Youtube clip –  Meeting a Cooper / Wine Barrel Maker

For training options in South Africa – scroll down


What is a Cooper?

The art of coopering is an ancient skill and dates back centuries.

A Cooper is a kind of woodcrafts person who specialises in making casks or barrels for wine, brandies and other alcoholic beverages.

This particular job requires a lot of skill.

Unfortunately coopering is a dying art as a lot of modern wineries are now converting to stainless steel containers.

  • CLICK HERE for a Youtube clip of a Cooper at work.

What does a Cooper do?

  • researches and finds the appropriate woods needed
  • uses broadaxes, planes and other tools to shape the staves/slats (the long, curved pieces of wood to make the barrels)
  • heats the wood to curve it
  • cuts grooves into the staves for tight fit
  • makes the hoops to keep the staves together
  • makes sure the barrel is water-tight

Are you … ?

  • passionate about wine and working with wood?
  • good with your hands?
  • accurate?
  • patient?
  • careful?
  • strong and healthy?
  • a person who takes pride in their work?

How do I become a Cooper?

Because coopering is a dying profession – the only way to learn the trade is from an already experienced Cooper.  You would have to try and find one and then approach them to ask if they would share and teach their skills with you.  Unfortunately Coopers are very rare these days.


OTHER CAREERS TO CONSIDER:  Carpenter … or … Wine Steward/Sommelier

Is becoming a Cooper the right career choice for me?