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Deals And… Steel? Choosing Smart Rigging

I hope everyone is recovering from a wonderful and delicious Thanksgiving! Now that there’s a little more of us to hoist into the air, I figured it would be a great time to talk about some of the equipment you’ll need to keep you there safely. Let’s talk heavy metal, baby!

In the coming weeks, we’ll chat about basic rigging (swivels and biners and slings – oh my!), but let’s start with some basics. Today’s Big Question: should you buy steel or aluminum? The Big Answer: both. Heh heh – and you thought this would be simple!

Here is the general rule: if you’re going to dangle from it, it should be steel. If you will NOT be dangling from it, use aluminum. The One Exception (every good rule has one!) is swivels – current industry standard remains the aluminum swivel (I like Petzl). Here are the nuts and bolts (oh, I crack myself up):

  • for our purposes, “dynamic load bearing” means hanging a person
  • use steel for dynamic loads (steel carabiners, resue 8’s, etc.)
  • use aluminum for points that are NOT dynamic load bearing (example: to swag your apparatus off)
  • aluminum swivels remain the industry standard

So, what’s the difference? Here’s the thing: theoretically, aluminum can shatter/break/fail with no warning. This is bad for you. Steel, on the other hand, will visibly deform before it fails, giving you ample time to notice and change it out. So, why use aluminum at all? It’s lighter (makes a big difference when you’re toting half a ton of equipment). It’s frequently used by rock climbers for this reason – who wants to lug 40 pounds of steel up the side of a mountain? BUT, it’s worth noting that they retire their aluminum equipment if they take a fall – we repeatedly shock (“fall”) on our equipment, & I don’t want to replace my biners every time I do my act! So, I use steel – better safe than sorry.

So what’s the deal with aluminum swivels? Why are those OK? The short answer is that the rigging community at large hasn’t found a steel alternative that they like better (that I’m aware of – please let me know if you’ve found a good steel swivel that you like!). So, the aluminum swivel remains industry standard. This will likely change as more companies begin making rigging specific to aerial work, but for now, what does it mean for you? My personal general rule of thumb is that I don’t use a swivel unless I feel I really need one – if I can eliminate it, I do. More on swivels in the future – it’s a topic all on it’s own!

And now, some more entertaining metal. Love and pull-ups, Laura

The AMAZING Tanya Gagne (owner of Big Sky Works) and Adrienne Truscott as the Wau Wau Sisters! Run do not walk to see them the next time they perform in NYC!!!



DISCLAIMER:  Always consult a certified rigger for your rigging needs.

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