1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Safety Rail Stanchions (again)

When I was dry-fitting the starboard safety rail, I found that some of the stanchions were obviously not original equipment. Convinced that it would be a mistake to use the replacements, with their threads only cut to half-depth, I decided to make myself some new stanchions from proper stainless pipe instead of tubing.

Center stanchion is pipe stock, the two on the left and right are tube

Center OE stanchion is pipe stock, the two on the left and right are tube

The OD for 1″ tubing is smaller than for 3/4″ pipe, so you don’t get a full set of water-tight NPT threads if you use tube in stanchion bases that are NPT threaded. I absolutely don’t want water getting into the toe rail mahogany like it obviously had before we started the refit.

Two 72" sticks of 304 stainless 3/4" pipe

Two 72″ sticks of 304L stainless 3/4″ pipe

Cut to size

Cut to size

Four stanchions need to be threaded

I considered buying pipe threading tools, but I can’t see myself ever using them again so it’s hard to justify the cost. Plus, I remembered that the local big box hardware store can cut and thread pipe. What could possibly go wrong?

Houston...we have a problem

Houston…we have a problem

The threads cut by the local home center were clearly not right. They’d only thread in 3~4 turns, and there’s no way that would be water tight. On the suggestion of a couple of fabricators, I went with a different approach.

304L stainless nipples, factory threaded in NPT

304L stainless nipples, factory threaded in NPT

The home center threads look OK sideways

The home center threads look OK sideways

Triangular pipe = fail

Trianglized pipe = fail

The helpful fellow working the thread cutter at the home center did mention on the 4th cut that the die was maybe not as sharp as it once was…THANKS!

2x4 block makes a perfect jig

2×4 block + bronze Tee contraption makes a perfect jig

The wooden 2×4 block was cut perfectly square and the same length as the Tee, which I’ve had for years in my spare plumbing parts bag. The Tee holds the nipple square, so the cut will be very nearly perfectly square to the centerline of the nipple. This is very important for what comes next.

Deburr the cut nipple

Deburr the cut nipple

A match made in...my garage

A match made in…my garage

Nice, full depth fit

Nice, full depth fit

Looks square enough

Looks square enough

Insert the new pipe into the stanchion base

Insert the new pipe into the stanchion base

Argon purge line sealed on one end of the pipe

Argon purge line sealed on one end of the pipe

I’m using argon to purge the inside of the pipe to keep oxygen away from the weld area, so the stainless steel remains “stainless.”

Clamped to the welding bench

Clamped to the welding bench

Just a wee bit more tungsten stick-out than usual

Just a wee bit more tungsten stick-out than usual

That’s a 3/4″ wide roll of painter’s tape for comparison. Total stick-out is an inch, heavy. Between the argon purge and argon coming from the #8 TIG torch gas lens I’m using, I think it should weld OK.

This is nuts

This is nuts

I’ve found many times that the key is to quit thinking about it…just hit the pedal, watch the puddle, and go.

That tacked up just fine

That tacked up just fine

Good fit between the parts, too. That little Harbor Freight metal cutting bandsaw does a good job cutting square once you ignore the gibberish in the factory manual and set it up right.

Shorten up the tungsten stick-out and set up V block

Shorten up the tungsten stick-out and set up V blocks

This is the perfect job for a parts rotator, but (again) I can’t justify the cost. So I’ll hold the torch with one hand and rotate the pipe with the other. The big hunk of aluminum angle at the threaded end acts as a dam to keep the argon inside the pipe and absorb some of the weld heat. I’ll just fuse the parts rather than using filler.

So much easier than welding inside the pipe

So much easier than welding inside the pipe

Not bad for a first effort

Not bad for a first effort

Great fusion on those tack welds

Great fusion on those tack welds

2 down

Two down; purple means too much heat/too little argon

Again, good fusion on the tacks

Again, good fusion on the tacks

Anda three

And that’s three

I held the tungsten within 1/16″ of the pipe here, which really tightened up the arc and kept the heat affected zone to a minimum. I wish I could do that consistently on all of my welds.

last one

last one

Light touch on the bench grinder and done

Light touch on the bench grinder and done

So, now I’ve got all of my stanchions the same size in all dimensions, with pipe threads on one end that fully seat into the chromed bronze stanchion base. The next step will involve sanding and polishing…man, I’m sick of polishing stainless. But the winter will be long this year, and it’s a good garage job. Also, I plan to wrap up the exhaust riser insulation this weekend and apply the hard shell FRP coating. Once that cures, they’ll be ready to install.

In other news, my painter is reportedly back in the mood to moonlight. So hopefully I’ll have some progress to report on the V-berth head paint job that was supposed to be done seven months ago. Also, word has it Santa dropped some tinted glass off the other night. So that’s the good news.

The bad news is that last weekend I pulled the catalytic converters on my Nissan Frontier and found evidence of heavy beating with a large hammer by the shop that rebuilt the transmission. I understand they had to remove part of the exhaust to get the tranny out, but I’m not sure beating it hard enough to put dents in the pipe was the right approach. Since we got the truck back it’s sometimes felt like maybe the engine wasn’t quite right. When I got the forward cats out, the matrices inside were mostly large chunks and ceramic powder. The rear cats were completely plugged since they were downstream of the disintegrated front cats. I did a compression test, since these engines are known to have significant valve overlap under certain conditions. Compression was 175~185psi on the driver’s side bank, then 200 on the rear and 110psi in the center cylinder for the passenger side. The front spark plug on the passenger side is inaccessible without pulling the intake manifold, but that 110psi hole suggests that ceramic dust from the broken cat may have been sucked in through the exhaust valve, taking out the rings and cylinder bores. This would be even more likely with the exhaust plugged. And the connection this has to my Roamer refit is that I need the truck to move my Miller Trailblazer mobile welding rig to the boatyard and weld up the main raw water inlets. That’ll  be on hold while I figure out what to do about this most recent development with the truck.

Either this is the most unlucky truck ever, or the tranny shop fractured the catalytic converters when they beat on the exhaust pipe. Running the truck normally then blew the converters apart. It looks like it needs a new engine. Naturally, the transmission shop says there’s no connection between what they did and my latest truck woes. Like I said before, my Life Is An Old-School Country Western Song.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Last of the New Tinted Glass Has Arrived!

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One comment on “1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Safety Rail Stanchions (again)

  1. Kent says:

    And life goes on– Hope you get Her Hull Wet in 2017..

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