Tools for removing the lid off a metal drum or barrel

Barrel in Forest image by Jan Petter Haraldsen from

Metal drums or barrels, mostly used in industrial settings, need special tools to remove their lids. Various liquids and semisolids, including hazardous chemicals, get shipped or transported using these metal drums or barrels. The drums may also contain flammable material like oil and petroleum products. Tools used for removing the lids off a metal drum or barrel are generally referred to as drum deheaders or drum openers. The concept is quite similar to a domestic can opener.

Standard drum deheader

The standard drum deheader can open a steel drum of any size and gauge. The deheader has a sharp replaceable blade of hardened steel and a plastic hand grip that allows the user to cut open the lid without the use of a torch or fire. This deheader can open a drum containing any kind of material without the risk of causing fire. However, the opened lid will have a jagged, rough end and should be handled with care by the operator. Some of the deheader models have an inside-cutting blade that cuts the lid by penetrating inward and flattening it, thus the jagged edges face only one side of the lid and do not have sharp ends, minimising the risk of injuries. The blades can be adjusted to fit the thickness of the steel by a screw provided on the tool near the blade itself. These deheaders can be used manually or can also be attached to a pneumatic 1.3 cm (1/2 inch) ratchet drive to open drums in bulk quantities in a commercial environment.

Non-spark drum opener

This deheader provides for a 100-percent non-sparking environment. Here the blades are made of hardened, non-ferrous alloy that are sharp edged, but do not cause any friction when rubbed against the metal barrel. These are specially recommended for opening drums with highly inflammable chemicals and other such liquids. The openers are provided with a comfortable plastic hand grip with which the operator can stand at a distance while cutting open the barrel.

Electric or automatic drum deheader

Electric or automatic drum deheaders work on air (pneumatic) or electric power and are safe as they leave no jagged edges. These are quite fast and can cut a 208 litre (55 gallon) drum head in less than a minute. These machines are easy to operate, and you don't need any special skills or training. With wheels attached to the bottom, this kind of deheader is portable, too. The electric or automatic drum deheaders are designed to cut the inner layer or the inside chime of the steel drum first, thus pushing the lid outward. The cut lids need to be removed by hand.

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