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Posted By: Chuck Lee on: 06/17/2002 03:23:03 CDT
Subject: RE: Loose or Sloppy Joint Ferules

Message Detail:
If I remember the phrasing correctly from Brown's book, the poles fitted together in the fashion of some fishing poles. That could mean that the larger portion of the brass cap (mounted to the first of the two sections to be joined) was routed with a keyway, and the butt end of the next section was smaller and fitted with a cap with key. The butt end of the second of the two sections would have the key fitted into the keyway, slide down the keyway, and when it reached the btton of the keyway, the second section would then be turned or twisted in the groove past the keyway to lock it into place.

It could also have been a friction fit. The second section of any two to be connected might have been fitted with a cap of the same material, though smaller in diameter, as the end of the first of the two sections to be joined. It was a tight enough fit that it would have to be jammed into place, or held by means of a metal or wooden wedge, or shim. With this sort of fitting, found on some period fishing poles, there would be two results: an extremely tight fit that would hold quite well, and - for the fellow assaying later to separate the sections - the development of a vocabulary of profanity that would astonish the Signalman's mother and a substantial portion of the Navy. Some would consider that a form of cross-training - learning to cuss like a sailor.

If, however, the fitting was wood-to-brass ferrule, or if the brass ferrule itself tends to come loose from the wooden pole to which it's supposed to be permanently attached (more or less), that's a different story.

Wood will be less likely to "loosen up" from metal fittings, or wood-to-wood fittings, if you don't store it in a house with central air / central heat, or in an area tha is subject to the benefits of a controlled, dehumidified climate.

Just as with a wooden handled hammer that loosens up from its steel head, you need to keep the moisture level up around 12% to 15% in the wood so it won't tend to loosen up. You can check the moisture level on the wood with a relatively inexpensive gauge so you'll know if it's dropped below the optimum moisture content level, or you assume that it has because it has loosened up - and the latter is cheaper than the former. Either way, you can then do as many of us do with hammers whose heads start to loosen up: soak the loose end in water for half an hour, and see how it does over the next two to three hours. If the wood doesn't start to hydrate by then, soak it another half hour and check it for tightness of fit in another few hours after soaking.

Shims will certainly work, and may indeed be the ultimate answer for climates that are extraordinarily arrid, and particularly where you suspect that you might have to soak the pole ends frequently which could result in wood rot if you're not careful. The southwestern United States will certainly be more prone to poles drying out overly much, resulting in loose fits for the ends, versus the deep South where I live (Louisiana is a subtropical region, and wood swells here as a matter of course - as long as it's left out of the sun AND away from our air conditioned homes).

The only real drawback to shimming, even with very slender shims, is that shims tend to further drive moisture out of the cells of the wood by literally squeezing or pressing it out. Unless your shim actually works more like a router bit (by removing wood rather than moisture), you can almost always return the wood to its former shape and condition (other than possible little scars in the wood) by soaking it in water.

Chuck Lee

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