Coopers' tools

Contributed by Cornwall Museums

THIS OBJECT IS PART OF THE PROJECT 'A HISTORY OF CORNWALL IN 100 PROJECTS'.

ST AUSTELL BREWERY. Without coopers there would have been no Cornish exports of pilchards or china clay. A skilled cooper would use about 22 tools. Work was done by eye rather than measurement and the wood steamed into shape. Tool handles were kept short as there was little space to work and also so that heavy headed tools like the adze and side-axe could be used one handed. This was important as the other hand had to support the partly made cask. Hammer and driver - a grooved and wedge-shaped piece of iron used to get hoops on the barrel - and various curved cutting tools were used. Pilchard barrels, which undergo a pressing process, had straight sides and were built to leak.

Coopers' skills were also needed in 1851 when St Austell brewery was set up by Walter Hicks to serve miners and china clay workers. The business is still run by members of his family.

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