A cooper


Coopers build barrels and related products made of segments of wood, like wooden buckets. They shape the wood, fit hoops around them, and shape the barrel to hold the product, which contemporarily is usually premium alcoholic beverages.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to cooper:

barrel constuctor
wooden barrel constuctor
master barrel builder
barrel maker
barrel assembler
master cooper
wooden barrel assembler
wooden barrel builder
wooden barrel maker

Minimum qualifications

High school diploma is generally required to work as cooper. However, this requirement may differ in some countries.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Cooper is a Skill level 2 occupation.

Cooper career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to cooper.

wood products assembler
manufactured wooden building assembler
planer thicknesser operator

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of cooper. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of cooper with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

bridge inspector
prosthetic-orthotics technician
carpenter supervisor
drugstore manager
automated assembly line operator

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of cooper.

  • Wood moisture content: The amount of water contained in wood materials. The effect of wood moisture on the size and physical characteristics of the wood. Suitable moisture contents for different uses.
  • Woodworking tools: The various tools used to process wood, such as planers, chisels and lathes.
  • Manufacture of wooden barrels: The processes involved in the production of wooden barrels such as material selection, shaping, toasting, fitting, planing and sanding.
  • Wood cuts: Different ways of cutting wood, across the grain or parallel with it, and radial or tangential to the core. The behaviour of cuts of wood under different circumstances and the optimal cut for a given purpose. Influence of special attributes of the wood, like knots or defects.
  • Types of wood: Types of wood, such as birch, pine, poplar, mahogany, maple and tulipwood.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of cooper.

  • Bend staves: Use various techniques to give the wooden planks the desired curve, such as softening the wood in steam tunnels and then replacing the working hoops with stronger hoops.
  • Char barrels: Place the barrels in the gas burner where a flame is blasted inside each of them to scorch the interior.
  • Manipulate wood: Manipulate the properties, shape and size of wood.
  • Make barrel heads: Use a machine to punch holes in the staves, insert dowel pins into the holes, place the staves on a guide and press them together. Place the assembled staves in the rounder to obtain a circular shape. Finally, coat the edges with liquid wax.
  • Finish barrels: Pour water into the barrel to let it cool, replace working hoops with permanent iron hoops using manual techniques and machines, drill a hole on the side and plug it. Fix fittings such as taps and valves if required.
  • Adjust properties of cut: Adjust cut sizes and depths of cutting tools. Adjust heights of worktables and machine-arms.
  • Sand wood: Use sanding machines or hand tools to remove paint or other substances from the surface of the wood, or to smoothen and finish the wood.
  • Clean wood surface: Use a variety of techniques on a wood surface to ensure it is free of dust, sawdust, grease, stains, and other contaminants.
  • Assemble barrels: Select the shaped wooden planks, place them inside the working iron hoop and put a loose hoop at the top to hold the planks together.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of cooper. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Airtight storage: Airtight storage techniques to prevent the entrance or escape of air or gas and to discourage moisture and vermin intrusion.
  • Metalworking tools: The equipment and tools used in metalworking processes, such as welding or soldering torches, saws, deburring files, and metal drills.
  • Types of containers: The manufacturing process of different types of containers, such as boilers and pressure vessels, and what they are used for.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of cooper. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Inspect quality of products: Use various techniques to ensure the product quality is respecting the quality standards and specifications. Oversee defects, packaging and sendbacks of products to different production departments.
  • Order supplies: Command products from relevant suppliers to get convenient and profitable products to purchase.
  • Answer requests for quotation: Make up prices and documents for the products that customers may purchase.
  • Manipulate metal: Manipulate the properties, shape and size of metal.
  • Ensure correct goods labelling: Ensure that goods are labeled with all necessary labeling information (e.g. legal, technological, hazardous and others) regarding the product. Ensure that labels respects the legal requirements and adhere to regulations.
  • Perform machine maintenance: Perform regular maintenance, possibly including corrections and alterations, on a machine or machine tool to ensure it remains in a proper productive state.
  • Sharpen edged tools: Identify dull edges to sharp tools, or any defect in the edge. Use appropriate equipment to safely and effectively sharpen the tool. Maintain and protect sharpened tools. Report irreparable faults to the appropriate person.
  • Tend boring machine: Tend a boring machine, monitor and operate it, according to regulations.
  • Check quality of raw materials: Check the quality of basic materials used for the production of semi-finished and finished goods by assessing some of its characteristics and, if needed, select samples to be analysed.
  • Recognise signs of corrosion: Recognise the symptoms of metal showing oxidation reactions with the environment resulting in rusting, copper pitting, stress cracking, and others, and estimate the rate of corrosion.
  • Operate thickness planer machine: Feed wood materials into the thickness planer, after which a surfaced board is retrieved. Avoid ‘sniping’ by using an additional piece of wood with the same thickness.
  • Perform minor repairs to equipment: Conduct routine maintenance on equipment. Recognise and identify minor defects in equipment and make repairs if appropriate.
  • Design objects to be crafted: Sketch, draw or design sketches and drawings from memory, live models, manufactured products or reference materials in the process of crafting and sculpting.
  • Operate drilling equipment: Operate a range of drilling equipment, pneumatic as well as electrical and mechanical. Tend drilling equipment, monitor and operate it, according to regulations. Safely and efficiently drill holes using the correct equipment, settings, and drill bits.
  • Apply wood finishes: Use a variety of techniques to finish wood. Paint, varnish and stain wood to improve its function, durability, or appearance.
  • Recognise signs of wood rot: Check whether a wood element shows signs of rot. Aurally inspect the wood by testing what sound it makes on impact. Check for visual signs of rot.
  • Maintain barrels: Replace damaged pieces such as rotten planks, barrelheads, and fittings.
  • Operate wood sawing equipment: Operate various machinery and equipment to cut wood in different sizes and shapes.
  • Store products: Store products to ensure the quality and in accordance with standards and regulations. Ensure the stock facilities are kept according to hygiene standards, regulating temperature, heating and air conditioning of storage facilities.

ISCO group and title

7522 – Cabinet-makers and related workers

  1. Cooper – ESCO
  2. Featured image: A cooper readies or rounds off the end of a barrel using a cooper’s hand adze. CC BY-SA 2.0
Last updated on October 13, 2022

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