Constructing The "Snag-A-Lator"

This is my design for an insulator grabber - I call it "The Snag-A-Lator."

Basically, it's a collapsible pole made from 1 1/4 inch schedule 40 PVC piping. I cut two 10-foot lengths into 5-foot sections so they could be transported more easily. The sections are strengthened and stabilized by using a 1-1/4 inch coupling, and a length of 1-inch PVC piping that fits perfectly inside the 1-1/4 inch pipe. See photos on the next page for details on how the pieces fit together.

I used 10-inch lengths of 1-inch pipe, cementing it inside the larger pipe. The smaller pipe was inserted to 5 inches, or half its length. After the cement had set, I drilled a hole through both pieces (about 3 inches or so from the end of the larger pipe), and inserted a bolt through it. A nut is fastened to the bolt to hold it in place. This adds strength, and insures the pipes will not slip when attempting to unscrew an insulator.

Two completed lengths gives you a 10-foot pole. I numbered my poles, with number 1 being the top pole. One length fits over the smaller pipe sticking out of what would be the pole below it. A hole is drilled through the pipes a few inches above the joint, and an eye-bolt is inserted through the hole. It is held in place with a wing-nut. This keeps the two sections from slipping, and allows for easy assembly and take-down. See photos on the next page for clarification.

The top part of the grabber is constructed using a 2-foot length of 1-1/4 inch pipe, a 1-1/4 inch "tee" fitting, and a rubber "bungee" or tie-down strap. The theory behind this is to form a loop from the bungee strap, and attach it to a rope that feeds through the tee, and the 2-foot pipe. This is attached to the top of the long pole, and the loop of rubber is placed over the insulator. The rope is pulled, tightening the rubber loop, and the pole is given a sharp twist to loosen the insulator. A "vee" on the other end of the tee is then used to unscrew the insulator. When the insulator is loose enough, it will assume a "tilted" posture on the pin, and you then place the rubber loop back over it. The rope is once again pulled tight, the loop grabs the insulator, and it may be removed from the pin, and lowered to the ground safely. No more getting hit in the head while trying to catch a falling insulator in a fishing net!

The "vee" is simply a strip of metal bent into a "V" shape, with rubber padding glued to it. I used the rubber from an old mouse pad I had cut into strips. This is used in much the same manner as an open-end wrench - press it against the insulator, turn, release, and repeat until the insulator is unscrewed from the pin. This "vee" is attached to a short piece of 1-1/4 inch pipe, which is pressed into the open end of the tee fitting. I just used a press fit, making it removable. Other "implements" can be attached in the same way.

I've tried coupling 4 lengths together for a 20 foot (plus 2 feet for the business end) pole. At 20 feet, I think it would take 2 men and a boy to maneuver it with any semblance of control. Realistically, I think 3 lengths (for 15 - 17 feet) is about the limit. Perhaps a similar treatment could be given to one of those telescoping poles used for changing light bulbs. These will extend to about 22 feet, and cost about $36.00 at Payless Cashways. I may try this a little later.

With two 5-foot lengths, plus the 2-foot section on top, you get 12 feet. I'm 6 feet tall, so that's about 18 feet, while still having a bit of control. This should be adequate to reach most older telephone/telegraph poles. Most of these seem to average around 20 feet.

The "Prototype" Test

The evening of February 24th was an unseasonably warm one, so Jolene and I decided to go visit a pole along the tracks that run parallel to 45 Highway between Kansas City & Leavenworth. This pole has 3 crossarms - the lowest being about 13 feet. This crossarm is also loose, and tilted at about a 45-degree angle. There are (were) 4 clear Hemingray 42s on the lower half of this crossarm.

We arrived at the pole a little after 10 PM, waited for a passing train to clear, then walked over to the pole with flashlight and Snag-A-Lator at the ready. I maneuvered the rubber loop over the lowest insulator, pulled the rope tight, and gave it a twist. I couldn't tell if the insulator was turning, but when Jolene trained the flashlight on it, we could see it turning. I turned the Snag-A-Lator around and used the vee end to loosen the insulator further. I used one side of the vee to give the insulator a bit of a twist, and it spun like a top! It made an audible "clunk" as it came off the threads on the pin. I put the loop over the insulator again, pulled the rope tight, and easily picked the insulator off the pin, and lowered it to Jolene. After a quick round of hi-fives, we snagged the next insulator in line, and called it a night!

I've placed some photos on the next page to help if you want to build your own "Snag-A-Lator." Feel free to print these pages for your own use. I'll be working on some different designs as well (yes, Brian, maybe even a motorized version ;-] ). If you have any questions, or comments feel free to drop me an e-mail Here.

Happy Snagging!

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