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Drum It Up! Steel Drum Industry News, Trends, and Issues

Archive for 2013

Nellie Bly: Woman of Steel

December 12th, 2013 by Lisa Stojanovich

Filed under: Industry News

Part Three: Mother of the 55 gallon steel drum

This post is part three of the Nellie Bly story.  Catch up with parts one and two if you missed them before.

By the age of 30, in 1985, Bly had met and married Robert Seaman.  At 70 years old he was two decades her senior, and a millionaire industrialist who owned a the Iron Clad Manufacturing Company, based in Brooklyn.  At this time Bly retired from journalism, and began managing the factory.  The company had already established itself as a kitchenware manufacturer and was currently producing milk cans and riveted boilers.  Ten years into their marriage Seaman died, and Bly became president of the company.  In 1901, at the Pan-American Exposition, Iron Clad Manufacturing was owned exclusively by Bly, and she was being promoted as  “the only woman in the world personally managing industries of such a magnitude.”

After a trip to Europe in 1904, where she saw steel containers designed to hold glycerine, Bly was inspired to invent her own metal barrel.  After many failed attempts including leaking barrels and defective solders, Bly attempted to braze the barrels, but that contaminated the liquid contents.  She continued to work her designs until she had a barrel that she was proud to sell to the people.  In only a year from her inspiring trip across the Atlantic, Bly had a design that was patented and ready for the American market.

Patent for Bly’s metal barrel

There was large demand for a container that could transport oil, gasoline, and other precious liquids, and at the time Bly and Iron Clad Manufacturing were the only American company who could meet those needs.  At the peak of its performance, the company was producing 1,000 barrels a day and hiring around 1,500 employees.  It is commonly believed that this design became the 55 gallon drum that is used today throughout the world.

Although the metal barrel was proving successful, legal issues were forming.  Bly was owner and majority shareholder of both Iron Clad and its subsidiary, American Steel Barrel Company, and in a government affidavit she insisted that the same books were kept for the companies and it would be impossible to differentiate funds between one or the other; the companies were too dependent on each other to be separate entities. When she was asked to prove that all investments made into American Steel by Bly were for the best interest of Iron Clad and not herself, she was charged with fraud.  Although there was no proof to convict her and she was innocent, creditors began calling and the business began to suffer.

Iron Clad Manufacturing eventually succumbed to debt and Bly returned to reporting just in time to cover the events of World War I.  She died at the age of 57 due to pneumonia on January 27, 1922, and was laid to rest in her beloved New York City in the Bronx.  Although, Bly is most remembered for her impressive reporting skills, contemporary members of the packaging industry know her better has the mother of the 55 gallon drum.

Thank you for following the story of Nellie Bly: Woman of Steel.

Open Head vs Tight Head drums

December 5th, 2013 by Lisa Stojanovich

Filed under: Industry News

In terms of heads, there are two types of drums, open head and tight head.  The open head drum has a fully removable cover and only the bottom is seamed.  The tight head drum has both ends seamed and no removable lid and access is through fittings, usually 2” and ¾” in the top. Both drums types can be United Nations (UN) and Department of Transportation (DOT) certified for hazardous materials or dangerous goods.

Different tools or special procedures are used depending on the materials and gauges used to construct the drums, but both types start with a welded cylinder.  Next, open head drums have one end flanged which becomes the bottom of the drum and the other end is curled to create a seat for the removable top.  On a tight head drum both ends are flanged and thus permanently sealed, so both ends of a tight head drum look like a “bottom.”  Typically for tight a head drum there are only two hoops added along the vertical drum equidistant from the middle, while an open head drum may have three hoops in varying distances along the vertical side of the drum.  An open head drum may also have a gasket or fittings in the covers.

These wine barrels are an example of a tight

head drum, the top and bottom cannot be removed.

Whether an open or closed head drum, to insure the integrity of the closure system, and to help guarantee the safe storage of contents, the drum needs to be closed properly in accordance with each manufacturer’s Closure Instructions. It is imperative that whoever is handling the drum understands the procedures for the specific closure type that is being used.  There are two main types of closures for open head drums, lever lock and bolt rings.  Both closures will help protect contents of the drum from spills or contamination, but it is important to know which closure will work best for each drum and expected contents.  The Bolt Ring closure consists of a closure ring with welded lugs through which a bolt and nut will secure closure. The Leverlock is a toggle-style closure, has no removable parts, and is a much faster method of closure than the bolt ring. Closure instructions can be found anytime on the Skolnik website in both written (English and Spanish)  and video form to help customers safely secure open head drums.

An open head drum with a Bolt Lock and another with a Lever Lock closure


In almost any industry where contents need to be shipped, drums are used, therefore it is important to make sure contents are being stored in the proper type of drum.  Open heads are best used for solids and viscous liquids.  When items such as honey, paint, or even radioactive waste are being shipped or stored an open head drum should be used.  Tight heads are best used for liquids, contents that can be easily drained through the fittings, such as flavors, fragrances, or beverages.

Whatever is being shipped, the proper drum makes all the difference in reducing risk and safe passage. Skolnik Industries is dedicated to giving its customers exceptional quality and service.

Why a Seamless Stainless Crevice Free Drum was Developed by Skolnik

November 23rd, 2013 by Lisa Stojanovich

Filed under: Industry News

This is the story of why, and how, Skolnik developed their Stainless Seamless Crevice Free Drum. In a standard steel drum, where the body and head meet, there is a small crevice; it is created when the pieces are welded and seamed together.  This is oftentimes not a concern and the drum is an effective way to safely transport highly valued contents.  Sometimes, however, bacteria can grow in the crevice and this can lead to contamination of certain contents such as substances used in the pharmaceutical industry or chemical industry that use nitric acid or other chemicals.  The seamless drum does not have this crevice; it is smooth where the body and head meet which means it does not carry the same risk of bacterial contamination as a conventional steel drum. Skolnik Industries has always produced safe and reliable drums for storage and transport, but something more hygienic was needed and this led to the production of the seamless, crevice free drum and nitric acid steel drum.

In the early 2000’s, there was growing interest in seamless drums. Customer demand for the product increased, and Skolnik Industries was looking to meet the needs of our customers.  Our in-house engineering department was able to quickly begin developing the machinery that would allow for seamless drum production.  The process needed to be precise and thorough. With a team of full time engineers on hand, we committed 6 years of research and development to make sure the Skolnik seamless drum would be a safe and effective container for our customers.

The need for new equipment prompted our team to design machines that would properly and effectively weld the seamless drum.  It was important that the body, cap, and foot ring of the drum would all fit perfectly, and the welding engineer spent close to a year attempting to simulate the correct process. Once all the designs were finished, the necessary machines were built and the first seamless drum was produced.  It had been a long process, but it was ready for the quality tests.  It is imperative that seamless drums keep from cracking after a drop test.  A proper weld will help a seamless drum pass. this drop test . The welding programs were adjusted multiple times until a satisfactory setting was found.  The in-house engineering team was able to successfully bring seamless drums to the Skolnik Industries product line.

Production of a seamless, crevice free drum was slow-going, and we soon started looking for opportunities to speed up the process.  Further improvements to machinery were made, and the purchase of a vertical hooping machine simplified adding row bars to a drum.  With the new machinery and processes in place, production time was cut in half.  This meant large orders could be filled in a timely fashion that benefited customers on a strict time schedule while still ensuring a quality product.  By 2009 Skolnik Industries seamless drums were on the market.

Throughout the process there were roughly 15 dedicated Skolnik employees, from engineers to maintenance, to the quality department, who had a close hand in getting the company ready for seamless drum production.  It took time and creativity, and it has all been worth it.  Seamless drums lower the risk of contamination by residual bacteria and are a good value given the volume of contents that can be transported.  Both Skolnik and our customers have benefited from the seamless, crevice free drum production.

Planning for Risk in New Orleans

November 21st, 2013 by Howard Skolnik

Filed under: Safety, Salvage Drum

Some say that accidents cannot be avoided, but Dr. Pamela Jenkins, a professor at the Center for Hazards Assessment, Response & Technology at the University of New Orleans, would not agree with that statement. At the October 2013 Dangerous Goods Advisory Council (DGAC) meeting in New Orleans, Dr. Jenkins hosted a presentation and workshop focusing on the academics of understanding “Risk and Place.” Her presentation highlighted the need for communities to plan ahead, from zoning and designing the urban fabric, to the location of dangerous or high risk facilities in relation to population centers. Too often high risk facilities such as power stations, and even railroad tracks, are located adjacent to schools, arenas, and other sites that house a large number of people. Railroad tracks often are the route taken for hundreds of thousands of dangerous goods in transport and therefore, create a dangerous goods “corridor” that has the potential to devastate a community. Dr. Jenkins also talked about responders to incidents and pointed out that the real First Responders to any incident are the survivors who then begin the process of recovery. Unexpectedly, the concept of risk and recovery related directly to Skolnik because in the aftermath of Katrina, our Salvage Drums were used to safely capture rogue hazardous material drums that had floated away from their permanent location. You can check out the work of the Center by clicking here.