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cutting open a 44gal. drum


ianinsa

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Hi All, I wish to pick the communal brain as such!:D a friend has some drums of 'pitch' of some sort. He wants to cut off the top and bottom and then slit it down one side to get both the contents and the metal sheeting. As there may/is volatile fumes involved he would like a safe and easy method. He asked me for a solution to his dilemma, I proposed a set of hydraulic shears AKA jaws of life and this seemed a good solution until he inquired about the price of them........ well lets say ......A Non starter. I'm stumped but maybe I'm too close to the trees to see the wood? Any suggestions? I've thought about extending a plumbers pipe cutters (the chain type)

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At work we have a drum cutter that works like a big can opener. I have also used an air chisel, some have an attachment for sheet metal that curls up a nice strip in the middle of the blade. Think 3 fingers with the middle one down that does the shearing. There is always the option of hammer and chisel........

 

Pitch, as in a solid form? If so, it should be pretty safe to cut, unlike liquids that can form fumes, and vapors that can explode.

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Never tried it: but how about filling the lip with water and using hammer and chisel, fill drum with water to do side cut and cut from top down, turn it upside down and do the same as the top, cut rim edge with hacksaw.

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a jigsaw with a metal blade in works too.  When you say volatile, just how volatile? If it's just diesel or oil then pick a tool from plasma torch, angle grinder, or what ever you have; at worst it will make smoke 

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Ian: If it's diesel or fuel oil do NOT use any kind of flame. Diesel, kerosene fuel oil, etc. have a saturation level in air that is right in the middle of the flammable ratio. Any air in the drum will be at an explosive air fuel mixture. At tank farms the fuel oils are considered the most dangerous to load, we put several ground wires on the trucks.

A welder at the state shop welded up a crack in the diesel tank on a truck and instead of filling the tank completely and running the truck's front tire up an a stand so the crack was at the low end he filed it and just welded on it. The estimate was hard to pin down but when we filled a tank till it wouldn't take anymore I don't think there was a 1/2" gap where the crack was. I figure maybe 1/2gl. of air but that's an estimate, lots of "experts" came up with different estimates some based on . . . interesting calculations.

The explosion split the tank on two seams, along the top front and down the left side to the bottom and sprayed 110gls of diesel fuel across the heavy duty shop. The welder was dragged out by a couple of the guys on duty and extinguished, the heavy duty shop was a total loss.

Non-flammable means if it's fuel oil. The drum opener a nibbler the sheet metal chisel on an air hammer are good. Please no fire.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Greetings Ian,

if your friend does not want the rim edges a Skill type carpenters saw with a 7 1/2 inch abrasive cut off disc would work just fine. If he wants to reclaim the top and bottom metal a air chisel would be best. I have done both with great results.. 

Forge on and make beautiful things

Jim

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Like this one. 

Look up drum deheader. 

pic-4.gif

​Bother one already exists!

I should have read the entire thread before I spent a happy hour doing an unsuccessful image search for a Claes Oldenberg giant can opener sculpture for you...

Alan

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A good air chisel is the fastest easiest safest bet here. I have cut up many 275 gallon (12 gauge steel) tanks with an a panel cutter bit in an air chisel. Used to be a common job around here when folks switched to gas heat. Before a tank was cut in half it was a hazard, afterwards it was just sheetmetal. I tried every method at least once, the hands down winner was the air chisel. A super sawsall (12 amps or more) with a thick blade was a distant second. Doable but longer harder work. 

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Hi guys, thanks for all the suggestions! Drum 'deheaders' never knew they existed! I'm glad I asked. As for things that go bang in the drum(night) they scare the willy's out of me so if there is even the slightest chance of sparks I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole(trust me on this) I hadn't thought of the air chisel though and I've got a couple hanging virtually unused on the rack, you guys are right they should do the job magnificently. Those automated jobs sure look impressive though.

Now I just have to figure out how to get one of those fancy deheaders down into deepest darkest Africa :D

Thanks I really appreciate the effort it took to give me the suggestions.

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Saws, grinders, etc can produce sparks.

A chisel and hammer will work, and produce no sparks. Once the head is removed you can then use another faster method to cut open the rest of the drum.

 

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I have used a hammer and chisel, I have used a handled hot set and hammer which kept my knuckles out of the way of the sharp edges let alone the hammer...not too sure about the sparks though. You could halve the spark risk by using a copper mallet I suppose.

Everytime I have tried an air hammer sheet cutter it has been a failure. Maybe I was just using it for the wrong application.

I think the drum de-header looks like it answers the requirement admirably. If there is a quantity to do then certainly worth getting hold of one.

Alan

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Arftist, we don't really get much here in the way of a sawsall here other than B&D (junk) , Ryobi(handyman)or Metabo(fantastic though I think they might trade in your late model car towards the cost of one:rolleyes:

Billyo & turbo7, I take it you missed the key word "EASY " :D

Jim, I often use an abrasive disk in a skill saw but I seem to get 'lots and lots of sparks' and those fumes in the drums just 'smell' explosive

Alan you would want to point me to some giant can opener..... probably in some park too! Were you going to suggest that I copy or nick it:D

Dave and Frosty , I make 'black diesel ' plants in which I use umo burners and when set on low they will get to over 500 degrees Celsius in seconds so I even treat stuff as unthreatening as old motor oil as dangerous 

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I had a drum to cut the top off of. Had a "little" powder in it that smelled like peppermint, put a little water in the drum with only a peak of 1" or 2" diameter sticking out of the water. Started cutting  with arc welder and when almost done with only 2-3" to go I heard a whistle and lifted up My hood. A stream of sparkler type flames was coming out of the big hole in the lid. A couple of seconds after I lifted My hood a fireball about 6" in diameter came out and went up 2 or 3' with a big poof. No harm, no foul, next time the barrel will be filled to the top. The slag must have evaporated enough water to make it less than safe. Had a boss who asked a worker to cut a drum open and it took off His head.

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Having looked up the drum head removers, I find that even they come in spark-less versions with brass wheels. 

If they reckon that one of those without any impact can cause a spark, I really do not think you should be looking at any chisel system whether air or hammer driven. Certainly nothing with an electric motor either….so my nibbler or an electric shear are out.

Water jet cutting? There are some wonderful portable packs the bomb disposal people use….

Alan

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An old school trick was to replace the air with something without oxy, engine exhaust was a common favorite and one I used many times. I liked a small engine, start it, pull the choke till it was running smokey and poke a hose in the barrel, fuel tank, etc. when the tank is blowing smoke it's good to go. Right? Uh, maybe.

In the late 70's I believe it was, a local tank and welding company in Anchorage was commissioned to repair a cracked leg on a 10,000gl. diesel tank. Their long proven process was to drain it and steam the tank for a couple days before doing anything more than examine it. They were halfway through day 3 and an old timer decided they needed the shop space and struck an arc. Heck it was only about a 2" long crack and right under one of the steam lances aimed into the manholes.

I was at work about 7 miles away and the explosion rattled the windows at the soil's lab. Their 120' x 60' x 24' H. red iron steel main shop building looked like a popped balloon. Oddly enough the old timer who ran the bead, well started to, survived with moderate injuries, 4 other guys in the shop suffered impact and minor burn injuries, the kid on top of the tank adjusting one of the steam stingers was blown through the roof, his body was found about half a block away.

That was it for my displace the oxy bearing air method of fuel tank repair, that tank had been washed with special detergents and steamed HARD for 3 days and there was enough residual volatiles in the tank to almost completely level a large shop kill a man and break windows for a couple miles around.

If I'm welding on a fuel tank I want the beads running completely submerged in fuel, if it isn't seeping out of the seam, crack, etc. I'm not doing it. If someone IS willing I'll be a few blocks away ready to dial 911. I know I'm on a roll on this subject. I used to be one of those guys who was willing but I've been too close to what even a small mistake can and will do. I don't know why I'm still alive, if I was careful enough, just lucky or both. I don't care, I won't take ANY chances with a fuel oil tank of any size.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Running rich is sending unburned fuel out the exhaust, enough of it will still go boom.

When I welded up gas tanks off of classic cars I filled it with water to within a quarter inch or so off the area being welded, then purged the remaining area with CO2 for a few minutes to get the remaining air out.

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The purpose was to keep the atmosphere inside the tank out of flammable air fuel so yes, while choked smoky exhaust does indeed have enough fuel to be explosive, in an enclosed space that already has an explosive fuel air mix it purges out enough oxy to keep it from burning.

I just don't do or recommend any of that anymore and it's an old school technique like two I've seen destroy shops. Just one teensy little mistake is all it takes.

Frosty The Lucky.

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