fair assumption to say that cooper’s craft is a work of art!

The secrets of cooperage skills have not been lost and are handed down to the next generations. There have always been and will always be the demand for such products. They are bought for cafes and restaurants, baths and saunas, by wine-makers and ordinary people who value environmentally friendly and natural products to use them as intended or just to decorate the interior.