Ma Bell Utility Pole Climbers/Gaffs

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New_Windsor_NY
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Ma Bell Utility Pole Climbers/Gaffs

Postby New_Windsor_NY » Sun Aug 18, 2019 5:40 pm

36 of my 40 years with Ma Bell were as an outside technician. These climbers (the whole item) are probably the only original piece of equipment that was issued to me that was still being used by me up until I retired (I earned them, I kept them). Anyone who thinks that these climbers are not sharp, think again. The point (gaff) had to penetrate to a depth of at least 1/2 inch into the pole and support your weight plus the weight of any tools or equipment that you might have on you. Most utility poles are made of wood, pressure-treated with some type of preservative for protection against rot, fungi and insects. Southern yellow pine is the most widely used species in the United States; however, many species of long straight trees are used to make utility poles, including Douglas fir, jack pine, lodgepole pine, western red cedar, and Pacific silver fir. Traditionally, the preservative used was creosote, but due to environmental concerns, alternatives such as pentachlorophenol, copper naphthenate and borates are becoming widespread in the United States. In the United States, standards for wood preservative materials and wood preservation processes, along with test criteria, are set by ANSI, ASTM, and American Wood Protection Association (AWPA) specifications. Despite the preservatives, wood poles decay and have a life of approximately 25 to 50 years depending on climate and soil conditions, therefore requiring regular inspection and remedial preservative treatments. Woodpecker damage to wood poles is the most significant cause of pole deterioration in the U.S. If you "gaffed out" there wasn't much you could do. As you went down, you ended up with a chest and forearms filled with splinters. When you hit the ground, if you didn't break one or both of your legs, you probably stabbed your other foot or leg with the opposite climber. Of course, it also depended on how tall the pole was and how high up on it you were. I was very fortunate not to have experienced any of that. Here they are in all their sharp, pointed glory.
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Kid: "Wish we had time to bury them fellas."
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eveled
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Re: Ma Bell Utility Pole Climbers/Gaffs

Postby eveled » Sun Aug 18, 2019 5:45 pm

Thanks for the glimpse into your world. My job is physical but not to that extreme. It takes a toll on your body for sure.

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New_Windsor_NY
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Re: Ma Bell Utility Pole Climbers/Gaffs

Postby New_Windsor_NY » Sun Aug 18, 2019 5:57 pm

eveled wrote:Thanks for the glimpse into your world. My job is physical but not to that extreme. It takes a toll on your body for sure.


Thank you for reading this. Luckily, it's not my world anymore. It hasn't been for 5 very relaxing years. ::tu:: ::handshake::
Kid: "Wish we had time to bury them fellas."
Josey Wales: "To hell with them fellas. Buzzards got to eat, same as worms."
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eveled
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Re: Ma Bell Utility Pole Climbers/Gaffs

Postby eveled » Sun Aug 18, 2019 6:00 pm

New_Windsor_NY wrote:
eveled wrote:Thanks for the glimpse into your world. My job is physical but not to that extreme. It takes a toll on your body for sure.


Thank you for reading this. Luckily, it's not my world anymore. It hasn't been for 5 very relaxing years. ::tu:: ::handshake::


No thanks needed. It was a pleasure to read it. You earned some relaxing time. I was wondering were you keep your climbers? Hidden away in storage? Or on display in the man cage?

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Re: Ma Bell Utility Pole Climbers/Gaffs

Postby eveled » Sun Aug 18, 2019 6:02 pm

Lol! Supposed to be man cave not cage!

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Re: Ma Bell Utility Pole Climbers/Gaffs

Postby mariacrow44 » Sun Aug 18, 2019 6:18 pm

Brooks Hooks!! :) :)

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Re: Ma Bell Utility Pole Climbers/Gaffs

Postby Doc B » Sun Aug 18, 2019 6:53 pm

Interesting! Dumb question...but, do you ever have to sharpen them? Or do you just get a new pair, as they wear?
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Re: Ma Bell Utility Pole Climbers/Gaffs

Postby Quick Steel » Sun Aug 18, 2019 7:16 pm

N W N, Fascinating reading. Telephone poles are one of those objects which are around us but which we give little, if any, thought to. Types of trees used, woodpeckers, gaffing out: very good stuff. Thanks.
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Re: Ma Bell Utility Pole Climbers/Gaffs

Postby doglegg » Sun Aug 18, 2019 7:18 pm

I saw a lady linesman slide down the pole once. She was tough and appeared to have no major injuries. Thanks for the explanation. ::tu::

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Re: Ma Bell Utility Pole Climbers/Gaffs

Postby New_Windsor_NY » Sun Aug 18, 2019 7:39 pm

eveled wrote:No thanks needed. It was a pleasure to read it. You earned some relaxing time. I was wondering were you keep your climbers? Hidden away in storage? Or on display in the man cage?

I keep them in my tool shed. I may break them out some day to trim the trees on my property. ::handshake::

Doc B wrote:Interesting! Dumb question...but, do you ever have to sharpen them? Or do you just get a new pair, as they wear?

C'mon Doc B, there's no such thing as a dumb question. We sharpened them with a regular sharpening stone that was approximately 4 inches long, 1 inch wide and 1/4 inch thick. There was no set usage time to sharpen the gaffs, just when you felt that they needed sharpening. ::handshake::

Quick Steel wrote:N W N, Fascinating reading. Telephone poles are one of those objects which are around us but which we give little, if any, thought to. Types of trees used, woodpeckers, gaffing out: very good stuff. Thanks.

When I retired, they were starting to replace the really old, "defective" wooden poles with fiberglass poles. I never got to climb one. Oh, by the way, my name is Skip. ::handshake::

mariacrow44 wrote:Brooks Hooks!! :) :)

Sorry, I've been out of the game for awhile, Brooks Hooks?
I don't know what you mean, but my climbers were manufactured by Klein Tools. ::handshake::
**EDIT** I looked it up. Brooks made/makes adjustable climbers. Again, mine were manufactured by Klein Tools. ::tu::
Kid: "Wish we had time to bury them fellas."
Josey Wales: "To hell with them fellas. Buzzards got to eat, same as worms."
Clint Eastwood-The Outlaw Josey Wales

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Re: Ma Bell Utility Pole Climbers/Gaffs

Postby buddyie22 » Mon Aug 19, 2019 1:06 am

Thanks for the memories. I worked for Ma Bell as a Toll repeaterman, residential repair and worked in Specials in Kansas for 32years retired in 2001. Short story, about two weeks out of pole climbing school was working repair. Coming down a pole close to the bottom missed the pole with the left hook. Left hook went into the right foot just above the heel. Bled like a stick hog. Did not let anybody know, but I still have a 3prong scar on right foot.
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New_Windsor_NY
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Re: Ma Bell Utility Pole Climbers/Gaffs

Postby New_Windsor_NY » Mon Aug 19, 2019 1:39 am

buddyie22 wrote:Thanks for the memories. I worked for Ma Bell as a Toll repeaterman, residential repair and worked in Specials in Kansas for 32years retired in 2001. Short story, about two weeks out of pole climbing school was working repair. Coming down a pole close to the bottom missed the pole with the left hook. Left hook went into the right foot just above the heel. Bled like a stick hog. Did not let anybody know, but I still have a 3prong scar on right foot.


OUCH!! That hurts just reading it. Glad you survived. ::tu:: I know about not reporting an injury. The company would suspend you for X amount of days THEN ask you what happened. ::td::
Kid: "Wish we had time to bury them fellas."
Josey Wales: "To hell with them fellas. Buzzards got to eat, same as worms."
Clint Eastwood-The Outlaw Josey Wales

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Re: Ma Bell Utility Pole Climbers/Gaffs

Postby treefarmer » Mon Aug 19, 2019 3:01 am

I haven't seen a telephone man on a pole in years. Around here they have the small bucket trucks to reach the overhead phone lines. It has also been a long while since I've seen a power company man using a pair of hooks. My retired buddies from Gulf Power and West Florida Electric are so grateful for the bucket trucks that were not as common when they started their careers back in the day. There was quite a bit of pole climbing during the Hurricane Michael rebuild, lots of places they had to ride a boat out to the pole, then hook up and climb.
There is a big transmission line with wooden poles that runs through our lease with a lot of the poles having been repaired then wrapped with hardware cloth due to the woodpeckers. Thankfully they are able to reach those with a High Ranger truck.
Skip, glad you made it with out an accident for those years. ::tu::
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Re: Ma Bell Utility Pole Climbers/Gaffs

Postby New_Windsor_NY » Mon Aug 19, 2019 3:44 am

treefarmer wrote:I haven't seen a telephone man on a pole in years. Around here they have the small bucket trucks to reach the overhead phone lines. It has also been a long while since I've seen a power company man using a pair of hooks. My retired buddies from Gulf Power and West Florida Electric are so grateful for the bucket trucks that were not as common when they started their careers back in the day. There was quite a bit of pole climbing during the Hurricane Michael rebuild, lots of places they had to ride a boat out to the pole, then hook up and climb.
There is a big transmission line with wooden poles that runs through our lease with a lot of the poles having been repaired then wrapped with hardware cloth due to the woodpeckers. Thankfully they are able to reach those with a High Ranger truck.
Skip, glad you made it with out an accident for those years. ::tu::
Treefarmer


Thank you Treefarmer. ::handshake:: I actually turned it down when I was offered a bucket/tower truck. Oh I had a few motor vehicle accidents (company vehicles) and injuries (nothing permanent) over the years, but never due to a pole climbing mishap. I also worked in underground facilities (manholes) as much as I worked above ground, on poles. Each had it's own set of challenges. But overall, I came out of it unscathed and healthy. ::tu::
Kid: "Wish we had time to bury them fellas."
Josey Wales: "To hell with them fellas. Buzzards got to eat, same as worms."
Clint Eastwood-The Outlaw Josey Wales

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Re: Ma Bell Utility Pole Climbers/Gaffs

Postby eveled » Mon Aug 19, 2019 10:31 am

I don’t want to sidetrack the thread but I was reminded of a picture I saw in a museum in DC. It shows the climbers in use.

The picture won the Pulitzer in 1968. When I saw the pictures I was moved to tears. The man survived.

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