DIY & Inspo

How to Break Down a Whiskey or Wine Barrel

By Midwest Barrel Co.

September 7th, 2021

The number of DIY projects you can tackle with a reclaimed, white oak barrel is practically limitless. Staves, heads and rings are perfect when crafting one-of-a-kind furniture and decor.

But what’s the best way to go about taking the barrel apart so you can actually use those parts? You could cut into the wood or rings, but that is going to cause some damage. That’s not ideal.

Luckily, there’s a better way to go about breaking down a barrel, one that doesn’t result in any damage to parts. We have a video of that process that includes text instructions. You also can find multiple videos or walkthroughs online if you want more resources.

If you’re simply looking for instructions, then we’ve got you covered right here.


Whether you are looking to take apart a wine or bourbon/whiskey barrel, this process is mostly the same.

The one main difference between bourbon/whiskey and wine barrels, aside from size, is that wine barrel rings (also known as hoops or bands) will have small nails tapped into them. These help the rings stay in place, although pressure is still doing most of the work of keeping everything in place.

If your barrel has nails in its rings (usually an equal number on all and in a straight line up the barrel), then you’ll want to get those out first. Use the claws of a hammer or other similar tool to pull them out. You can use a flat head screwdriver to work up the nail and make extraction easier.


Next, it’s time to remove the rings. You will need a hammer or mallet, along with a pry bar (which can also be used to remove nails) or chisel.

Place the pry bar or chisel on a ring and begin tapping it with the hammer toward the end of the barrel until the ring begins to move. We’ve found that it’s easiest to begin with the top ring or the middle one. Continue tapping around the ring until it’s loose enough to remove.

Work your way through the other rings, leaving the bottom ring for last.


Sometimes, the barrel will begin to fall apart before you remove the final ring. Other times, it may require some nudging from the hammer for the staves to fall away even after that last ring is gone.

You can use your hands to pull away the staves, or you can tap them with the hammer to loosen up everything.

That’s it! You’ve got a broken down barrel

Once the barrel is in pieces, you can move on with the next steps of your decor, furniture or art project.

Easy enough, right? Sure, it’s a pretty straightforward process, but if you’re not so sure or just short on time, then you can order a broken down whiskey or wine barrel straight from us. You’ll get all of the parts – and much lower shipping costs.

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Midwest Barrel Company

Just your resident barrel slingers delivering some damn good content

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