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

Archive for the ‘Cool Stuff’ Category

Oil’s Long History with the 55 Gallon Steel Drum

September 28th, 2017 by Natalie Mueller

Filed under: Cool Stuff

The 55 gallon steel drum is perhaps the most iconic barrel Skolnik produces. Seen in countless movies and TV shows, in real life and in photographs, if you were to ask someone to think of what a barrel looks like, a 55 gallon, or 45 imperial gallon, steel drum would most likely be on their minds. One of the biggest reasons these drums are so inexorably planted into our public consciousness is their use in the oil industry. In fact, the two are so closely associated, that the very unit of measurement one uses to talk about oil is barrels. The two weren’t paired from the start, however. Instead, oil has had a somewhat complicated relationship with the 55 gallon steel drum as industry needs have grown, changed, and evolved throughout years.

First and foremost, the “barrel” unit of measurement did not start with steel, but with wood. In the late 1850s, as oil prospecting in Pennsylvania took off, the prospectors used whatever they had to hold it in, and old wine and whiskey casks turned out to be the best solution on hand. Consequently, barrels were there with oil production from basically the very beginning. In those early days, there were some variances, but by the late 1860s, they sought to standardize. Basing their model off of King Edward IV’s herring industry legislation, they decided to sell oil in 40-gallon units, with an additional good will top-off of 2 gallons; the oil equivalent of a baker’s dozen.

These old wooden casks were not quite up to the same standards of quality as the stainless steel wine barrels we here at Skolnik offer, however. Consequently, improvements were sought out. After some early mass-produced steel containers from John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, in 1905 Nellie Bly designed a solution to the crummier containers. With the capacity of holding 55 gallons and key features such as the ribs that provide rigidity and strength, Bly had crafted a new industry standard with the iconic drums we all know so well.

Even with these new containers though, the oil industry was still seeking to pare down their shipping costs. This led to investing in such things as tanker ships and pipelines, with the goal of eliminating physical barrels entirely. It didn’t help that the dissociation between oil and the 55 gallon drum had already begun. The unit “barrel” was still 42 gallons while the container was 55, so the 55 gallon steel drum kept being pushed farther and farther away from the industry that invented it.

Meanwhile, to improve public perception of the barrels that still existed, oil companies painted the barrels bright colors and adorning them with corporate logos. The beautification initiative worked so well that it’s these barrels from the mid-20th Century that cemented the iconic look for generations to come. It is from this initiative that the evocative blue barrel came from.

By the 1950s, for the most part, tanker trucks, railways and pipelines pushed barrels out of the oil production chain all together. The barrels have instead made the transition into other industries, carrying supplies and materials for countless other products. Consequently, the oil barrel is now little more than a term we use when talking about catastrophic spills or energy outputs. The 55 gallon steel drum, however, is still going strong, and will continue to do so for many years to come.

Bourbon Theft Ring Brings Skolnik Stainless Steel Barrels into the Spotlight

December 22nd, 2016 by Natalie Mueller

Filed under: Cool Stuff, Stainless Steel

To a distiller, there is nothing more beautiful than a perfectly charred oak barrel. Except maybe a stainless steel barrel that can hold their precious bourbon for as long as is needed without tainting or affecting the flavor or age.

That’s right – American distillers use stainless steel barrels for their bourbon and other liquors, and according to Bourbon historian Michael Veach, the practice is hardly new.

To be a bourbon, whiskey has to be aged in oak. But after the aging is complete, it can be transferred to stainless steel barrels for storage. Stainless steel does not interact with the bourbon the way oak does, which means that distillers can store a final product in stainless steel without worrying that it will alter the flavor in any way.

This stainless secret came into the limelight last year when stainless steel barrels of bourbon were seized as evidence in an on-going bourbon theft ring. One of the stolen barrels was a 17-year Eagle Rare from Buffalo Trace. And just what container had Buffalo Trace entrusted to hold this expensive product? A 23-gallon, stainless steel barrel. Actually, a Skolnik Industries 23-gallon, stainless steel barrel, to be precise.

That’s right, distillers all around bourbon county are turning to Skolnik stainless steel barrels to store their precious product. And not just any bourbon, but expensive, highly sought after bourbon — that one 23-gallon barrel of 17-year Eagle Rare is worth between $11,000 and $12,000.

To learn more about the theft ring and the use of stainless steel barrels in the distillery business, read the USA Today piece about the heist. To learn more about how your distillery can benefit from stainless steel barrels, contact a Skolnik sales representative today.

Skolnik Cited by Chicago Tribune for Participation in Youth Employment

September 20th, 2016 by Howard Skolnik

Filed under: Cool Stuff, Skolnik Newsletter

All stories of good intentions do not necessarily end as expected. Early in 2016, Dean Ricker, Skolnik’s VP of Sales, became interested in a program to help employ Chicago’s youth.
The Manufacturing Careers Internship Program was launched in 2011 and is responsible for the successful placement of hundreds of youth in gainful employment. The program includes a “boot camp” type of training for the candidates which includes tours to manufacturing companies around Chicago.

Dean offered Skolnik to be a host company and 18 potential interns toured and marveled at our manufacturing process and culture. One student that stood out, Adonis Clayton, was selected to be the Skolnik intern and from the first day of his internship, we witnessed a transformation of character and dedication. From sleeping in his car to insisting on wearing a tie to work every day, Adonis was working to become a gainfully employed Chicago resident. Skolnik employees all championed Adonis as he became known as “Mr. Wonderful.” Furthermore, we saw his talent emerge and he felt attracted to the practice of Engineering.

It was all going well and we allocated time for Adonis to complete his GED. However, in late August, Adonis stopped reporting to work and, we believe, his personal life got in the way of his progress. At this point, his future at Skolnik is unsure but our door is still open. Even if Adnonis chooses not to return to Skolnik, we hope that his time at Skolnik will always serve to help him reach out for a bright future.

You can read the full Tribune story here

Our History in Pictures

August 29th, 2016 by Howard Skolnik

Filed under: Cool Stuff, Skolnik Newsletter

Skolnik Industries has been one of the most reputable names in the steel drum and packaging arena for nearly a century. Today we have a global market, but it all started in a small, family owned drum reconditioning facility in Chicago. As we approach 90 years of presence in the steel drum community, we have compiled a pictorial history of our company with photos, product brochures, and news events that date back as far as 1943. Originally started circa 1925 as peddlers of wooden barrels, in 1940, the company moved to steel drum reconditioning and as of 1960, solely manufacturing new steel drums. In 1985, the company was bought by Howard Skolnik and in 2012, Howard’s long-time friend, Brian Hand became a shareholder. The focus has been to develop the niche products for unique markets which were not being served by conventional 55 gallon steel drum manufacturers. During these last 30 years, Skolnik has achieved the highest levels of quality manufacturing with a vast array of products and services. Today we operate under ISO 9001:2015 as well as Nuclear Quality Assurance – 1. We participate in the global regulatory arena to “save lives” by helping to prevent hazardous material accidents.

If you would like to see what we’ve been doing for these past 90 years, check out OUR HISTORY at Skolnik.com. We’re proud of our past, working hard in our present, and looking forward to a stimulating future.