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Humidity and Temperature – Key Factors Affecting Whisky Barrels

Whisky barrels are made from oak, which naturally absorbs water like any other wood. Thus, the oak wooden staves used for making the barrels will always some moisture content.

As the wood absorbs water it swells, and accordingly, as the wood dries it shrinks. Make sure you control the humidity level wherever the barrels are stored – it should be kept within the 40-50% humidity range to ensure there is no damage to the barrels, such as warping and cracking. Most hardwoods are open-grained causing wood furniture to expand and contract with changes in humidity and temperature even after the finish is applied. Also, keep the furniture away from direct heat sources such as radiators or fireplaces.

Abywell furniture is made from recycled ex-whisky oak barrels, that for years have been used for the storage and ageing of whisky and wine

With proper care recycled oak barrel furniture can be passed on to future generations subject to normal use

Abywell used varnish is tough, but not bulletproof. Scratches and dents will happen during daily use but take precautions to avoid this. Do not slide items across furniture but lift and move them instead. Dishes or cups that have a rough bottom will scratch the surface. Put soft, protective pads underneath vases and decorative items. Keep your furniture free of dust particles, which can be abrasive. This is a durable varnish, but even the toughest automobile finish will scratch with abrasion.

Damages that result from neglect, abuse, acts of nature, damage or wear to any swivel mechanisms, normal wear and tear, exposure to extremes in temperature or humidity, water damages due to immersion, fading or discoloration in finish over time, scratches, blemishes or slight colour variations in wood grain, minor size variations, unauthorized repairs, alterations or misuse of the item, or breakage or scratching of table tops are customer own care and risk

Facts: A barrel consists of oak staves, steel hoops and oak ends. The oak staves remain in place because they are under compression created by driving steel hoops onto the barrel. Barrels which are used for holding water, liquor, beer, whisky etc. rely on the moisture content of the wood to maintain the compression of the staves and thus they remain watertight. In fact, it is the process of the staves absorbing water and their swelling which helps to seal a newly made barrel and it is the water from the contents of the barrel that maintains the moisture content of the staves.

If a barrel is emptied and allowed to dry out excessively then the staves will eventually shrink and become slack.

The barrel will then no longer be watertight and may even collapse under conditions of extreme dryness. If the shrinkage is not too severe then by repeatedly filling the barrel with water the staves will swell again and the barrel will become watertight once more.

It is important therefore that water butts/rain collectors in a garden should never be allowed to dry out. Barrels that are to be used for holding water must never be allowed to dry out. We advise always contain at least some water and that if they are emptied then they should be refilled as soon as possible. By always keeping some water inside it will prevent the barrel or tub from becoming too dry which can result in shrinkage.

Oak-wood is a natural product, and this is its beauty and value. The natural weathering of wood facades can change dramatically as a result of the light effect, in addition, intensive and drastic changes depend on the wood shingle and the tone stage. All our products are coated with light protection varnish, which delays the sharp change. But this natural process cannot be completely blocked. Therefore, exposure to long-lasting sunlight on wood is not feasible.

For winter we recommend leaving water butts with water in them. Similarly, water features should be left filled with water during winter since emptying them can result in shrinkage of the oak staves. Our experience is that freezing does not harm the feature, in fact, we have had many features freeze in the winter and none of them have taken any harm.

Although it is not necessary for garden tubs to be watertight it is still not desirable to allow them to become too dry because they may shrink and become loose.

Abywell recommends that planters should be planted as soon as possible. By doing this the soil in the planter will prevent the planter from becoming too dry, which can result in shrinkage.


If the tub is not to be planted for some time then it should be stored in a cool damp place, ideally out of doors. If shrinkage does occur during storage and the tub begins to slacken then the insides of the tub should be sprayed with water. Once the water is absorbed the tub will begin to tighten again.

We recommend placing a layer of small stones or broken brick in the bottom of the tub will assist with drainage. The tub may then be filled with a medium of your choice. A mixture of soil and compost generally works well.

Oak barrel tubs do not require any special maintenance. Since they are made from oak they are very durable even without any protective coating. However, we recommend applying good quality exterior wood varnish coat on a yearly basis for items such as planter, water butts or garden furniture that are going to be left outside for long periods. Contact Us if you have any specific questions on the care or maintenance



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