row2k Features
Tool Hack
The Wing Nut Stick
February 1, 2012
row2k hackers

An original, hockey-stick-hacked wing-nut tool . . .

contributed by John FX Flynn, row2k

As all rowers know, it is impossible to move eight foot stretchers in any shell without encountering at least one wing nut that was last tightened by a person at least twice a strong as the person sitting there now . . . and so the call goes back to the coxswain--and sometimes all the way to the launch--for a "tool."

This handy, home-made hack might be the best response we've seen yet to the incessant need for a wing nut tool.

The "wing-nut stick" is made out of the handle of an old hockey stick (more on this below), but any similar sized piece of wood could work, especially pressure-treated wood. In fact, one of the better variations we've seen was just the handle of an old hammer, cut down and given the following "wing-nut-stick" makeover:

A hole is drilled in the center of the end, to accommodate long bolts, and a notch about a quarter of its width is cut across the working end to grab the wings of the nut in question. So all you need is a stick, a saw, and a drill and you can have one of your very own (in fact, you could probably make it without any power tools at all, but where's the fun in that?).

It is simple to make, cheap, it floats--which just about renders those first two virtues moot--and best of all it works really well by providing just the right amount of torque to loosen things up quick.

Why a hockey stick? Well, like all good rowing hacks, this hockey stick version of this tool was made with what was handy and lying around the boathouse--in this case, a lot of old hockey gear that this particular university's team goes through like match sticks in the course of a season. The great thing about the hockey stick approach? Get a long enough stick, and you can hack enough tools for every coxswain in the boathouse to have two.

How do you get those wing nuts loosened? What gets passed up towards the bow at your place when someone asks for a tool? If you've got a great, hacked tool for getting this job done, let us know in the comments.

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Log in to comment
01/11/2013  8:46:53 AM
Wooden hockey sticks used to be the preferred tool and were free, but since the introduction of composites into the game, which, because of their thinness has no torque capacity, I use 7/16 and 10mm nut drivers with a notch cut into the "smart end" to accommodate a wing nut. In a perfect world these wing nuts would only be hand tight; but of course, this is not a perfect world and the last thing a rower needs is for his/her stretcher to move south during a sprint to the finish... they can also be used to tighten/loosen/take off riggers.

10/26/2012  8:46:07 PM
Loosen only! I can't stand it when people tighten with these things!

10/03/2012  11:31:00 AM
I'm a big believer in hand tight. Use this tool for loosening only. When used for tightening it causes the the t of the stretcher to become bent. The t end of the stretcher bolt needs to be flat so the stretcher slides easily while adjusting. When it is bent it takes up more space in the stretcher track. This is a big problem with empachers.

07/02/2012  1:48:51 PM
On page 26 of Rowing News magazine a year ago (July 2011), there's a breif article about The "Nashbar Mavic Cartridge Bearing Tool" -- can be used for cycling repair this product is also good for " .... any rower who wants to change their height on a cold day and knows that popping the washer off the oarlock can be difficult, especially with blistered fingers." Costs about ten dollars. Thanks Rowing News.

Shift, not settle
03/04/2012  2:15:06 PM
I've used copper piping, which tends to be more resilient than PVC or wood. I use a hacksaw to cut the notches at the end. Then I drill a hole about 1/4 of an inch from the top, slip in a 1/4-inch dowel, and then apply hot glue to lock the "handle" in place.

02/09/2012  1:28:38 PM
1 people like this
An old broom or rake handle cut into short sections works well too - you can make a few for the whole boathouse. If you drill an extra hole through the handle end you can thread a lanyard that will float a key or other tool (not that we ever drop tools into the water).

02/02/2012  10:55:35 AM
Will my cramped fingers and migraine headaches go away?

02/02/2012  10:55:13 AM
I just use vespoli's multi-tool...

02/01/2012  9:37:52 AM
1 people like this
The threaded end of broken Vespoli top braces work well and don't wear out like wood or pvc. Cut 4" - 6" of threaded end, cut wingnut width slot down to the weld with hacksaw, bandsaw, or file. You can drill hole in non slot end for a lanyard or to thread a bolt through for a T-handle. Drawback is they don't float.. Nylon wingnuts work fine on plastic of stretcher ends, not so well when bearing on metal

02/01/2012  7:32:37 AM
1 people like this
Another option is to avoid the problem altogether. By swapping out stainless or brass wing-nuts and replacing them with nylon ones you get nuts that act like lock nuts. They also wear out faster, but they are really easy to replace, easier on the hands, and pretty cheap to buy. I had my crews use sticks like this (we called them wing-dings) but they became dependent on them because they also used them for tightening the nuts and there were never enough of them. It was just easier to avoid the problem altogether.

02/01/2012  6:24:04 AM
1 people like this
A piece of narrow pvc pipe works , too -- no need to drill a hole for long bolts.

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