"A garbage can?" you think. "Miller must be running out of tools..."
Not at all. We've got lots of interesting stuff lined up to show in the months and years ahead. And it's not a garbage can-it's a Six Gallon Oil Rag Fire Safe. There's a big difference, which was illustrated for me recently in a friend's shop in Windsor, Vt. Helmut Blania, my BMW mentor, was gas welding the aftermarket catalytic converter I bought for my 1991 BMW 318is, which had cracked around the cat after only 30,000 miles of service. Welding with a steel rod as few men can, Blania caught a chunk of rust and a few sparks flew. Next thing you know, he's calling me in from the office, torch in one hand, smoking steel rod in the other: "Mike, would you please put out this fire?"
Yes, the spark had ignited a pile of oily shop rags which were waiting for the shop rag service guy to come and exchange them for freshly cleaned ones. Caught quickly, the fire didn't have a chance to ignite anything else, like my car. And you don't have to be welding to ignite a bunch of shop rags soaked with solvent, oil or grease. A fire can be started by any spark: a cigarette, a backfire, extreme heat from a sealed building broiling under the sun, or any number of other sources of ignition.
This experience shows that oily and solvent soaked rags can be a serious fire hazard if they are not properly contained. Oily rag cans are designed to prevent fires caused by the spontaneous combustion of cloths, rags or other materials saturated with flammable and combustible solvents or liquids. These containers should be made of metal, have self-closing lids designed to prevent the release of flammable vapors and be listed or approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. Safety rag cans should be emptied often enough to prevent rags from building up and obstructing the lid from closing completely. I hadn't thought much about it before, but at once I knew what I needed for my shop and Blania for his. But where to buy such a thing?
Griot's Garage sells an excellent galvanized Six Gallon Oil Rag Fire Safe-gotta love marketing. But whatever you call it, this sucker is a well built, made in the USA, professional-grade industrial container that can save your garage. Note that the bottom of the can is elevated off the floor and the enclosed lower area of the can is vented in case a fire does occur. This keeps the hot base of the can from igniting materials on the floor. A mechanical foot pedal lifts the lid, which slams shut when the pedal is released, sealing the can.
It was a pleasure to see how well this safety device is built, suffering as we all do with endless crap made in Asia by virtual slave labor. When you're rebuilding St. Peter's Lotus Elan in that Big Garage in the Sky, this Six Gallon Oil Rag Fire Safe will be in someone else's garage, and on and on.
In a commercial shop, an oil rag can is actually required for insurance regulations, and often local fire codes. Yes, $59.99 is a lot of clams for something to keep your used shop rags in until the next time you're at Aunt Mildred's house to use the washing machine. And you could avoid the entire issue by simply washing or discarding shop rags the same day they're used. It all depends, I suppose, on how much time you spend working in your garage. For me, that would be quite a bit.