How to Install Your Library in a Whiskey Barrel

Over the years we've installed a number of Little Libraries in whiskey barrels at the request of our clients, who for one reason or another could not or did not want to put it in the ground.

Here's what we came up with to accommodate these requests and so far (our first was just over six years ago) they continue to work like a charm.

First, we recommend using a high-density resin whiskey barrel because it will far outlast a wooden barrel. Southern Patio makes an extra large (25"x25"x14.5") resin bucket barrel that Costco sells as a seasonal item. It can also be  found seasonally at Home Depot (link) for around $30. Southern Patio also makes a slightly smaller version (22.5"x22.5"x13.25") which also works, but in our opinion is about the smallest you would want to go and it leaves less room for planting flowers on top. We found the smaller one on Walmart's site (link).

Tools and Materials Needed

 

  • Extra Large Whiskey Barrel (pref. 25"x25"x14.5" or larger)

  • One 10 ft (or two 8 ft) 4"x4" Pressure Treated Posts

  • Circular or hand saw capable of cutting 4"x4" post

  • Four 12"x3/8" galvanized steel carriage bolts with washers and nuts

  • 12" long 3/8" wood drill bit

  • 12" long bar clamp (or longer)

  • Corded drill

  • Level

  • Ratchet with 7/16" deep socket (or open end or adjustable wrench)

  • One 50lb or 60lb bag of all-purpose sand (approx. .57 cubic ft)

  • Two or Three 60lb bags of all-purpose gravel or decorative pea gravel

  • Bag of potting soil (optional)

Assemble the Post

 

To assemble a post with side by side supports, follow the instructions Cut and Assemble Your Post found in our Post and Library Installation tutorial EXCEPT cut the main post to 36" instead of 54".

Build a Stand

Next you want to build a stand for your post. This is how we did ours:

Simply cut two sections of post about one inch narrower than the inside diameter of the bottom of your barrel and cut a 22.5° angle on each end. Place your pieces inside the barrel to test the fit before assembling and trim if necessary.

 

Note that some barrels come with built-in spacers designed to keep stacked barrels from sticking together. If these spacers interfere with your stand they can be removed using needle nose pliers.

Elevate your project off the ground with scrap pieces of 4x4s and use a bar clamp to keep the three pieces from moving as shown in the image below. Ensure that the pieces are correctly aligned, use your foot to hold project in place and drill the first 3/8" hole through all three pieces in the approximate position of one of the holes shown in the image above.  Before removing clamp, insert a 12"x3/8" carriage bolt into the hole and secure with washers and nuts. Tighten using ratchet with 7/16" deep socket only until tight enough to hold the pieces in place.

 

Remove the clamp and stand project on a flat level surface to double-check that the stand is aligned properly and your post is level. If not, loosen the nut just enough to allow adjustments.  Continue tightening with ratchet until very tight and carriage bolt head starts to bite into the wood. Return your project to its previous position to drill the second hole and secure with the last 12" carriage bolt.

Add Drain Holes

Turn the barrel upside down and examine the bottom. Most barrel bottoms are contoured rather than flat and you want to add at least one circle of drain holes in the lowest part (see image below). Drill 3/8" holes spaced approximately 6" apart in a circle around the bottom of the barrel, being sure to keep at least 2" from the outer edge. Then add a second circle half way between your first circle and the center. If your barrel comes with a removable drain plug in the center go ahead and remove that as well.

Prep the Ground

Use a trowel or other tool to mark a circle on the ground a few inches larger in diameter than the bottom of your whiskey barrel and remove all grass and vegetation from within the circle. Use a small section of a 2x4 or something similar to level the circle (I use an old metal ruler). Avoid adding loose dirt to fill low spots. It is better to dig out instead.

 

Place your whiskey barrel into the circle and rotate back and forth in a circular motion a few times to settle and check to ensure that the barrel is level. Tip: If your level isn't long enough to span both sides of the barrel place a level board or broom handle under the level.

 

When you are satisfied with your circle, remove the barrel and spread an inch or two of sand (using no more than half the bag) evenly over the area. Replace the barrel and rotate it in a circular motion a few times to again settle. Pour just enough of the remaining sand into the inside bottom of the barrel to fill any contours or low spots to make it level.

Install Your Post

Place your post inside the barrel and check to be sure it is level and squarely facing the right direction. While someone else holds the post in place add at least eight inches of gravel. Recheck your post as you go to be sure it remains level. If you do not plan to add top soil for flowers, continue filling with gravel to within an inch or two of the top. If you plan to add top soil, once you have eight inches of gravel, test the post for sturdiness by gently pushing. Add more gravel if required. 

If you plan to plant flowers, you will need at least six inches of top soil. If desired, place a circle of light weight ground cloth over the gravel before adding your soil. If you had your heart set on flowers but you don't have enough room to add six or more inches of soil, consider placing pots around the post inside your barrel and plant creeping ground covers that will overflow over the edges of the barrel.

Install Your Library

Follow the instructions for Installing Your Library found in our article Post and Library Installation.