The Cooperage at Mystic Seaport: A Woodworking Craft

There are many arts lost in the mists of time. One extraordinary skill, Coopering, however, is still alive and thriving at Mystic Seaport. Coopering is the art of creating buckets, barrels, any cask or container, exclusively from wood or metal staves. The true artist can craft one in a few days, without any adhesive. In the days of whaling ships, these valuable casks came in many different sizes to meet a variety of a ship’s needs. Of course they were designed to hold the collected whale oil, but they also were used by all ships to transport other dry goods and liquids which were crucial to the success of a long ocean voyage. While a barrel would hold approximately 30 gallons, a larger barrel – a hogshead -would hold anywhere from 50 to 63 gallons. The largest casks that were practical to transport were the tun – holding a bit more than 250 gallons and when filled with water weighing…a ton. Today, craftsmen continue the tradition and the art of coopering and it’s on display for all to see at Mystic Seaport.