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

Archive for the ‘Cool Stuff’ Category

Science Vs. Steel

January 11th, 2016 by Natalie Mueller

Filed under: Cool Stuff, Stainless Steel

The 55 gallon industrial steel drum is the workhorse of our drum lineup. It’s the Goldilocks special: not to small, not to big, and just right for a lot of common containment needs. At Skolnik, we take great measures to ensure all of our drums are safe, strong, reliable and meet the necessary UN and DOT requirements. We work with our clients to make sure that the Skolnik drums they receive have the correct treatment, lining and closures for their particular use. Essentially, we want our drums to maintain their integrity to ensure they can work hard and last long.


That said, we appreciate the occasional science experiment, and who doesn’t like to watch YouTube videos of things getting smashed or destroyed (When you have a chance, we highly recommend watching this front load washer carnage.


A group of students put physics to the test and attempted to crush a 55 gallon steel drum on their school’s front lawn. Their destruction weapon of choice: air pressure.


Spoiler alert: they succeeded.

It wasn’t the first time someone has crushed a 55 gallon steel drum with air pressure, it wasn’t even the first time someone recorded it and posted it on YouTube, but it is still a fun and enlightening physics experiment.


As steel drum manufacturers, we have to admit that watching a beautiful barrel be destroyed hurt our hearts a little. We never claim our products are indestructible, not even our workhorse, the 55 gallon steel drum. What we do promise is that our team will work with you to discover and manufacture the best container or transport vessel for your needs and that a Skolnik container is guaranteed to get the job done safely, reliably and meet all necessary requirements.

Skolnik’s Reza Tanha featured in Sports Illustrated Walk-on by Kansas State

November 17th, 2015 by Howard Skolnik

Filed under: Cool Stuff, Skolnik Newsletter

Lots of programs pride themselves on being walk-on friendly. But the walk-on program at Kansas State is part of the team’s identity, and has been since Coach Bill Snyder took over in 1989 and engineered one of the biggest turnarounds in college football history. From his two lengthy stints as coach at K-State, from 1989 to 2005 and from 2009 to the present), it’s tough for Snyder to pick a favorite walk-on story. His favorite is about a linebacker in whom no one believed. No one, that is, except Bill Snyder.

Reza Tanha, currently Skolnik’s VP of Engineering and Operations, was a 6-foot, 190-pounder from Gridley, Kan., population 300. When Snyder got to K-State he told his assistants that he didn’t want to know which players had the team’s 45 scholarships, or who was on aid versus who wasn’t. It was a brief conversation that left a lasting impression, "I just want to tell you how much I appreciate you," Tanha told Snyder. "I haven’t played much, but you’ve got me into three games so far—and I know I’m not a very good player. But you treat us just like everyone else."

Tanha played just the 1989 season before graduating. Each weekend, he unfurls his Wildcats flag, pulls on his K-State T-shirt and finds his team on TV. Almost three decades removed from playing, he feels a special connection to every walk-on who comes through the program. At most schools, the walk-on label signifies a perceived lack of talent. In Manhattan, it’s an elevated status of sorts, a special fraternity. Eight years ago, Tanha—now living in a Chicago suburb—returned to Kansas to go turkey hunting. While there he accompanied a fellow K-State graduate to a local banquet where Snyder was the keynote speaker. Tanha approached Snyder before the event to say hello, and stuck out his hand. "Hey, coach, you probably don’t remember me, but I’m …"
"Reza Tanha," Snyder interjected. "Linebacker. It’s so good to see you!"

Read the entire Sports Illustrated interview about Coach Snyder and Reza

Transportation Airships are Coming!

August 25th, 2015 by Howard Skolnik

Filed under: Cool Stuff, Industry News, Skolnik Newsletter

The need for an airborne cargo vehicle not dependent on airstrips or other ground infrastructure is obvious, but a solution has never been available. Now, Lockheed Martin has introduced its line of Hybrid Airships! Oversized and heavy cargo regularly has to be moved, and maneuvering into tight spaces and on any surface such as water, ice, snow and a jungle clearing, is practically impossible without building the infrastructure necessary to support landings and take-off of conventional airplanes. The new breed of airships have already been scheduled to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and will soon be under construction with the first available service in 2018. This airship will offer a payload of 21 tons with up to 19 passengers and a range of up to 1,400 nautical miles at 60 knots. Check out video launch of this unique airship that represents a new generation of cargo transport.

The Fall of Early Barrel Cooperatives in Minnesota [Part 3 of 3]

March 5th, 2015 by Natalie Mueller

Filed under: Cool Stuff

The mechanization of the barrel-making industry

The mechanization of the barrel-making industry

Despite their success, cooper cooperatives still had to manage the market and all of its instabilities. Bidding was competitive, big ‘boss’ coopers were constantly lowering prices to undercut cooperatives and cutting wages driving coopers to strike, and Rockefeller had introduced barrel-making machinery.

While cooperatives excluded machinery from their operations for as long as possible, boss coopers adopted the mechanized barrel-makers, increased production and eventually created an oversupply of barrels.

At this point, nearly all of Minneapolis’ coopers had enrolled in the Knights of Labor. This union of cooperative coopers and big shop coopers lead to a few triumphs over long-standing disagreements and a new strategy to improve wages. They negotiated a new price per barrel with millers, but still had to negotiate their inter-cooper relationships. Big shops were the cooperative’s competition, but the coopers working for big shops were union brothers. Striking coopers needed cooperatives to refrain from taking their big shop’s contracts during a strike, or else their strike would fail. Also, cooperators needed those strikes to succeed and drive up prices at big shops forcing millers to pay more for barrels no matter who was making them.

It was a constant tightrope and many shops, cooperative and otherwise, were rumored to break their price agreement with the millers in order to win more business. Between these tensions, the mechanization of the trade and growing exports of wheat, the market was a rollercoaster.

Eventually, after a detrimental price decline and massive strike, The Knights of Labor and the barrel makers of Minneapolis (coops and big shops) formed a pool of barrel factories called the Coopers Association to divide the work evenly among shops, limit employment, and regulate barrel price and wages. But the association had many critics. Many millers saw it as a monopoly and a few dissenting cooperatives saw it as an opportunity to crush the competition. Curtis and Bachelder’s own The North Star not only didn’t join, but undermined the association by stealing contracts for their own profit.

Distrust and resentment rose among the ranks of coopers. Ultimately, the Cooper Association could not maintain control over the barrel market and tensions between the Knights and the North Star were often mediated but never resolved. Between these strains and some cooperators destructive independence, the Minneapolis barrel industry highlighted the weaknesses of a cooperative philosophy. Their agreed-upon rules fell by the wayside, the number of activists in the Knights of Labor diminished and the labor movement was weakened.

It was a long, slow road to the end of cooperative barrel shops in Minneapolis. Market pressures convinced cooperators to reduce membership, buy out shareholders and hire nonmembers to run machines in their place. They undermined the craft. Curtis, once one of the most prominent and vigorous labor activists and a champion of cooperative experiments, abandoned the cooperative cause to become a patrol driver in the police department. Bachelder remained a member of the North Star and saw it prosper, but his firm’s success was largely to blame for the disintegration of cooperation among barrel makers.

Yet for a few years in the 1880s, the vision of cooperation thrived and the cooperative coopers of Minneapolis dominated an industry and served as a champion of craft workers.


If you missed the beginning of our series on Minnesota barrel cooperatives, you can read part one here and part two here.