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Thread: Alternatives to cotter pins in turnbuckles

  1. #1
    Moderator Christian Williams's Avatar
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    Alternatives to cotter pins in turnbuckles

    When I get the answer to this I will finally know everything.

    What is the purpose of cotter pins in rigging turnbuckles?

    They don't prevent the turnbuckle turning or set the adjustment. (Are they supposed to?)

    They provide nice sharp edges often covered in tape. (A side benefit?)

    I guess they prevent a bored child from taking the mast off your boat ("See, Timmy, that's why the cotter pin is there...")

    No doubt I have missed the obvious explanation for 70 years or so.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Christian Williams; 03-14-2019 at 07:50 PM.
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  2. #2
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    I venture that the cotter pin stop the threads completely disconnecting and therefore prevents a catastrophic failure.

    I put a ring instead of a cotter pin in place to prevent unwanted adjustment.
    Mike Field
    "Jenny" E35-3 #251
    San Francisco

  3. #3
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    They Prevent the turnbuckle from turning. The Rings do the same thing..I guess if the cotter pins are so short, then the turnbuckle would be able to turn
    Josephine, E381 hull 505 (1983) Universal 5432

  4. #4
    Advanced Beginner bgary's Avatar
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    Yes, they're supposed to stop the turnbuckle from turning. But that's dependent on choosing a pin - and bending it in such a way - that it "interferes" with the turnbuckle body. I'd say probably 90% of the pins I see at the marina are too small and, when bent flat, accomplish pretty close to nothing. It's an ancient catch-22: if the ends stick out far enough to do their job, they are also sticking out far enough to poke holes in sails, hands, etc....

    I'm one of those apostates who uses rings instead of pins. Partly because they don't have sharp ends, and partly because I can remove and replace them without tools. Bonus point for "knowing" that the turnbuckle won't turn, because it can't when the "hole" in the ring is captured by one side of the turnbuckle body.

    Bruce
    "Makana" (ex-Thelonious)
    1985 Ericson 32-III #604
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    In the old days of biplanes and flying wires, safety-ing the turn buckles was a big deal because the vibration would back them off and in aviation we have to use safety wire.

    If you really want to create a cut hazard, safety wire is a GREAT answer for you.
    Last edited by Tin Kicker; 03-14-2019 at 11:58 AM.

  6. #6
    Moderator Christian Williams's Avatar
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    I approach understanding, but grumpily.

    The photo in the initial post is from Harken. Those cotters will not stop anything turning.

    This photo is my boat. Large cotters, installed by me. Even so, they are pathetic ineffective mechanical means of preventing uncommanded unscrewing. "Uncommanded unscrewing"--hard to wrap your mind around, and probably unconstitutional.

    Bent tails on "correct" cotters do not stay lined up, either. In order to fulfill their unconstitutional opposition to uncommanded unscrewing, they have to splay a little. Into your leg. Or expensive sheet. It is their nature.

    OK, I guess I will go around and replace them with rings, as Bruce does. I don't recall seeing anybody else with rings, though.

    So--are we eccentrics?

    Really?

    Cotters through turnbuckles have been around since I was a kid. Standard practice. Tape good for 10 months, then starts flapping. Tape not effective in covering sharp stainless ends, anyhow. Tape a ritual, like shaving. Stuff grows back. Sharp cotter grows back.

    Purpose of tape: to keep cotter splits lined up with threaded rod.

    Tape therefore mandatory part of turnbuckle system. Huh? Tape is part of a "system"?

    If the simple answer is a ring, why just us?

    If a better answer is Monel wire lashing (Tin Kicker), the standard for shackle pins, how come nobody does it?

    Are we smarter than everybody?

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Christian Williams; 03-14-2019 at 12:08 PM.
    Thelonious II, E381 hull 513 (1984) Universal 5432
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  7. #7
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    Christian - The answer is that this is a time consuming pain, especially if a quick pin or clip is available. Try doing a bunch of these through one handed access holes.
    Last edited by Tin Kicker; 03-14-2019 at 01:28 PM.

  8. #8
    Senior Moderator Loren Beach's Avatar
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    Cottering a stud

    There is a nice picture and description in Brion's book, and here is a discussion link.
    http://www.briontoss.com/spartalk/showthread.php?t=1920

    I have seen this done on a larger boat that he rigged out, and it looks really awesome.

    Having no skills, I just cut them back a bit, put a mustache on each side to put the sharp ends out of risk, and put a little self-amalgamating tape over it.
    Or, use a large SS 'ring ding' and a bit of tape over it.
    1988 Olson 34 #8
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  9. #9
    Principal Partner Kenneth K's Avatar
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    I'm +1 for the "little Timmy" explanation....
    Ken
    '85 E32-3 "Mariah" #641
    Universal M-25

    "Saltwater is the cure; sweat, tears, or the sea......"

  10. #10
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    I'm a total noob to this, but have used my share of cotter pins in other uses (wheel bearing castle nuts, etc.), and if it were me, I'd try to use a long enough pin so that the legs could wrap completely around the outside of the turnbuckle on each side, and then tuck the sharp ends safely back inside to keep them out of snagging reach. The problem is that the length required for this might mean the cotter pin is too large to fit through the hole. I like the ring idea myself, as the tape wrap looks unsightly, and is just encouraging more salt water to stay where it shouldn't be.

  11. #11
    Sustaining Partner gadangit's Avatar
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    I use SS Welding rod. Just on my horizontal shrouds, apparently. Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by gadangit; 03-14-2019 at 03:03 PM.
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  12. #12
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    I found that removing cotter pins a number of times to adjust rigging can damage the external threads at the thru hole! And if you were to un-thread them completely from the turnbuckle (to drop the mast lets say), you will damage the internal threads and have to replace the turnbuckle. You will notice the damage when you find stainless steel shavings on reassembly. I should have removed the pins connecting the turnbuckles to the deck!
    So... I replaced the cotter pins with small stainless screws and nuts. I "siliconed" the nut to the screw so the nut doesn't back off. Now I just remove the screw to adjust the rigging.

    No more pliers, cutters, tape, or sharp ends to rip skin, sails, and sail bags! Not to mention no more injuries from pulling and cutting the pins.
    Last edited by G Kiba; 03-14-2019 at 02:31 PM.
    Grant Kiba
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  13. #13
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    My first boat had the turnbuckles with nuts that you tightened down on each side of the body to lock it in place. Sometimes the nuts would vibrate lose and once I had a leeward shroud hanging free. Thank goodness the crew saw it before I tacked. I no longer trust plain nuts to keep things tight. Nylocs are ok, locktite, crowns with wire, etc. Not sure about silicone though, seems that would just rub or fall right off?

    On the boat I race we adjust the rig every race to the conditions. We use a velcro strap thing with an embedded un-bent cotter pin on one end that's used to stop the body rotation. Not a bad solution as its easy on/off and the strap makes it harder (but not impossible!!) to lose the pins on the deck.

  14. #14
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    I"m a ring man myself. I've found tape to be useful to hide things you don't want to see and which otherwise frighten you.

    On the otherhand... http://www.csjohnson.com/store/index...dex&cPath=9_14

    To clarify, there seem to be split rings and then there are split rings... I'm not talking the wimpy thingies used to hold clevis pins in place.

    http://www.sea-dog.com/groups/308-split-ring

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by fool; 03-24-2019 at 12:58 PM.
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  15. #15
    Moderator Christian Williams's Avatar
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    ss welding rod

    Chris,

    These are Tig welding rods, right? What diameter works, do you recall? 1/8th maybe?

    I can find lots of other uses, too, for stainless rods--and they're only about $10 a pound.
    Thelonious II, E381 hull 513 (1984) Universal 5432
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