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Improvising a Pipe Wrench

Improvised pipe clamp

Improvised pipe clamp

Using the pressure washer to blast the crud off the propane grill has become an early summer ritual around here. I’d reconfigured the extension pipes to reach up the side of the house, so I started by swapping the connectors around to put a shorter pipe at the handpiece. Surprise: those connectors were firmly affixed and a rubber strap wrench on the pipe lacked enough grip.

Rather than wreck that nice chrome plating with a pipe wrench, I clamped two pieces of scrap plywood in the drill press and poked a half-inch hole right down the midline. Add a dab of rosin to improve traction, crunch everything in the bench vise, and spin the connector off.

Well, that’s the way it went for the first connector, with the PTFE joint tape I remember adding last time around.

The connector on the other end was more recalcitrant, perhaps because it still had the manufacturer’s joint compound in place. It eventually yielded to the gentle persuasion of a propane torch, applying just enough heat to wreck the compound’s grip.

The good thing about a plywood clamp is that I don’t form a deep emotional attachment to it: make one when it’s needed to fit the pipe at hand, don’t worry about a precision fit, regard it as a consumable, and move on.

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  1. #1 by Steve Ciciora on 2011-07-29 - 08:55

    Why do you keep “a dab of rosin” on hand? My sister had some for her bow (she played the violin), and I’m sure I’ve got some in some old solder, but I’m just wondering what other uses it has…
    – Steve

    • #2 by Ed on 2011-07-29 - 09:31

      Why do you keep “a dab of rosin” on hand?

      Doesn’t everyone have a pound of rosin powder on the shelf? [grin]

      It improves anything’s griptitude, fluxes lead pours, and imparts a wonderful smell of pine tree goodness to the shop. It’s sort of like Loctite for big things without threads; I’ve used it to prevent antenna mounts and tubular handles from twisting around.

      Bought it back in the day and it comes in handy a few times a year. I admit a pound can may be excessive, but, well, nothing exceeds like excess.

  2. #3 by david on 2011-07-29 - 18:36

    Mightn’t just mixing the rosin with the strap wrench in the parlor have worked and saved you the effort? :)

    • #4 by Ed on 2011-07-29 - 22:08

      mixing the rosin with the strap wrench

      The strap wrench already has grippy rubber goodness out the wazoo. If I were to install the recommended timing belt replacement to eliminate stretchy rubber badness, then I’d be pourin’ on the rosin…

      There’s not much that can grip a half-inch chromed steel pipe tightly enough to get a fitting off the end. Suffice it to say that the chrome plating heard the black wings of death fluttering about its shoulders for a bit…

  3. #5 by david on 2011-07-29 - 22:53

    ooh, timing belt wrench, I hadn’t heard that one before but I like it! Especially since I’m about to be replacing a timing belt…

    • #6 by Ed on 2011-07-30 - 08:18

      Apparently the corrugated side gives mechanical grip, the flat side gives sticky grip, and the belt itself gives absolutely no stretch whatsoever.

      Report back with some experience, because I intend to let the Sienna go to its graveyard with the OEM belt intact.

      • #7 by david on 2012-12-08 - 21:06

        And the verdict is, a mere year and a half later: works pretty damned good! And to think, all it cost me was $250 in parts and 30 hours of my life I’ll never get back… oh, and an excuse to buy a 24″-long breaker bar and a five-foot-long cheater to put on the end of it, since it only takes about 1500 ft-lbs of torque to get the crankshaft pulley bolt out of a Honda engine. Not that I’m bitter or anything…

        • #8 by Ed on 2012-12-09 - 06:49

          1500 ft-lbs of torque to get the crankshaft pulley bolt out of a Honda engine

          With two burly guys holding the other side of the car down while you haul on the cheater.

          On the upside, you now have the makings of a very long and quite nice strap wrench!

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