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Old 08-29-2016, 04:23 PM
Two Many Cats Two Many Cats is online now
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Why are Buckets Round?

Buckets, Pails, Barrels, why are they round?

The question occurred to me while re-reading Little House in the Big Woods.

Grandpa Ingalls is described as making buckets for collecting maple sap. The illustrations show the buckets as round, as most buckets are of course.

However, it seems to me that making round buckets from scratch using wooden staves would be a pain in the ass. Is there a reason square buckets wouldn't work? Would they leak or something?

Of course now, with plastics, you can make buckets whatever shape you want. But when the average person thinks buckets, they think cylindrical.

Is this just habit? Or do square buckets not work well?

Last edited by Two Many Cats; 08-29-2016 at 04:23 PM.
  #2  
Old 08-29-2016, 04:27 PM
SigMan SigMan is offline
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The staves are made like a wedge so when they are put together and the iron rings hammered in place they form a seal.
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Old 08-29-2016, 04:44 PM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SigMan View Post
The staves are made like a wedge so when they are put together and the iron rings hammered in place they form a seal.
This is the correct answer. Wooden barrels and buckets are created by straining the staves against metal rings - if the rings were square, rather than circular, the forces acting on them would be trying to bend them toward a more circular shape.

Buckets are actually round for similar reasons that soap bubbles are round - it's all about forces pushing outwards against a constraining boundary.
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Old 08-29-2016, 05:16 PM
iamthewalrus(:3= iamthewalrus(:3= is offline
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Aside from the issue of force, round is an efficient use of materials, too. A round bucket that holds a given volume is going to require less stuff to make the bucket than a square bucket that holds the same volume.

Optimal (in terms of materials) would be a hemispherical bucket, but that would be awkward for a number of reasons.
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Old 08-29-2016, 05:55 PM
leahcim leahcim is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangetout View Post
This is the correct answer. Wooden barrels and buckets are created by straining the staves against metal rings - if the rings were square, rather than circular, the forces acting on them would be trying to bend them toward a more circular shape.
I guess the unstated fact in this design is that the wooden slats are under constant compression by the hoops. Otherwise the bucket would leak water at the seams between the slats. A square bucket could be made more easily, but it would be harder to apply the constant force required to keep the seams closed.
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Old 08-29-2016, 04:33 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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You can pour out liquid from any angle with a round bucket and hit what you're pouring into. You need to adjust a square bucket to be accurate.

And of course, in the beginning it was easier to make a round one watertight.
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Old 08-29-2016, 04:35 PM
watchwolf49 watchwolf49 is offline
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Round is stronger ... just one seam instead of four ...
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Old 08-29-2016, 04:40 PM
kayT kayT is online now
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Depends what you're putting in the bucket. The cat litter I use comes in square buckets. Makes it easier to store a bunch of them close together with no wasted space, I think. The lids are made so the buckets can stack, too.
  #9  
Old 08-29-2016, 04:47 PM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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Round iron hoops to bind staves, etc. - remember the round hoops could be heated, hammered onto the tapered barrel ends, and pushed down to where they forced the staves into a tight seal. The more acute the angle, the more likely you get a slip (broken corner) than a seal, so an n-go is more stable and solid than a square. For simpler construction, like the parts of a water wheel, you do see rectangular "buckets". If that leaks a bit during the 1 or 2 seconds it's holding water - who cares?
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Old 08-29-2016, 05:08 PM
Renee Renee is offline
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Mixing stuff in a square bucket is harder. You don't want to mix mortar or something in a square cat litter bucket.
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Old 08-29-2016, 05:56 PM
silenus silenus is offline
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Remember also that the earliest examples of buckets would have been made of hide, intestine or some other animal material that would need to be sewed to make water-tight. One seam is best. Of course, if they use a stomach or length of intestine with a knot in it, no sewing is necessary. All of this would be done well before the smelting of metals for hoops and nails.

Last edited by silenus; 08-29-2016 at 05:56 PM.
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Old 08-29-2016, 06:04 PM
Quartz Quartz is online now
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Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Remember also that the earliest examples of buckets would have been made of hide, intestine or some other animal material that would need to be sewed to make water-tight.
Surely they'd be more likely to be woven from grasses or strips of bark? They wouldn't be water-tight in the long term, but for short-term use, they'd be just fine.
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Old 08-29-2016, 06:16 PM
harmonicamoon harmonicamoon is offline
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Remember the round, cardboard quarts of automobile oil? This design, using calculus, was the most efficient use of materials. Round is good.

Now, with plastic, the equation has changed. They now come in rectangular containers. Probably better for shipping.
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Old 08-29-2016, 06:32 PM
silenus silenus is offline
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Originally Posted by harmonicamoon View Post
Probably better for shipping.
Yep. No wasted space between containers.
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Old 08-30-2016, 01:33 PM
mixdenny mixdenny is offline
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{QUOTE= Originally Posted by harmonicamoon: Probably better for shipping.

silenus: Yep. No wasted space between containers.[/QUOTE]

I used to buy a certain ceramic object I collected fairly often on eBay, and come up with a good way to ship them without damage. I designed a container starting with those fiber drums with the removable top held on by a metal clamp. Inside this I made a formed 'nest' out of foam that the jug would fit into. I would mail this to the seller and have them send it back with the item inside. (Pottery is very difficult to ship without damage).

Alas, UPS and FedEx were against the plan. They would accept a round container but I would have to pay for a larger rectangular enclosed area as well as an additional handling fee. It increased the cost to the point it wasn't economical

Dennis
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Old 08-29-2016, 06:14 PM
silenus silenus is offline
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Even more reason for them to be round! Same-same for ceramics.

Last edited by silenus; 08-29-2016 at 06:15 PM.
  #17  
Old 08-29-2016, 06:46 PM
Kedikat Kedikat is offline
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Might also have to do with how wide thin wooden sides of a bucket would be more likely to crack and split with the wet dry cycles. The thinner staves can swell and shrink with less chance of that.
  #18  
Old 08-29-2016, 06:55 PM
TruCelt TruCelt is offline
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They stayed round though, after plastic came along. I suspect this is because liquid sloshes less in a round bucket. Any straight side will make the liquid stop fast, and rush against itself, increasing the chance of it going over the edge. In a round one, the water tends to swirl, and so stay inside.
  #19  
Old 08-29-2016, 07:11 PM
Backwater Under_Duck Backwater Under_Duck is offline
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A square bucket will constantly crash into your knees with a sharp edge as you fetch your pail of water. Ergonomics is not a modern concept.
  #20  
Old 08-29-2016, 09:30 PM
watchwolf49 watchwolf49 is offline
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Barrels are round so they can be rolled place to place.
  #21  
Old 08-29-2016, 09:37 PM
jayjay jayjay is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by watchwolf49 View Post
Barrels are round so they can be rolled place to place.
Surely they're round for the same reason buckets are...the traditional construction method is the same, staves and hoops.
  #22  
Old 08-29-2016, 10:03 PM
UncleRojelio UncleRojelio is offline
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Apropos of nothing, many of the barrels on board a 19th century whaling ship contained staves and hoops for making more barrels.
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