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Thread: Gitzo tripod cleaning

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    Shore Crawler Dylan & Marianne's Avatar
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    Gitzo tripod cleaning

    I was wondering if anyone had experience with cleaning gitzo tripods.
    My wife and I have been taking apart our tripods after beach shoots in particular to clean out the dirt that can accumulate but lately, 1, then 2 now 3 of the segments can't be separated despite us trying to dig things out - I think it's dirt stuck in between the segments.
    Anyone know any tricks to separate the legs or I am doomed to a worsening series of stuck legs!
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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    I've now done this twice to my carbon legged gitzo(I'm assuming yours are carbon)

    Lets say you start with the outermost(or upper) leg first:
    You undo the twist lock all the way out till they drop down.(assuming that you're holding the tripod the right way up)
    As you pull the leg out, at the very top of the leg(but inside) will be two halves of a white plastic bush pair(they'll probably fall out as you remove the inner leg form the outer leg(no problem).
    The white plastic bushes wil be covered by a grey greasey substance, and so will the threads on the twist locks. That stuff is sticky stuff, and helps to keep the inner bushes lubricated, but as you touch the leg tubes with your now greasy hands, the grease gets al over the place

    Each leg operates in the same way!

    Replacement is the 'hard part' when you don't know what's happening,and in trying to replace the legs back into their respective tubes, I broke one of the bush halves.. ooops!
    Then I realised what I did wrong, and you need to look carefully inside the inner leg tubes to see how they go back.
    Each bush is an identical half, so they can go back in any orderm but you'll notice that when you place the bush halves around the leg again(they only go on in one way!!) they don't meet each other and they form a straight gap about 5mm wide. That's the important part to watch for inside the leg tube.
    look inside and you just notice a faint line the same thickness as the gap between each side of the bushes(where they don't touch!).
    That gap in the bush has to line up with the long notch inside the leg tubes.
    This is how/why the leg doesn't rotate inside the inner tube.
    The bush is statically fixed and located onto each outer part of the leg with a circular shaped recess(on the leg) and a similarly shaped raised circle on the inside of the bush. They only go back onto the leg in one way and fit tightly. So watch out for the gap in the bush that matches the long notch inside the leg. If the leg fitted with the two bush halves doesn't slide back in nice and smooth without any force, then you've fitted them the wrong way.

    So what you would be doing to fit them back together again is;
    * have the bushes back on the leg and sitting back at the start of the inner tube.
    * making sure that the bushes are fitted nice and snug in their correct spots on the leg.
    * have the gap between the bushes lined up roughly equal to the long notch inside the inner tube.
    * wriggle this way and that way and with very light pressure inwards on the leg being fitted it will find it's location position and then slide in nicely, and the leg should sit there near the top of the inner tube without sliding in(if you're now holding the tripod upside down.. which you probably should be! )
    *did you remember to fit the twist lock back onto the leg before you placed it back inside the inner tube

    Note: there are no metal parts in the system at all
    What I now do if I ever get much in the gaps in the legs, is to vigorously wash them in just about any cleanish water I find.. even if it's salt water. Salt water(AFAIK) does not affect plastic carbon fibre and any other material in the leg assembly. It may leave a white residue sometimes, but I've found that both easy to just wipe off with a wet rag, or to clean off if there has ever been a build up of the stuff.

    My only dislike is the muck, mud and sand build up which accumulates around the twist lock threads, and into the gaps between outer leg and inner leg.
    If your tripod has the stainless steel screw in hook in the centre pole, then that's what you want to keep out of salt water. Even though it's stainless, it still oxidises!!(watch that).
    Mine has some rust spots starting to appear.

    Even though I have broken one of the inner white bushes, that affected leg still operates perfectly. The breakage wasn't complete and I replaced a part of that bush back on the leg and it still works as intended. I don't know if they are parts that you can purchase as service items. Have forgotten about it till this thread.

    Hope that helps, if not and you need pics, I can upload some tomorrow night if you like.

    If it sounds hard, it's not. The only hard part was figuring out how the leg with the two bush halves went back into the inner leg tube, and I tend to learn from my mistakes
    Just don't type back with any replies whilst you're pulling it apart and putting it back together again. the grease is hard to get off your keyboard!
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  3. #3
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    thanks arthur - we already do all of what you suggested - the only thing is, because of the grit that has accumulated, we can't even separate 3 of the segments to clean them out any more ;(. They still work fine ( if not a bit stiff ) but I can see more and more stuff building up unless we can actually pull it apart
    I think grit has got in between the bushel and the exit point which I can't seem to get to

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Aha! maybe because of the light coating of grease inside each leg, dirt/grit is being pushed upwards and into the leg tubes(ie. inside).

    I reckon you may need to give them a good clean up inside the legs too(if you can eventually separate the leg sections.
    I have no idea on where you could get the long thin gun cleaning tools that would help in doing that, which is basically a bottle brush on the end of a long rod and a few other odds and ends.

    I'm going to clean off al the greasy stuff on mine one day, as I think as the legs slide into their respective tubes, the grease is smearing onto the carbon. So every time I use my tripod, my hands get a light grey coating of something(I can only assume that it's the grease).

    Technically there is nothing to stop the leg being forcefully extracted form the inner tube. There are no stops or end pieces. once you've fully unwound the twist locks, the leg is completely free to slide out.. maybe some "creative convincing" is required on your part

    And for cleaning off the grease, I use a kitchen scourer-sponge and some fabric degreaser stuff(whatever that stuff is called ). I just use a no-name brand, as I use it to clean my hands after working on filthy cars and stuff(.ie I go through a lot of the stuff).
    As far as I'm aware, it doesn't harm the carbon fibre(that is, no undue damage so far) and I wanted to try just plain old laundry powder too, but I use that as my hand cleaner and it burns(acid!!) and I won't use it on the carbon just in case. The spray on fabric degreaser is less painful on the hands so I assume not acidic(or as acidic) as everyday laundry power.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arthurking83 View Post
    Aha! maybe because of the light coating of grease inside each leg, dirt/grit is being pushed upwards and into the leg tubes(ie. inside).

    I reckon you may need to give them a good clean up inside the legs too(if you can eventually separate the leg sections.
    I have no idea on where you could get the long thin gun cleaning tools that would help in doing that, which is basically a bottle brush on the end of a long rod and a few other odds and ends.
    Not sure how relevant but Camelback do something that might fit the bill though I suspect a little too narrow. I have one (little brush on a big long wire) which is used to clean the tubes that attach to the camelback bladder. Look for these at a sports/outdoor shop and Rebel too.

    I'm thinking of getting a Gitzo but after reading about the alignment of the little brushes I'm less sure now. I pulled the lower legs out in a shop recently to see what happened and spotted those two plastic bits and popped them back alright but there's other little brushes that can break...eeek

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Nah! there is no problem with the Gitzo and the little white bushes.
    That was totally my fault in not knowing how to put them back together again.. not a design fault.

    I tried to 'jimmy' the assembly this way and that way, until the plastic gave in.. not knowing what they do exactly. I just thought they were to stop the outer side of the lower leg, from rubbing against the inner side of the upper leg(only!) and they do that, but they also stop the leg from rotating inside the upper leg too.
    Once I looked inside the tube to see what was going on it all made sense(and I kicked myself... metaphorically speaking of course ).. what I really did was to wash my hands with common everyday laundry power, as pennance

    Gitzo are good. Gitzo are fine(even if a little expensive!)
    I think Benro carbon legs make for a good cheaper alternative tho!

    Would I buy one again? .. No!
    (because my next set of tripod legs will be better).

    I already have the gitzo(3531 model), which are nice lightweight and portable enough size for my purpose, but if I ever have to replace them one day, I'd go with the Benro as my portable lightweight legs, and hopefully have a better tripod for my main use.... one day.

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    I'm with arthur I reckon - I'm tempted to either try wooden tripods for the ocean stuff , or perhaps try the ocean series from gitzo at some point (though they have the same kind of moving parts )
    Thanks for the suggestions about long reaching narrow bits - we haven;t been able to find anything suitable at home! maybe my 60kg frame needs a bit more gym work to pry those legs apart too lol

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    o one more thing, I'm thinking alone arthur's line of getting a benro for travelling - haven't had any experience with the at all, but I'm hoping that my existing gitzo ballheads won't have any trouble fitting onto those tripods? can anyone confirm/refute?

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    Gitzo make a tripod specifically for seascaping called the Ocean Traveller. It is stainless steel and even the ball head is designed to stripped down and cleaned too.

    Unfortunately it costs about $1600 but if anyone would like to donate one to me, I would be a willing recipient.

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peterb666 View Post
    Gitzo make a tripod specifically for seascaping called the Ocean Traveller. It is stainless steel and even the ball head is designed to stripped down and cleaned too.

    Unfortunately it costs about $1600 but if anyone would like to donate one to me, I would be a willing recipient.

    I have to be honest and say I'd never use one!(of those SS tripods).
    It'll rust.
    Even if they offer a lifetime guarantee for it, that doesn't mean that it wont rust, it means that you'll just end up being in the situation where you have to take it back to a store(that may or may not exist any longer) with a receipt that you no longer have...etc, etc.

    I've never met a metal that doesn't rust.... except for titanium(yep!.. I have titanium parts that have been extracted from my 'inner self').

    If it were made of titanium.. then I'd give it a go. Plastics/carbon are rust proof by default

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    I am older than I look. peterb666's Avatar
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    I agree that stainless steel can rust but it takes a fair amount of abuse for that to happen. Unlikely for tripod use. The worst combination are the standard tripod components of aluminium, nylon bushes and steel bolts.

    Titanium is great but there are also stainless steels will similar corrosion resistance, for example, Alloy 20 has similar corrosion resistance to titanium. I doubt that Alloy 20 (very high nickel & chromium content) would be used by Gitzo.

    I think he CF route with nylon bushes and stuff is a great choice and I don't know why Gitzo did not go down that design path for their Ocean Traveller. Maybe there is a design problem (e.g. carbon fibre is highly cathodic and that may cause problems with some metals).

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    The centre column of the Gitzo generally has a stainless steel end.
    It's a single piece design which looks like a small round plate on the end of a bolt, and that bolt screws into the tube(that is the centre column) there is a spring loaded hook(made of stainless again.. but I don't know what the spring is made of??), My plate and bolt are already showing signs of surface rust... and you can hear and feel that the spring is not a fluid and smooth as it once used to be.
    I don't think I have had the centre column in salt water all that often. Maybe once.. or three times or so.. but it's really not a regular occurrence for me.

    have to say though, that I'm not unhappy about the situation, I kind'a don't really care, as it's not yet a problem.. but it doesn't inspire 100% confidence in that part of the product. If they use the same stainless material, then I wouldn't recommend that stainless tripod either.

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    I managed to ply out one of the joints and it looks as though it has been suffering some corrosion resulting in irregular surfaces making it difficult to slide in and out - looks like I'll be investing in a new tripod soon but for now, sanding worked as a temporary measure

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Oh! corrosion?? ..... of what?

    I had a salty residue around the outer wall of the lower legs( that I should have cleaned out when I first replied! ) but no corrosion looking stuff.
    The (white coloured)salty residue, probably from the splashing in sea water to remove muddy/sandy crud during use, easily wipes off.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arthurking83 View Post
    Oh! corrosion?? ..... of what?

    I had a salty residue around the outer wall of the lower legs( that I should have cleaned out when I first replied! ) but no corrosion looking stuff.
    The (white coloured)salty residue, probably from the splashing in sea water to remove muddy/sandy crud during use, easily wipes off.
    I assume you have an aluminium tripod or the stuff is around the aluminium fittings at the bottom of the sections.

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    I have a Manfrotto and I get the same white gunk on it even though I have pulled it apart and cleaned it in warm soapy water. Seems to be a reaction with the carbon legs

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    I'm not sure what it's corroding but there are definitely pits even after the white stuff is cleaned out and one part of the carbon fibre was peeling back as well which I had to cut off so the bushings could go back in

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Oh! that doesn't sound good Dylan!

    the white residue I get is like a soap scum light residue, and simply wipes off with plain water.

    The legs on the Carbon Gitzo(3531 in my case) is purely carbon/plastic and the rubberised twistlock.
    No corrosion of any kind.

    The screw in feet at the end of the lowest leg tube do have some kind of steel, but whether these bolts are mild or stainless, I haven't checked.
    I sprayed the inside of the stainless end bolt of the centre column with a WD spray to help the spring a little.

    corrosion/peeling on the carbon legs sounds weird tho.

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    the peeling bits were on the interior just as it steps in ( I wonder whether I had been inadvertently jamming a small pebble up against it repeatedly because it had been stiff for a while).

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