Wednesday, September 19, 2012

(not) Marine stores: Ballard Hardware

A while ago, I needed a street el.

No, this is not some kind of elevated train, you folks in Chicago.  A street el is a standard pipe elbow, but with one difference:  one side is male and one side is female.  You'd use one of these in order to eliminate a fitting, and to shorten up the completed assembly.  They are not as common as the common umm..  el.  But in a good hardware store you can usually find one.  Possibly even in the size you need.

But now it becomes difficult:  I needed a stainless steel street el, in order to hook up the water discharge from our new stainless steel exhaust manifold.

Where to go to find one?

I love living in Ballard!  Before it becomes completely gentrified, you can find just about anything marine-related you want (except not swaged wires or LeFiell mast fittings any more - University Swaging is now gone).

If you haven't tried it, you need to:  Ballard Hardware.  It's kind of like a regular hardware store, except they know marine stuff, and its on steroids.  Two examples:

Example 1:  The previous owner of Eolian set up a snubber for the anchor chain - a length of 3/4" line attached to the hull where the bobstay attaches, with a 3/8" chain grab hook on the other end to hook on the anchor chain.  When you hook it up and let out the rode until the snubber is taking the strain, the chain hangs slack at the bowsprit, a wonderful thing for peace and quiet at nite when your are trying to sleep down below at anchor in a blow.

But I digress.

The grab hook the original owner installed was galvanized, and was, by the time we took over caring for Eolian, severely corroded.  I looked high and low, trying to find a stainless version of the grab hook.  And then on a whim, I tried Ballard Hardware.  Sure they had one.  $15.  If West Marine sold them (and they don't), it would be for $65.95.  Wow.  I was an immediate convert.

Example 2:  Not being a slow learner, when I needed that stainless street elbow, I went straight to Ballard Hardware.  "Sure, no problem, " said the counter man.  And he took me back to the rabbit warren (yeah, it's still there, even tho there is a fancy new front end).  "What alloy do you want?"


Not only was I going to be able to get a street el, in the size that I wanted, in stainless, but I was presented with a choice of alloys!

Yeah.  Ballard Hardware.


Anonymous said...

New Ballard Hardware - not as funky as the Old Ballard Hardware where you took a number and told the counter staff what you wanted and a runner would hustle into the mysterious and labrynthine warehouse to source your widget. And U-swaging is now in Woodinville, having outgrown the Ballard location since their main concentration is airplane wing fla[p- and rudder control cables for Boeing and Airbus - marine swaging is a small fraction of their revenue.

Robert Salnick said...

Anon -

Oh that labyrinthine warehouse is still there - I was in it when I picked out my stainless street el.

It's good to hear that University Swaging is still in business. Do they still carry LeFiell mast components (I care, because my spars are LeFiell)?


Deb said...

We do the same thing - we have a path to Lowe's burned in the highway, but you do have to be aware that nearly all stainless in a hardware store is 304, not 316. 316 has a much higher resistance to chloride corrosion so it's known as "marine grade". We figure that we can replace the parts 10 times from Lowe's for the difference in price, but I would never use 304 in a critical application where there is a lot of stress. Comments?

S/V Kintala

Robert Salnick said...

I'll just make one comment Deb -

Not only are the different stainless alloys not equal in corrosion resistance, but they are not equal in strength either. Or in their tendency to work harden. It's always a balancing act.

For a single example, 316 is 15-20% weaker than 302, according to master rigger Brion Toss. He likes to use 302 for standing rigging (p 148, The Complete Rigger's Apprentice, ISBN 0-07-064840-9)

(I chose 316 for my pipe fitting because I had the exhaust manifold fabricated from 316, and wanted to minimize galvanic potential.)


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