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[TowerTalk] Pole steps

To: "'Pat Barthelow'" <>, <>
Subject: [TowerTalk] Pole steps
From: "J. Gordon Beattie, Jr., W2TTT" <>
Date: Sun, 30 Mar 2008 04:43:42 -0000
List-post: <">>
This is a fantastic setup!
One question:  How does one ground the antennas for lightning and static
discharge purposes/
Thanks & 73,
Gordon Beattie, W2TTT

-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of Pat Barthelow
Sent: Tuesday, March 18, 2008 10:15 PM
Subject: Re: [TowerTalk] Pole steps

Its been some years now since I have climbed poles there, but at N6IJ  ( ) and
we have a "pole forest", perhaps 20-25  poles.   Most of which were planted
in the Mid 60s, based on the date tags still existing on the poles.  They
are now approaching 45-50 years, set about 10-12 ft deep in the (sandy)
ground, and when last visited by me, were in very sound condition.  The
steps are galvanized steel, and have the rolled threads described below. 

I started servicing and installing antennas there in 1995.  At that time I
had the senior Field Supervisor at 
PG&E walk the forest with me, and give me wisdom on what to look for in
determining health and safety of use of the poles for antenna supports.
Most all of the poles are free standing.   Steve, K7LXC has walked the

Most of the poles were treated with a creosote type of treatment, and it was
evident that the applied chemical either gravity migrated towards the bottom
of the poles, or was more heavily applied to the bottom 15 ft or so.  The
VERY old poles, which were a Rhombic  ( longer complete) pointed
right at the pacific ocean, towards Pearl Harbor, and were definitely coated
with a jet black crusty, tarry stuff.  Almost like obsidian, when it
chipped.   A few had the more modern, green, Copper based solution, and had
the distinctive check marks used to help imbed the preservative.

The PGE foreman trained me how to recognize and inspect the critical areas
of the pole, near the base, and the first 18" below the ground line.  Also
critical, and often neglected is the top 18" or so, of the pole, which often
is not treated,  soaks up water like a sponge, and with age, becomes
weakened, almost sawdust at times.  Also the pole steps.  The steps,  about
45-50 years old,  were in sound condition, generally, and often had accrued
"crud" largely concentrated at the point of entry into the pole.  The "crud"
was usually a crusty accumulation of splinters, sap, dirt,  and the
preservative, which oozed out and down the pole.  The Galvanizing at that
point was often discolored, and in some cases, eroded away, so that you
could see steel, not zinc, on the surface that had, generally a smooth
patina, and had not eroded or weakened significantly.  My bet is the combo
of chemicals at the surface are mildly corrosive,  
(Hmmmm.... Rosin Core Solder.....similar to pole "sap" ..great cleaning flux
at elevated temperatures) 
either acidic, or basic.  The biggest danger/caution needed was, sometimes
the natural, normal drying of the poles, causes vertical splits in random
locations on the pole. Sometimes the splits came through a pole step,
weakening the step installation, sometimes making it useless.  

If you watched for that, and adopted a test for each step by putting a
couple of G's on the step with a jumping motion, with each foot fall
(securely strapped off, and supporting a lot of your weight with your arms,
on higher steps,  when you jumped or jounced on the step..)  you  will
immediately find any steps that are weak through corrosion, or from cracks
in the wood, at their penetration.

Our pole farm of, say, 20 poles each had, say, 35 steps, each pole, that are
all 45-50 years old.
I found maybe 2 or 3 steps total, that were unsound, and those were due to
wood cracks, in the whole farm.

I found them very easy to climb, and nice to work on.  
The lack of guys, make things really nice for hauling things from ground to

Hmmm... one thing also necessary and previously mentioned, months back,  is
a need to be fairly fit, both for safety and comfort reasons.   Today, if I
had to climb, I would not last very long, in a comfortable zone, without a
couple of months of regular bike riding.

A critical feature of comfort, though, is the need for two equal height
steps at your working strap off point, at the pole top.  Sometimes we had
staggered steps at the top which made work, and leg fatigue a problem.
There is available, somewhere on the web, a  Lineman's manual covering
inspection and treatment of poles for power company use.  A good resource
also is McFarland, a huge pole manufacturing company, also with detailed web
presence.  A pole hardware supplier that has steps, is AB-Chance company,
probably among many others. 

All the best,
Pat Barthelow    (916) 315-9271

> Date: Tue, 18 Mar 2008 16:43:22 -0400
> From:
> To:
> CC:;
> Subject: Re: [TowerTalk] Pole steps
> Dubovsky, George wrote:
>> Doug,
>> I'd stop by a local utility truck and ask those guys for help; they
>> might know of a utility boneyard.
>> On the other hand, your basic premise does raise a few issues. One, are
>> screw-in steps harmful to the tree? Maybe, maybe not. But two, the idea
>> of partially unscrewing anchors periodically, and then trusting them to
>> hold your weight is a new idea to me. I know what you're saying - the
>> tree is growing radially out - but it might be growing around a larger
> *Generally* commercially threaded parts have rolled threads. They are
> stronger, cheaper, and of a LARGER diameter than the shaft. I have to
> emphasize that "generally" though as YMMV between companies and parts.
> Roger (K8RI)
>> diameter, unthreaded part of the step, so eventually perhaps the step
>> threads would be in an oversized "unthreaded" hole. Maybe, perhaps,
>> eventually ;-)... I don't think I would do it.
>> 73,
>> geo - n4ua
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: [mailto:towertalk-
>>>] On Behalf Of Doug Faunt N6TQS +1-510-655-8604
>>> Sent: Tuesday, March 18, 2008 12:56 PM
>>> To:
>>> Subject: [TowerTalk] Pole steps
>>> Does anyone know where I can get half-a-dozen screw-in pole steps at a
>>> reasonable price? I use a tree for some of my antenna supports, and
>>> climbing to the appropriate place is I had a few of those screw-in
>>> pole steps installed.
>>> Most attachments to trees are a problem because of growth, but these
>>> can be backed out a small amount every now and then to compensate.
>>> 73, doug
>>> _______________________________________________
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>>> TowerTalk mailing list
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