Tutorials

Working around salt, the Stainless Steel screws Nick Page referred to, keeping your tripod in top shape, and much more...

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. From now on, we'll be using stainless steel screws in the tripods that didn't use them before, the CP34-L4 II and the CP38-L4 II. We'll also be adding the screws to tripods that are currently in stock, and if you've already bought a Series II tripod (CP34 or CP38) 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, sold 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 an interesting way to bypass those safety features and mangle/crush/break/destroy it, or somehow coat it inside and out in very fine sand (true story).

If you work in salt air/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 I recommend doing is applying corrosion protection to any metal parts, even aluminum. That includes any screws, grips, the apex on top of the tripod and so forth. A good protector in this regard is Boeshield 9, which is used by the aviation industry to protect stored metal parts. One application 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 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.

                                * * * Never use WD-40 on your tripod or ball head.  * * *

Pause for a Nerd Moment:
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.

​This distilled water trick also works well if your ball head was immersed in salt water, but it's harder to save a ball head from that, as there are often brass parts inside that will corrode very quickly.

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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