The Care & Feeding of Your Cooperage
Follow these simple guidelines to ensure the longevity of your cooperage:
A rule of thumb for wet cooperage is: once wet always wet. You may store your vessel filled with water indefinitely. Simply change the water monthly and add a teaspoon of bleach or baking soda to the water to ensure the wood remains sweet.
If you do not have facility for keeping your cooperage wet, at least keep it damp by storing it in a cool, damp place (basements or showers are great), fill with water weekly and allow to sit for the day and then dump the water.
Do not store your cooperage outside in freezing temperatures since the wood will expand and may crack.
If storing a vessel outside during warm weather do not allow to remain on the ground for a long period of time, since this will encourage wood lice and other critters to feast on your cooperage.
If your vessel has stood empty and dry the staves and pieced bottoms may be loose and the vessel more like a colander than a watertight vessel. One way to season it is to simply place the vessel in a large heavy-duty garbage bag, fill both the vessel and the bag with water in full sun, close up the bag and allow to sit for 24 hours.
This will create an atmosphere in which the wood can again absorb water and ensure the vessel is watertight. Wood is porous, so to ensure a food vessel does not become contaminated with detergents. We recommend you use one vessel for detergent wash water and one for potable water.
Iron hoops will naturally rust. If you wish to maintain some preventative measures, use any food safe oil on the hoops such as tung oil or vegetable oil.
Do not paraffin or in any manner attempt to seal the wood of your cooperage. This will destroy the wood's natural ability to absorb moisture and thereby keep the cooperage tight.
If you own wood hooped cooperage you must always keep the vessel wet or damp, or the hoops, over time, will burst.
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