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Friday, August 17, 2012

whiskey barrel orb - the tutorial

To start, you'll need three discarded whiskey barrel rings!  As you can see, the top ring is in pretty rough shape, but that will work just fine for the finished orb.
For this project you will need: a drill, several drill bits, a clamp, nuts, washers and screws.

If your rings have nails poking out of them, simply reverse-pound them out using a hammer.

Often the bands will have some dents or damage like this...

you can pound the dents out with a hammer too. 

Sometimes the rings will be "out of round" and you will want to re-shape them back to round.

I love the rusty patina and the rivets.  (For the record, Dan does not wear nail polish- that's my thumb! ;) 

You'll need some nuts, washers and screws.

You'll need two sets of the following (one set for the top and one for the bottom)  from left to right: 
a nut, a lock- washer, a washer, and a screw.
We like to use pieces that aren't galvanized so that they will patinate/rust and blend in with the orb.  (Or you can always dab a bit of burnt umber paint on new screws to make them blend.)  Old is great if you have them.
You'll  also need a drill bit that is slightly larger than the diameter of your screw.

Play with the rings to find just the right "sweet spot" where they go together and form the best shape.

Clamp the placement of your final choice. 
(Dan loves old tools and finds wonderful pieces at garage/estate/barn sales.)

A pilot hole is your friend!  Start by drilling a hole using a smaller drill bit than your larger bit.  Drill through all three rings.

Now, using your larger bit drill through the pilot hole to make the hole the  right size for the attachment screw. This can be a very slow process, so take your time.  You have to apply a bit of pressure on the drill to get it to go through the iron.

Insert one screw in the newly drilled hole, then add a washer, then a lock-washer and finish with the nut.  Tighten, but leave loose enough to be able to adjust the rings.  Turn the orb over, adjust the rings for final alignment,  clamp your placement and drill using the same process as above. 
Insert second set of screw, washer, lock-washer and nut and tighten both ends.

Hey wait... how did that get in here?! 
Gooooo Longhorns!! :)

That's it!  See how easy that was!! (says the helper-girl holding the camera ;)

If you own a drill press you can also use it to make three holes at once!  Just use a little 3-in-1 oil/cutting lubricant and press slowly to drill the holes.

 An orb in the garden.
I know some of you "eagle eyes" noticed that this orb has four rings instead of three.  This orb was a graduate level project!   The fourth ring was smaller than the three that form the main orb, so Dan cut iron "spacers"  from a small pipe and added them to each side of the gap on the fourth ring- it almost floats inside the main orb- tres cool!

If you make an orb be sure to send us a picture of your orb and how you used it-
they also look great indoors!
  I'll add your photos to this post. 


  1. Thanks for the tutorial! I love using older things in new ways and spaces. Can't wait to try this out. Yours look lovely in the garden and on your terrace.

  2. Thanks for the tutorial! Go Ducks! ; )

  3. I am just so mad at myself...I threw away last year about a dozen of these..never dreaming I would see something so cool to use them for. DRAT!

  4. Fantastic tutorial!!! I don't have a drill press, but I may give this a go any way... The finished orb looks fantastic!


  5. I knew there had to be a drill press in there somewhere! Don't have the space for one, but a big covet! You and Dan were so meant to be.Love the story of how you met.

    Just saw this: and those counter stools have Dan's name written all over them!

  6. I must say this ... GO COUGS!!! ;) oh and the orb is awesome too!!!

  7. Nothing seems to be beyond your powers. I guarantee you that if I tried this, the result would be a mess. I love your antique clamp--I picked up a couple of those on my recent trip to Ohio. Old tools have such a distinctive personality.

  8. You forgot to add: for this project you will need 'a great handy man like Dan'.
    The orb looks great in the garden among the rocks.

    I love the orb spheres and really want one with an iron chandelier wired up inside the orb for outdoor use.

  9. wow this is stunning! I will be on the lookout for some whiskey barrels!

  10. That's gorgeous. I'd love to see someone make a chandelier this way.

  11. Have never had an old whiskey barrel but lOVE this idea!!! You and Dan are quite a team! You can make ANYTHING look GREAT!!!!!!!! XO, Pinky

  12. I luv this one, and yes I have seen these before espescially when they rot out and gardens call for a new one!
    Great tip and I will be looking for these barrels.

  13. Visiting my daughter and son in law in Connecticut...and we found some whiskey barrel rings...I'm taking them home and making one of these...I have always loved yours, now I can have one in Virginia! :) thank for posting this!!! donna

  14. It's great to have a handy husband. I have one, too! And I love being the girl with a camera. I'm not a huge help other than telling him to move things a tiny bit this way or that! ;) Good job, Dan!

  15. Beautiful! Stonewall Kitchen has some beautiful ones in their garden too! I just love them!

  16. We have a half whiskey barrel, but it's full of flowers. When it rots, I'll know what to do with the rings! I'll send them to Dan! Leo is not quite that handy with the tools.

  17. great minds think alike--i had my husband do this several years ago--he looked at me like i was nuts, but that did not keep him from making it. i am not as good at ;splaing; things as you are. anyways i put it over a huge pot of ivy and wrapped the ivy around the rusty circles and waited and waited and then one day it looked GREAT. the ivy decided it liked growing up and over, will try to get a pic next week for you to see. nice to have such talented husbands who can make most anything. and great tut. Lyn

  18. Joan that turned out great. Living in California not far from the Napa Valley I have seen these for several years and I think they are wonderful especially in a yard. My friend Terri at La Dolfina blog put two on her porch in urns on top of moss, they look great that way too.
    Have a good weekend,

  19. Hi, Joan - I love your whiskey barrel orb! I agree: would be great inside as well. We have a rustic trestle table behind our family room would be fabulous on that table. It's so graphic and dynamic....lots of movement. Hope you are doing well, and enjoying the last few weeks of summer.
    Cheers from DC,

  20. OMG you made something like that look so easy. Love it! Great documentation and instructions.

  21. This is so well documented Joan, that it makes me think I could do it! :) I wonder where I could find old Whiskey Casks though? I'll ebay and see what I can find!!! I think they make the ABSOLUTE most perfect garden art!

  22. Thank you for sharing! Showed the post to my husband and requested a couple of them! Have a great day! Wanda

  23. I love this one, and yes I have seen these before espescially when they rot out and gardens call for a new one! Great tips.

    - Herman Swan

  24. I love this- the orb looks like it was made that way and looks perfect in your woods and on your patio!

  25. Thank you for this tutorial! I just saw some of these orbs for sale at the big antique show (Bouckeville,NY)
    for $125 each. Wouldn't they look pretty with little white lights stuffed inside for the Holidays?

  26. When I opened your blog today I couldn't believe my eyes! I picked up three of these from a junk pile just this week and was wondering what to make from them. I didn't even know what they were.

  27. I've dreamed of oversized sculpture exactly like this for 3 years now! If you've got any thoughts into recreating these on a larger scale, please enlighten me! I'm stumped!

  28. Well Steve... it's your lucky day! If you go to my sidebar and find "Post Topics" then click on "courtyard" you'll find a larger version of this! Brought it all the way from Texas with us! Didn't make it, but will give you an idea of what to look for. Good luck and let me know when you find something!

    1. Exactly! I've read all your posts and somehow the bottom of this one managed to slip by me! I was so excited I almost left this comment at the bottom of the courtyard post- quickly realizing however you had replied to me here! I dream of 3 of these, one planted with a climbing vine similar to what you've done, the others left barren. All placed seemingly at random in our lower lawn area (a grassy, woodsy setting). I must get my thinking cap on and create these!

  29. Beautiful Joan... and Dan :). Thanks for the tutorial. I've some iron barrel rings I've been saving in the driveshed. My husband doesn't understand why they're not in the scrap metal pile, but I remembered your orb and had plans for them. Now I know exactly what to do!

  30. Dan's The Man! GO OOOO DUCKS!

    Our son is the latest U of O student in our family (Junior this year) and it is a long, long line. :-)

    I have come across your blog tonight via some "surfing" from Kim at Northern California Style.


  31. Okay, now I want to make one! It looks fabulous and what a great tutorial!

  32. was really impressed with your excellent tutorial, until that Oregon Ducks shot . . .
    we came across the three rings from what you identify as from a whiskey barrel yesterday, while scrounging in Seattle.
    today, we crafted our own "orb"
    go UW Huskies !

  33. Thank you for the idea and tutorial! We made a few! :)

  34. Hi, I am about to start a project like this but thinking of welding instead of a screw. Any thoughts??

  35. What kind of drill bit should I use? Is there a special line for drilling into metal?

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Welcome! Thank you for leaving a comment; you have no idea how much your comments inspire me to keep writing- I appreciate each and every one. Comments are moderated by me prior to publishing on the blog, so if you don't see your comment post immediately it will be posted as soon as I receive and read it. joan