Reducing Needle Scaler Vibration for More Efficient Restoration

When a dedicated team of volunteers is responsible for restoring a national treasure to its former glory, their job should be as stress-free as possible – not a physically taxing endeavor leaving them susceptible to vibration-related injury. Fortunately, CS Unitec has a line of low-vibration needle scalers that allowed the volunteers to work longer and safer.


A Historic Submarine

The USS Pampanito was once a cog in the USA’s crucial World War II submarine fleet, personally responsible for sinking six Imperial Japanese ships and damaging four others.

Today, the ship has been designated a national historic landmark as it serves as a museum and memorial docked in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Warf. The crown jewel of the non-profit San Francisco Maritime National Park Association (SFMNPA), the Pampanito is one of the country’s most popular historic vessels, hosting more than 100,000 visitors per year.

Since it was opened to the public in 1982, a dedicated team of volunteers has been working to accurately restore the Pampanito to its summer 1945 condition, representing the height of WWII sub development. Missing equipment and spare parts have been sourced from similar vessels around the country with the goal of bringing the Pampanito back to the condition of its glory days.

The Challenge: Alleviate Fatigue During the Descaling Process

Richard Pekelney has been a part of that restoration team for nearly three decades. He recently joined a crew working on extensive needle scaling efforts, working for a couple hours at a time descaling rust on the Pampanito’s main deck and removing degraded coatings from a 1942-built Bofors 40mm gun that is being restored and installed as part of the project. Pekelney’s background in ergonomics quickly led him to look for a better way to get that arduous job done.

“We’re scaling parts that have been in the weather for 30 years since their last overhaul, working pretty much every day that there’s good weather,” Pekelney explains. “It was definitely not anyone's favorite task. A few hours into the project, the discomfort I felt had me thinking about how to reduce fatigue and make things more comfortable for our team of volunteers. Our old conventional inline needle scalers were just not cutting it.”

Bofors 40 mm gun parts after needle scaler descaling

Bofors 40 mm gun parts after descaling
Bofors 40 mm gun parts after needle scaling with new coating applied

Bofors 40 mm gun parts after new coating applied

The Solution: Reduce Vibration & Increase Comfort to Reduce Fatigue

Research led Pekelney to an intriguing option: CS Unitec’s Trelawny™ VL203 Vibro-Lo™ needle scalers, ergonomically designed tools that utilize vibration damping components to offset the hammer vibration that is created when the needles impact the work surface. The result is 8x less vibration than standard needle scalers, greatly reducing the risk of operator fatigue and injury.

The VL203 offers a nice balance of power to weight. At 6 lbs. and 2400 bpm, this tool is perfect for small to medium descaling jobs, while still being compact enough to fit in tighter spaces. The VL203, VL223 (inline Vibro-Lo scaler) and the larger VL303 variant are tried-and-true workhorses for coating and rust removal in the marine industry. The VL203/VL223 can remove up to 55 square feet per hour; the VL303 65 square feet per hour.

The Benefit of Vibro-Lo™
More than 10 million workers are at risk of serious hard-arm vibration injuries jury from the use of traditional power and hand tools on the jobsite. Our Vibro-Lo™ tools were developed to offer a safer level of working vibration, including a line of needle and chisel scalers that allow workers to complete a full 8-hour shift before reaching maximum daily recommended vibration exposure. That threshold would be hit in just 10 minutes with traditional competitor’s needle or chisel scaler.

The Result: Less Fatigue and Some Unexpected Benefits

A pair of VL203s and standard chisel-tipped needles have, indeed, changed the way the team works, making jobs easier – including in some unforeseen ways.

“As expected, we have found that the Vibro-Lo scalers create noticeably less vibration,” Pekelney says. “The VL203’s pistol grip design allows for more comfortable hand positioning and has proven to be quite helpful when working in close quarters under the main deck.”

“Another much-appreciated ergonomic benefit is that the cold air exhaust is now routed away from our operators’ hands. The VL203 is even a bit quieter than we were used to. Moving to the VL203 has resulted in a much more comfortable, less fatiguing scaling process than we had experienced with conventional inline scalers.”

What’s Next for the Pampanito

As major restoration projects wind down, the SFMNPA has embarked on a $2 million fundraising campaign to cover the Pampanito’s next scheduled preservation drydocking and establish an endowment to cover future preservation needs. This will ensure the historic vessel’s survival and status as one of the country’s finest examples of maritime preservation.

Learn more about the tools in this article:

VL 203 and VL 303 Low-Vibration Pistol-Grip Needle Scaler

VL 223 Low-Vibration Inline Needle Scaler

Replacement Needles