This is completely off topic and feel free to stop reading if you don’t care about how to tap a bolt, but it was something that I had to a) learn, b) spend time practicing, and c) get done to save money.
tl;dr it’s not hard, but it was interesting.
Bear with me as I’ll explain the situation, what happened, and what/how I learned.
We have this building on the ranch.
That’s not a great show, but it is cool at night. Here’s a better shot.
This is a fabric building, made of a steel frame that’s anchored to the ground and fabric pulled around it. The fabric is actually secured by weaving straps through the frame. Here’s a good shot of how this works, albeit with a broken strap. We actually had to climb up here and tie a new strap to the existing one to secure things. Another skill, but a simple one. Mostly climbing and tying strings.
At the bottom of the the fabric, there is a pocket. It’s actually a loop that runs horizontally along the material. Similar to how a hoodie has a pocket around the hood in which a string is threaded. In this case, there’s a steel pole in there. You can see this below, as the white material at the bottom is doubled over and a different color. There is a small pocket cut out towards the middle left where you can see the steel pole.
This steel pole is secured to the bottom frame with a threaded rod. You can see a couple of these in the image, with a washer and nut on it. These go through the pole and screw into the frame that’s on the ground. The nut is tightened and holds the walls down in the wind. There is some space in some places where the wind and go in and out, which allows pressure to equalize inside and outside the building, and also helps the frame resist strong winds by having it flow through.
I didn’t think much of this when the building was built, but at some point my wife told me a rod had broken and the building was flapping. In this case, part of the wall was moving, which wears the fabric down and can tear it.
Not an easy thing to fix and potentially something that will cost a lot.
When I examined the rod, I saw it had broken off in the base frame. I don’t have a great picture, but this is roughly what I saw, albeit in a round steel frame. This picture shows a bolt head broken, but for me, it was a longer rod.
I did what I often do. I triaged the scope and scale of this problem. I saw articles like this one from Bob Vila. That didn’t look took hard, so I decided to see if I could remove the old bolt with a left handed bit and easily fix things.
I bought a left handed bit and tried and failed. The old bolt is exposed to dirt and the weather and I think it slightly rusted in the nut, or perhaps it was too clogged from dirt, but I couldn’t get it out.
My thought was to call a service person, but I also know this is a small job. Likely someone can do this in minutes, which means it’s not much $$ and hard to get someone to come.
A little more research led me to videos like this one, which shows how to make a mark and drill out the screw. In checking with the costs of the tools, I found some that weren’t expensive, and certainly less costly than getting a handyman out.
So I tried this. I took the broken rod to the store, found it was 1/2”, bought a slightly smaller drill bit (29/64) and a tap/die set.
I got a hammer and a metal drill bit and drilled down into the hole. I used a little gear oil to keep things cool and worked my way down.
Once I had a hole, I read instructions, watched a video, and then tapped new threads into the space. This is really keeping this tool aligned and screwing it down into the hole. It’s hard, and definitely tiring on the hands.
Once I have this through the metal, I usually can easily go up and down a bit, threading it into and out of the hole. This is really only about 1/2-3/4” of metal as the horizontal tube below is hollow.
The last part is threading in a new rod and tightening down the not on the bolt to hold the base.
Reusing New Skills
Once I did one, I felt confident in doing others. In fact, the first time my wife pointed out the problem, there were 2 to fix. Since then, I find that I need to fix 2-3 every year, in different places. Some from weather, some perhaps from horses or people kicking the base.
I found that after the second time, I didn’t even need to go look up the process, as I internalized what needed to be done.
There are quite a few skills like this I’ve learned in my lifetime, and plenty here at the ranch, that save money, and more importantly, time. They also give me a sense of satisfaction.
On the list this year is to teach my daughter this skill as she’s hoping to come work on the ranch after college and this is something she can do.
If you liked this, I have another story. Had to replace a hub on a trailer this past weekend. Like this, it’s a skill I have to learn and I continue to use every year or two.