Stainless Steel Tanks
A while ago, we delivered an order of stainless steel tanks to one of our customers here in Louisville. We took them several 25,000 gallon tanks. They were huge. Once the tanks were finally put into place, we got one of the strangest comments I'd ever heard in regards to our tanks. Our customer didn't say “Wow! Those are massive!” or “I can’t believe you made them that fast.” He said, “Those are some good looking tanks.”
I knew our tanks weren’t ugly, but I had never thought of them as “good looking.” They were just tanks. Big, silver, round tanks. At first, I thought the guy was just trying to be nice or his comment was just another way of saying, “They look good because they’re mine and I’m about to make a lot of money with them.” However, when I asked him, he said, “No. Literally. And not in the stupid way that teenage girls mean 'literally.' I mean those tanks literally look good. The last ones we had were kind of shabby.”
Now he got me wondering, “What makes our tanks so nice?”
After I asked around, I found out the way that we make tanks is slightly different than some other guys. Apparently, some guys will make tanks and as long as they hold water, they'll ship them out the door. But that's not what we do.
Getting the Pieces Ready
The first thing that you have to know about these tanks is that we get them to our shop in pieces. We order what we call “shell” pieces. These are giant pieces of stainless steel that we “roll.” Rolling is simply the process of take a straight piece of steel and rolling it until it is curved. It’s kind of like when you take a bulletin or piece of paper and roll it up in your hands and it stays curved after you let it go. Only a lot more complicated.
The thing about rolling tanks is that you have to clean the rollers. If you don’t, you’ll scratch the tank. The messier the rollers, the more scratches. Secondly, if you’ve been rolling carbon steel on the rollers, the carbon dust residue that is left on the rollers can be pressed into the stainless steel which makes the stainless more likely to rust.
What does that mean for us? It means that we try to make sure that our tank shells are made on the cleanest rollers possible. We don’t want them to have a ton of scratches that we have to polish out and we certainly don’t want them to start rusting a few months after we get them into your hands.
Putting the Puzzle Together
Once we have all the shell pieces ready to be assembled, we tack the shells together with tack welds. Then we’ll tack on the bottom dish of the tank. Then we’ll add the legs of the tank so we can stand it up if we need. Once we get the tank set in the right position we start to fully weld the pieces together. Then, if we have a second layer of shells that we need to stack on top of the first layer to make the tank taller, we tack them on top of the first ring of shells. Then we weld them together. And so we build our tank up like that until it’s all one piece.
The final thing we do is polish the tank. Our finishers (or polishers) go over all of the welds. You have to have the patience of Job to do this job. It’s a detail oriented project and can take days just to do a small tank. Thankfully we have guys like Matt who are a little OCD and really make these welding lines look good.
Once we get the polishing done, we’ll pressure check the vessel if the tank needs to be able to hold a certain amount of pressure. After we get that done, we’ll crate the whole big thing, load it up, and send it off.
Now that I have the whole thing out and I’m reading over it, it sounds so simple. But the whole process is anything but. If you’ve ever tried to weld anything, you know how much of an art it is to make a smooth weld. I mean, you can weld and just get the thing done. But that’s when you end up with a tank that’s uglier than Steve Buscemi.
Ultimately, that’s what makes our tanks different. We take our time. We weld level lines. We polish smooth finishes. We make a tank for you like we’d want a tank made for us.