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Thread: Cutting the top off a barrel/drum

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Cutting the top off a barrel/drum

    I'm building a Phil Thien seperator and got a free 30 gallon from the local car wash. Only problem is the top does not come off (I think it's been plastic welded on to seal it). I'd like to cut off the top cleanly and precisely so I can use an MDF top with weatherstripping to creat an airtight seal.

    What do you all suggest would be the best way to make this cut?

  2. #2
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    I cut a couple on the inside of the lip around the top with my jigsaw. The resulting edge was sharp and needed some cleanup. DAMHIKT!


  3. #3
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    Grottoes, VA.
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    As Matt said, jigsaw should do the trick.

    I built one (top hat design) last year, but used a metal can. Which type are you building? I used a piece of higher grade plywood to make my wall, cutting relief slots in it to make the curve. Then I lined the inside with aluminum flashing. It made for a real nice smooth wall, to which plastic (think corian, etc) won't static too. Maybe overkill on the static issue, but the flashing is very easy to work, low friction, and relatively inexpensive too.

    I get so very little dust in my collection bag .... and the Wynn filter is still spotless.
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    Last edited by Kevin W Johnson; 02-27-2012 at 1:32 AM.

  4. #4
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    If the existing top is nice and flat could you use a long base on a router sitting on the top the barrel and a wing cutter? If so stick a shim in the kerf in a few places as you go.

  5. #5
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    I would use a router with a top bearing flush cutting bit and maybe a spacer under 1/2 of the router base so the router sits level on the rim. Drill a hole near the rim large enough for the bit to get started. The top bearing should ride around the inside edge of the rim and cut the top flush with it.

    Charley

  6. #6
    I would leave the top on and just cut around the inside to make a hole. Why worry about making a difficult cut when all you really need is a big hole for dust to fall into? I'd probably just do it with a reciprocating saw, or maybe even by hand with a keyhole saw or something like that.

  7. #7
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    so I can use an MDF top with weatherstripping to creat an airtight seal.
    I used some of that rubber pipe wrap for a seal. It works great.

    +1 to trying a jig saw and a good metal blade.
    Some of those drums are pretty tough though. I once tried a cold chisel on one and gave up after working it for 15 min and just getting a few dents.
    You might need to find a friend w/a cutting torch.

  8. #8
    I just assumed it was a plastic drum for some reason.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
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    central PA
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    OP didn't say whether the top is plastic or metal. Makes a difference in the answers I've seen posted.

  10. #10
    I think I assumed that because he said the lid was plastic welded on....so naturally I assumed it was plastic. I had to go back and reread it to see where I got that idea from.


  11. #11
    Dont ever use a cutting torch to cut the top off a barrel. that is a good way to blow yourself into the next county. you dont know for sure what was in the barrel, if it is the least bit flamable it will start burning or blow up. Even if it isnt, unburned cutting torch gas can build up in the barrel and blow up before you get done with the cut. A sharp cold chisel and a 3 pound hammer will take a lid off in about 5 minutes. A local fellow nearly killed himself and managed to burn down a really big implement dealer ship by cutting a barrel with a torch. two young guys in the town next to us suffered horrible disfiguring facial burns and nearly died cutting the top off a barrel.

  12. #12
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    Thanks for the insight so far guys. Attached is a picture that should clarify the barrel, which is indeed plastic. As you can see the top has a couple threaded openings. Do you think a chisel will pop the weld or whatever on the top?

    You can also see it's a fairly irregular shape at the top, but I bet I could use the lip at the top as a reference point for my jig saw.

    I wasn't planning on doing a top hat design.
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  13. #13
    Build a support for router that will span the diameter of the drum, plus about six inches. A piece of 3/4 plywood about 6" wide should do. Attach router to near one end, and install a flush trim bit (1/2" shank) in router. Drill a hole in top near edge that is large enough for flush trim bit to pass through. Insert bit and let side of drum guide bit as you cut out top. You want to cut clockwise (looking down from top.) Lip of drum will support router. For metal drums, I just use my barrel opener, which is basically a giant can opener.

  14. #14
    Join Date
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    Northern Michigan
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    I use a long flush trim on plastic barrels.

    On metal barrels see if you can find someone locally that has a barrel opener. Its like a great big can opener, does a perfect job. My brother used to own a oil business and had one around. Looks just like the inside of a soup can when done.

    Larry

  15. #15
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    Dont ever use a cutting torch to cut the top off a barrel. that is a good way to blow yourself into the next county
    Excellent advice.

    I have known a few people that used a torch on barrels though w/no ill effects. That doesn't mean it's right, just theat they were lucky.

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