I have worked at coopering in all its different branches off and on for about thirty years; have seen it in its prosperity and felt its adversity. I have known the cooper who worked journey work to have a kit of tools weighing 100 to 150 pounds, and many curious-shaped tools they were, among which the only machine in use was a boring machine. Twenty staves from the rough were called a set and made a load to carry into the shop— rough heading four or six pieces—often causing the cooper to go back and make a second load to get a complete set for a barrel.
Old-time coopers will remember how a new man was broken into the traces; then, when his staves were equalized, shaved and jointed by hand, and heading made into a head, all of which required a mechanic to do the work, and our journeyman had his first barrel raised, there would go up from every cooper about the place a yell, “blockwash, blockwash!” that, only for the difference in the way it was done and the word itself, you would think there was fire in the next yard. The new cooper understood the rules, and if he hadn’t the money he got the boss to help him out, and the nearest saloon got the benefit of his first earnings by furnishing the ingredient (blockwash).