Keel repair continues – Fun with a needle scaler

I’m annoyed.  I started this post once already, but it’s not in my drafts, so here goes again.

I’m a bit delayed in progress because I spent some time in plumber purgatory trying to get a shower working again.  Wound up replacing the faucet, and trying to learn how to solder.  I could do all right practicing on my workbench, but once I got to working in the wall it’s a different story.  I finally gave up and used SharkBite connectors and cpvc pipes.  That is definitely NOT the $tingy Sailor way to go, but by that time I didn’t care.  It’s way easier to swab some goop on a plastic pipe and shove them together!  Wonder of wonders, it didn’t leak either.

So, back to the keel.  I started working on it a few weeks ago using this:

Air Needle Scaler

Air Needle Scaler

I got it at harbor freight, and it seems to work OK, but maybe there is a part missing.  The two parts in the picture above are put together, and a giant spring inside keeps it squished together so the needles don’t fall out and it doesn’t fall apart.  But when I use the spring, the needles bind (and one actually broke).  When I don’t use it, the two halves come apart.  It seems like maybe it’s missing a solid metal disk to go between the needles and the spring.  So I have to use it without the spring and hold it together with my hands while I try to shove it against the keel- it’s a pain but it works.

I rolled it outside on a weekend day when it wasn’t freezing, snowing, raining, or blowing hard (for some reason, those kinds of days are rare around here in the winter) and set to work.  I took this just after I started:

Keel Scaling - Before

Keel Scaling – Before

The needle scaler is pneumatic and uses air a bit faster than my compressor can provide it, so I have to pause after a few minutes and let the pressure build back up.  But it did a pretty good job of knocking off the old fiberglass.

There was a lot of dust from the fiberglass and the rust being knocked off, so to be on the safe side I put on a breathing mask.  That mask sure works great!

I finished one side, and then started on the other.  The second side was much tougher.  I barely made any progress on side 2 before I had to stop.  Here is work in progress:

scaling in progress

scaling in progress

I spent about 4 hours total and got 1 side almost completely clear, except for where the wooden support covered a part of the keel.  Once I finish side 2, I’ll hoist it up and reset it and then finish up.

Here is the (nearly) completed side:

Keel after scaling

Keel after scaling

I expect to be able to get out there next weekend.  Although I do have to fix a car hatch that won’t open, replace oxygen sensors on two cars, replace some shocks on my jeep, install a well sediment filter, do my taxes, and ……

and buy some fiberglass and epoxy supplies to fix the keel weldments!

Oh!  By the way, if you’re planning on buying anything from West Marine, this weekend is a good time to do it.  Depending on how much you spend you can get 10, 20 or 50 bucks off.  Check it out at 


6 thoughts on “Keel repair continues – Fun with a needle scaler

  1. It’s about time! LOL. You might get to sail this summer after all 😉

    That needle scaler looks like it did as good a job for you as the 20oz. framing hammer did for me but with much less effort. I think mine went faster, though. I made up for by spending hours at grinding too.

    It also looks like you don’t have a lot of metal left around the eye bolt? Remember, it’s only 1-1/4″ long. You might consider having a welder build it back up a bit before you get much farther and then re-tap it. Or go deeper and find a longer eye bolt.

    FWIW, I like to sweat copper fittings. Thanks for the link, by the way!

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