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Creative Ideas With Unfinished Barrels

by Matthew Cutler June 01, 2017

Creative Ideas With Unfinished Barrels

Barrels: An Unlikely Subject

Barrels might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you want a fun, creative project but, they sure do fall under that category. With all the various finishing options, you can turn a plain-Jane barrel into a fun and unique piece that is perfect for your home. It can be finished to fit among any preexisting style you may already have or it can be included in your planning process. They can also be turned into functional pieces that provide some extra space for your home.

Check out how one of our customers, Jennifer, used the barrel in her kitchen.

Unfinished Furniture Expo Cedar Barrel

Creative Ideas

Whether you want people to be able to interact with your piece or have the barrel be an interesting conversational piece, you can always have fun with them. 

  • End tables: smaller barrels are perfect for at the ends of the couch to hold drinks or picture frames. Also, good as side tables for the bed to hold a lamp and an alarm clock.
  • Tables: the larger barrels would make perfect tables, either with the wooden tops they have or with a large piece of glass laid down. The glass can be cut any way to fit a particular space.
  • Planter: depending on the size you want, these can easily be made into functional outdoor pieces as well. Turn them into planters for the spring and summer time and display your garden uniquely. 
  • Display: whether you decide to fill the whole barrel, half of it, or less, they can be the perfect thing to display items within it. For example, place a shelf about a quarter of the way into the barrel and fill that space with various colored rocks, wine corks, coffee beans, or any other item you can think of. When you have it full, place a piece of glass over it so that everyone can see what is on display. 

Various Finishes

Because barrels are usually made with fine wood, they are a little different to finish and seal. 

  • Varnish:
  1. Make sure the barrel is clean of any debris – let dry completely
  2. Fill any holes with a wood filler – let it dry completely then sand down to even it out
  3. Sand the whole barrel down then remove any dust with a rag
  4. Use paintbrush to apply varnish – if staining, apply with a rag
  • Outdoors:
    1. Sand the surface down
    2. Apply the sealer to every part of the barrel
    3. Be prepared to seal every year, as it is outdoors and will face the elements
    4. If it might sit in rainwater, find a way to prop the barrel off the ground a bit
  • Painting:
    1. Notice any divots or imperfections that can be filled with wood putty – smooth out and allow to dry completely
    2. Sand the surface smooth – wipe away any dust
    3. Apply primer – several coats
    • Grey for dark paint
    • White for bright paint
    • Apply paint – allow to dry completely if more coats are desired
    • Apply a sealer
    • Staining:
    1. Test stain in inconspicuous place on the barrel
    2. If blotchy, a wood conditioner may be needed
    • Can of stain will say if you need water or oil-based
    • Apply the stain with a brush or rag
    • Remove excess stain with cloth – removing sooner results in a lighter color while waiting results in darker
    • Allow to dry overnight

    The Projects Are Endless

    One can have so much fun thinking of different ways to incorporate barrels into their decorating. They may seem bog and bulky but they can be perfect tables, planters, and/or conversational pieces. Barrels are one of a kind, available in different sizes, so why not add them to your home? Think of all the different functions they provide and the various ways to finish them for your home. 




    Matthew Cutler
    Matthew Cutler

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