I recently posted messages to the TowerTalk mailing list concerning how to
get stubborn sections of aluminum tower to come apart. Here is a summary of
the email responses I received. Thanks to: AF2C, KE2LJ, VE6NAP, KH6BZF,
K1VVC, N4KG, N6XQY, Jerry Scherkenbach, and Ed Griffin.
I've been offered five 8-foot sections of aluminum tower, but the owner
has been unable to get them apart.
Any tips? Any techniques (chemical or mechanical) to loosen seized
was considering jacks, but with aluminum I'm concerned about bending.
Jeff Maass (email@example.com) Amateur Radio K8ND
I believe that you can try using some WD40 and gently tap the each joint
with a 2"x4" (wood). At the same time, try to work the sections loose.
If the above does not work, you can gently heat the outside section of each
joint. Aluminum (If I remember my physics) expands rapidly when heated so
quickly work the section loose.
Let me know if any of the above works out for you.
Jeff, I recently dismantled a 40' Heights aluminum tower that had been up
for 30 years. I worked my way down with a bottle jack and a few 4X4 and
2X10 blocks of wood. If you can use the wood cleverly, it'll spread the
stress out enough to not bend the aluminum. But you have to be very
patient. Put the jack in one corner as close to the leg as possible. Then
aplly some lifting pressure with it. Then rock the tower a little. It'll
ease out about a half inch. Then move to another leg and do likewise.
Dont pull too much out of the leg, or it will start to go crooked, and
jam the other legs. Use lots of liquid wrench before you start.
My suggestion is as follows
step 1 Determin if binding is from distortion of the legs
at the join ( tubing oval or squashed ) if not distorted
then proceed to step 3
step 2 using a small vise ( 2 - 3000 lb type 4" ) clamp the distorted
section across the wide cross section and attempt to make the
tubing round again ( does not always work ) if you suceeed in
making the tubing round again then proceed to step 3
step 3 Obtain the following
- good quality liquid dish washing soap ( Joy ? ?
- Pistol type hair dryer or heat gun( prefered)
- Gloves Good quality so you wont burn your hands
step 4 In a well vented area ( out doors )
Heat the joint with a good quality hot air gun or hair dryer
till it is very hot to the touch then pour a liberal amount
of a 20 % solution ( 1 cup soap 4 cups water )of the dishwashing
soap on the joint after all joints have been treated leave to
soak for several hours adding a small amount of fresh liquid
every 10 to 15 min..
step 5 Work tower sections side to side slightly while pulling firmly
by hand this may take some time but will yield acceptable
CHEAT - CUT THE TOWER SECTIONS ON THE NON SWAGED SIDE OF THE JOINT
THEN REMOVE THE SHORT SECTION OF PIPE STUCK ON TO THE SWAGED
PORTION BY SLITING CAREFULY WITH A DREMEL SAW AND JUST INSERT
THE SWAGED PORTIONS INTO THE TOWER SECTIONS WHEN REASSEMBLEING
YOU LOOSE SOME HEIGHT BUT STILL GET IT APART. ( YOU MAY WANT
TO ENLIST THE HELP OF SOME ONE WHO HAS DONE THIS BEFORE SO
YOU CUT THINGS AT THE CORRECT SPOTS SO AS NO TO WRECK THE
PS ITS ONLY 40 feet cvan you not brace it with 1X4 and move it
to your place all at once ?
Try WD-40 or liquid wrench( for 24-hrs) to loosen the ALCL aluminum
Cloride that forms inside(that's AL rust!).
Pull equally on each leg a little at a time, but don't get over anxcious
and bend the aluminum legs or struts. Let patience be your guide
Had a case like that...105' of Heights tower. Face it, you're going to
have to use a jack, plus a propane torch. BUT, the trick is to use
a gear drive "sissors jack" which has about a 6"x4" top and bottom.
Also, buy some 5/8" minimum plywood, and cut two pieces so the will
fit into the tower ( sorta like rotor plates ) BUT extend on their
sides over the braces...then it's just a matter of heating the joints,
beating the hell out of them with a hammer( well really just a good hard
tap ), and slowly increasing the pressure on the jack. ( with the jack
centered ) It took me as long as 1.5 hours to break some sections apart.
And of course, if different sections are different in size, you have
to have more plywood cutouts.
Lotsa WD40 also if the tower leg above fits into the lower section.
Here's how to do it Jeff (assuming that the tower is on the ground):
1. Get three (3) screw type hose clamps - big enough to go around the
2. Screw two of them tight around two of the legs right above the joint
(tight against the joint).
3. Put this face (with the two clamps) down on the ground, and lift up
quickly of the third side.
4. It will move just a bit - maybe 1/8-1/4 inch. Tighten the clamp on that
5. Rotate the tower, then pull up on the next leg - it will move a bit.
6. Work the sections apart, one at a time - it gets easier as they move out.
My dad had a Heights aluminum tower that I took apart with
car jacks. Two joints would not budge and I fractured the
legs trying to get them apart. Fortunately, I was able to have
them welded and it is still in service.
Not sure how this will work for aluminum tower due to metal strength but on
Rohn 25G tower (steel) that was siezed we used a car hydraulic jack between
two pieces of wood butted against the nearest braces to the junction. You
can only work on one at a time and need to work it just a little on each
leg. Also, some penatrating oil may help. Good luck.
I have a friend that does a lot of tower work. He uses a small
hydraulic jack, but a screw-type mechanical one would do the same
thing. Use a piece of 2x10, or whatever will span across the diagonal
bracing. One below the jack, one above the jack, with the jack in the
center of the tower. This puts equal pressure on all three legs at
the same time. Works good for him. A little WD-40 wouldn't hurt.
Spray the unions with penetrating oil in an aerosol can, or if you can
find any, try WD-40. Penetrating oil is the best - if the can says it
will dissolve oxidation from aluminum, it will. Soak the fitting, and
let it sit for at least 48 hours. If the oil did it's job, the sections
will come apart with normal tower tools and an upward "tap" or two with
P.S. Don't forget to use plenty of Penetrox-A paste (from your local
ham shop) or No-Alox (from Home Depot, about $8) on the loints when you
assemble it again. The paste keeps the aluminum from oxidizing inside
the joints. Good stuff.
Thanks again, all!
Jeff Maass (firstname.lastname@example.org) Amateur Radio K8ND
USPSA/IPSC # L-1192 NROI/CRO NW of Columbus Ohio
25000 Members in 2000!
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