Barrel Disassembly

So you have a barrel, now how do you take it apart? There are plenty of videos on this on youtube (here’s one that’s some kind of weird slideshow that gets the important things right), so I’m just going to give a quick overview that should be enough to get you going. 

Every metal hoop has at least two nails in it (I have seen three nails occasionally). The nails are typically shaped like little T’s, and are fairly short, about half an inch long. They’re usually located 90 degrees in both directions off of the bunghole. They are there so that the hoops, once in place, don’t move. They’re typically just pounded in, but sometimes will be soldered/welded (or similar). Here’s what you want to do to get them out:
  1. Using your pliers/vicegrips, try to grab the nail’s head and pull/twist it out. This will often get the nail out on its own.
  2. If you can’t get a good grip with the pliers, take your flathead screwdriver, put it on one end of the nail’s head, and tap the butt repeatedly with a hammer. This will cause the nail to spin, and should work it free of whatever obstruction was making it difficult to grab.
  3. If the nail isn’t coming out just by pulling, use the claw end of the hammer to remove it like any other nail.
  4. If you’re having difficulty getting the nail to the point where you can get the claw under it, try spinning it as in step 2, and then hammering the screwdriver (or some other wedge) under the head to force it up a bit.
  5. If all else fails, you can use a dremel with a grinding bit to grind off the hoop. You shouldn’t need to, though!
Once all the nails are off, it’s just a matter of hammering the hoops off. To do this, place the screwdriver on one of the bands, giving it a few whacks with the hammer, then move a few inches and do it again. If the barrel was recently filled it’ll usually take a few trips around before the hoop starts to move, but once it does it’ll come off pretty quickly. If the barrel has been dry a while, the hoops might fall off as soon as you remove the nails. It’s easiest to hammer down, but since there’s almost always a band at the very top and bottom of the barrel, that one will need to be hammered up.

When you have all of the hoops off, the barrel will probably just fall apart. It also might not! You may have to whack the staves with your hammer to get them to disengage from the barrel’s head. But since nothing is held on with any kind of glue (excepting some sort of wheat-based paste that’s not in any sense a real glue) you only need to overcome the natural snugness of the wood, so it shouldn’t take too much to get everything disassembled.

Now you have a giant pile of wood and metal. Up next we’ll go through what to do with it to prepare for assembly.