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IndustryArena Forum > MetalWorking > Welding Brazing Soldering Sealing > how to safely drill and cut open a used disposable oxygen cylinder
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  1. #1
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    how to safely drill and cut open a used disposable oxygen cylinder

    I know that this could be dangerous, but if it is possible, i'd like to try it.

    I have this used disaposable oxygen cylinder that you buy from home depot or lowes...

    It is empty and i have a small plan on running my little torch on compressed air and propane.

    In a nutshell, i am trying to figure out how to safely drill a hole into the cylinder.

    Is this possible. If yes, any idea how do i go about doing that?

  2. #2
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    There already is a hole in the cylinder. It's the access port. If you need another, figure a way to "Tee" the present fitting.

    Just one way

  3. #3
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    Your right it is dangerous, oxygen cylinders can explode, very nasty.
    If its a disposable then you'll have problems getting it filled, esp with another non standard hole bashed in the side, cylinder fillers have to check the bottle has been pressure tested before they fill it, and they certainly will not refill a disposable.

    That said, if your gonna fill it yourself or something you could fill the bottle with water, and then drill the hole while its still full.
    A t piece and another pipe off the top is still a much better and safer idea.
    Make it rather than buy it.

  4. #4
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    What do you think could potentially happen drilling a hole into an empty oxygen cylinder? Slip and drill a hole into your foot perhaps? Because an empty oxygen cylinder is just a piece of tubing to me.

    Check this guy out. He didn't stop at merely drilling the cylinder out but he cut it clean in half!

    http://homemade-stuff.blogspot.com/2...ade-forge.html

    And apparently he lived to blog about it too. I have an out of date 244 oxidizer cylinder I plan on cutting the bottom off of to use as a crucible myself. You know one of the 5 foot tall tanks. No fear!

    Let us know how you make out, if you live through the ordeal of course.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by dr pepper View Post
    Your right it is dangerous, oxygen cylinders can explode, very nasty.
    If its a disposable then you'll have problems getting it filled, esp with another non standard hole bashed in the side, cylinder fillers have to check the bottle has been pressure tested before they fill it, and they certainly will not refill a disposable.

    That said, if your gonna fill it yourself or something you could fill the bottle with water, and then drill the hole while its still full.
    A t piece and another pipe off the top is still a much better and safer idea.
    Dr Pepper
    Just curious.. How can an empty Oxygen cylinder explode? Whats the fuel? I am not saying your wrong I just don't understand the dangerous part. I agree you could never get a gas shop to refill and don't know why an extra hole would be needed for that anyway..
    Garry

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    This is a video of the aftermath of an oxygen cylinder going up, theres no real nasty bits, but there are a few blood stains.
    The guy was trying to unscrew the valve on a part full cylinder to let the reamining gas out, he wasnt even drilling just undoing the valve with a pair of shifters.
    I have seen pure oxygen burn, oxygen on its own doesnt burn, but dust and anything around it will.
    After watching this you may decide not to go drilling holes in cylinders.
    I have made wood burning stoves from butane and propane cylinders, if you follow the precautions it can be done safely.

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lw_fhNAIQc"]YouTube- O2 CYLINDER EXPLOSION[/ame]
    Make it rather than buy it.

  7. #7
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    One of the commentors noted that the memo put out after the accident said that the tank still had a lot of gas in it when the guy tried to pull off the valve (>2K PSI). If you fully bleed a tank then there's not going to be enough oxygen left in there to burn much, let alone explode with enough force to pop the tank.

    If you crack the valve (preferably outside, of course) and leave it for a day (or bring it inside after it's been silent for a few minutes) then you'll be safe. I'd feel comfortable bringing it inside after it's gone fully silent, and drilling it an hour later. That's if it's a full-size cylinder. If you're talking about one of the little foot-tall ones then I'd drill it immediately after I bled it...1L of oxygen in a bottle at STP isn't going to do much.

  8. #8
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    What part of empty eludes you?

  9. #9
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    This is how I will do mine,

    Measure the cylinder and mathmatically calculate the internal volume.
    Fill it with water.
    Empty that water into a container and measure volume.
    Smell the water and visually inspect for traces of who knows what.
    Confirm the volume is similar to your calculated volume.
    Unscrew valve for visual inspection inside.(skip this if not possible)
    Refill with water again.
    Drill hole with battery drill into water filled vessel.



    Personally I wouldn't trust the fact that the valve is in the open position and nothing is coming out. Valve seats can stick while spindle turns. Nor would I trust that it was an oxygen cylider and therefore there was only ever oxygen inside.


    rkovvur report back here once it's done if you can. I might learn something from your work!

  10. #10
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    I would partial fill it just with compressed air, then bleed, then partial fill with a few PSI of compressed air (at this point any original oxygen will be as a tiny fraction of the air within), then drill it. The little bit of compressed air that rushes out when the drill cuts through would extinguish any possible flame even if there was a chance of flame which there isn't.

  11. #11
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    I've welded on old car gas tanks and not gone through such elaborate preparations! And I'm still here. But if you really want to get carried away with doing your safety dance over there then why not a pneumatic drill? At least their motors don't spark.

  12. #12
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    pfred2,
    So what procedure DO you use to weld a gas tank?

  13. #13
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    Sure looks like that tank had lots of pressure in it to blow up like that.You don'tneed a spark to set off Oxygeen but fat or grease as silly as that sounds.I don't know why but the grease creates a chemical reaction with Oxy. and boom!
    I've welded many pressure vessels and reservoirs in the past even gas tanks.Do not fill with water that is dangerous!!! I once filled a mini cooper gas tank with water before welding and it ruptured big time when I applied heat to it!
    You need to fill the vessel with CO2 or an inert gas first to eliminate the risk of an accident.I once made an on site repair to a deisel fuel tank by filling it with the exaust of my truck tail pipe with good results.After draining the fuel out before hand of course.
    When in doubt have a professional do it.It costs more but your life and extremities are priceless

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    Some good advice there.
    I think filling with water is a good idea, maybe emptying it at least a little before you drill, the main thing with the water business is that it proves that the valve on the bottle has opened, you wouldnt be able to fill the bottle with water if it had seized or frozen letting the gas out.
    The type of drill I dont think really matters, the heat from the bit is gonna be the issue which is gonna be the same from any type of drill.

    I know, use a drill with power feed, set the feed in motion and leg it.

    I have seen diesel tanks welded while they are part full, it can be done.
    Make it rather than buy it.

  15. #15
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    Raise your hand if you think oxygen is flammable/explosive.


    Now, keep your hand up...


    In a sweeping, vigorous motion, slap yourself in the face.

    oxygen doesn't ignite or explode, it is an oxidizer not a fuel. If you don't create any kind of spark or flame then the oxygen can't do its job. The only exception to this is with grease or oil - you never grease or lubricate a fitting that is used with oxygen. I'm not a scientist/chemist so I can't tell you why it does that, but it does.

    If you are drilling or welding an EMPTY oxygen cylinder, you are simply drilling a tube, that's it!

  16. #16
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    heh I figured someone would ask, I drain the tank, take the tank out of the vehicle, take the gauge sender out of the tank, fill the tank up with water and then very carefully tip a lit oxy-acetylene cutting head into the hole left by the sender, you know, just to see if she'll blow, or not ( I sort of lean away as far as I can while I perform this step). And if it doesn't then I have at it! I mean if that flame doesn't ignite it nothing will, right? With two big holes in the tank, the open sender hole, and the filler tube the worst thing that could happen is it'd flame. Explosions need pressure.

    So far it never has. Oddly no matter what you do they still always smell like gas fumes. I've used bleach, ammonia etc. to try to "clean" out gas tanks before I weld them it doesn't do any good. It just ends up getting you soaked in whatever, trying to slosh it around the insides of the tank. I suppose its good exercise though. They really do smell like they can blow up, but they can't.

    Best explosions I've been in to date have been welding the top dogbone back to a K frame under SU carburetor remote bowl carbs with an oxy-acetylene torch. All the gas vaporized out of the remote bowls, formed a cloud, richened up enough then ignited all around me. Worst part about that was I had to pour a half a beer I was drinking onto the carbs to put them out. It was a Carlsberg Elephant Malt Liquor too! But hey when you have this pair of carbs burning right in front of your face you have to do something right? I probably didn't need that other half a beer just then anyways ...

    Welding a front shock back onto a Datsun, I told the guy it was a bad idea but he insisted, after it blew I was going to weld it on but he insisted I didn't. I figured heck, it wasn't going to blow up twice you know?

    I know I've been in a few more but memory fails me now. The funniest almost explosion I wasn't in was when I popped a spark up onto an acetylene tank and caught the valve on fire on top of it. I was so scared I almost couldn't blow it out. I think it took me like three tries before I could muster up enough to actually blow it out. It was one of them big acetylene tanks too, like level a house kind of 6 o'clock news big. I think they're called 250 cuft? The biggest tank in regular commercial use. If that'd have blown I'd have been vaporized. It'd have taken heavy equipment a half a day just to fill in the crater it'd have left!

    How you know you've just been in a really good explosion? Your eyebrows are burnt off and just sort of fall off you when you rub them like crumbs. Oh, when things blow up don't gasp, scream! (I'm a screamer AAAAAAAHHHH!) It'll equalize the pressure inside and outside, and keep you from searing your lungs. Plus, it just seems like the right thing to do to me at the time.

    Now I've heard tale told of old timers that just hook gas tanks up to exhaust pipes of running engines to create an airless environment to weld in, I haven't done it but hey they're old timers doing it, so it must work too.

    I've almost died so many times in life now that I believe in fate anymore. When your number is up, its up, before that have fun.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by RomanLini View Post
    I would partial fill it just with compressed air, then bleed, then partial fill with a few PSI of compressed air (at this point any original oxygen will be as a tiny fraction of the air within), then drill it. The little bit of compressed air that rushes out when the drill cuts through would extinguish any possible flame even if there was a chance of flame which there isn't.
    Bad idea.
    Comonly in compressed air the oil is present. That wil ignite when come to pure O2!!! Don't do that. Better use watter and dril cylinder filled with water!

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by dr pepper View Post
    This is a video of the aftermath of an oxygen cylinder going up, theres no real nasty bits, but there are a few blood stains.
    The guy was trying to unscrew the valve on a part full cylinder to let the reamining gas out, he wasnt even drilling just undoing the valve with a pair of shifters.
    I have seen pure oxygen burn, oxygen on its own doesnt burn, but dust and anything around it will.
    After watching this you may decide not to go drilling holes in cylinders.
    I have made wood burning stoves from butane and propane cylinders, if you follow the precautions it can be done safely.

    YouTube- O2 CYLINDER EXPLOSION
    I don't see what this has to do with the question as that bottle was full. That was why he was trying to loosen the top the valve wouldn't open. I still don't see the relationship to an empty cylinder. Seems like night and day but one can't be to careful. That is one reason I never had a OX/Act outfit until I had a place to store outside...
    Garry

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    I posted the video to show that oxygen cylinders can be dangerous, something in that video caused the bottle to explode and melt, so summat burned up well.
    The relavence to the video and the bottle in mention is that the valve [I]may[I] be faulty, like the one in the video, and cause the bottle to be still partly full, and a sudden pressure excape around a hot drill bit in an environment where flammable stuff is present (you cloths for example) is not a brilliant set od circumstances, not necessarily a definate explosion but if summat went wrong it would go wrong big time.
    Filling the bottle with water was suggested as if you can feel the extra weight of the water in the bottle and see it pour out again you know that the valve has worked.

    I think this thread has gone a little too far so this will be my last post.
    Make it rather than buy it.

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