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Photos: Barrel makers give new life to old craft


1 Framed by a barrel in the making, Kelly Yliniemi adjusts an iron ring on another barrel at Black Swan Cooperage in Osage, Minn., June 8, 2011. The company, owned by Heidi Karasch, can produce as many as 150 barrels per week. 
2 Scott Kolesar of Park Rapids, Minn., teases that he gets "to play with fire" when charring barrels at Black Swan Cooperage in Osage, Minn. Charring or burning a barrel's interior caramelizes the wood, which brings out its natural sugars and - ultimately - flavors the liquid held by the barrel. 
3 Melvin Longfors of Osage, Minn., stacks an assortment of staves made from American white oak on a pallet at Black Swan Cooperage in Osage, Minn., June 8, 2011. The cooperage crafts a variety of barrels sizes including those that hold as much as 53 gallons. 
4 Jake Karasch wraps a metal cable around the top of a barrel at Black Swan Cooperage in Osage, Minn., June 8, 2011. Once the cable is in place, Karasch will use a crank to further bring the staves together. This will allow the addition of another iron ring. 
5 Black Swan Cooperage in Osage, Minn., employs five full-time workers plus four members of the Karasch family. Timecards are filled out by hand and kept in a small office adjacent to a large workshop. 
6 An array of heads, which serve as both the top and bottom of a barrel, create an interesting set of lines at the Black Swan Cooperage in Osage, Minn., June 8, 2011. The company, owned by Heidi Karasch, can produce as many as 150 barrels per week. 
7 Bob Kane applies a layer of "bread dough" - a blend of flour, water and a bit of sawdust for coloring - to a groove inside a barrel at the Black Swan Cooperage in Osage, Minn., June 8, 2011. The material helps provide an airtight seal once the barrel head is in place. 
8 With more than two decades of cooperage experience, Russ Karasch often provides guidance and supplies unabashed enthusiasm for the art of barrelmaking at Black Swan Cooperage in Osage, Minn. While the business is owned by his daughter, Heidi, barrelmaking is very much a family affair. 
9 Finished barrels are on display at Black Swan Cooperage in Osage, Minn. Owner Heidi Karasch's dog Whiskey is in the background. 
10 Black Swan Cooperage in Osage, Minn., typically produces around 80 to 100 barrels each week, according to owner Heidi Karasch. 
11 A drill bit hovers above a bunghole on a barrel at Black Swan Cooperage in Osage, Minn. The barrels created at Black Swan are increasingly used by craft distilleries. 
12 A barrel and fire number serve to mark the entrance to Black Swan Cooperage in Osage, Minn., June 8, 2011.