How to Make a Rodeo Clown Barrel
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Rodeo clowns are the on-the-spot entertainment for the crowd during rodeos and bull riding events but they also have a serious job to do in assisting the bullfighters, the men assigned the job of protecting the cowboys once they dismount or are bucked off the bull. The rodeo clown is the back-up for the bullfighters and his barrel is his biggest asset. The barrel offers a refuge in the midst of the rodeo arena for cowboys and bullfighters, a place they can escape a charging, 1-ton bull when there are no close arena fences to climb. Clown barrels are quite expensive to purchase and must be customized to fit the size of the clown inside. But if you have access to a reasonably priced welder or can weld yourself, you can build your own barrel and save some cash.
Design your barrel to match your size. Clown barrels are constructed to be more narrow at the top and bottom than they are around the middle with a wider opening at the top than the bottom. The effect is similar to a whiskey barrel. According to Allan Jordan, a professional rodeo judge who also used to ride bulls, most barrels are 2 1/2 or 3 feet in diameter with the height dependent upon the user.
Measure and cut the pieces of steel needed to build the frame. The material may have to be heated to achieve the rounded sides of the barrel.
Weld the frame of your barrel using the sheet metal. Although steel was once the most common material, according to Jordan its weight has led many clowns to opt for lighter aluminum barrels. Most are now constructed of #20 gauge aluminum. There should be reinforcing bands around the barrel as well.
Weld handles inside the barrel using stout metal rods. The handles enable the clown to pick the barrel up and relocate it within the arena without getting out. To determine the height of the handles, measured where they would need to be to enable the clown to lift the barrel approximately 6 inches from the ground.
Wrap the outside of the barrel with Styrofoam or other dense padding material. Padding should be several inches thick and completely cover the outside of the frame.
Wrap the padding on the outside of the frame using heavy tape such as duct tape. Tape should be wrapped top to bottom or vice versa, taking care to make even rows and overlap the tape with each new wrap. Tape should be pulled tight.
Spray paint the barrel in the desired color. Some clowns choose to paint designs into the barrel as well, a form of branding for the clown himself.
Tape and painting will have to be redone periodically as the barrel is hit by bulls or weather.
A rolled rim should be welded into the top and bottom of the barrel for safety and added strength. The rim is rolled to avoid sharp edges which could damage either the clown or the bull should contact occur.
- Allan Jordan; Professional Rodeo Judge and Former Bull Rider; Red Bluff, California