This barrel, from Four Roses Distillery, aged an OESQ whiskey that was 10 years old and bottled at 119 proof.
The first thing I did was purchase a Black and Decker mouse/hand sander from Lowes. I picked up some 80 grit sand paper and started with that, then switched to 120 grit for the second and third time around. I probably sanded for 6 hours over the course of a week.
Off the truck Starting to sand
After sanding I tried to remove the rust off the metal rungs with a wire brush, but that hardly did the trick. After sitting for ten years, you can imagine the rungs were extremely rusty. I went back to Lowe's to pick up some rust remover in gel form. I removed each rung one at a time (aside from the top and bottom- those I left on the barrel), lathered on the remover, and hosed down the barrel. This step was repeated multiple times.
Rust remover in action
Next was the fun part: painting/staining. I used Minwax PolyShades with polyurethane. This was a suggestion from a store employee; it gave the barrel a very nice, high gloss look. I chose a dark color (Mission Oak) to match the rest of our furniture. The directions on the label suggested two coats, but after one thick coat I was really happy with the level of darkness and gloss, so we stopped after the first coat.
The last purchase was a round glass topper to fit the barrel head. You can purchase a round piece of glass at Peir One Imports (I ordered this 20" piece from their website).
I hope this can be helpful for those of you looking to complete a similar project. As always, tweet @blundon_bourbon for any questions!