This film is part of Free

Brian Palfrey, Cooper

Making a traditional wooden beer barrel, demonstrated by a Suffolk brewery cooper

Instructional film/TV programme 1986 11 mins

From the collection of:

Logo for East Anglian Film Archive


Master cooper Brian Palfrey shows how he turns fresh timber into the familiar beer barrel known as a 'pin'. He names a succession of specialist tools and devices from the rich vocabulary of the cooper's craft - 'rounding adze', 'jigger', 'inside shave', 'chiv'. He works by eye and by touch, using fire and sharp blades, with confident ease built on years of experience.

Brian Palfrey was apprenticed aged 15 to his father, also a cooper for Greene King brewery at Bury St Edmunds. In 1974 the brewery replaced the wooden barrels with aluminium kegs which could be filled under pressure to deliver the fashionable 'sparkling' beer. Brian Palfrey moved into warehouse supervision, but continued to practise the cooper's craft for museums and history societies. This demonstration was filmed by the East Anglian Film Archive in the Boby Building at the Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket, Suffolk, established to collect, preserve and display the long-established but disappearing skills, equipment and buildings of East Anglia's rural past.