Scary Papa's Haunted Forest

There is no greater joy in life than to scare the bejesus out of your grandkids

Making a Pirate Rum / Gunpowder Barrel

For quite a while I have been looking for a wooden barrel to use in my Halloween Pirate Ship display.  I have had no luck in finding any wooden wine or whisky barrels in the area where I live.  I have found wooden half-barrels at local stores that are used for planters.  However, at about $30.00 each and not full wooden barrels I feel these are not acceptible.  Additionally, the size and weight of full size wooden barrels would make them hard to store after Halloween.

While shopping with my wife she found a great replacement for genuine wooden wine/whisky barrels.  At our local Wal-Mart store she found lightweight, plastic, half-barrel planters with a wooden design.  She suggested that I purchase two of these half-barrels and put them together to make a full size barrel for our pirate display  What a great idea.  The result was a very realistic looking, wooden design barrel  that is lightweight and, becasue it comes apart, it easy to store after Halloween.  Here is the "How To" for the way I made this barrel.


Material and Tool List:

2 - plastic, half-barrel, wooden designed planters - $19.00 each at Wal-Mart 

1 - box of #8 x 3/4" self taping screws - $6.00 at Lowe's Hardware Store

1 - 8' x 1/1/2" plastic Screen Door Header - $4.00 at Lowe's Hardware Store.

1 - package of two-part epoxy (optional)

1 - Bottle of Brown acrylic craft Paint - $3.00 at Wal-Mart

1 - Bottle of balck acrylic craft paint - $3.00 at Wal-Mart

1 - Can black spray paint - $1.00 at Wal-Mart

1 - Piece of 18" x 18" x 1/4" scrap plywood - optional if making a barrel top

Sandpaper - optional if you are making a barrel top

1 - 1/2" wide craft paint brush

1 - 1/4" wide craft brush

Measuring Tape

Drill with Phillips Head Screwdriver Bit

3 or 4 - Clamps


Sraight Edge

Tin snips or other appropirate tool to cut the plastic screed door header strip

Saber saw (optional- you only need this or other approproate wood cutting tool if you are making a top for the barrel) 

Step 1:

Measure the circumference of the inside of the plastic half-barrel.  You can calculate the circumference of the barrel using the mathmatical formula C=Pi x d. in this case the inside diameter of the barrel was 20" so the circumference (C) equals Pi (3.14) * 20 so the circumference of th barrel is 61 3/8".

Step 2:

Measure the 8' x 1/12" plastic screen door header strip to the length of the inside circumference of the plastic half-barrel.  Cut the plastic strip at this mark. 

Then mark a line down the middle of the length of the plastic strip.  This line will be 3/4" from the edge.


Step 3:

Secure the plastic strip to the inside of the plastic half-barrel with the clamps to check for fit.  The smooth edge of the plastic strip goes against the inside edge of the plastic half-barrel.  The line previously marked down the center length of the plastic strip should be at the top edge of the plastic half-barrel.  Trim the length of the plastic strip as needed for good fit.

Step 4:

Once you have a satisfactory fit with the plastic strip it is time to secure the strip to the plastic half-barrel.  Secure the plastic strip to the plastic half-barrel with the clamps.  Align the line marked along the center of the plastic strip with the top edge of the plastic half-barrel.  Using the self-taping screws, drill, and bit secure the plastic strip to the plastic half-barrel by driving the self-taping screws through the outside of the plastic half-barrel and into the plastic strip.  Alternatively, if you do not want to have visible screw heads in the completed project you can use the optional plastic epoxy to secure the plastic strip to the inside of the plastic half-barrel.

Step 5:

Fit the second plastic half-barrel over the plastic strip and on top of the first plastic half-barrel.  DO NOT secure this plastic half-barrel to the first one if you wish to disassemble it for storage.  If you do not wish to be able to easily disassemble the prop for storage you may secure the second plastic half-barrel to the plastic strip in the same manner as was done with the first plastic half-barrel. 

Using the black spray paint very lightly spray the heads of the self-taping screws to blend them in with the painted plastic half-barrel. 

At this point you may wish to consider the prop completed and do no further work on the barrel.  However, for a slightly more realistic looking barrel you can use the optional playwood to make a barrel top.  If you wish to do this follow the next steps.

Step 6:

Sit the assembled barrel or one of the plastic half-barrels on the scrap plywood.  Draw a line around the barrel bottom onto the plywood.

Step 7:

Using the saber saw or other appropriate wood cutting tool cut out the plyood barrel top along the marked line..


Step 8:

Sand the rough edges, top and bottom of the plywood and using the black acrylic paint, paint the edge and bottom of the plywood. barrel top.

Step 9:

Ater the paint dries turn the plywood barrel top over.  Using the black acrylic paint and 1/4" paint brush paint the wood grain on the plywood barrel top.

Step 10:

After the paint dries on the wood grain paint the entire plywood barrel top with the brown acrylic paint.  Use a dry brush technique so the black painted wood grain shows through. You can experiment with colors to best match the plastic barrel. But at night and in low light a color close to a match is usually good enough.

Step 11:

Now for a slightly more realistic look use the 1/2" brush to paint a 1/2" ring around the top edge of the plywood barrel top.  This gives the top the illusion of being slightly recessed below the barrel rim.


Step 12:

After this paint dries place the plywood barrel top on top of the plastic fully assembled wooden barrel.  You may leave the plywood barrel top unsecured or as an option secure the plywood barrel top with epoxy or other appropriate adhesive.

All Done:

Thats all there is to it.  Now you have a fairly realistic looking pirate rum / gunpowder barrel that is light weight and can be easily disasssembled for storage if desired.  And at a cost of about $50.00 (less if you already have some of the materials on hand) it is half the cost of a genuine wooden, full size wine/whiskey barrel.  The total time involved to complete this project is about 1 1/2 hours including drying time for the paint.

If you want a smaller barrel these plastic half-barrel planters are also made in a smaller size.  The assembly is the same.

After hallowen the barrel may be disassembled and stored by placing one of the half-barrels inside the other one.  Several barrels may be stored together in this manner by stacking one half-barrel inside the others.

Note: in this photo the screw heads have not yet been painted to better see the assembly.