Block of the Week: Barrel

King Cooper!

Hey you – yes, you! Are you bored of storing your carrots and potatoes in a chest? Are you tired of that creaking sound as they open and close? Do you wish you had a fresh, modern, alternative storage option? Well, allow me to present our block of the week: the barrel.

Barrels were added to Minecraft in the Village & Pillage update in 2019, alongside foxes, bells, and bamboo forests. They were added to serve as a job block for fishermen in villages, and they’re very good at that. But that’s not all they can do.

Getting hold of a barrel is pretty easy. You can hunt down a fisherman in a village and borrow one of theirs (don’t worry, they have plenty). Or you can make one yourself out of either six planks (in Java edition) or six sticks (in Bedrock edition) and two slabs (in both).

Set your barrel down on the floor, and hit the use button on it, and you’ll get an inventory screen that you can use just like a chest. Unlike chests, though, a barrel can still be opened if it’s placed below a solid block. They can be filled with droppers, and filled and emptied using hoppers.

But that’s not all. You can burn barrels as fuel – you’ll be able to smelt 1.5 items per block, and you can also place one under a note block to get a “bass” sound. Not bad, huh? But watch out – piglins love barrels, and get a tad sensitive around them. Woe betide any player who opens or breaks a barrel near a piglin.

In the real world, barrels date back to at least 2600 BC. Archeologists have found a wall painting in the tomb of ancient Egyptian Hesy-Ra who died around then, which depicts a barrel being used to measure wheat.

Do you know someone with the last name “Cooper”? If so, their ancestors might have been barrel-makers. People who make barrels are called coopers, and like the names “Smith”, “Fisher”, and “Carpenter” it’s now a fairly common last name in the English-speaking world.

Barrels are traditionally made of wood, but today you’ll find barrels made of all sorts of things – steel, aluminium, and even plastic. The word “barrel” is also used as a standard measure for certain liquids – a barrel of oil (which is 160 litres) is still used to measure volume, even though oil is no longer shipped in barrels.

Finally, one fun fact is that barrels were once used as a form of punishment. In England, in the mid-1500s, drunkenness was a crime and the punishment was the “drunkard’s cloak” – a barrel with holes cut for the head and arms. The drunkard had to wear the barrel while they were paraded around the town. Luckily, it’s not possible to wear barrels in Minecraft, so you’re safe from this strange and unusual punishment. For now...

Duncan Geere
Written By
Duncan Geere