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I have a square metal pole in the ground which has a metal sleeve and it's rusted that I can't get it out. In the past I've removed these poles using a Jeep jack (as in the image) and it's worked well. Now the Jeep jack is starting to break at the lip. The length of this pole under the ground is 18 inches.

So far I've tried spraying a ton of PB Blaster Penetrant into the area between the pole and the sleeve and come back and tried again and sprayed again leaving periods of 30 minutes to 4 hours between each try. I've done this 4 times so far.

I'm looking for more ideas on how to free this pole from the sleeve. Thanks.

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    jam a wedge between the pole and the sleeve and collapse one of the sides of the pole – jsotola Feb 25 '18 at 17:30
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    You are on the best track; get another jack, maybe bigger , maybe a hydraulic . – blacksmith37 Feb 25 '18 at 17:36
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    do you need the sleeve or pole intact? – Journeyman Geek Feb 26 '18 at 0:18
  • @JourneymanGeek - yes, both. – Guy Feb 26 '18 at 3:26
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Eighteen inches of the post penetrating into the sleeve with rust most likely to be along most of the internal overlap will be next to impossible to get apart. One of the most helpful techniques for freeing rusted parts is heating the outer part so that it expands to loosen the joint - but that technique is not possible in this situation.

I suggest that you will likely have to break or cut out the concrete around the sleeve in order to get the whole thing removed all at once. This effort could be really a lot of work if the sleeve had been installed into its hole with concrete poured around it.

Too bad to hear that your jack is breaking. If there were a way to apply the load on the jack close to the body of the jack as opposed to way at the tip would be way better. If the casting of the jack is actually broken or cracked you should remove the unit from service so that you do not try to reuse the jack at a future time and have a safety compromise.

  • I'm located in Phoenix, AZ - in the summer that pole will probably get to around 150F at some point on extremely hot days (in the shade it gets to 120F). Is there any chance that the expansion during the summer might loosen or break the rust seal? – Guy Feb 26 '18 at 3:31
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    @Guy - Your Arizona temperature will expand the stand pole and not the sleeve part that is in the ground. That expansion will make the pole tighter in the sleeve, not looser. That is why it was suggested in another part of this Q&A to put dry ice down into the stand pipe to cause it to get smaller. – Michael Karas Feb 26 '18 at 7:15
  • Could OP use a butane torch to heat the outer part? – Stanwood Feb 28 '18 at 3:19
  • @stanwood - take a look at the picture. The outer sleeve is completely buried and 18" into concrete and the ground. There is no way that a torch could cause any significant heating without completely digging it up and breaking off any concrete. Even out in the open a single torch will have difficulty heating up an 18" length of the sleeve to red hot and keeping it there. – Michael Karas Feb 28 '18 at 3:33
  • @MichaelKaras - the way I read OP the inner pole is anchored 18" into concrete whereas the outer sleeve rests on the surface and is intended to be removable (if not rusted on). May still be quite difficult to heat up that large sleeve. – Stanwood Feb 28 '18 at 3:38
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All the answers and observations so far have been appropriate in my experience. It would seem that the sleeve you describe is embedded in concrete and that the pole (square tube) was designed to be removed (each season) and most likely that they are both galvanized steel.

The wedge technique is ultimately infallible although certainly destructive. The flat sides of the post can be bent into the void with pry bars and/or steel wedges (see wood splitters) and sledge hammers. On the plus side, the damaged section of the post can be cut off afterward and a new replacement section welded on for reuse. The more expensive risk is to the pavement and the sleeve which are not as easily repaired.

I have used vibration in many cases like this. If you have access to pneumatic hammers this may be a good solution. Even though you place a blunted chisel tip on the edge of the sleeve, you risk damaging all three components: the sleeve, post and the concrete. High frequency - low impact vibration works best.

I have used electrolysis as well. Using a automotive battery charger, washing soda, water and time you may be able to loosen the expansive corrosion between the sleeve and post. Making a sound electrical connection to the sleeve is imperative. Delivering the washing soda/water solution to penetrate between them after all that oil has been sprayed in there is the unknown factor. Presumably you can flood the post through an opening. Charging the sleeve and the post with opposite polarities, sufficient electrolytes and time you might release the corrosive grip with minimal damage.

It appears from your photo that this is a tennis court net post. It is also entirely possible that the post is bent in toward the court and that bending it back outwardly, with a come-a-long will straighten it and allow it to be removed with the jack. Instead of using the tip of the jack, perhaps you can turn it sideways or use a sling so the force is kept closer to the jackpots, the shackle hole is designed for this use.

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Comments aren't for answers and I realized that my comment was more in the line of an answer:

jsotola has a good idea about collapsing one of the pole sides, but consider to drive a rod down all four sides, removing the rod each time. This will help break the bond on the sleeve. After dimpling the faces, you may be able to wrench the pole free. Also when you apply penetrating liquid, attach a vibrating sander to the pole to help the penetration.

Heat and cold are good methods, but as Michael Karas suggests, difficult for your installation. If the top of the pole is open or can be cut open, dropping bits of dry ice may chill the metal to assist in the release.

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    It is hard to really be certain but I suspect that this square tubing post has some decent thickness walls. As such I'd guess that "dimpling" it's faces will be almost impossible. Penetration down 18" in a rust joint like that for the penetrating oil or what ever is tried will also be next to impossible. Sorry to be such a negative here but that will be a very stubborn joint to get apart by most any method - especially if the rust goes down more than a couple of inches. (continued) – Michael Karas Feb 25 '18 at 20:01
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    (continued from above) Copious amounts of dry ice inside the tubing with two jacks to put uniform pressure on the post straight up and then lots of rust breaker fluid and vibration and hammering will be the best chance of success other than the complete removal as I posted in my answer. – Michael Karas Feb 25 '18 at 20:03
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You can use a drill to make a hole through the pole and run a thick bolt through that to give you a better jacking point. Then use a bottle jack with a lot of leverage and keep spraying that pb blaster. It won't be as destructive as chiseling out the sleeve from the concrete. two jacks would be best so you can lift from both sides. Better yet would be to chain it to the bucket of a skid loader or something like that and just lift.

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If thermite is not a banned substance in your area and the tube is open at the top, mix up a batch, pour it into the tube, light it by dropping a sparkler into the tube, and retreat to a safe distance. When the drama subsides, the tube and sleeve should be glowing red hot. You should be able to jack the tube out pretty easily at that point.

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    Given that thermite is hot enough to melt steel (it's used to weld railroad rails together), this seems like a particularly bad idea. The likely outcome is that the post will be permanently welded into the sleeve. – Dave Tweed Feb 25 '18 at 23:32
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    @Dave Tweed It's all a matter of timing. If the OP waits too long after the thermite stops burning and the mass of molten iron cools down, everything will be welded together as you say. But if jacking begins immediately at the end of the thermite reaction with everything still glowing hot, that pole is coming out. What if it welds? Steel that hot has little tensile strength, so even if the deepest part of the pole gets welded to the sleeve, the pole will easily "part" where it's glowing as soon as jacking force is applied. – MTA Feb 26 '18 at 23:21
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    That still leaves the sleeve useless for future use. The OP specified that both parts are supposed to be undamaged to whatever extent possible. – Dave Tweed Feb 27 '18 at 3:32
  • @MTA although your answer is impractical for me to try I have voted it up anyway because providing outlier answers like this is incredibly valuable in my opinion because this may lead myself or somebody else in a direction to come up with another answer that provides the solution. Thanks for suggesting this. Also thanks to Dave Tweed for providing the danger context in implementing something like this. Much appreciated - both of you. – Guy Feb 27 '18 at 16:07
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Slow steady force has not broken the rust bond, so let’s keep the steady force add some shock. Gather these . . .

MATERIALS

  • A free-standing ladder at least as tall as the post
  • A piece of steel plate about an inch bigger than the opening at the top of the post
  • Duct tape
  • A sledge hammer
  • A 2-3 foot length of steel cable and cable clamps
  • An old blanket or some heavy towels
  • Eye protection, hearing protection

GOAL

The goal is to apply steady lifting force to the post and to maintain that force even if the post moves up by a microscopic amount. We’ll use the jack pulling a loop of steel cable as if it is a really strong rubber band pulling up on the post. With that steady force a constant, we’ll smack the top of the post straight down to break the rust bond.

PROCEDURE

Climb the ladder with the steel plate and duct tape in hand. Tape the steel plate securely in place over the top end of the post. Leave the center of the plate as bare steel. We want to get as much shock as possible when we hit the plate with the sledge hammer; a layer of tape would diminish the shock.

Use the cable clamps to form a loop of cable. Place the loop over the post and lower it to a point just below the spot where the jack is engaged in your photo.

Move the jack to the other side of the post. Twist the cable into a figure 8, engage the jack with the loop of cable and place the cable under a little tension.

Wrap the old blanket around the cable so that if the cable breaks, it won’t hurt anyone.

Operate the jack to place the cable and post under as much tension as possible. If the cable breaks or slips, you’ll need a better cable or clamps.

Put on your eye and hearing protection and climb the ladder with the sledge hammer. Hit the flat face of the steel plate with the sledge hammer several times as hard as you can. Climb down.

If the jack is now easier to operate, you have made some progress. Return to maximum tension and give the top of the post a few more whacks.

Repeat.

NOTES

I’d recommend against using nylon strap or rope in place of steel cable. They are too stretchy, and if the post suddenly comes loose, it could be launched out of the sleeve. A small loop of steel cable will only stretch a fraction of an inch.

If you can’t get the steel cable to work, get a helper to apply constant jacking force directly to the post while you smack it from the top. But give the helper hearing protection, a hard hat and a face shield in case the hammer or steel plate go flying. A full-coverage motorcycle helmet would work.

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