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Blog entry by stefang posted 01-15-2011 03:57 PM 6302 reads 10 times favorited 35 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I am glad to see that there are many others besides myself who are interested in ancient woodworking. In this first blog of the series I will suggest how the group can communicate and function efficiently , timing for completion of the various steps, What materials can be used and alternative methods for those of you who are mainly interested in the finished bucket and/or just don’t have the time to make or use the shop made tools.

The idea and background is laid out in my last blog here Here once again is what we are making.


As mentioned before I hope as many as possible will make their own main tools for this project, but I want to allay any fears about either the tools or the materials. With that in mind alternatives and philosophy are covered below.

Personally, I don’t want to be TOO obsessive about using ONLY the ancient type of tools. For example I plan to use my cordless drill for making holes and my Stanley handplane for angling the edges of the stave’s and also to round the convex surface on the outside of the stave’s. I also plan to use machine made dowels and shape them by hand or chuck them in my drill and sandpaper them to shape. I will also use any other tools not specifically mentioned.

I plan to make the tools below with the help of my machine tools. They can be made with a bandsaw or a tablesaw or your machine of choice.


From some of the comments, it is clear that some are worried about the tools part, so I have some alternatives for those folks.You can make this authentic bucket with your machine tools if you wish. That said, I won’t be giving any details on how to use your machines. This is just to avoid confusion and to keep my own workload at a reasonable level.

1. Stave’s have to be concave on the inside. This work can be done on your tablesaw using the ‘cove’ cutting method. Info about this method can be found by searching the net or maybe your old woodworking books. This eliminates the need for the shopmade handplane with the rounded bottom.

2. The dado (groove) which holds the bottom in place can probably be done with a router, but you will need to construct a curved jig for this to match the concave inside shape of the stave’s in order to insure an even depth of cut. You may have a better way I haven’t thought of.

3. The binding lever has to be made as it is necessary to force the rather tight bindings over and around the bucket. I will be providing a plan for this tool, which is very simple and quick to make.

4. the outside of the stave’s have to be shaped convex to match the inside concave shape. A handplane or spoke shave is ideal for this job, but it could also be done with a power sander for example.

You will likely need the following:

1. Flat handplane for the ‘cooper’ angles on the stave’s, alternatively your tablesaw with blade tilted to the correct angle(s).
2. A handrill, electric or not for the dowel holes
3. Marking pencil to mark out the position of dowels, etc.
4. A compass to draw a circle of the circumference of the bucket and the circumference of the bottom.
5. A ruler to draw radii from the center of the bucket circumference.

There were also some concerns about getting the materials needed for this project. Don’t worry! You can use just about any wood you want. However, in the old days the wood was carefully selected and/or treated to suit their intended purpose. The main criteria were, perhaps in order of importance; availability, wood that would not impart a taste to the contents, easy to work with, long life and low weight to strength ratio.

Actually just about any type of wood is ok if you won’t be consuming any of the contents from the bucket. So just to keep it simple let us just assume here that you won’t be. You can use for example: Pine, fir, oak, alder, beech, elm, ash and, well you get the idea. If you want to drink or eat from it let me know and I will advise you the best choices and/or how to treat easy to get wood to eliminate problems.

I will set up a fixed amount of time for each step in the tutorial blogs. Many will have time constraints and/or health problems to contend with, so I will try to make a schedule that is roomy for comfort, but short enough to keep things rolling along smoothly. Here is my suggestion for the various steps.

1. Acquire the materials, including for making tools (buy, beg, or steal). – 1 week

2. Make the rounded bottom handplane – 1 week

3. Make the lagging knife and the binding lever – 1 week

4. Cut up the bottom material to final lengths and cut to circumference finish smooth planing and/or sanding. Drill dowel holes and put together with dowels. Cut up the stave material into long lengths and plane the insides concave on the inside. Cut the stave’s into their final lengths and then cut the dado at the bottom of each stave. plane, or saw the ‘cooper’ angles on all the stave’s sides. Mark and drill the dowel holes in the stave’s. Prepare the dowels and and use them to assemble the bucket using a steel band to hold the stave’s in place 1 week

5. Prepare the band for the handle and bend it so it sits inside the assembled bucket. Scrape off the bark on the bindings material, split them into two halves, scrape out the dark pith in the center of each half. cut the hacks in each end of the bindings and make the other necessary cuts. Make extra bindings in case replacements are needed and leave these in water. Install the bands with the binding lever. This takes some patience and time, especially without an experienced instructor. Install the handle – 1 week

6. You may want to decorate the finished bucket with a traditional pattern. I will come with some suggestions for appropriate patterns

Although 5 weeks are set aside this project normally takes about 30 hours or so of actual work.

Each step of the work will be covered by a blog giving material quantities, dimensions, work methods, etc. The above is just to put you in the frame and to get your thoughts on how appropriate the suggested time plan is.
I hate blogs without photos, so I will be posting my own work as we go, plus supplementary drawings where needed covering the how to.

I think it would be best if every participant blogs his own intermediate results and frustrations too if he wishes. Questions for me or the other members could either be postd own on their blog, my blog or by PM. The important thing is that we are in touch with each other the whole time to enjoy the experience together and share concerns, successes and failures. The best way to do that is probably for the participants to buddy-up so that we will get email notifications when posts are made to insure we don’t miss anything. This could best be done as follows:

1. I’ll compile a list of all the known participants and post them. Then it is up to you to buddy up or not.

2. It would help if we use the blog name ’MAKING AN ANCIENT BUCKET- LJ NAME OF BLOGGER’

I hope this rather long and boring blog covers the admin stuff and gives you a rough idea of what’s involved. I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on the proposed time-plan or anything else you want to discuss.

I will do my best to make the future blogs more picturesque and less wordy, although I had thought to have a fixed section to add some historical background. That part can be ignored if you are not interested.

Thanks for reading. Now you can go and take a nap.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

35 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4937 days

#1 posted 01-15-2011 04:23 PM

an excellent plan for your bucket-making class.
I can’t wait to watch the progress.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Bluebear's profile


417 posts in 3673 days

#2 posted 01-15-2011 04:30 PM

i dont have experience making a plane, nor building a bucket so i’ll leave it up to you to set and adjust the timeline :)
i would like the bucket to be as authentic to history and legend as possible. even though there might not be porridge in it after it’s finished… i have a lot of oak at hand, can that be used? otherwise i’ll have to buy, beg or steal, hahahah!

-- -- It's only a mistake if you can't fix it.

View stefang's profile


17039 posts in 4110 days

#3 posted 01-15-2011 04:39 PM

Flemming Oak is fine and was one of the woods used traditionally. So It will be beautiful, but very heavy.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3885 days

#4 posted 01-15-2011 05:09 PM

Nice timeline and well thought out Mike. This is a project I will do. I might not keep up, but I will eventually join you all at the finish line.

Do you have a recommended materials list for the tools? Will there be any step by steps or plans for their manufacturer or will the blog be geared solely around the bucket itself?

The project is coming at a good time because I have been checking ebay for compass planes and this wooden one would fit the bill for many uses.

Thanks for putting this together Mike.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3643 days

#5 posted 01-15-2011 05:23 PM

I’ll say this, Mike. You sure do have a way of making joining into something like this to be very tempting. :)

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View stefang's profile


17039 posts in 4110 days

#6 posted 01-15-2011 05:59 PM

Debbie glad you like the idea.

David I’m glad you’re interested and you can just do the project the way that’s best for you.This whole thing is just for fun and pressurizing folks and dictating would just ruin the whole project. Those who keep to the time plan will and those who don’t won’t. No problem as long as we have enough folks hanging with to keep a good dialog going and some visible results.

Helluvawreck I can see you really want to be with, but you are finding it difficult to change your priorities. That’s understandable. I had the same problem myself. Nobody will fault you for not being with on this round. You can always do it later if you wish, and I would think most of the others who participated this time including myself will be happy to help you out if you undertake it alone in the future.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3891 days

#7 posted 01-15-2011 06:12 PM

great blog Mike
I will follow the toturials to see this but proppbly on the side line even thow you make it tempting
do to work schedule :-(
but its bookmarked for a later use :-)

take care

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4275 posts in 3941 days

#8 posted 01-15-2011 06:35 PM

I am still in….......I may dedicate a particular time period each week for it, that will make it work for me. I don’t think I will buddy up, I am way too erratic, mostly due to my work schedule. Also will be on vacation for one week, so that may set me back.


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Servelan's profile


39 posts in 3557 days

#9 posted 01-15-2011 06:36 PM

Ancient woodworkers had a lot of the same tools we use – check out the Mastermyr toolbox: adzes, chisels, drawknives, auger bits, draw plates, hammers…I wager most of the tools in the box are very recognizable to a modern woodworker, and an ancient woodworker would recognize most of the tools in our workshops.

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1596 posts in 4341 days

#10 posted 01-15-2011 07:34 PM

Mike I wish I could participate in this, sounds like a lot of fun. I’m currently in the middle of a project with another lined up. Definitely follow along though…

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 3883 days

#11 posted 01-15-2011 08:12 PM

Mike, This is a great idea. I can’t participate in the build right now, but you can bet I will follow along. BTW your drawings are very good.

View mafe's profile


12592 posts in 3865 days

#12 posted 01-15-2011 08:28 PM

Hi Mike,
I’m in, no doubt, and I want to go the full hand tools way, I will like to even make hand planes, a handmade drill, and so, just for the challange… I will pretend I am the cave man I sometimes feel like. (If I can’t I think I have a plabe or two to back me up). Perhaps try several ways. I can’t wait. For me it will be the health, but since we have a open time line, I have no worry, I can work a little here and there, and then I will keep up I’m sure.
I will be really happy if you also tell about the history part, this is for me always such a pleasure.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View Roz's profile


1707 posts in 4563 days

#13 posted 01-15-2011 08:41 PM

Very interesting topic. It reminds me of a trip I made two years ago to burbon whiskey country. One of the highlights of my trip was the few minutes I had to look around a small factory making oak barrels. Much of it done by hand.

-- Terry Roswell, L.A. (Lower Alabama) "Life is what happens to you when you are making other plans."

View mafe's profile


12592 posts in 3865 days

#14 posted 01-15-2011 09:01 PM

I was just at Saint Croix, and saw this. And when I saw it I was thinking I would love to try and make one…
This is old ship barrels for the gunpowder, when they brought it to the island.
So life is sometimes so wonderful.

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3891 days

#15 posted 01-15-2011 09:51 PM

beautyfull barrels Mads :-)
great you dicovered them and share it


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