CC Outtake: I Have a Brake Drum…Hold My Beer Edition

I have made the case in various Curbside articles for turning entire cars into works of art. But what about car parts repurposed for other uses?

Earlier this year, during the course of the weekly visit to my town’s dump/transfer station…an activity which has provided fodder for more than one CC article…I came across this rather simple yet ingenious use of an old truck brake drum.

Seeing the inventory label on one of the pieces of galvanized pipe comprising this contraption, it occurs to me that this is something that was fabricated not too long ago. It actually seems like it’s still fully functional. Of course this observation leads me to wonder why whoever made this took it to the dump. Perhaps this is another example of someone cleaning out Grandpa’s garage/barn and having no use, understanding of, or appreciation for this piece of hand-crafted automotive equipment.

Clearly a product of the “Hold my beer” school of craftsmanship, this oil-change stand seems totally functional and represents a good use of at-hand materials. I’d like to think that the process of making it was entertaining and fulfilling for whoever did this. Perhaps not as entertaining as the self-service bar called “Hold My Beer” that features axe-throwing as its primary recreational activity (something I just discovered while writing this article), but almost certainly safer.

At first, I took the base to be an old jack stand, but upon closer examination I’m thinking that even when new this would have been a super-janky jack stand, so probably that’s not what it was.  Maybe a reader can identify its original function.

Clever use of handy and almost certainly random bolts and washers (probably rubber washers on the inside) sealed up the lug holes in the drum. Likely a few of the connections in at least two of those galvanized pipe tee fittings were closed off so that the oil either flowed out the bottom of the stand or perhaps out of the second vertical drop. I suppose that either way would work. The device even allows some side-to-side and horizontal plane adjustment through slight movement of the fittings.

I’ve often commented on some of the fine pieces of automotive art that Jim Klein finds in his junkyard tours. There’s no doubt that the passenger side dash panel from an early 1970s Continental, or any number of automotive clocks, or an entire Astradome dash pod would look mighty fine on a shelf or wall displayed as art. Still, art value aside, there’s also something really cool about repurposing the usually-hidden bits of vehicles.

Which led me to a brief dive online for “reusing old brake drums”, just to see what turned up. Not surprisingly, given the fact that brake “drums” are nowhere near as common nowadays as they once were (outside of the heavy vehicle world at least), the search needed to be re-formatted to be “using old brake rotors”. This turns up somewhat more images, although still not a lot and sadly most are for entirely not-creative (in my opinion) uses such as clock-faces or lamp bases. Of course, everyone knows that hub caps make great clock faces. But brake rotors? Not so much. Most just wind up looking like those painted saw blades that haunt sad flea markets and antique stores. No offense if that’s your thing, but those things always seem like a waste of a potentially good tool to me.

Perhaps the best example of re-use that I found was this exceedingly uncomfortable-appearing bar stool. Maybe some sort of cushion would ultimately be applied. Otherwise, this thing mostly brings to mind Woody Allen’s imagining of the future of furniture in 2173.

Getting back to brake drums, there does seem to be a small community of makers who have taken to turning old drums into forges.

Photo from Nicknaylo on Flickr.


This one seems pretty sophisticated in its application of a squirrel cage blower, an electrical junction box and what seems like a rheostat (aka dimmer switch) to control the blower speed.  Trust me, some of the images out there involve what look like blow dryers, beer cans and lots and lots of duct tape; so it’s good to know that even when it comes to building things out of junkyard parts there are varying degrees of craftsmanship.

Now, how you would actually use a brake drum forge is a whole other question. I’d imagine that most farriers are already pretty well set up for forges, so these DIY things are probably used by folks like those who I see on TV doing things like making their own axes and knives and then competing to whack apart simulated flesh.

Admit it, you’ve seen that too…at least until someone more sensible takes the remote from you and switches to alternative programming. If you’re lucky, something only slightly more appropriate about airplane crashes, armored vehicles of WWII, or barbeque. Anyhow, making your own medieval weapons has always seemed a bit creepy to me.

So, I’ll stick with my admiration of the ingenuity involved in cobbling-together a brake drum and some galvanized pipe to solve a messy oily problem with minimal expense.

I just wish I’d thought of it myself.

Brake drum oil-change stand photographed in Massachusetts on 11/10/2023. 

Probably most of the way to China and possible rebirth as another brake part by now.