I HATE Hand Hole Covers

A special section just for steam engines and boilers, as without these you may as well fit a sail.
Centurion
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I HATE Hand Hole Covers

Post by Centurion » Fri Jun 01, 2018 9:49 pm

Arghhh! Need to vent.

Benson Mountain boiler on a Beckman hull. To winterize, I open up the bottom hole covers to completely dry out the bottom of the boiler. That's easy. Just loosen the nut an fiddle with the cover a little to get it out.

Then,,, the covers have to go back in the spring. THAT IS HARD!! The covers are at floor level. Cover can't go in with the gasket on, not enough clearance. Gaskets are stiff and hard to get back in the hole with the cover in place. To see in the hole, I have to get my eyes at floor (sole) level to see what I'm doing. With my head on the floor, there is little room to free both my hands to force the stiff stubborn oval gasket on the oval hole cover. My arms can't bend at the angles needed to do the work and usually only enough room for one arm to be free. I hope my neighbors can't hear the expletives.

Then, my holes covers have to be positioned VERY EXACTLY so the oval gasket matches the oval surface in the boiler. THAT IS INCREDIBLY FRUSTRATING AND DIFFICULT considering I really can only free one hand and arm to do this when really at least three or more arms are needed to position the cover. This is where I start creating original expletives on the spot and scaring the neighbor dogs.

Well, I just finished. Arms ache, head aches, emotions in a frazzle. Now I'll add water to the boiler tomorrow. If the hand hole covers leak, I'll light a fire under the boat, not in the boiler.

There, I feel better.
Last edited by Centurion on Sat Jun 02, 2018 12:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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cyberbadger
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Re: I HATE Hand Hole Covers

Post by cyberbadger » Fri Jun 01, 2018 11:41 pm

Sorry you are struggling!

I do not envy hand hole covers...

For whatever reason the boiler on Nyitra, which is ASME code allowed 4x 2" NTP inspection ports instead of traditional hand hole covers. I just have 2" forged Hex plugs.

I know within the last five years on smokestak an inspector alluded to a recent accident where a hand hold gasket slipped in service on a hand fired VFT that was under investigation. :cry:

-CB
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Re: I HATE Hand Hole Covers

Post by barts » Sat Jun 02, 2018 5:02 am

For problems like this, I've found the red Permatex (Permatex High Tack Gasket Sealant 80062) to be perfect for gluing the gaskets to one side of the assembly. It doesn't make things easier to reach, but it reduces the number of hands required :)

- Bart
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Re: I HATE Hand Hole Covers

Post by PeteThePen1 » Sat Jun 02, 2018 8:45 am

I'm not familiar with that particular boiler, but can sympathise with the problem of there being too little space for the body parts needed to deal with the job. Those of you with Rose hulls will not doubt agree.

My solution has been to create a trolley whose structure replicates the engine bearers in the boat, including the studs for mounting the engine. I was also luck enough to acquire an engine hoist (made of scaffold poles) which means it is easy to crane out the engine and boiler. That allows work on both over the winter with as much access room as one could ever require. Of course it is a bit of a pain disconnecting and later re-connecting all the pipework. Being on castors the trolley can be shifted anywhere in the garage or even outside for spray painting (yesterday's task).
Boiler on Trolley (400 x 413).jpg
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Re: I HATE Hand Hole Covers

Post by TahoeSteam » Sat Jun 02, 2018 2:55 pm

I agree they can be a pain in the rear. Even on a 75hp Case traction engine there are ones behind the rear wheels that are a royal pain.

With stiff gaskets try putting them in boiling or near boiling water for a bit to soften them up.

Some of the ones I've seen have a redgister on the hatch portion that the gasket will sit into and will also register the hatch in the proper position in the hole. If yours don't have this perhaps you should look into making/having some made.
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Re: I HATE Hand Hole Covers

Post by DetroiTug » Sat Jun 02, 2018 5:31 pm

To each his own, but I would not be removing the handholes covers annually. No need to do that, unless your state requires them removed annually for re-certification. And I would not remove and replace them in a confined motion restricted access area where their alignment with gasket and mating surfaces could not be ascertained to a reasonable level of safety. I heard a story once about a guy with a steam roller where one of those gaskets blew out on the road. Luckily no one was near the hand hole when it happened.

Inspecting the interior of the boiler doesn't really tell one very much. A rusty corroded surface gives very little indication of the amount of metal that has corroded away and remaining unaffected shell. The only way to know this is with an ultrasound thickness tester which can be had for around a hundred dollars. The whole boiler shell can be check for thinning very easily from the outside, no internal access necessary. The annual hydrotest is a strength test of the vessel and will find any potential problem with the structure.

The firetubes will let you know if they are corroded, they start leaking, but they will not fail catastrophically as long as there is water present.

So, there is really no reason to open a boiler up and inspect it. If there is rust it will show up in the sight glass as reddish looking water and when rust flakes can be observed at blow down. Ultrasound testing if performed properly is very accurate to within .001".

To store the boiler dry, blow it down hot, leave every valve open, the latent heat in the steel will vaporize the remaining water. For further assurance, place a drop light with a brooder lamp/heatlamp in the firebox and leave it for a few weeks. A dry boiler will not corrode. For unheated winter storage, once the boiler is dried out, close all the valves while still hot, this will prevent the moist air from entering and condensing on the interior surfaces as the temperature changes from night and day.

It's unusual that the hand hole covers are at the base of a firetube boiler with waterleg, they are usually placed in the tube region near the crownsheet. or it could have them in both areas?

-Ron
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Re: I HATE Hand Hole Covers

Post by Centurion » Sun Jun 03, 2018 2:23 am

DetroiTug wrote:To each his own, but I would not be removing the handholes covers annually. No need to do that, unless your state requires them removed annually for re-certification. And I would not remove and replace them in a confined motion restricted access area where their alignment with gasket and mating surfaces could not be ascertained to a reasonable level of safety. I heard a story once about a guy with a steam roller where one of those gaskets blew out on the road. Luckily no one was near the hand hole when it happened.

Inspecting the interior of the boiler doesn't really tell one very much. A rusty corroded surface gives very little indication of the amount of metal that has corroded away and remaining unaffected shell. The only way to know this is with an ultrasound thickness tester which can be had for around a hundred dollars. The whole boiler shell can be check for thinning very easily from the outside, no internal access necessary. The annual hydrotest is a strength test of the vessel and will find any potential problem with the structure.

The firetubes will let you know if they are corroded, they start leaking, but they will not fail catastrophically as long as there is water present.

So, there is really no reason to open a boiler up and inspect it. If there is rust it will show up in the sight glass as reddish looking water and when rust flakes can be observed at blow down. Ultrasound testing if performed properly is very accurate to within .001".

To store the boiler dry, blow it down hot, leave every valve open, the latent heat in the steel will vaporize the remaining water. For further assurance, place a drop light with a brooder lamp/heatlamp in the firebox and leave it for a few weeks. A dry boiler will not corrode. For unheated winter storage, once the boiler is dried out, close all the valves while still hot, this will prevent the moist air from entering and condensing on the interior surfaces as the temperature changes from night and day.

It's unusual that the hand hole covers are at the base of a firetube boiler with waterleg, they are usually placed in the tube region near the crownsheet. or it could have them in both areas?

-Ron
Thankyou Detroitug. Excellent comments. This is my first steamboat and the previous owner recommended removing the bottom hand hole covers to make sure all the water at the bottom was mopped out. I really like your suggestion better. It makes sense and will follow it next winter. Apparently, Benson Mountain, the manufacturer did feel it necessary to put holes at the bottom of the waterleg and near the crown sheet.

As far as blowing out the gasket or misaligning the cover, I'm not too concerned because the cover has to be placed in the exact alignment position for the gasket to seal properly. No chance of installing incorrectly.

So, I filled the boiler with water today and no leaks. Hope to hydrostatic test tomorrow and be on the water right away. Looking forward to the sound of the whistle after a long winter.
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Re: I HATE Hand Hole Covers

Post by fredrosse » Mon Jun 04, 2018 1:48 am

The Margaret S boiler, a VFT was built to the ASME Code in 2010, and today was the first time I opened the inspection plugs to get a good washout, as well as a look at the tubes and the lower tubesheet on the waterside.

A torch was needed to heat the iron plugs so they would come loose. A good coating of "Never seeze" will be used when I put the plugs back in.

I have 3 bottom blow connections on the lower tubesheet, and I blowdown about half of the boiler's water after a day's outing, then layup the boiler, completely full of deaerated water until the next outing, usually a few weeks.

Washout consisted of putting a pressure washer jet into every boiler connection to blow off any accumulated sludge. The drains were all collected in a large plastic tub, then the water siphoned off slowly after everything had settled.

The washout water contained only a few ounces of rust coloured sludge, I was expecting more, but evidently the blowdowns (and the use of Tri-Sodium Phosphate water treatment at Ph9-Ph11) have kept mud deposits and corrosion very minimal. Tubes all looked good, no pitting observed, ready for a few more seasons of steaming.
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Re: I HATE Hand Hole Covers

Post by DetroiTug » Mon Jun 04, 2018 1:24 pm

Fred,

That is encouraging to read as I have been using my boiler on the Tug the same number of years. Although I don't use TSP, it is good for the boiler, but I don't think it is very good for the engine, especially with aluminum pistons, it being a cleaner it would wash away lubrication. I never leave water in my boiler after a run and I always make sure it is hot to evaporate any remaining water, and it stays in dry heated storage. Unfortunately it doesn't have handholes or inspection plugs to compare.

-Ron
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Re: I HATE Hand Hole Covers

Post by gondolier88 » Mon Jun 04, 2018 10:16 pm

It's a matter of what quality of water is used when steaming, whether the boiler is left with water in or emptied over winter and how many hours steaming the boiler does- it has nothing at all to do with personal opinion on whether it's a pain or not- having a blow-out on an inspection hatch can and has killed steamboaters in the not so distant past, they need looking after!

Suggestions of soaking gaskets in hot/warm water and gluing them on are, to be frank, a little scary given the context.

Most (not all) inspection gasket manufacturers stipulate they are to be installed dry (no compound). If they were installed wet and warm and then left to go dry they can cause pitting on the land they seal on, they can also shrink- shrinkage isn't too much of an issue if good practice is followed and they are torque'd up incrementally on first steaming up until tight as they can be (again, some manufacturers stipulate a torque setting on rubber based ones) and checked once cold. A pin-hole leak on one of these can cause big safety issues if left and expensive repairs too.

If you don't notice crud collecting at the base of the boiler and you always blow-down hot and leave the boiler vented with a low-temp. heat source to air the boiler then your boiler inspector may be able to advise you on allowable non-service periods of inspection gaskets.

A pain or not, they provide just about the best way of inspecting the bottom of a boiler on a fixed shell boiler.

Greg
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