My Staves Are Numbered: Making a Mary Rose Tankard Part Four

I forgot to mention one of my mistakes in that last post, but that’s okay. I didn’t need to dwell any more than I did and thankfully, it’s not like hide glue wasn’t available in the 16th century*. Oak is a cantankerous wood and tends to be ultra-dense and sturdy except when it isnt, and when it isn’t, it tends to be at the worst possible moment.

That chunk missing from stave #8 is not intentional. It’s the result of a slipping chisel and a fault in the oak that was just ready to slip.

It will be repaired after the tankard is fully assembled.  Which brings us to numbering the staves. It almost seems logical to just number them one-through-eight, but that ignores an important fact of handworking wood: each side of each stave is different.

So, as you’re fine-tuning each stave to match up to the one next to it, it’s important to number the joints rather than numbering the staves.

Stave 1-2 matches up against 2-3, which matches up with stave 3-4… etcetera.  On the bottom, that means numbering the points of the octogon. The bottom too will need to be individually trimmed and scraped to fit into the croze.

The tension of the wood as it swells (as it will when it gets wet) will push against the hoops, which will push back and that tension will seal up any miniscule gaps left.

And that’s how coopering works!

I hope.

Anyway, as you can see, every piece is complete. You can see in the picture above, the lid and handle are complete and it’s all ready to go. Come what may, leaking or not, this ends tomorrow.


*Speaking of 16th century glues, I was recently gifted with a copy of “Il Libro dell’Arte” (The Craftsman’s Handbook) by Cennino d’Andrea Cennini by one of my readers. For the record, I don’t court such random acts of generosity but I approve of them wholeheartedly. Thank you Noel Gieleghem for the kind gift and your support past and present. I have already put it to good use!


  1. Hide glue will soften and dissolve when it comes in contact with a water based liquid. I would recommend pine pitch instead if you are stuck on a glue. That will add a flavor but doesn't need to be heated to put in place. Bee's wax on the other hand needs to be heated but won't impart much flavor at all. Good luck!


  2. The glue was for that little chip off the end of the stave, but I suspect it will come in contact with moisture through leaching. Not sure what to do about it, but I'm thinking I should peg a new piece into place rather than gluing it for the exact reasons you mentioned.

    I wonder where I can find a bucket of pine pitch in Seattle…


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