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WC Rigid Friends Guide
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By WDW4
Nov 4, 2013
Global Village, Red River Gorge KY

When I was looking for more info on Wild Country rigid friends (the old and first style of spring loaded, four cam lobe camming devices) which are no longer in production, I had a hard time finding the info I wanted. The WC website has some info but not what I was looking for: a short, simple guide on how to refurbish old Friends with slings and gunks style tie-offs.

So, here is your buying and refurbishing guide if you are interested in buying used WC rigid-stem Friends (also often called Forged Friends).

Pros: Rigid Stem Friends are durable. I like them more than Camalots in a horizontal crack. They are simple. Individual cams are lighter than Camalots (the other SLCDs on my rack). They have a stronger spring than others I have used, increasing friction and theoretically reducing walking. (I haven't noticed them walking more or less than Camalots)

Cons: Rigid Stem Friends are harder to place than pieces with loop-style thumb holes. They have a smaller range than double-axle SLCDs. The rigid stem limits placements in funky cracks where a flexible stem could curve around irregularities.

Resling:
I decided to tie new slings with 1" webbing and beer knots. You can also send them off for a pro resling if you want to.
1" nylon tubular webbing strength rating = 18 kN.
Since the water knot has a strength reduction of about 30%, and beer knot about the same, a loop tied with either should be well above the generally accepted sling strength of 20-22 kN. I went with the beer knot because it is neater than the water knot (not having any floppy ends). The only objection I've heard against the beer knot is that it is harder to inspect, because you have to actually feel the webbing to inspect it, rather than simply looking. This was an acceptable tradeoff to me, as I usually have to manually turn my water knots to inspect them anyway. I cut 3' lengths of 1" webbing, used a length of aluminum rod to shove one end inside the other, and wound up with a 1' sling with 3"-4" tails.

Gunks Tie-Off:
The nominal width of the holes in the stem above the trigger, through which you thread your gunks tie-off, is 6mm. You may be able to wiggle 6mm cord through there, but I used 5mm.

6mm strength rating=8.8 kN
5mm strength rating= 5.2kN

A 5mm loop with no knot should be rated at 10.4 kN. With a double fisherman's knot reducing the strength about 20%, it should be rated about 8 kN. (A 6mm cord loop tied with a double fisherman's would be about 16 kN) Obviously this is far below the recommended 20-22 kN industry standard for slings in the industry. I decided that being able to get a good placement in a horizontal crack was worth sacrificing some ultimate strength, given that 8 kN is still plenty beefy for most falls. Make your own decision on this.

I rack my Friends by the Gunks Tie-Off. This makes them less dangly(especially with those 1' slings I tied) and, in sizes smaller than 3, results in the head orienting to point upwards, making it easy to choose the right one.

Note: Some folks recommend the 5.5mm kevlar core accessory cord. It is way strong, but has been shown to decline sharply in strength when repeatedly kinked or bent (the exact conditions we expect for the gunks tie off, which may very well be bent over the edge of a horizontal crack). I decided against using it.

Weight: A much touted advantage of rigid stem Friends is their weight savings. The specs on the manufacturer websites show that the Friends are indeed lighter, significantly so in the larger sizes. However, they also have smaller range - six of my Camalots cover the same range as 8 of my Forged Friends, meaning that if you are heading up a pitch where the placements are unknown, a full set of Friends is going to weigh you down just as much as a full set of Camalots.


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By Dmadison
From CT
Nov 4, 2013
Ill Gotten Booty

Thanks for posting this up! I was planning on re-slinging some old friends tomorrow the exact same way so it was cool to see this info. good work!


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By MC Poopypants
Nov 4, 2013
Dropping a deuce

Is it just me or is there a potential issue with rigid stems placed in horizontal cracks? Since there isn't already 3 pages of discussion about this from the engineers I'm guessing it's not a big concern.


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By Royal
From Henderson, NV
Nov 4, 2013
Free Willy (Salt Point)

Good write up. Thanks for sharing! I'm not sure but I think the below is a math error, however. How does webbing go from rating 18 kN before a knot to being rated 20 kN after? Shouldn't it be rated for less?

"1" nylon tubular webbing strength rating = 18 kN.
Since the water knot has a strength reduction of about 30%, and beer knot about the same, a loop tied with either should be well above the generally accepted sling strength of 20-22 kN."


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By bobbin
Nov 5, 2013

You have two strands of 1" webbing each of which is rated to 18 kN, sharing the load, but one has a knot in it which reduces the strength about 30%. 18 x 0.7 = 12.6. So the sling could break at the knot when the load in one strand is roughly 12.6 kN, total load is on two strands, for a total strength of about 25 kN. This is a rough number, but 1" tied slings have been considered acceptable for a long time. For comparison a large stopper is rated to 10 kN.

Strictly I think the difference between older rigid friends and later Forged friends has to do with how the shaft was made - Forged have a sort of relief running down the shaft?

There are some differences in the nuts that fasten the axle ends and one type that I read was recalled, but I think those use C-clips rather than nuts? and are very rare. Some veteran will have to fill in that detail.


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By jhn payne
Nov 5, 2013
"Ragin Cajun" 5.12c Jackson Falls, So Il.

This got me thinking, I have a complete rack w/doubles of some sizes of Ridgid Friends but mine aren't "forged", when did the "forged" come on the scene, and what are the strength differences.


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By WDW4
Nov 5, 2013
Global Village, Red River Gorge KY

jhn payne wrote:
This got me thinking, I have a complete rack w/doubles of some sizes of Ridgid Friends but mine aren't "forged", when did the "forged" come on the scene, and what are the strength differences.


Good question. The color schemes and changes in stem material/coloration are hard info to find, at least for me. I emailed WC for some help and here is what I got:
Cam colors:"We started anodising the cams after 1999 so any Friend will plain alloy cams are over 13 years old."
If you have a batch code on the unit: "The batch code works first digit is year next two are the week, so you will have to work this together with previous comment."
Also, notably: "We have to recommend retirement of Friends over 10 years old, this is a European law but one I am bound legally to quote."

Unfortunately I don't know when they started making the forged stems.
From the other info he gave, here are a few rules of thumb:

-If they have a black stem, they are pre- '99
-If they have 2 holes at the base of the stem (farthest from the cam lobes), they are pre- '90


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By WDW4
Nov 5, 2013
Global Village, Red River Gorge KY

Dmadison wrote:
Thanks for posting this up! I was planning on re-slinging some old friends tomorrow the exact same way so it was cool to see this info. good work!


Cool, yeah it is working well for me. Be sure to go ahead and tighten all the knots with body weight.


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By wivanoff
Nov 5, 2013
High Exposure

WDW4 wrote:
Note: Some folks recommend the 5.5mm kevlar core accessory cord. It is way strong, but has been shown to decline sharply in strength when repeatedly kinked or bent (the exact conditions we expect for the gunks tie off, which may very well be bent over the edge of a horizontal crack). I decided against using it.


Nice write up. I don't believe you can buy Kevlar cord anymore.
Here's some info I found and previously posted on RC.com:

I thought Kevlar was bad but Spectra, Technora, Dyneema were OK for reasonable amounts of flexing.

Here's what I found while researching high tech cords. This was mostly gleaned from manufacturer's websites. I am not a chemist, so if anyone has more current information please let me know and I'll edit this post:

Kevlar: Apparently, Kevlar's surface is very rough and fibers under load "sand" each other to dust as the pass by each other when bending over an edge. So, Kevlar is not so good for our climbing applications.

Technora is an aramid, as is Kevlar. But, while they are both aramids, Technora is called a para-aramid and seems to have better fatigue resistance when flexing.

Pelican Rope says this about Technora: "Technora® shows little loss of strength during repeated abrasion, flexing and stretching which makes this rope the perfect choice for pulling, winch, sheave and turning block applications. Exceptional molecular stability ensures a high modulus of elasticity, low creep and stress relaxation, as well as low thermal shrinkage. Highly resistant to heat, acids, alkalis and organic solvents"

Technora is used in timing and vee belts - both of which take a lot of flexing.

Dyneema and Spectra are both very similar. Both are High Modulus Polyethylene (HMPE) although the manufacturing process may be slightly different. They both seem to do pretty well with strength, abrasion resistance and fatigue resistance when flexing.

Vectran is a liquid crystal polymer (LCP). The manufacturer lists it as having these qualities: "High strength and modulus, High abrasion resistance, Excellent flex/fold characteristics, Minimal moisture absorption, Outstanding cut resistance." I think Vectran is $$$ compared to the others and may not be as available..

Beal 5.5 Dyneema = Dyneema core
BD Gemini = Kevlar core (no longer sold)
Bluewater 5mm Titan = Dyneema core
Edelweiss 5.5mm Aramid Cord = Technora(?) core
NE Rope 5mm Maxim Tech Cord = Technora core
Sterling Powercord = Technora core
Sterling Vectran = Vectran core (not sure if this is still available)

Spectra® is a registered trademark of Honeywell.
Dyneema® is a registered trademark of DSM Dyneema.
Vectran® is a registered trademark of Kuraray.
Kevlar® is a registered trademark of DuPont.
Technora® is a registered trademarks of Teijin.

I currently use Maxim Tech Cord for Gunks tie offs on rigid stem Friends and old hexes. It's tied with a TRIPLE fisherman's and replaced every 3-4 years.

Again, if anyone has more current/more accurate information please let me know and I'll happily edit this post. But, please post a verifiable link, not just your opinion or something that you heard from a friend.


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By WDW4
Nov 5, 2013
Global Village, Red River Gorge KY

wivanoff wrote:
Nice write up. I don't believe you can buy Kevlar cord anymore. Here's some info I found and previously posted on RC.com:




Thanks for the info! Looks like I didn't do quite enough research on the resling - I'll probably redo mine with one of those other stronger options.


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