I am in the processing of “unsticking” the frame of a FeatherCraft K-Light Plus that a purchased a short while ago. The frame of mine seems to be stuck unusually tight and has required some drastic measures on my part to get it apart. I thought I would share my experiences on this forum in the hope it will be educational (or at least a little entertaining).
(Warning: Long post ahead)
Although any Al alloy frame from any maker can become stuck if left assembled (and or outdoors) long enough, the frame I am working on now is stuck together like it was welded together–I mean that literally. Read on for the gory details.
I believe I can get it unstuck eventually, although I will have to purchase at least 5 new connector bars from Feathercraft.
A little background so you know where I’m coming from, experience wise: I restored completely a 60’s vintage Klepper Aerius II a couple years ago. That job basically consisted of sanding and re-finishing all the birch parts, getting some new fittings from the good folks at “Long Haul” folding Kayaks and getting a new skin for it.
The K-Light Plus I got about a week ago for very little money. The owner said she had never taken it apart. It had apparently been sitting outdoors for a few years under a tarp. Fully assembled. This was near Bellingham, WA e.g. plenty of “sea air”. Before I bought it I had read a bit about alloy frame folding boats getting “frozen” if left assembled for a long enough period of time, but really I had no idea what I was in for.
Anyhoo, after I got it home and realized I couldn’t muscle apart any of the tubes I looked up what other folks had done when face with the same problem. I tried (in the following order) dousing the joints in silicone lubricant, WD-40, “Liquid wrench” and then letting it all sit for several days so the chemicals could work. The only chemical I didn’t try was HCl and that was 'cause I didn’t have any around. I then tried tapping the joints lightly with a hammer (using a piece of aluminum sheet to prevent damage) and then I tried hitting the joints hard with a bigger hammer.
Nothing would budge those tubes–I tried wrapping each end of a joined tube in protective cloth, putting a big vice grip on each tube end and clamping down as hard as I could w/out bending or seriously marring the tubes. Then I tried to rotate the vice-grips in opposite directions. The vice grips eventually rotated, but the tubes didn’t move, didn’t budge.
At this point I realized I would have to cut 5 tubes towards the bow to get the frame out. Specifically the chine and gunwale extension bars and the keel extension bar. I wasn’t sure where to cut, but I thought as far towards the bow as possible without cutting into the male portion of the tubes they were inserted into.
Since I was using a high speed rotary cutting tool with an abrasive disk for a blade, I realized it would be tricky to cut all the way through the tube without also slicing the Hypalon hull–so I put a 3/4 thick piece of wood behind the tube. This arrangement worked well and the hull still is unscathed.
Once all 5 of those tubes had been cut, it was pretty easy to remove the bow and stern assemblies and disengage all the tubes from the plastic crossribs (but not the keel plates, I haven’t figured out yet how to keep the attachment nut from turning while I unscrew the hex head screw from the other side).
So, to summarize at this point, I had still not been able to separate a single tube and I had only been able to get them out of the skin by cutting the frame into bow and stern assemblies.
I decided to put the tube I wanted to separate into a regular machinists vice to hold it better. So I could really crank down on the tube in the vise without damaging it, I sliced one of the oversleeves from the connector bars lengthwise and then wrapped each half around the tube in the vise. This works quite well, by the way–only the oversleeve halves get marred by the jaws of the vise.
I STILL could not budge the tubes with vise grips or anything else. The method of last resort, which DOES work, is to take a dremel tool with an abrasive cutting disk and very carefully slice lengthwise along the tube a couple inches back from where the tubes join. The part you cut of course is the end with the already cut tube (in my case that was the connector bars–see above). You have to cut very carefully because you don’t want to damage the male part of the good tube underneath. For maximum effectiveness, make two cuts along the tube, 180 degrees apart and then take a screwdriver and pry apart tube while turning the vise grips attached to the bad (e.g. junked, already cut) tube.
A bunch of white powdery stuff comes out–I don’t know what this is exactly but that part of the tube is clearly no longer anodized, it’s a salt like material. I cleaned up the end of the tube with fine steel wool and then lubed it with silicone. It already now for the new tube from Feathercraft when it arrives. This WILL enable you to separate the tubes.
I have already repeated this process twice and will probably have to do it with most of the other tubes. You could use a more powerful cutting tool than a dremel but it’s very easy to cut too deep and ruin the male portion of the “good” bar. The shock cord joints nearest the bow are also frozen but I think I am just going to leave them that way, at least for now.
A couple other notes: People say Feathercraft stands behind all their boats and are easy to deal with–I found this to be totally true–getting new tubes from them is as easy as calling them in Victoria, telling them what you need and letting them take your order. Nice people.
Another thing is that in the process of tearing apart and cutting the tubes I had to cut, I’ve come to appreciate a couple things about the construction, most prominently is that those tubes are bloody strong–I though they were just Al tubing like you can buy at the hardware store but they must go through some hardening process because they don’t bend or break or cut easy. I’m not sucking up to FC, I’m just pretty impressed with the overall workmanship and ruggedness of their boats and can understand why they are so expensive.
In retrospect I realize I should probably have just left the boat as it was, inflated the sponsons and taken it out for a paddle . . . BUT I didn’t realize until I made that first cut how badly it was frozen–and at that point there was no turning back.
So now I have to finish separating the remaining tubes, order some new ones, give everything a good clean and then take her out.
Questions, commments, welcome of course.
All I can really ad
as someone who also has restored a 1966 Klepper (a solo, not a II) and who would have jumped at a deal on a Feathercraft is really a grin and nod and a suggestion to try a penatrating oil called Aero Kroil marketed by Kano Labs.
Everyone I have suggested it to or given some to try on a tough predicament has come away amazed.
You used to only be able to buy it by the case, but they now have a special price for two cans.
Try FKO forum
Frozen frames don’t happen too often in FC boats. People do multiweek wilderness trips in salt water and take it then apart happily (K1 of corse - K Lights are too small for long trips). Though, there are occasional morons that paddle in salt water and don’t take the boat apart for years, and (probably) don’t even rinse the frame with fresh water, and never lubricate the inserts with Bo-shield. Since they don’t take it part, they don’t lubricate it, naturally. Bo-shield is aluminum protection liquid (paraphine in some solvent), it costs a few bucks at FC or dealers.
Looks like you’ve taken it apart now, so what’s the problem? Order extension tubes and go paddling. White stuff - if it’s salty then it’s salt, and if tasteless then it’s aluminum corrosion. Aluminum does corrode, albeit slowly, it’s called etching. It corrodes mostly inside the tubes where sliding inserts go - anodizing wears out quickly there.
Yes, FC tubes are thick-walled, you won’t get them from Home Depot. McMasterCarr will have it, though not anodized.
Unsticking a “frozen” K-Light Plus Frame
Hey thanks for the tip, I will check that out.