Working around salt water, stainless steel screws, and keeping your tripod in top shape.

October 30, 2019
Recently, photographer Nick Page reviewed our largest tripod, the CP38-L4 II. While it was a very positive review overall, Nick pointed out that the screws underneath the tripod's apex had begun to corrode slightly as a result of his week-long work at the Oregon coast.

FLM has already taken steps to correct this minor problem. As of Nov 1, 2019, we'll only be using stainless steel screws in all of our tripods, including the CP34-L4 II and the CP38-L4 II. We'll also be adding stainless steel screws to tripods that are currently in stock, so if you bought a Series II tripod (CP34 or CP38) before Nov 1, 2019, and wish to replace the existing screws with stainless steel ones, we'll send you the screws at no charge; just contact us. The screws are also available at any hardware/fastener store; they are metric M5 x 25 screws, and sell for about $0.30 each, if you'd rather get the screws yourself.

This brings me to tripod protection. While FLM can easily change various parts and re-design other aspects of the tripod if the situation warrants it, there is still some maintenance and preventive care that the user must perform regularly in order to keep their tripod working well throughout the 10-year warranty period - and beyond.

I've found that no matter what protection we build into a tripod, someone will always find a novel way to bypass those safety features and mangle/crush/break/destroy their tripod, or somehow coat it inside and out in very fine sand (true story).

If you work in salt air or salt water conditions, regularly or not, it's always a good idea to protect your tripod even before you leave the house. The first thing we recommend doing is applying corrosion protection to any metal (aluminum) parts. That includes any screws, grips, the apex on top of the tripod and so forth. A good product for this is Boeshield T-9, which is used by the aviation industry to protect metal parts during storage. One application of Boeshield T-9 should last for months. 

If you happen to get sand, salt or other abrasive grit inside the tripod legs, on the threads, here's what to do: remove the grips, then clean the threads of the tripod legs with an old toothbrush. This will likely remove some of the lubricant applied at the factory. To re-lubricate, use 
Superlube bearing grade synthetic grease, applied in a thin coat all around the threads.
Don't remove the plastic guide inside each aluminum grip. It's too easy to crack or break it if you remove it often. Better to leave it inside the aluminum grip, flush it thoroughly with distilled water and then remove sand and other particles with compressed air. Then re-grease the threads with white lithium grease. or the Superlube mentioned above.
* * * We don't recommend using WD-40 on your tripod or ball head.  * * *

Did you know...
Aluminum doesn't rust, it corrodes; the corrosion produces aluminum oxide, a very hard material that actually protects the aluminum from further corrosion. Aluminum oxide corrosion also looks a lot more like aluminum (dull gray to powdery white in color), so it isn't as easy to notice as rusted iron. Thanks to The Rust Store for that bit of science.

If you also own an FLM ball head, do not use any lubricants or rust inhibitors on the ball; these can get inside the ball head mechanism and permanently damage it. 

Keep some distilled water with you, in the car or at home; if your tripod takes a dunk into the salty deep, the best thing to do is disassemble it, rinse quickly with distilled water (don't let the salt settle in), and wipe it down very well. Repeat if needed. If there's no distilled water, tap water will work fine.

Distilled water also works well if your ball head was immersed in salt water, but it must be applied quickly, as there are brass parts inside that will corrode in salt water and jam up the head. If this happens, you can still save your ball head by flushing the inside with vinegar diluted in distilled water. Contact us for specifics.

I live far from the ocean, but we get a lot of road salt in the winter, so I'm already in the habit of wiping down my tripod after each outdoor use during the colder months. But this year, I'll be applying some corrosion protection as well, for the first time.

In short, take care of your gear, and it will take care of you!

Comments or questions?  Send me an email.
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