Could a barrel be made with extremely large planks made from the entire length of a tree trunk? Let's say that the trees are about 20m tall. These barrels would be made by the fossorial people described in this question, and would be partially set into the ground as a silo. They might also use them (or smaller versions) to make things that couldn't be carved into soil

  • $\begingroup$ What is the reason for making such big barrels? The usual size range comes from the need to move barrels about, which will be impossible with these, and the need to sub-divide whatever goods you store in them, so that one barrel's-worth going bad does not spoil the entire store. A barrel set 20 metres into the ground will be below the water table in most places, so it will tend to rot from the damp, and spoil its contents. $\endgroup$ Jun 26 at 16:17
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    $\begingroup$ What you are after is a wooden silo. farmshow.com/a_article.php?aid=5321 $\endgroup$ Jun 26 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnDallman Couldn't it be put in at an angle/sideways? $\endgroup$ Jun 26 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ @John Dallman: I think I would disagree, depending on just what you consider to be "damp". E.g. most (older) houses in the eastern US (which is by my standards quite damp) have full basements, which would be flooded if the water table was only a meter down. Also the dungeons of European castles... $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jun 26 at 16:48
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf: OK, my perspective is clearly distorted: I live in fenland. However, water tables are normally well above 20 metres. $\endgroup$ Jun 26 at 17:32

According to the Guinness world records

The largest wooden barrel measured 9 m (29 ft 7 in) tall, 9 m (29 ft 7 in) in diameter, and has a capacity of 540,000 litres (142,652.9 US gal). It was made by Fundokin Soy Co. Ltd. in Usuki City, Oita, Japan, in 2002. The barrel was made for brewing soy sauce.

Keep in mind that, out of a tree x meter high, the portion that you can use to make a plank is shorter than x, since the entire trunk cross section shrinks as the height increases.

10 meters plank out of a 20 meters high tree seems a good call.

  • $\begingroup$ But there's also no reason that you have to have planks the length of the barrel. Turn the problem around, and consider wooden ships. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jun 26 at 16:49
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf planks need to be the length of the barrel because it is contrasting pressures of the planks and rings that make a barrel strong and watertight, if the planks don't run the full length you end up with weak-spots were leaks will occur. planks are under a tremendous strain, which they can only handle because they are whole. you might be able to make jointed plants strong enough but they would be horrendously expensive to make and likely far thicker and heavier to boot. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jun 27 at 3:13
  • $\begingroup$ @John: That's why I mentioned wooden ships. They have to resist pressures far greater than any barrel. Not only the static pressure of water depth, but the dynamic pressures of waves against the hull. As to practicality & expense, have you ever tried to move a 10 meter section of tree trunk, or cut it into planks that long that don't have knots or other flaws? There's a reason (among many) that most large beams today use glulam instead of solid timbers: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glued_laminated_timber $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jun 27 at 16:29
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf I'd wager barrel slats still withstand more force, an individual plank of a ship are not subject to much force, they rely on the inner frame to supply support, barrels rely on the strength of the slats themselves. Barrel slats are stiff enough that it requires a great deal of force to bend them into a barrel shape. Large barrels in particular must withstand similar forces as an entire ship but as an expansive force trying to force the joints apart instead of a compressive one squeezing them tighter. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jun 27 at 17:36

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