Wondering how to put together a DIY light up whiskey barrel? Check out this really cool DIY project where I took an old whiskey barrel and turned it into a masterpiece!

Ok so today’s project is a little unique. My mom had a whiskey barrel shipped to my house and asked if I could turn it into a front porch decoration for her. She saw a photo of a barrel with a bunch of holes drilled in it, that made a nice pretty winter scene, and fell in love. She asked if I could make her something similar but she wanted a winter scene on one side and a spring scene on the other.


If you need a whiskey barrel: Look to see if you have a local beer brewing company, I would call and check with them first to see if they have any to sell. My local company sells them for $100 each. If not, then you can search online and companies can ship you one. Inventables recently sent me a Silhouette Cameo, which was perfect for what I had planned for this barrel. So I started the project by first measuring each of the spaces.

Note: the metal rings are not in the same location all the way around so these spaces can vary a bit from spot to spot. I took the smallest measurement and wrote that down to work with.

Then I jumped into the design software that came with the Cameo and started playing around with making the different designs. I do have all of the stencils available to purchase if you have a project you would like to use them for.

Once I had all the designs created, I sent them to my Cameo and let it do all the cutting. Tip: I decided to use cardstock for my stencils because I knew they were going to get torn up very quickly. It ended up working out great, so if you do a similar project with drilling holes, I definitely recommend it.


Now I was able to take my designs to the shop and start drilling. I first started with the pattern that went on the top and bottom rings. I thought I would be able to tape down a stencil with three in a row and drill them all at once, however it doesn’t work since it’s on a curved surface so I ended up having to drill one at a time then move it over.

On this one, I would use the common hole as a guide on where to line up the next one, then use a small level to make sure the pattern was close to being straight. I would tape it in place then find a drill bit that fit best.  After I pulled the stencil away, I would take a little sandpaper and clean up the surface of the holes a little. 

IMG_0017 IMG_0019When I would get done with one stencil, I would just move to the next.

Tip: Since my mom requested to have two different season represented, I found (roughly) the center of the barrel then used painters tape to mark it off so I would know where to start and stop each season. 

IMG_0192It was when I started on the snow flake that I started using a countersink bit to start the holes. This not only makes it easier to place all these tiny holes exactly where I want them, but it also kept the surface of the barrel from getting so torn up. I would drill the hole first with the countersink, then come back with the actual bit size I wanted that hole to be. Tip: For the larger holes, I would step up to that size. So I would start off with a smaller bit and move up. It keeps the surface from getting torn up. 

IMG_0191WilkerDon’t: Like I said in the video, the butterflies didn’t come out as clear as they could have been (when they are lit up) and some of the reason is the smaller holes, but I think a big reason is I wasn’t keeping my drill straight when I was drilling. I had a slight angle and was actually drilling upwards so that the hole is directed downwards. So if you do this project, just make sure you are keeping your drill as level as possible. 

IMG_0189The flowers were a beast, but I love them so I don’t mind. : )

IMG_0187Tip: My lower back started killing me from sitting on the concrete floor for so long, so I had my husband help me move the barrel to a workbench halfway through. 

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 5.46.04 PMOnce I was done drilling the holes, I started working on a way to gain access to the inside.

I first used a pencil to make a few marks on where I wanted my hatch to be. I was limited because the deck of my circular saw blade would interfere with the lip around the barrel.

Once I had my marks down, I grabbed my circular saw and did a few plunge cuts. This is where you start off with the blade not touching the wood, then sink it slowly into it. When I had the majority of the hatch cut, I came back to the corners with a jigsaw to finish them off. 

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 5.46.46 PMIMG_0103Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 10.17.51 PMOk so I was thinking that I would later add back on the portion that I cut out with a hinge and have an access door. However, even though those side pieces stayed in place after I cut out the center, they did eventually fall. I should have screwed on some braces on the underside right away if I wanted to keep the original top. However, I didn’t so now I’m going to have to remake the lid. Oh well, : ) I’ve learned that when you’re doing projects, you just have to roll with the punches.

Alright, next! I needed to make something to mount lights to. So I grabbed some scrap 3/4″ wood and made a simple….stand? Lets call it a fixture….It’s made up of a base that has two sides glued/pocket holed into it, then a spacer at the top. 

Note: I made it the size I did because I was thinking I was only going to have a small little hatch to get it inside of.  

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 10.26.35 PMThen I used a hole saw to cut three holes on each side. I did this because the light mounts I purchased have to be wired in from the back. 

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 11.01.44 PMNext I started wiring everything together. I made, what they call, daisy chains where I cut different lengths of wire (both neutral and power) then attached a crimping connector which I then used to connect the wire to each light. This is also called wiring in series. I attached the black (power) to the gold terminal, and the white (neutral) to the silver. When I had the crimping connector in place on the terminal, I used a screw driver to tighten it down. 

IMG_0107When both wires were attached, I used two screws to attach the light mount to the fixture. Then I moved to the next one and repeated the steps. I did this to all 5, but held off wiring in the last one because I first needed to wire in a plug and switch. I left these two wires loose for the time being. 


I first worked on bringing in a plug. I purchased a replacement cord that was 9′ long then stripped off the end and also stripped back the two wires inside. Then I moved to the bottom of the barrel and just enlarged one of the holes until I was able to feed in my cord.

To make it easier to work with, I pulled it all the way up to the top, but then set it aside.

Note: This was where the top started to fall apart on me. One of the sides fell into the barrel so I picked them out and set them aside. However, since this side already fell I went ahead and pull off the rest of the pieces so that I would have a larger space to with in. I did not realize at the time how much of a pain it would be putting it all back together.

I figured out where I wanted my switch to be located. Since I bought a push button switch, I drilled a hole just slightly larger than the threads of the switch. The material of the barrel is too thick to allow my switch to go all the way through, so I had to use my router to carve away about half of the material. I would only take away a little bit at a time and test fit the switch after each pass. When it was a good fit (with just a few threads poking through) I tighten it down. 

IMG_0112 IMG_0114Now to wire in the switch and cord to the light fixture, I cut a length of neutral wire that was long enough to run all the way from the bottom of the barrel (where the plug will be) up to one side of the switch (it doesn’t matter which). Then I connected one end to the neutral wire in the cord and the other to the switch. I used wire nuts to connect these. Then I cut another length of white and connected one end to the other switch wire, then the other end to the neutral loose wire from the last light fixture.

Next I squared away the black side. I connected one end to the black wire in the cord and the other end to the loose black wire in the light fixture. 

IMG_0117I put the fixture in place on the bottom and screwed it down with four screws. 

IMG_0120Then I reassemble the top back together as best I could then set it in place and called it finished. 

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 11.30.05 PMIMG_0123 Markup

IMG_0148I wish the butterflies came out a little better but I must say I’m pretty happy with it except for that top. I am going to have to make a new top for it because there is no way I can get it back to a perfect fit.

All in all, it is 14,316 holes! I think my mom is really going to love it. : )

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See you soon!

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