It was on our trip to Florida a year ago that I encountered a problem with the handrail post which had snapped off at the base of the post on the breakwall. This turned out to be a pretty simple and effective solution.

Now most people go on vacation to relax, do some fishing, play some golf and generally do nothing. MisterFixit is a different breed. He likes to relax by working on a physical project since he sits at a desk all week long doing engineering work. So a vacation for MisterFixit might involve replacing the exhaust on his family buggy or possibly building a deck.

Understanding that sort of attitude you can then understand that when MisterFixit went to stay at a friend's house in Florida, getting away from the February freeze in the north country, he was able to relax and do some fishing for a day or so but then decided that he needed a project. The third day there he and his wife were sitting on the floating dock on the canal at the rear of the vacation house when all of a sudden something snapped and the dock began to tip backwards! What had broken were the upright posts that are mounted into the concrete breakwall and support the handrail and consequently provides stability for the floating dock. It's a neat four bar linkage but that's not important here, just the fact that the pipes broke off will suffice.

The pipe, an inch and a half steel, had rusted off at the bottom of the pipe where it entered the top of a 12 inch thick concrete breakwall. It was obvious that there was no way short of drilling with an inch and a half carbide tip drill that the broken off piece of pipe remaining in the concrete was going to come out. MisterFixit studied the situation and decided that there may be a sufficient amount of pipe sticking out of the concrete and the hole up the center of the pipe was clear enough that a smaller diameter stub could be inserted into the wall, welded to the protruding pipe and the old section then welded onto the stub.

But MisterFixit had a Bernzo torch and a handful of tools - no wire welder like he has back in his shop. so he began looking through the Yellow Pages to find a welder who could do the job. He found an address nearby the house and decided to stop in to talk with Butch, the owner and operator of C&S Welding.

MisterFixit and Butch got along just fine. He described the problem to Butch who thought about it and then suggested a different approach. He was afraid that the old pipe would be too rusted in the concrete to take a good weld. He got a paper and pencil and drew up a sketch with MisterFixit tossing in a few ideas until the two of them had worked out a concept that looked good on paper. It consisted of a piece of steel which would be bolted to the face of the breakwall and to which would be welded the existing broken off piece of upright pipe.MisterFixit also reminded Butch that no matter what his personal budget was, a quality repair was more important to save money down the road then fixing up a pipe at low cost.

MisterFixit thought about it for a while and went back to the site to scope it out. Well, it did look good on paper but when MisterFixit realized that the handrail would have to be shortened by six inches or so it looked like more of a problem since the handrails were 15 feet long and bolted to the floating dock - they wouldn't fit into the rental car without a struggle and he wasn't about to hacksaw a piece out of it and then weld it back together again.

Approach #2 started forming in his mind. If a steel "saddle" could be made up to go over the top of the breakwall and form a support to which the existing pipe could be welded in the same location as the broken stub, then the job could be done with minimum hassle and without having to have Butch bring a welder to the scene.

After doing some measuring and sketching, he went back to the shop and showed the idea to Butch. Butch agreed and began to look for some heavy 1/4 inch thick steel plate on the shelves. He found a piece that was 12 inches wide and long enough to cover the top of the wall and to protrude down the inside and outside of the wall about 10 inches. Bob left the two pieces of broken off pipe with Butch and drove to the nearest tool rental store where he rented a hammer drill and a 3/4 inch concrete drill 14 inches long.

The next day Butch called and said he had the saddles made so MisterFixit went over to pick them up. One look and he saw that a few gussets were needed to prevent any bending of the pipe at the weld to the plate. Being a mechanical engineer that seemed obvious. Butch quickly cut some triangular gussets and in fifteen minutes had welded them in place. Butch also drilled a 3/4 inch hole in the center of one of the "ears" of the saddle and a "weep hole" in the bottom of the plate so that any water which might get into the pipe would drain out and not cause the structure to rust out once again.

Back at the wall MisterFixit used the drill to drill through the hole that Butch had drilled, on through the concrete wall to the opposite "ear" of the saddle where the carbide bit marked the spot for the other hole. He did this with both saddles and then went back to Butch who finished the job by drilling another 3/4 inch hole where the mark had been made.

A stop at the local hardware store and MisterFixit bought the 14 inch bolts, nuts and washers and a spray can of aluminum paint.

The saddles fit perfectly into position, the bolts were inserted and tightened and a minute or so of spray painting later and the handrails looked like new. MisterFixit then opened a frosty Molson Golden, picked up a fishing rod and spent the rest of the day resting on the dock knowing full well that it would not be tipping over again for many years. He thought of all those frozen people back up north and enjoyed the warmth of the Florida sun.

If you live in the area of Hudson, Florida and need some welding done be sure to go see Butch - his shop is right off Rt 19 on the east side of the highway behind a mobile home supply store about three miles north of the intersection of Rt 52. Just in case you want to see what Butch looks like, here is a pic of him (on the right) with MisterFixit (during his Hemmingway era) in his welding shop.

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