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Stainless Vs Carbon Steel Bolts
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By mschlocker
From San Diego, CA
Mar 4, 2007
Me climbing in La Jolla.
Been doing a lot of research and a little action on bolting / re-bolting lately. Determined that stainless Rawl/Powers bolts were the way to go. I couldn't believe how hard these things were to find in stainless. Seems everybody is going carbon steel. Living in San Diego, you wouldn't think that this would be a problem, but on a recent hanger replacement trip I saw a nice fat 1/2" carbon steel Rawl bolt with 6 years on it was starting to rust superficially in its hole. Looked fine on top though. Be wary. I'd give it a 30? year lifespan.

Rusty Underworld (Mission Gorge) Bolt.  6 years new carbon steel 1/2" Rawl/Powers bolt.
Rusty Underworld (Mission Gorge) Bolt. 6 years new carbon steel 1/2" Rawl/Powers bolt.

6 year old Rawl carbon steel 1/2 incher

Not sure how much the fat guys cost but would think your money is better spent on stainless than big. Especially in this bulletproof granite. If you're affixing permanent anchors to the rock, you have the responsibility to do it right.

As a note I tried out some wedge bolts. They are harder to replace later on and there are some 10mm wedge bolts being sold as 3/8 that myself and a few I spoke with have got stuck in the smaller 3/8 hole before they made it all the way in. Something to do with a mix up when they were being imported (spoke with distributor and they were aware of this). Nice that the Powers bolts are individually labeled.

Old school Mission Gorge bolts.
Old school Mission Gorge bolts.

30 year old (or less) carbon steel wedge bolts (removed with force with crow bar). FA of this route - 70s, one hanger has 89 stamped on it, hard to read or know what this means.

What do other people think about using carbon steel bolts? I won't be using them but a lot of people are.

FLAG
By Old and Busted
From Centennial, CO
Mar 5, 2007
Stabby
A matter of semantics, but important none the less..
Rawls come zinc-plated standard, not raw carbon steel;
carbon steel is literally grey/black and no one in their right mind would install those outside. The zinc plating on the bolt gives the illusion its an an all-weather unit. The threads on a standard Rawl are rusty within a year, the corrosion then grows over time.

Stainless Rawls are available, but usually on a special order basis; and cost quite a bit more. And they aren't neccessarily fail-safe either, read up on what Sam Lightner is doing in Thailand.

Sport-bolts first started appearing in the mid-late 80's, that means there are lots of bolts nearing 20-25 years old. Sooner or later this is going to become an issue. Lets hope that the degradation is visually obvious before a string of bolt failures begins....

FLAG
By mschlocker
From San Diego, CA
Mar 5, 2007
Me climbing in La Jolla.
Good point about the plating. The carbon steel bolts are Zinc plated. Powers is calling them "carbon steel" in their catalog. Don't be fooled by the shiny plating as seen above. It hides problems below the surface of the rock.

I paid 5.60 ea for 3/8 X 2.25" stainless Powers bolts and you can get them cheaper in bulk (box of 50) from a fastener or construction supply company. There are other cheaper stainless options as well. If you are unsure about what you are buying, bring a magnet, it will not stick to stainless.

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By Brian in SLC
Mar 5, 2007
Climbing in Smuggler's Notch
mschlocker wrote:
Don't be fooled by the shiny plating as seen above. It hides problems below the surface of the rock.


But...the problems seem to be only surface corrosion, which, can proceed rapidly or slowly depending on environment. That shiny plating actually works pretty well for inhibiting corrosion for awhile. And, I've never seen a shiny bolt on the surface, that wasn't also shiny below the surface. If you have a rusty grade 5 powerbolt visible from the surface, then you can bet the shaft of the bolt is rusty too. So, my point is, that it doesn't really hide problems below the surface. The bolt condition on the surface is typical to the subsurface condition, in my experience. The bolt in your picture I'm betting hasn't lost much strength at all (or mass, or material so its diameter is significantly smaller, etc).

Stainless bolts are there own timebombs, depending as well on environment and installation (ie, installation torque). Putting too much stress into a stainless bolt might not be a good thing (and sometimes, a really bad thing, as folks near the ocean are finding out, especially in humid areas).

In the dry, interior of the west, especially, these zinc plated bolts seem to last a long time. I've pulled several in the 14 year old time frame, some in wetter areas with porous rock like American Fork, and there mass loss due to corrosion was very very minimal. I'd bet they'd still meet their specs on shear strength.

If I lived near a marine environment, I'd probably look at Titanium, ala Thailand. Although, having climbed seaside in Greece, where folks are using almost exclusively stainless bolts, they seem to be holding up pretty well, but its also really dry there too. SCC is the major concern with stainless bolts/hangers. A carbon steel bolt isn't susceptable to that type of failure. Visually, you get what you get, ie, surface corrosion. With stainless, you don't know what you have, ie, you'll probably never see the SCC issue until the bolt snaps off.

mschlocker wrote:
I paid 5.60 ea for 3/8 X 2.25" stainless Powers bolts and you can get them cheaper in bulk (box of 50) from a fastener or construction supply company. There are other cheaper stainless options as well. If you are unsure about what you are buying, bring a magnet, it will not stick to stainless.


If you have a source for inexpensive powerbolts in stainless, please list it!

Also, magnets barely stick to 300 series stainless. They stick well to 400 series (try your stainless cutlery, for example). I have some bolt hangers from Europe that I think are 440 stainless. Have never seen a bolt or stud that is stainless in anything besides 303, 304 or 316 stainless, though, so its a pretty good test. Fixe, Petzl, Raumer and Metolious are all 300 series stainless.

-Brian in SLC

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By mschlocker
From San Diego, CA
Apr 20, 2007
Me climbing in La Jolla.
I found a new place to get a good deal on Powers Power Bolts (AKA Rawl 5 Piece) in Stainless. mcmaster.com. Look up concrete anchors. Their sleeve bolts are Powers, they have a great price and you can buy as few or as many as you want. Mcmaster has the fastest shipping of any company I have ever ordered something from.

Also try fastenmsc.com

FLAG
By Old and Busted
From Centennial, CO
Apr 20, 2007
Stabby
mschlocker: of all the people you know, are any involved at a foreman level or above in construction? Simply ask them if you can use their account for a "cash sale" (you pay at the counter) at a fasteners and anchors supplier. Half price of retail, no waiting for shipment.

So, if large quantities of bolts is of interest to you; methinks you have yourself some little project crag, eh?


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