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Removing wedge bolts without power drill

Original Post
EJN · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2012 · Points: 201

Hey y'all,

I've done a bit of rebolting, but the only bolt's I've ever had to remove from rock have been five piece, which I've been able to get out without using a power drill.

I know there are some tools out there for removing wedge bolts, but every process I've read involves spinning them with a rotary hammer.

I'm working in good Navajo sandstone, but it's soft nevertheless. Any experiences, suggestions, tools?


BigNobody · · all over, mostly Utah · Joined Nov 2013 · Points: 10

Tuning fork will wreck sandstone. A 3 foot pry bar will get most wedge bolts out of sandstone from my experience. Not the carpenter ones (flat). A full on pry bar. Wood can help from leaving marks (put it behind where the metal meets the sandstone).

Morgan Patterson · · CT · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 8,767

EJN · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2012 · Points: 201

Saw that video. Currently watching it slowly due to internet speeds. Will it pull a wedge bolt without wrecking the hole for a glue in replacement?

I'd like to replace the bolts with wave bolts, so I'd probably have to redrill it to 1/2" anyway, but I'm trying to do as little damage to the soft rock as possible.

BigNobody · · all over, mostly Utah · Joined Nov 2013 · Points: 10

Links don't work on that post. I've seen that thing. You'll end up marring the area around the hole with that tool.

If the wedge is already a spinner pull and tap, pull and tap.

Greg Barnes · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,763

Recently at Pinnacles National Park (generally soft rock) a few folks have used a hand-powered spinning tool, Dan Merrick made it (he makes super nice hammers as well). Here's a video:…

BigNobody · · all over, mostly Utah · Joined Nov 2013 · Points: 10

Pretty cool tool. I wonder how much of a difference work positioning comes into play with that tool? Sitting over it as opposed to hanging on a rope.

Greg Barnes · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,763

Oh, and we (ASCA) have spinner tools (made by Greg German from the first link/videos above) available, as well as tuning forks which are only for 1/4" bolts (actually the tuning forks can also be used above the hanger to pull the nail on old 3/8" Star-Dryvins, those are fairly rare but were somewhat popular for certain older routes, e.g. 1950's routes in Yosemite, Joe Herbst routes in Red Rocks, etc).

Spinner tools have a set screw inside that needs a 1/4" allen wrench. We include one of those plus a small bag of 240 grit brown aluminum oxide powder which you mix with water and squirt in the hole (need a little squirt bottle), makes the grooving of the bolt work much quicker. Although if you're in soft enough sandstone you can probably simply spin the bolt out by grinding out the rock with the bolt (stopping and blowing the hole out fairly often). Like rock dust, you'll want to clean off the powder afterwards so it doesn't stain the rock.

Obviously after pulling a 3/8" bolt in soft sandstone the hole will be wallowed out and you'll need to go to 1/2" bolts (or larger).

Here's what the spinner tools look like:

1/4" tuning fork, two Greg German spinner tools, 1/4" allen wrench.
Bruce Hildenbrand · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2003 · Points: 945

As one of the people in Dan Merrick's video I can tell you that the speed wrench spinning tool works well whether you are on top of the rock or hanging off the side of the cliff. Having some sand blasting powder in a water solution to squirt into the hole from time to time really helps with the process of scoring the cone.

Me hand spinning a bolt as videographer Dan Merrick looks on.

Clint Cummins in action.
Bruce Hildenbrand · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2003 · Points: 945

Dan Merrick made my two spinning tools. Here is what he did(apologies to Dan if I don't get it right!)

-Get a speed wrench off of eBay. You have the choice of 1/2" or 3/8" socket size, either one will work but 3/8" sockets are a bit cheaper. Also, you want the shortest overall length you can find. Most come in 16-18" lengths. Around 12" is best. Dan cut mine down and put 3/8" flats on the stub to make it as short as possible. If you can't do that, then just buy the shortest one you can find. Also, the bearing in the handle might be OK or it might be shot. Dan replaced the bearing in the handle.

-get a universal joint socket. This gives you some play in the setup.

-get a normal 6-point socket to hold the coupler nut. For a 3/8" coupler nut you need a 9/16" socket. A 6-point socket is preferred because you are going to have to drill a hole for a set screw in it and it has more metal than a 12-point.

-3/8" coupler nut. Make sure you get the correct threads for 3/8" wedge bolts which is coarse threads.

To properly score the cone on the end of the bolt you need to pull out a bit as you turn the speed wrench. Because of this you need to secure all the pieces in your chain so they don't just pop out as you pull. You can do this by drilling holes into each piece while it is attached in the chain and either use a metal pin or a set screw.

You also want to come up with some way of putting a stop on the coupler nut as you screw it onto the bolt. You can either put a screw near the end of the coupler nut or thread a nut onto the wedge bolt before you put on the coupler tool and then tighten the coupler nut and the other nut onto themselves when you have reached the proper depth.

Make sure you tap the bolt back into the hole before trying to start to spin it. If it won't spin initially, put a couple of nuts on the end, tighten them on each other and use a big wrench to get it to start spinning.

Use an abrasive compound to help score the cone more quickly.

More about pulling tools later.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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