Medieval cooperage and KCD: Buckets, Barrels & Tubs

Hey everyone, my posts tend to drag on a bit sometimes, so I’ll try to keep it short on words and with lots of pictures! While wandering around the tech alpha, I noticed the devs have made the same mistakes with their barrels and tubs as most ‘medieval’ themed games do: they’ve based their barrels and other staved vessels on late 19th/ early 20th century construction techniques and materials.

I know this seems like silly nitpicking. It kind of is! Still, I feel it’s important enough to be worth critiquing, even if it probably won’t ruin my enjoyment of the game if not addressed. People have pointed out smaller errors in armor designs. Personally, I think errors in material culture such as inaccurate barrel construction would stand out a lot more to your average medieval person if they were to play KCD.

The mistakes are mainly twofold:

1.) Hooping materials: This is the major issue. With few exceptions, up until the late 19th century staved vessels were bound by hoops made out of vegetal material. Poles of ash, hazel or chestnut were made into hoops bound at the ends by osier (Salix sp.) fibers. These types of hoops are the rule in pre-20thC archaeology, art, and even photography. The exceptions seem to be staved vessels with special purposes or status. Buckets often had metal hoops. The barrels at the Sutton Hoo ‘royal’ ship burial also had metal hoops, as did some barrels found in 16thC Spanish treasure ship wrecks. Other hoop materials, such as rope, I have yet to see outside of 20thC decoration pieces.

2.) Shapes and sizes: This is harder to describe with words, so I’ll show it more in the pictures below. Essentially, medieval barrels pre-1500’s appear to be narrower in proportion than KCD barrels. Larger barrels were narrower, and also taller.

KCD Barrels, Buckets & Tubs

Barrels on left appear to have hoops made of vegetal material, but not clear. Both types quite squat. Ones on right have inaccurate metal hoops

Not sure if this type of bucket had metal hoops. Tubs in the background certainly wouldn’t have

As far as I am aware, there is no evidence for rope being used as a barrel hoop. Aside from Skyrim!

The barrel shape is probably more accurate, but again, metal hoops. Bucket seems plausible. Curiously though, there is no archaeological or artistic evidence for rope being used as a bucket handle. They were either proper metal handles, or a short wooden pole passing through both holes


14thC barrels used to line a medieval well in Odense, Denmark. Notice surviving wooden hoops

Well preserved late 16thC barrel. Notice wooden hoops with osier ligatures

In situ medieval bucket, showing metal hoops

Medieval bucket with original iron handle. Hoops are modern, reconstructed based on the fact that had they been metal they would have survived like the handle did. So they were probably a softer wood

Art and photos

Medieval art showing barrels, buckets and tubs. All from between 14th-15thC. Notice how aside from a bucket, everything is hooped with wood. There is possibly only one barrel, top left in the first image, that could arguably have a metal hoop.

Photograph taken in 1865 of an army wagon during the US civil war. Notice barrel in foreground with wooden hoops, and bucket on wagon with metal hoops

Further Reading

Here are some good online sources with pictures and info on pre-modern cooperage:

1.) Change and Diversity Within Traditional Cooperage Technology - Great article discussing what the title says!
2.) Ancient cooperage picture database - Links to pictures (mainly artwork) of old barrels, tubs, buckets, etc. From Roman to pre-modern times. In polish. Forum post where I found the link.
3.) Coopers on Larsdatter linkpages - Page dedicated to images of coopers, from the Larsdatter Medieval and Renaissance Material Culture linkpages.
4.) Odense barrels - Information on the context of the medieval barrels found in Odense in 2014.


I am thankful for the medieval art you linked, but wasn’t this already discussed six months ago?

Yeah, in a different topic. I just wanted to bring it up one last time in a dedicated post, now that we’ve actually gotten to see some art assets. While it’s a detail I can live with since everyone else does it, it still kind of bothers me. It just looks out of place. Kind of like if Henry was carrying around a pistol.

I know no one else really cares though, and remodeling some barrels is probably not worth the effort. Oh well!

10-15 years and he might carry a handgonne.

but not one of these, despite it still being ‘old’:

Either way, I always enjoy learning about the “little things”, even if it won’t get through the game (like for example the carrots), so I thank you for your post, @abinhof :smiley:

Dosn’t this seem just a little bit picky :wink:

Wish you hadn’t mentioned this, now it’s going to bug me :frowning:

Quite an interesting post, and I don’t really think that it’s too picky, because under the headline of “realistic medieval RPG” you can’t really explain away all the little things that bother you as “oh well, the obviously people in Tamriel use ropes to hoop their barrels”. And in my opinion it’s really the small details that make any RPG really immersive.

Apart from that I really like how this forum is turning into a quite decent knowledge base for more or less all aspects of european medieval life.


Yeah but realism down to a bucket is a little bit too picky.

Maybe. I think the more small things that are correct the deeper the immersion, However some of these things aren’t worth the Devs investing all their time into.

anything that may get overlooked will be gladly fixed by the modding community. its the same thing with the Orange carrots.


I can see how it comes off as picky. It really depends on where individual people draw the line on what they consider immersive or important.

While I can live with it, it will always stick out like a sore thumb. Especially considering how prevalent cooperage items are as decorative props. To me it’s like seeing M16’s in an old western - except that M16’s are closer in time to the Wild West (~100 years) than industrial era metal hooped barrels are to 1403 barrels (~600 years!).

Obviously the devs don’t have an unlimited amount of time and resources, and they have their own priorities on what will make it in or not.

barrel fetish :smile:

just use the mod editor when it comes out and re-texture the barrels, i would subscribe/download.

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I’d tap that barrel right in the bunghole :stuck_out_tongue:


Nice post! The problem with details like this is that if you get one or two wrong it will get lost in the huge amount of content in the game. Hovewer if there are lots of small mistakes it can add up to the point where the game would lose its “realistic” appeal.
For me a big part of the appeal of KCD is seeing what life was like back in the medieval times. This is what you cannot get in any other game! I like speculating along the lines of if a person transported from nowadays to 1403 would be able to even recognize items sold on the medieval market, know how to deal with the weapons etc… (carrots I’m looking at you :smile: ). Of course I know that it’s not something crucial to the success of the game.

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@Feek I absolutely second that. While I am being tolerant towards most of the ideas and suggestions as of someone’s dream game features, dragging the game towards… well, I’d rather not write explicite examples, because it is not the point - so, while I understand, that it is first and foremost a game, for me the key feature was never really the graphic, the story, the combat system or whatnot, but the fact that KCD promised: "We will give you middle ages. Period."
That’s why I backed the game, and that’s why - let it sound absolutely stupid - it is more important for me to have correct in-game f*cking barrels and carrots than being able to build or have a house, have a pet falcon, able to get drunk and bed the most hideous creature of a woman in the village or such.
Again, I understand that it’s a game, it needs compromises and fun, playable features; still, myself I would be more than happy even if this ‘game’ would be nothing more than a somewhat interactive stroll in the most accurate historical scene of today’s virtual reality, without even able to swing a sword at someone.
And you know what? For a “we will correct the barrels, the carrots…” strech goal, I would upgrade my goddamn pledge. :smiley:


i remember they did actually acknowledge the metal hoops on the barrel. i thought they were talking about handles, and i went wtf? i only saw wood handles, so didn’t think too much of it.

so if they know of this, they may change it. and my sentiments exactly like above. i will tolerate less story, less content, if the existing content is more accurate. there will be time for act 2 and 3 which i will buy again for same level of quality.

@PrasCo I’m totally with you on this as well :smile:

@213 Do you remember when and where you heard that?

Dear Barron,
I portray a 17th century Pemaquid Maine Cod fisherman. I am trying to get folks to do better research on the items that they bring to our events. Among the items I’m working on now are wooden non well buckets. Can you give me any documentation on buckets not having rope handles ? Where did you read that?
Regards to ye, Israel Cod’r