Cutting steel drum?
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  1. #1
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    Oct 2008
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    Cutting steel drum?

    I've had a family member come to my shop and ask if I could cut a steel drum in half for a feeder, in my spare time and I said I would do it without really paying attention to it at the time, and now discover that it is an old gas or oil storage drum(45 gallon), and I really have to say I am hessitant in my old(er) age about doing it, o/a is out of the question, don't have a plasma cutter, so it is a cutoff wheel, or a reciprocating saw, the bungs are on tight but they have to stay, the ambient temp is about -5 Celcius right now, can it be safely cut, without an explosion. I have done it to auto fuel tanks in my younger days by steaming out and letting it sit, steaming and washing with detergent. Any opinions?

  2. #2
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    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    Fill it with water. lay it on its side and use an air chisel. If you don't have that then a regular hammer and chisel will cut nicely. The air space will be minimal so you would not be able to cause a big one and as you make your cut around the ventilation will be so large that it would only burn if a spark started it.
    By the time you have rolled and cut completely around the water will have drained out.

  3. #3
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    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    I agree, fill it with water and maybe use a sawzall, but don't get shocked!

    DO NOT use a torch!

    David
    Real world weldin.

    When I grow up I want to be a tig weldor.

  4. #4
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    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    I would contact the family member and ask what was in the barrel. If gasoline, I'd refuse to cut it. It can be done. While I was an instructor at the Army's Welding and Metal Body school, we used to teach fuel tank repair. The tank has to have all ports OPEN, steam clean for 1 to 2 hours, then repair immediately after the steam cleaning. Do not allow the tank (or barrel) to sit before the repair/cutting. Any vapors that may be in any seams have the opportunity to propagate and you're back to square one..

    If the barrel held oil, not a big deal. However, I would still insist that bungs are removed to allow any hot gases to escape.

  5. #5
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    Mar 2007
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    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    My old boss at a country auto repair shop used to run a hose from a tailpipe from another car into a gas tank he wanted to solder or braze. About 45 minutes maybe then he went right at it, open flame and all. This was before pollution controls on cars, so ymmv. All I know is that's not an old wives tale.
    If it was me I'd use a Kett shear or some such - you (or your brother in law) can rent one. You'll get a nice straight cut that way too. It's like a hand electric drill size cutter.
    Jim

  6. #6
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    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    Quote Originally Posted by jimmys View Post
    My old boss at a country auto repair shop used to run a hose from a tailpipe from another car into a gas tank he wanted to solder or braze. About 45 minutes maybe then he went right at it, open flame and all. This was before pollution controls on cars, so ymmv. All I know is that's not an old wives tale.
    If it was me I'd use a Kett shear or some such - you (or your brother in law) can rent one. You'll get a nice straight cut that way too. It's like a hand electric drill size cutter.
    Jim
    yep just fill and flood it with inert gas. Exhaust from a car will work. No oxgen No explosion
    "The Name of Jesus is a lightning rod because The Name represents the division of life between good and evil, God and Satan, light and darkness, righteousness and sin, heaven and hell"

  7. #7
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    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    If it is capable of exploding anything that creates a spark is going to get you. I've cut up a BUNCH of barrels. If it had gasoline in it it didn't get cut. Anything else got the top cut half way around with a cold chisel and pushed in, then the rest of the cut made with a torch. Some of them could get pretty smokey and stinky while they burnt out. If it was a soap barrel which was very common in the oil field, I still didn't take a chance. I would lay ir down against the tailboard of the truck. Light the cutting torchway nd pointed and pointe at the end of the barre. I would and lay it on it's side about 3 or 4 inches a

  8. #8
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    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    I have cut tanksdrums more than once that blewup with flames coming out the tank opening. Now I steam clean the tanks first and still use the ole tail pipe exhaust trick.
    Co-Own CNC shop:Miller :1251 plasma cutter, MaxStar 700 TIG/Stick, & XMT 456 Multiprocess Welder.& 2 Hypertherm HPR260's Plasma Cutter

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  9. #9
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    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    Thanks, it makes me rethink doing anything with it at all.They said it was from storing gas and diesel. Flooding it with inert gas sounds like a good idea except he bugs are rusted in, maybe filling with water might be the practical idea.... let it freeze abit then cut it with sawzall or zip it with air ratchet. I had an RCMP member tell me one time at a truck tanker accident carrying gas in winter that gas would not flash until 27 deg C???So hot brakes woulf be a problem not a lit cigarette.

  10. #10
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    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    I know a guy that cut the top off an oil drum with the welder. It blew up, burnt him and his garage. Just ask your self if a stinkin barrel is worth it. I used to wash and purge gas tanks with straight Co2 out of the bottle. Now I tell em buy a new one.

    Fred Sanford
    Real world weldin.

    When I grow up I want to be a tig weldor.

  11. #11
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    Aug 2008
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    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    Quote Originally Posted by pistolnoon View Post
    the bungs are on tight but they have to stay, the ambient temp is about -5 Celcius right now, can it be safely cut, without an explosion [?].
    If that's a question, the answer is NO. (unless you own a drum deheading tool)

    For an explosion/fire to occur you need 3 things:
    1) Fuel (gasoline, oil vapor, flammable solvents, etc...) If the drum contained a petroleum product at one point - You've got fuel.
    2) Air (or any other oxygen bearing compound) You can't purge with inert gas or steam clean the inside because you can't access the inside without opening a bung or cutting. - You've got Air
    3) Ignition (Spark, flame, heat, etc..) A bronze drum deheader is a non-sparking tool so it's you're only approved method to gain access to the inside of the drum. Any other tool gives you a chance of ignition. One tiny spark is all it takes to complete the recipe for a disaster when you already have fuel and air present.

    Cold air is denser than hot air at sea level, but it's still air. Low ambient air temperature does not reduce your risk of explosion.

    A clean unused barrel costs about $25, A drum deheader to allow you to safely cut open your barrel costs $68. >LINK<. I would just get a new barrel and be done with it.
    -Matt
    ------------------------------------------

  12. #12

    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    A couple drum questions...
    I have a drum that I want to cut that I have been told held transmition fluid. I am looking to purchase power shears to avoid any sparking. I do not know the gauge...what is standard for a 55 gallon drum and what type of shear should I looking for?

  13. #13
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    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    If you want to put a hole in that barrel without risking life or limb, take it out into the country side and at a safe distance, shoot a hole in it with a riffle or hand gun, or better yet, a shotgun with a deer slug, if your a good shot, you can line up the shot to go through both ends, top and bottom in the middle, then take it back to the shop, fill with soapy water, preferably a dish detergent like dawn, roll it around, drain it and repeat, then cut it!
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  14. #14
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    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    If its going to be a feeder do they really want to use a barrel that has had fuel in it?
    - If you can jump across it you can weld it! - anonymous old boilermaker

  15. #15
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    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    You might do better to use a old, commercial size water heater. It will be much thicker, can be gotten free from a W.H / plumbing company, can be cut with an OA torch (although a plasma works better), and you can let the family members help in the project by removing the outer sheet and/or the inner foam insulation. An electric one is less work than a gas, because of the central tube in the second.
    Please save the brass relief valve for me; I'm addicted to brass/bronze.

  16. #16
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    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    you can get a panel cutter for an air chisel
    they work good for cutting barrels
    then use a hack saw to cut the top/bottom rings

  17. #17
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    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kangi View Post
    If its going to be a feeder do they really want to use a barrel that has had fuel in it?
    I was thinking the same thing but didn't question it, If the metal is scoured out properly, it should be OK.
    The animals may not care for the smell as it will still give off some!
    #1. If you don't like what I wrote, or if it offends you, then don't read it!
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  18. #18
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    May 2008
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    south western pa
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    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    I cut drums often for scrap barrels and what not, even ones with old oil residue in them I use the plasma. Never had anything happen. I also have welded aluminum fuel tanks for big rigs from time to time and I purge them with CO2. But if it had gasoline in it I'd say NO. If you need a feed drum that bad You can get a Plastic drum and cut it with sawzall

  19. #19
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    Mississippi
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    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    If the bungs are sealed, and unable to fill with water, drill a start hole and use an air nibbler. No flames, no sparks.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    227

    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    i just got a 44 gallon drum thats had clean unused chainsaw chainbar oil in it. i only want to weld a few things to it and sit stuff on it while welding. how shall i clean it
    HP is how fast you hit the wall.
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  21. #21

    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    Quote Originally Posted by pistolnoon View Post
    I've had a family member come to my shop and ask if I could cut a steel drum in half for a feeder, in my spare time and I said I would do it without really paying attention to it at the time, and now discover that it is an old gas or oil storage drum(45 gallon), and I really have to say I am hessitant in my old(er) age about doing it, o/a is out of the question, don't have a plasma cutter, so it is a cutoff wheel, or a reciprocating saw, the bungs are on tight but they have to stay, the ambient temp is about -5 Celcius right now, can it be safely cut, without an explosion. I have done it to auto fuel tanks in my younger days by steaming out and letting it sit, steaming and washing with detergent. Any opinions?
    hi doing jobs for family is always difficult they either want the impossible yesterday or expect your time for free under NO circumces whatever attempt to cut the drum without removing the bungs and washing (minimum )or steaming it out
    1 you do not know what it has had in it
    2 never believe what people say was in the drum
    3 just beacause it was origonaly used to store oil does not mean somone has not used it for petrol /thinners /poisen !!
    4 you stand a very good chance of SERIOUS INJURY
    i hope this is of help merlin :v12

  22. #22

    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    We had an incident at work yesterday, when a guy used an OA torch to 'try' to cut a 200 liter drum.

    The vapours ignited, hell of a bang, and bulged the ends of the drum out, but fortunately nobody hurt. I think the guy's wife had to put some extra effort into his overalls last night.

    Did a search on the www and found a great Kiwi pubication 'HOT WORK on Drums and Tanks' (sorry haven't got the link) The ISBN is 0-477-03420-9

    I'm going to introduce a written procedure where we use a manual device to preferably take the lid off a drum, if we need it shortened, then cut it size with whatever, or if we're halving a drum, use a bronze (sparkless) air chisel.

    Surprised at the number of postings that offer suggestions for cutting that don't include purging, washing, inert gases, etc. There are no shortage of web pages on fatalities and major injuries from cutting oil drums.

    Best option is to not cut at all.
    If you have to, follow some reputable procedures and have a written copy available in the workplace and make sure your guys are trained in the use of it.

    Regards,
    George

  23. #23
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    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    That was last october and I still have not had time to cut it.Makes me think back of when a buddy borrowed my motorcycle 25 years ago and then laid it on its side denting the gas tank, so I cleaned it out with a power washer and welded a unispotter stud to the dent with my stud gun and gave it a good yank to pull the dent out.. then put a stud hole in the middle of the dent, so now i had to weld the hole in the dent, and I remember waiting for the bang.I was scared because just prior 2 friends had known the dangers of welding gas tanks but thought they could get away from it by using brass or solder and dripping it onto the gas tank, the explosion cut them up a bit, and they are still around today.(They weren't professional welders)

  24. #24
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    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    Quote Originally Posted by pistolnoon View Post
    I had an RCMP member tell me one time at a truck tanker accident carrying gas in winter that gas would not flash until 27 deg C???So hot brakes woulf be a problem not a lit cigarette.
    I'm afraid that RCMP (?) member was terribly mistaken on the flash point (temperature at which a liquid 'flashes off' or produces vapor) of gasoline. It's -45F (-43C).

    Edit: . . . a little known often overlooked fact - antifreeze and windshield washer fluid produce potentially fatal explosive vapors too.
    Last edited by duaneb55; 05-06-2009 at 01:40 AM.
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  25. #25
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    Nov 2008
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    Re: Cutting steel drum?

    fill the drum with water and cut i with an air powered grinder, just be sure to dry and oil the grinder when you are done

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