Wine barrels are traditionally made from oak, which helps the ageing process of the wine. At the end of their useful life as wine barrels they are often recycled and made into indoor and outdoor furniture and accessories such as tables and planting containers. To preserve them and make sure they last as long as possible, it is important to prepare them well before putting them to use. Those people fortunate to live near wineries may find that they can pick up used barrels inexpensively.
Scrub the barrel thoroughly inside and out with a scrub brush and warm-water bleach solution to remove mould, mildew, dust and debris. Wear rubber gloves while doing this. Rinse the barrel with plain water and allow to dry thoroughly in the open air.
Fill any nail holes or large cracks with wood filler if desired. These can enhance the age and look of authenticity of a barrel and you may want to leave them.
Check the metal hoops holding the barrel together. These can be purchased online if you have hoops that need replacing. You may find that going over them a bit with sandpaper will restore them sufficiently if they are rusty.
Sand any rough spots on the wood with 120-grit sandpaper. Use a rag or brush to remove residue wood dust.
Stain the barrel if you decide you want to change or enrich the colour. Apply stain by rubbing on with a rag, but don't apply the stain over the metal hoops. If you like the colour of the barrel as is, you can skip this step.
Select a wood varnish which can be transparent or tinted, and apply with a paintbrush. Allow the varnish to dry thoroughly. Do not varnish over the metal hoops.
Check online for barrel suppliers.