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Preview: Cool Sail Rigging Tips #1 – Turnbuckles & Pins

December 18, 2014

Rigging tips from the pro on how best to handle turnbuckles and those terrible cotter pins.

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– [Voiceover] Off Center Harbor guide Brion Toss began his life as a rigger in the late 70s in the pacific northwest. Since then, he’s rigged too many boats to count, and written and taught extensively on the topic, to the point where when we say that Brion Toss wrote the book on rigging, it isn’t just a figure of speech. He actually wrote it. In fact, both of his books, “The Complete Rigger’s Apprentice” and “Knots for Boaters” have become the essential go-to references for rigging within the field. Appropriate rigging tensions and details very widely, from vintage wooden boats to modern racers. We asked Brion to take us down the dock and show us a few cool rigging tips that his customers find most helpful.

– The idea with tuning is to apply as efficient amount of tension to a stay. The question is how to apply that tension and that’s with the turnbuckle. And the usual method for applying that tension is to put a wrench on the upper terminal, and then tighten the lower terminal against it. There’s a problem with this. You’re tightening both upper and lower threads at the same time. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to apply half the effort for the same amount of work? And there is, and that way is to tighten just the bottom thread, so that the top one won’t move and then hold the barrel, and then tighten the top thread back to its starting point. So, tighten the bottom thread, both hands move at once. Tighten the top thread. Bottom, top. You can even do it by hand, until a certain amount of tension is reached, as opposed to holding the top and then trying to tighten both of them at once. Twice as hard on you, and twice as hard on the turnbuckle barrel, because you’re applying more torque to the barrel no matter what tool you’re using. That’s why I can use this spike without worrying about damaging the turnbuckle barrel because I’m only putting half the tension on that most people do in order to tighten it. When I loosen the turnbuckle, I’m gonna use the bottom part of this terminal, which is a Norseman. Same is true for Sta-lok and Hayn fittings. So loosen, and then loosen. And that will, if this thread is in danger of getting strained, this actually tightens the thread and won’t risk unscrewing the terminal. And then to tighten, I would use the upper part of the terminal, going the other way, because this also tightens the thread. So tighten on the top, loosen on the lower. Saw me using these pliers, they’re made by Knipex, K-N-I-P-E-X. This is the smallest of three sizes available of this wonderful tool. And you can see the jaws stay parallel like a channel lock, or like some channel locks. But unlike a channel lock they’re smooth, so they won’t scar work like nuts and turnbuckles. Plus, there’s very quick and positive adjusting, you just push this little button, and it goes where you want to go. You can even do it one-handed. Great. My favorite tool. One nice feature about them is that, unlike a crescent wrench, which you need to remove from the work to re-position, if this is set at the right opening, you can crank on something, and then just let it roll around to the next facet and crank again. So it’s almost like a ratchet wrench. I hardly ever carry sockets with me anymore because of this tool and its two larger brethren. So, ordinarily to cotter turnbuckles, we use cotter pins, which either stick out and gouge you, or you have to bend them way up and down, which makes them very hard to take out, and you end up taping over them to prevent them from gouging your sails. So instead, we’re going to use this TIG welding rod, TIG stands for Tungsten Inert Gas, this is sillicone bronze, you can also get it in stainless. Put it into the bottom hold ’til it’s about, oh an inch or a bit over an inch sticking out, and bend it there; that marks that spot. Bend it 90 degrees at that spot, put it back in the hole. Now, the entire art of this process is to bend the top one at the right place. It’s going to be just below the hole. Because there’s a bit of a radius so it’ll get a bit longer. Maybe that’s the spot. We’ll find out. Take it out, bend it 90 90 to match the other one, cut it to match the other one. And if I got the radius right, this will go in. Now you’ve got these two ends sticking out on this side. I’m gonna bend just the tip of this, not in here, just right by the plier. So I’m actually pushing up and down to get it 90 there. I can use the detents on this plier to grab that 90 degree turn and bend that down to zero, push it in a bit more as needed, and then do the same thing to the bottom one. 90 on the tip, and then catch it in the- oops- catch it in the detent, and bend it in. Good, so nothing sticks out on either side, it looks clean. One little aesthetic tip: if the turnbuckle pins are running fore and aft like this one, you put this long pretty bar on the aft face, because that’s what you see from the cockpit. If the pins are running athwartships, you put this on the outboard face, because that’s what you see from the dock.



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