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Repairing Barrel Leaks Using Wooden Spiles & Wedges

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Repairing Barrel Leaks Using Wooden Spiles & Wedges

Aug 14, 2023
A line of wooden barrels. The text reads, "Repairing Barrel Leaks Using Wooden Spiles & Wedges"

For cooperages, distilleries, and other businesses that rely on barrels to run their daily operations, leaks and seepage need to be addressed as soon as they occur. 

It is often difficult to identify exactly what causes a barrel to leak, but the most common causes are age and wear, improper storage, errors in barrel-making techniques, and damage during transport.  

Regardless of how your barrel was damaged, the two most effective tools at your disposal for barrel repair are wooden spiles and wedges.  

During the process of your regular leak detection protocol, you have doubtless found barrels that need repair at some point. Light woodworking with wood spiles and wedges can fix these problems, but how can you identify whether a spile or wedge is right for your barrel repair? 

If you are a cooper, winemaker, brewer, or distiller, use this as your refresher guide for barrel repair using wooden spiles and wedges. 

Barrel Maintenance Using Wood Spiles 

Wood Spiles, like bungs, create a tight seal that eliminates barrel leaks from venting or sampling holes. They are also soft enough to eliminate any risk of damaging your barrels.  The type of wood used in spiles does not affect the contents of your barrel.  

These are the most popular species of wooden spiles. 

  • White Oak. Made from the same material as bourbon barrels, this species of wood is often preferred by wineries. 

  • Poplar. These wooden spiles expand easily to create a tight seal but are also soft enough to eliminate any risk of damaging your barrel.  

  • Cedar. The most popular species used for wooden spiles, cedar spiles are soft, and will not damage a white oak barrel. Additionally, cedar is rot-resistant, so you do not need to worry about cedar spiles going bad.  Burbon 

Next, let’s look at the part spiles play in barrel repair and maintenance. 

Spiles have many purposes; however, they are mainly used to temporarily plug small holes drilled in the staves. Below are the two reasons spiles will be necessary.  

  • When you drain a barrel through the bung hole (either fully or partially), you will need to drill a small venting hole to allow air to enter to prevent a vacuum from forming. After the draining is complete, a spile is used to plug the hole.  

  • You have drilled a sampling hole. At various stages in the aging process, you will need to sample the liquid inside your barrel to test for quality. This is often done by drilling a small hole in a stave. After the sample has been removed, this hole can be plugged using a spile. 

After the spile is in place it can be sanded down or planed down to ensure that it is flush with the surface of the barrel. The next woodworking step is to replace the stave to prevent further leaks. Spiles are a permanent solution and if you do not want to replace the entire stave, a solution must be implemented to prevent bacteria growth or leaks.  

There are two sizes of spiles that are used by distilleries and cooperages. 

  • Small spiles are a quarter inch by one inch in size and are commonly used by cooperages to plug bug holes in wood, seal barrels after pressure tests, or seal drill holes made after sampling. 

  • Large spiles come in larger dimensions and are commonly used to seal areas where knots have been removed, after sampling, or after cutting the croze to make a more precise fit.  

In the next section, we will look at wooden wedges, popular species, and how to use them effectively. 

Barrel Repair Using Wooden Wedges 

Another important component for barrel repair, wooden wedges are used to create a tighter seal between the staves of a barrel and the barrel hoops.  

Just like with the wooden spiles, the most popular species of wood used for wedges. 

  • Cedar Wedges. Typically, the most popular species of wood used in wedges, cedar is a soft wood that fits snuggly between staves without a chance of damaging the wood. Additionally, cedar is rot-resistant, and it will not have any effect on the barrel's content.  

  • White oak. White oak is an alternative to cedar. It has the same advantages as cedar wedges, but distilleries will sometimes prefer white oak wedges as they are made from the same material as the barrels themselves. 

Next, let’s take a look at how wooden wedges work for barrel repair.  

When there is a leak in the staves due to loosened wood or gaps due to changes in temperature or humidity. First, insert a wedge between the loose staves. The wedge then must be tapered to ensure that it fits snugly into the gaps between the staves. Finally, reassemble the barrel and tighten the hoops to create a tight seal and prevent further leaks.  

There are two different sizes of wedges that have the most applications.

  • Small wedges are ideal for joint leaks. They are used to cut the vein on a piece of wood and placed perpendicular to leaks to squeeze staves together.  

  • Larger wedges are approximately one inch in length and are placed parallel between staves and inserted to create a tighter seal. 

Wooden wedges are also used in many barrel-making techniques to ensure that staves are tightly joined together.  

Superior Quality Wooden Spiles and Wedges from Cincinnati Dowel 

For cooperages, distilleries, winemakers, and other businesses that rely on barrels for their daily operations, high-quality wooden spiles and wedges are necessary.  

If you are looking for the best quality for your wooden spiles and wedges, then Cincinnati Dowel is the supplier for you. We offer only the most dependable wooden spiles, wedges, and other wood components that you use every day. 

For wooden spiles and wedges, you can count on, browse Cincinnati Dowel’s cooperage and distilling items today

Happy with the difference Cincinnati Dowel has made for your operations? Leave us a five-star review on Google here! 

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